On East Williston School District Taxes

It’s not like me to report material from previous years, but the next several paragraphs appeared in 2014. I suggest the reader carefully note the contents before moving to more recent happenings. Here is what came down last May.

East Williston School District (EWSD) residents are annually requested to vote on a school budget and this year is no exception. Each voting member of the community will have an opportunity to either vote for or against the budget. Every parent, every senior, every taxpayer, and every youngster of voting age should consider what limited facts have been made available to them.

As many of you already know, I will vote NO on the budget. Why? I simply need to, once again, provide the readers with an earlier (2012) note delivered to Superintendent Kanas following a 1-hour meeting that year. Here is that unedited note:

Dear Dr. Kanas,

I believe that the following current problems are adversely affecting the East Williston School District (EWSD).

1. The per capita student cost is $30,000+/yr.
2. The student/teacher ratio is 9.75:1.0
3. The EWSD employs 21 secretaries.
4. There is rampant teacher absenteeism.
5. There is a failure of some students to attend the college/university of their choice.
6. The EWSD national ranking is in free-fall.
7. The school tax burden continues to increase despite reduced enrollment.
8. There is a lack of preparedness of some of the students for their post high school education.
9. There is a failure of the previous administration to, in accordance with the law, act on FOIL requests.

As a taxpayer and member of the EWSD community, I am requesting your assessment of the above nine problems, plus what steps you intend to take to either remove or reduce these problems. If a response is not received by October 1, 2012, I shall assume that you have concluded that there is no reason for concern. If you do respond, I would then appreciate a follow-up notification on the success/failure of your actions on or before December 31, 2012.

I await your response.

Guess what? Three years have passed, and I’m still waiting for a response. One simple question: Do I deserve a response? Both Kanas and the present Board have chosen to ignore my request. Yet, unlike Kanas and the Board members, I’ve dedicated my life to education, serving as not only a professor and administrator at the College level but also as a member of the Admissions Committee. I also continue to provide free advice to those senior students requesting guidance (apparently there is little to no meaningful guidance presently available at Wheatley) on university and career choices.

That was last year. Another year has passed and things really haven’t changed In fact, they’ve gotten worse. You want proof? Here is what the School Board’s appointed Financial Advisory Committee (FAC) reported in late March on the Board’s request that they provide an objective view on issues facing the District. Suprisingly(?), the FAC did an excellent job. Note, however, that the FAC acts only in an advisory capacity to the Board. In effect, the Board has the discretion to either implement or ignore the FAC’s recommendations. Please keep the word ignore in mind as you delve deeper into this article.

To no one’s surprise, the FAC concluded that there were two obstacles obstructing the EWSD’s path to success: wage and benefits growth.

Here are some specific conclusions from the FAC:

1. Funding for student programs and staff development initiatives continue to increase.
2. The budget and cost per student continues to increase.
3. The Board should explore if there is a positive correlation between spending and student achievement (of course, everyone already knows that there is no correlation).
4. Contractual costs continue to exceed the tax cap growth limits.
5. The budget growth exceeds both the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) index.
6. The EWSD budget is growing faster than CPI & GDP due to the rate of increase of wage and benefit expenses.
7. EWSD wages and benefit costs are growing faster than the private sector (any reader think otherwise?).
8. Enrollment has declined approximately 7% from its peak and has been relatively flat recently (actually, it has decreased nearly 10% over the past 9 years).
9. Per student annual costs (approximately $33,000) have increased faster than the budget … and they have never decreased. This has to be shocking when compared to the average annual student cost for County public schools of $25,000 and County private schools of $15,000. Do parents and taxpayers truly understand this disparity?
10. Item (9) explains why the average (note the word average) teachers annual compensation is approaching $175,000.
11. Items (9) and (10) have produced a growth in compensation that is at least twice that of the private sector.

