Money does not make any education system better! This discussion was triggered from some fantastic reporting recently in the Cincinnati Enquirer who has been looking hard at the data of whether or not higher taxes improve education. I put the blame for this misperception cleanly on the radical union aspect of education. It has been their factions who have spread the rumors and they’ve done it to increase their wages and benefits. The rumors have nothing to do with actual education. For Instance, Indian Hill spends around $793 per $100,000 in taxes compared to $1,672 per $100,000 in Finnytown. Which school system do you think is producing more academically bound students? How much do you spend per hundred thousand? Well, have a look. This chart came from one of the Cincinnati Enquirer articles and is very useful.
Of course how much we spend on our properties to fund a school is only one part of the story. The other is how much a district actually spends per pupil to achieve the desired academic results. Doc asked me what the difference is, in why some schools can produce Excellent with Distinction results even though they might be spending $8,000 per student, and schools that are spending $15,000 per student are only excellent. I explained that the difference in cost is all tied up in the salary structures of those schools. I would say that statistically, the schools that are spending less per pupil are for the most part more rural communities and employee newer teachers, and when teachers get some experience under their belts, they transfer to schools like Lakota, Mason, Princeton, and Cincinnati Public because those are very desirable places to live with a lot of culture for the teachers to participate in. So the more remote schools have a high turn-over at the top end of their pay scale and have more younger tenure teachers, which helps keep their costs down. Yet those schools still produce excellent results, so the myth that money equals quality is shattered by this information.
All we are paying for with more costs are the inflated contracts of teachers who have priced themselves out of their own market. But that market value is artificially propped up because of collective-bargaining derived from the union influence. I didn’t get the time to explain it on the radio but the best way to explain this concept is with professional baseball. The New York Yankees have the highest payroll in baseball. So with that in mind, they should win a World Series every year if money bought wins. But the Tampa Bay Devil Rays have one of the smallest payrolls in baseball, yet they have regular playoff appearances, and could be argued statistically to be as good as the Yankees.The reason is the Rays tend to dump their high dollar employees in favor of fresh talent right out of the Triple A League. The Yankees tend to buy up other teams best players, which inflates their payroll on the belief that in doing so, they are buying a championship team, which doesn’t work. It doesn’t work in sports and it doesn’t work in business. It also doesn’t work in education. Being lean and mean works, employing people who have passion works.
And getting rid of your “train riders” (people who are burnt out and just along for the contract ride) does not, and many districts who have high per pupil costs are carrying too many of these types of employees. But when you speak to an employee, they of course will tell you that you need them. They are trying to sell you their services. But if the people who do the hiring and firing do not understand this basic concept, then the costs will become inflated, and that’s what’s happening with these teaching professions. Late in the evening the night before last, I received the spreadsheet you see below. This man is not part of the No Lakota Levy group. He’s a neutral fellow who’s just trying to make sense of the situation at Lakota so he did the extra work of trying to figure out whether or not he should vote for the Lakota Levy or not. He wanted me to publish this so others could share in his work and compare it to their situations. He calls it his Lakota Levy Calculator.
To understand what you are looking at I changed the colors a bit to make it easier to see. I put the essential numbers in Yellow so that the main point is easy to see for those who aren’t used to looking at spreadsheets. In this case, he uses a flat 60K per year as the average salary of the people in West Chester, and compares that against the $62,331 average Lakota Teachers made during the 2010 school year. It shows all the hidden costs of the typical teacher at Lakota, so you can clearly see how much better they have it than the rest of us. His references are listed at the end, so feel free to double-check him. What he is showing here is that the annualized compensation for the average Lakota teacher, once all costs are added up, (insurance costs, wages, bankable personal days, which are actually large costs, the compensation is $130,219 per year. For the average resident of West Chester who makes $60,000 per year brings in just $74,520. The hourly compensation rate for the teacher is $67.82 per hour. For the average West Chester resident it’s $38.81. Now, who believes that a teacher at Lakota is worth $67.82 per hour? I don’t. They might be worth $38.81 an hour, but not $67. It is this type of cost which drives up the budgets which dictate the need for school levies. These costs are the hidden impacts against our community budgets and the suggestion that education would improve if we pay a teacher $70 per hour, or $80 per hour is just insane, and is an outright manipulation of the facts. Before the state can solve the state funding problem we have to understand what the value of a teacher is in Ohio. As of now there are too many spoiled costs inserted into these union contracts to make firm budget decisions. And until those costs are placed into the realm of reality, we cannot reform education funding.
It is for this reason that the teachers unions are so upset over Issue 2. They know that once communities start understanding what their tax money is being spent on, they won’t want to pay it, and they shouldn’t.
People vote for higher taxes hoping that they are giving their kid a better chance than a school that isn’t performing at a higher level. But the key is not in the employees themselves, it’s in the management, and it always has been. What makes a sports team better, or a business better, or a school better, is the management. And this includes an organization like the Indianapolis Colts. Payton Manning is the same as having a head coach and a player wrapped up into the same position. Manning is more management than player, and the great ones always are. It’s not just in physical ability, but what comes out through strategy. You can’t throw money at a situation to buy quality. A district has to actually be a quality place to begin with and that starts with the community itself. They are the management, and if they want a great school it starts with paying attention to your kids, not teaching them that money can buy them anything they want, and that watching every dime isn’t just being cheap, but it’s good practice at driving the best out of people who are then forced to dig deep within themselves to perform at the highest level possible. When employees are fat, dumb and happy, they become complacent, and become a problem. For evidence of this, sports provide the formula for us to see. And education is no different. The schools of Ohio are in trouble because they haven’t come to grips with the big rip-off shown in the above spreadsheets, and they better learn to understand the situation before it’s too late to improve the situation. And that starts by voting NO on all school levies, because more money just feeds the problem and if you give them more money, you have become part of the problem.
To understand how much of the problem you are, look at the end of that spreadsheet, at how much money Lakota would have as a budget surplus if we were paying teachers the very good wage of the average West Chester resident, all things equal–we’d have a $66 million dollar surplus. Wow, and tell me that it’s all about the kids.
Now we know why the Pro Levy campaign called themselves “Move Forward”……..because they are moving forward toward the bank while the rest of us count our pennies.
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