Making the Tough Cuts at Lakota: Why public employees don’t get it

In the middle of the night I received a message from Laura Sanders who is working on the Move Forward Lakota campaign, a group that is advocating the passage of a new levy at the Lakota School District. She wanted to show me her new video, which is nice and I think well-edited.  But like I wrote her, where in the video does it say “WHY is more money required?”  We know teachers are valuable to the community.  But Lakota is not underfunded.  It’s a district with $165 million dollar budget that we know about, and in all reality is closer to $250 million in total revenue.  Yet it is the average pay rate of the employees in the district that hovers just over $63K per year that is driving up those costs, so how much is too much? 

Like I said to Laura, having money to put on a glitzy show does not provide justification for the expenses.  We cannot manage our district if teacher pay is simply a bottomless pit.  Lakota has at least $30,000 to start their levy campaign with and I’m sure they will receive more over this next campaign.  To see who gives money to them and what their campaign finances look like read this article which breaks down how much they spent last year, how much they have to spend this year, and who gave them money by clicking on the link below:

The belief from the Move Forward Campaign is that if they spend money, they will automatically convince people of their need.  And that’s what they’ve done with their new ad.  In the heading Laura titled it “Creative Battle” I suppose in response to the No Lakota Levy’s latest video which you can see here:

You can see our website at where that video launches upon your visit.

This battle of videos shows clearly the difference between the No Lakota Levy group and the Move Forward Campaign.  We are looking at the situation and studying what the costs are, and questioning why they are so high.  I think the limit for the teachers pay rates has been exceeded.  The average is simply too high.  The Move Forward Campaign believes as they show in their video that by spending money, Lakota will move forward in some way that it hasn’t already.  We are supposed to put blinders onto the fact that an endless and undefined amount of money is required because teachers instruct our children, and maybe our wives?  (That’s what they said.)  I think all these people are just simply out of touch. 

I was up late because my editor had sent me her edit on the first draft of a book I have coming out next summer.  She had marked the whole thing up with a lot of red and told me that the publisher wanted the giant manuscript to be cut down to 84,000 words from the 110,000 it is now.  By revision 2 and revision 3 that number will be cut down by even more till we get down to around 60,000 words.  The editor was very concerned that I’d be heart-broke by these facts, because other authors are. I let her know that I understand the nature of business, so we’d do what we needed to do to bring the manuscript to the level it needed to be at no matter what the cuts were.  It’s my job as the author to make it work within the business parameters.  Relieved she proceeded to give me a long list of characters to remove that are minor to the story, subplots to cut, and tightening of the dialogue to save space.  So I was up contemplating these ideas at 4 in the morning when I saw the video from Laura. Given my state of mind on my own project, and having to make cuts for companies that I’ve worked for that were very painful, I continue to be baffled that public schools and public employees in general who do not think cuts of any kind should ever be made. 

I have heard some of the most foolish comments in my adult life regarding Issue 2, which is the ultimate fix for these budget problems, especially at Lakota.  I know for a fact that there are teachers at the top of the pay scale that aren’t worth 45K per year let alone 80K and 90K.  Only in a union under collective bargaining could weak people earn so much.  But then there are some teachers that are worth that much money.  But if the Lakota Levy fails and cuts are made, it will be the newer teachers who cost the least and generally have the most ambition that we’ll lose, unless Issue 2 holds.  The argument the public workers are making is similar to me telling my editor that, “the book will be terrible if we lose these characters.  I refuse to make revisions to my 110,000 word manuscript!”  They would then say, “Ok, thank you for the opportunity to work with you Mr. Hoffman, but we can’t afford the publishing cost of a book that large.  Such a large book has limited market value because statistics show that most people are intimidated by large books, so we would never recover our initial investment, so good luck on finding another publisher.” The Issue 2 group does not understand that by trimming down a manuscript or a school district we make them stronger. 

While all this discussion over Issue 2 is percolating and unions are dug in deep with their rhetoric and talking points, Lakota is after more money to supplement a contract with it’s union that is excessively high, the Cincinnati Reds are floating offers for their star player in Joey Votto, who is currently the gem of our local baseball team.  He’s the ideal baseball player and we’d all like to see him stay in Cincinnati for his entire career.  But in reality, Joey will most likely decline in production over the coming years, and he is set to make more than 20 million a year, because his contract dictates that much.  So the Reds should follow the formula of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and dump him for a fresh young player that costs much less but can give comparable numbers.  The Reds would have to do this because to keep Votto means they couldn’t afford other players that will be needed to create a valuable franchise.  So at some point in the near future, the Reds will have to cut Votto, which will be painful, just like editing a book, or managing a school district.  It’s painful, and emotional, but we are REQUIRED to do what is right for the organization we are representing.  What dictates the Reds cut Votto is that they don’t have a budget which allows for him in the future.  Public workers don’t understand this.  They simply believe that tax increases will allow for them to have everything, job security and all employees making healthy wages without competition driving costs down. They believe this because a budget limit has never been established, which is what we are doing with the No Lakota Levy group, helping to manage costs by setting a limit.

The anti Issue 2 people who happen to be the same people who are pro school levy are all about emotion and they are afraid of pain, and they can’t see that not taking the pain today, will make tomorrow much more painful.  And that’s the state of our district, our state and our country.  There are those who want growth to explode without any concept of finance.  And there are those of us who are saying enough is enough, we have to exercise some good judgment and make cuts which make the whole systems stronger.  I suppose the difference is that some of us have had to come to grips with cuts like this in our lives, and some have been protected from that pain, and it shows in their cultural behavior.  That behavioral difference is extremely expensive and is the root of the entire problem.

Rich Hoffman!/overmanwarrior