Saturday, October 10, 2009

West Bend's School Board: Trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.

Hi everyone,

The local rightwing blogosphere have been playing the "us against the elitists" card again last week when one of their posse said the West Bend School board had lost the trust of taxpayers.

They hadn't lost my trust. Considering the budget shortfalls they've had to endure, the board is being operated by Eagle Scouts.

So, why would anyone suggest we can't trust a school board of volunteers (their $2000 stipends are stipends, not salaries) who, repeatedly over the last few years, saved us money? Lots of money.

The only answer I can come up with is that this isn't about trust -- it's about making political hay.

As usual.

Saturday's column.

A trustworthy school board doesn’t need to swing an axe

Trust was nowhere to be seen in the public display by irate protesters at the School Board meeting on Sept. 28. The relatively straightforward financial analysis presented by the School Board in support of a plan to correct a state imposed budget shortfall had no effect on the crowd. Their apparent distrust of the School Board’s recommendations was curiously unmoved by the facts and their questions – and the almost staged cheering that followed – were curiouser still.

The first question from the NO side was a thoughtful comment about how difficult it is to increase public spending with the economy in its current state. It drew a healthy round of applause and lots of nods from people on both sides of the issue.

After this courteous beginning, questions from the negative side grew increasingly irate and accusatory – and weird.

One of the first negative questioners accused the School Board of giving itself raises and then taxing us to pay for them. The crowd cheered wildly in solidarity – until they were quietly reminded that School Board members receive a stipend that hasn't been raised since the 1980s. The crowd seemed disappointed.

Another questioner criticized the board for not publicizing the meeting – his implication was that the board had tried to hide the meeting from the public. He complained he’d only heard about it from local conservative talk radio. The crowd howled with satisfaction – but again, the facts were disappointing. Like all public institutions, the School Board is bound by clear and enforceable rules that mandate how they announce their meetings. The gym fell silent as school district Superintendent Pat Herdrich counted out the number of public announcements that had actually been made. More than a dozen.

One of those who spoke in favor noted that most people with a $200,000 house should be able to afford the modest $15 a month increase in the taxes, since West Bend was in one of the wealthier counties in the state. People booed angrily as if this fact were not true. Again, I have to wonder why they’d boo the truth.

Frankly, if citizens in a county with one of the highest median incomes in the state can’t manage their personal budgets well enough to afford an extra $15 a month for their kids, but can still afford cell phones (a great number of the loudest protesters dutifully switched off their phones at the beginning of the meeting), then they aren’t the best people to criticize public spending.

The School Board, by contrast, has demonstrated great skill and frugality with our money. Despite crushing economic circumstances, the board has managed to keep district spending, compared to 24 similar districts, the lowest in spending per student, second lowest in the property tax mill rate, fourth lowest in administrative spending per student, seventh lowest in administrators per student, and 14th lowest in staff wages and benefits per student – well below the state average. A lot of the negative comments complained we were paying too much for education in West Bend. The facts say we’re paying less than almost anyone in the state.

In fact, tax history over the last 14 years makes the West Bend School Board look like financial wizards. You can check for yourself at the Department of Public Instruction’s Basic Facts and in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’, Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Over the past 14 years, taxpayers in West Bend have seen total school taxes increase by about 1.5 percent per year while inflation averaged 3 percent; in other words, inflation has increased at roughly twice the rate of school taxes. During the same period, personal income in Washington County increased at nearly three times the rate of local school taxes. In other words, not only do we have one of the most efficient school districts in the state, we are better able to afford it now than we were 14 years ago.

So here's the question that keeps popping into mind: how can anyone call a school board that saves taxpayers money and produces some of the best students in the state un-trustworthy? You can’t – not honestly.

But back to my suspicions: if the board is trustworthy – as demonstrated by the money they’ve saved us over the years – then why did people show up at the meeting to angrily muddy the waters?

Some of the protesters carried Tea Party signs, so I tracked down the online affiliations for one of our local Tea Party related groups to The Sam Adams Alliance. I found a quotation from Sam on their home page that, sadly, explained why some people may have acted as they did on Sept. 28.

Referring to the enemies of our young Republic, Sam said, “It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in the minds of men.”

Sam was right, of course, but why would anyone use the guerrilla tactics employed by one of our Founding Fathers against their own schools? Maybe these people believe the public schools are their enemy.