The above disturbing statistics are due to healthcare costs and retirement costs. The teachers only pay 20% of healthcare costs. Healthcare has caused a dramatic increase in the Post Employment Obligation Benefit (PEOB); this is an estimate of the cost to provide post-employment healthcare. This explosive growth would likely bankrupt a private company – and it did for General Motors. The only way to control this is to have employees pay a significantly higher portion of the healthcare costs. Retirement costs have risen from 0.0036% of salaries to approximately 13% of salaries. Thus, for an employee making $100K, these annual costs have risen from $360 to over $13,000. This is simply not sustainable. In the private sector where employees work for a living, the likely result would have been a reduction in salaries.

The FAC also provided a host of recommendations. However, here are two that are worthy of mention.

1. Limit wage growth and increase healthcare contributions.
2. Develop a framework to measure student achievement relative to costs.

Any chance the Board will take action on either of these two meaningful and critical recommendations? “Not hardly,” as John Wayne would put it. Let us not forget that the Board and Kanas are there to represent the teachers, not the taxpayers, seniors and children.

And where does the PTO fit into all of this? Forgive me, but it would be more appropriate to refer to them as TO since they do not represent the parents and their children. As I’ve said in the past, this is unfortunately an organization whose members are just uninformed, or lacking intelligence, or educator/teacher ideologs, or some combination of the three. Not a healthy situation

The teachers’ upcoming contract (salaries and benefits) is the next order of business. The mettle of the FAC will be tested at that time. I predict that the Board will, once again, disregard the reasonable recommendations of the FAC and “accommodate” the teachers at the expense of the parents, seniors and children. If they don’t, many of those who refer to themselves as teachers will go on the warpath as they did 25 years ago. They will, once again, be wearing black armbands, intimidating parents and students, claiming poverty, accusing the community of not caring about education, etc. In fact, they might even parade down to the EW train station at 3:00PM to demonstrate to those parents returning home from work. Last time, the teachers (many of whom are not that bright) were not aware that those who actually work for a living (5-days per week, 50 weeks per year) put in a full day (plus travel) – not a half day like teachers. A truly sad commentary on both past and present EWSD teachers considering the important influence they have on kids.

I conclude with three earlier comments, repeated for the reader’s benefit.

1. Dr. Kanas misrepresented herself when she applied for the position of Superintendent of the EWSD. I repeatedly brought this FACT to the attention of both the Board and PTO. And, guess what? Both ignored the comments regarding Kanas. You’d think that if Kanas had my professional pride, she would offer some response. But I know she can’t defend her earlier behavior. Others in sports, education, business, technology, etc., are automatically dismissed for this sort of conduct.
2. CONNED!!! That’s what has happened to the EWSD parents and taxpayers. They have been sold a bridge on the quality of education and the dedication of the teachers. They have simply been duped.
3. The turnaround will come when the community comes to realize that Board members – in almost every instance – are there for self-serving purposes. If they really cared about the kids, they would not move on once they have graduated. Think about past Board members who were so vociferous and outspoken about defending the status quo … a status quo that has resulted in higher taxes and a decrease in the quality of education.

The bottom line: It’s OK to vote NO on the budget. Don’t be a glutton for punishment. Stop being taken for a fool. Stop being an enabler for the EXPLOITERS on the Board and some PTO officers.

Lou Theodore

NEXT POSTINGS: (tentative)
JUNE 1: On Memorial Day VII
JULY 1: On My Book
AUGUST 1: On Environmental Matters
SEPTEMBER 1: On Purely Chaste, Pristine and Random Thoughts XXII
OCTOBER 1: On Barack Hussein Obama Update V
NOVEMBER 1: On Paying Student-Athletes III
DECEMBER 1: On Hofstra Men’s Basketball: 2015-16 Season

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One Response to On East Williston School District Taxes

  1. Rita DAquino says:

    Do you belong to a church where you can print this out and just leave copies there for people to pick up and read?

    It might be another approach for you to be heard.

    You make a whole lot of valid points, and the fact that you have to make them is heartwrenching.

    If you want to produce your newsletter (maybe only certain ones) as a one-page print-form newsletter (as per recommendation above), let me know. I’ll format it for you.

    But anyhow…good job! and good luck with these blinders-on “yes-men/women”. They are not listening. They apparently need something very loud/scary/personal to break their sound barrier.

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