When Mike Schell of Fox 19 met me in the hall at Lakota East to get a few comments for his story on the epic school board meeting held at Lakota East’s auditorium that was packed to the ceiling with concerned Lakota residents, he asked me why I was there since I have been such a staunch advocate against the tax increases. I told him I was curious as to what the administration was going to do, that they had some time to get things right since the election, and I was coming to the meeting with an open mind hoping that Mantia and the gang of administrators were going to do something bold, and good for the future of Lakota. Mike then told me the cliff notes version of the meeting which he had in his hand. The proposal was 69 teaching positions cut and reducing the teaching day from a 7 period day to 6. I shook my head and told Mike I was disappointed. You can see the rest of the interview at the Channel 19 site and what I said next.
I was disappointed as I sat with my wife in the top row of the large auditorium and watched the proceeding with growing revulsion as the meeting began at 7 PM. To me, the school boards choice was an easy one. After the defeat of the levy in November, they had a mandate from the community with over 18,000 voters turning down their third levy attempt to ask the teachers union to take a 5% pay cut, which isn’t a big deal since the average pay at Lakota is $63K per year. That simple request would have put Lakota’s budget in line with the revenue stream coming to it where residents pay around $1,140 per 100K of property value on their businesses and residence. That tax is already high. So much so that it does discourage existing businesses and prospective businesses from coming to the Lakota district. That number is the breaking point, so from my vantage point and many who support the NO LAKOTA LEVY group, the tax burden needs to be decreased, not increased.
At the school board meeting the only way to describe my nausea at the obvious scheme to launch the district into a FOURTH tax levy attempt was to compare it to the visitation of a funeral. That’s how it felt. The participants on that large stage in front of a vast audience fumbled about like an episode of the Three Stooges. These buffoons had the audacity to attempt to attract this large crowd to the biggest venue in the district so they could show a PowerPoint presentation on a very large screen to look good for the cameras. I instantly recognized the tactic by Superintendent Mantia, because she used almost the exact same forum up in Pickerington when she lobbied for a levy passage that passed just this last August. The goal of the meeting, (THE REAL GOAL) was not to announce any real cuts. It was to say that the Lakota School System was going to go to state minimums and do only what they had to do to get by. In fact, the teachers are going to teach one less class a day since they are getting rid of the 7th period! So they are doing less work than they do now! How is that beneficial?
Hidden in the dialog throughout the evening was the reminder that if the community did pass a levy, that some of what was being taken away could come back as a kind of Plan B. The entire event was a page ripped right out of Saul Alinsky’s The Delphi Technique. The school board batted around comments like tennis players hitting a ball and a bewildered audience watched waiting for a score. A woman in front of me took vigorous notes until 8:30 as her three kids started getting restless. The meeting began with a lot of energy, but by 9 PM the energy had died and people started to look at the exits. The entire goal of the meeting was to drag out a large audience, complain about how little money the board had to work with, and then use a lot of terminology that the audience would think sounded impressive to appear efficient.
The only strategic option the school board had was to force the union to take further concessions and if the union refused, to use that against them in a public relations campaign. That is if the school board wished the future solvency of the district and not just some short shot in the arm from a tax increase by a levy passage. Increased taxes are not an option. It will cripple the growth of the Lakota district not only in families moving to the area, but also the commercial business that is prevalent in the community. Yet the school board showed at this latest meeting without any doubt that they are completely on the side of the union labor and lack the resolve to meet the budget crises head on and actually solve it. After several months of work after a failed levy, our triple dipping superintendent Karen Mantia from Pickerington, Ohio who makes nearly a quarter of a million dollars in overall compensation can do nothing more with her budget than cut teachers and services as an extortion racket to set up another school levy attempt in 2012.
I witnessed from the top row the funeral of public education, which I’ve never been a fan of, but saw it die right in front of my face. Any hope that public education could resurrect itself was beyond doubt gone from that stage at Lakota East on February 13, 2012. Lakota is the 7th largest district in the state of Ohio; it’s been excellent with distinction for over a decade. Lakota is the best of the best when it comes to public education, and it is a scam. So if Lakota is a scam, then what are all those schools who aren’t as good as Lakota? Lakota is a scam because there was never any intention to balance their budget no matter what combination of personnel was put on the board, because the system itself is on life support and what the audience has to do is decide whether or not to pull the plug or not.
As I watched a parade of parents plead with the school board to find ways to reach out to those of us in the NO LAKOTA LEVY so that some common ground could be found to pass the next levy, I saw a group of people addicted to money like a dying patient might be addicted to morphine. The public school of Lakota is comatose because its employees lack the will to make any hard decisions. They think the school exists so that their employees can make healthy incomes, double-dip in their retirements, have great insurance benefits, and have all summer off. And they are willing to feed off kids to achieve their goal. Their very lives require vast sums of money to feed their addiction and once that money is cut off it is clear that their collective minds lack any direction, imagination, or leadership to exist on their own. So the moment they are taken off that supply of money they become sick and are ready to die.
I’ve joked about it here, I’ve ranted about it on these very pages, but public education is in all essence dead. Tax levies are the life support that keeps them living, and they are in such a condition because they are money addicts. Their philosophy is essentially wrong and this has led to the addictive behavior that they don’t even understand about themselves. It was obvious to me and to others in the audience who see that the body is already dead even as that body attempts to put on a big show to pretend they are in fact alive and well. They aren’t. Because the moment there isn’t any money to keep them alive, they are ready to die, unable to break themselves of that addiction. The school as a whole would rather cut off parts of their body in labor reductions and reduce their offerings to the community as a service than adjust their bloated bodies with the hard decision of restructuring their lives to what the community is supplying them with in funding.
I left the meeting at a quarter till 10 PM as a slow boil of anger swelled within me well into the next day that finally erupted halfway through the following afternoon during a contentious conference call on an unrelated matter. As my wife and I left, it had the same feeling that we’ve had as we’ve left the visitation of a family member at a funeral. The school board members and supporters of public education are so far out of touch that they didn’t know they were already dead. Instead they reside like ghosts who refuse to move on hovering over their bodies in confusion as if somehow they would spring back to life.
It was sad to see, but also revolting all the same. It’s an insult to be told by a ghost how to live life, yet that is what the Lakota School Board did at their meeting. It’s like taking advice from an alcoholic how to avoid drinking too much; it’s an insult to listen to the slurred speech of the drunkard lecture on the evils of drinking. The school board instructed the audience of the need for cutting money while at the same time asking for more, so they could live just a few minutes longer, just one more year. Once 2014 hits the pay freeze will be lifted and Lakota will have an onslaught of employees expecting 3% to 6% increases to make up for their losses during the three-year pay freeze designed to get a levy passed.
Public education is a joke. The employees of the system are a joke. And the administrators are a joke and in bed with the employees. The whole system is a failure of money addicts lost in a reality of their own making. And they have committed their own suicide by their actions and lack of realism. When residents of the nearby neighborhood of Four Bridges are paying over $5000 a year on their homes, as both parents work hard to just keep their property as their value plummets and job opportunities are restricted, the idea of a further tax on homes like that are unbearable, not to mention the senior citizens on a fixed income or the businesses that are barely getting by and thinking of leaving their leases for a cheaper district. The Lakota School System under the leadership of the Ohio School Board Association in Columbus and the Ohio Education Association and its parent organization the National Education Association of socialists have painted themselves into a corner and expect to be rescued with life support to sustain their addiction to money. But the money isn’t there anymore and the community must now decide whether or not to pull the plug on a loved one in order to ease their own minds to the terminal patient that will never get better on their own.
To me the thing is already dead. It might look like its breathing; it might even look into your eyes. But it’s the drugs talking. In this case it’s a $160 million dollar plus budget that somehow isn’t enough. And given that fact, I’m prepared to pull the plug and leave the hospital. Because the death is inevitable—it’s just waiting for someone to make the hard decision.
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