The facts do not support that point of view. The School Board has repeatedly demonstrated that it is trustworthy, loyal, thrifty and brave. The board has an obligation not only to us, but to the next generation of American citizens – they should approve the rate increase and meet that obligation.

Elected officials, even school boards, are elected to represented us -- to exercise their judgment on our behalf. Not to be sock puppets for whoever happens to be loudest that week. They should stick with their judgment now and not blend to the irate and shifty winds of political bluster.



Anonymous said...

Excellent column! My suggestion is that the current school board do the right thing & let the chips fall where they may. If I were on the school board, I guess I would rather be voted out for doing the right thing as opposed to presiding over the eventual decline of the quality of this district & tumbling property values & lower-tier demographics that follow (the board would get blamed for that too - notice the pattern?). Let the idiots have their chance to run things. They think they are the "big cheeses", making all that noise - wait until they are in power. I know a lot of citizens in this community (myself included) who would relish the opportunity to climb up their rectums and grab their tonsils so tight that we won't hear their crap anymore. Really!!

By the way (and this is coming from someone who reliably votes Republican), the Democrat party needs to grow a set and put forward some viable candidates that will put the needs of West Bend citizens ahead of party purity.

illusory tenant said...

He’d only heard about it from local conservative talk radio.

"It" likely being "everything."

Mpeterson said...

Thank you Anonymous, you said it better than I could have. :^)

I agree completely. They should stand up for their best judgment, act on it, and if they get voted out as a result, so be it.

Maybe what we need to do is get all of the (non-insane non-Rush-bound) Republicans and all of the (fiscally responsible)Democrats together and plot a take over. We could be The New Radical Middle.

Mpeterson said...

@ IT --

That seems to be the key. Bellowing Belling in particular spends quite a lot of time telling Washington County what to do -- probably because he doesn't have much effect elsewhere.

Concerned WB said...

THANK YOU! It's about time some intelligence is shown in the blogging community on this topic! Well said!

Anonymous said...

"The right thing" is higher taxes in a 15% unemployment economy?

Sounds like "the right thing" is going to choke and destroy even more jobs.

Kevin Scheunemann said...


This is bordering on religious praise and worship of the West Bend School Board.

Obama strikes me as a jealous messiah.

What happened to "separation of church and state"?

That separation is difficult when the "state" is the "god" being worshipped.

Anonymous said...

Not all praise is religion, Kevin.

Kevin Scheunemann said...


Who decides which "praise" is or is not religion?

Thanks, in advance, for helping me out on this one!

Anonymous said...

The answer is common sense.

Kevin Scheunemann said...


You mean the type of "common sense" where the NJ public school children are forced to sing hymns of praise to Obama?

The problem is: liberals have NOT denounced that type of religious expression.

So liberals become the haters, the type that decide which public praise is acceptable to express in public and which is not.

Which means liberals are deciding which speech is acceptable and which is not.

Its OK to praise and worship the WB School Board, the theory of global warming, and Obama...

but its not OK to praise and worship George Bush, Jesus Christ, or the theory of global cooling.

(We seem to have global cooling in scientific abundance, lately.)

That's why I wish the Motely Cow would post the rules of "common sense", a liberal public behavior code manifesto, when it comes to this subject...there seems to be a "fairness" problem with liberal tolerance in the arena of public praise and worship.

another anon said...

I praise my dog. Guess that makes her God!

I couldn't resist.

Anonymous said...

I'm not liberal or conservative, I'm an independent. And personally don't care about the NJ school incident and I wouldn't even care if they changed it to Bush instead of Obama.

People can praise things you disagree with and that doesn't make their praise religion.

But we both know this argument of mine is pointless. You'll just ignore it.

Kevin Scheunemann said...

Not really.

But the left-wing hate of all things religious has positioned that simple statement about your dog for "speech code" review for religious overtones.

That has a chilling effect on all speech when it has to be "filtered" and "reviewed" to prevent all things religious.

This left wing speech code effectively eliminates, albeit inadvertantly, 90% of the positive things we can say about our presidential "messiah".

However, since "Obama worship" is a "favored" religion, its "OK" to sing hymns of worship and praise to him in the public schools.

I'm hoping the Motely Cow will eventually be brave enough to say which religions are "favored" vs. "banned" in the public square.

Let me start the Motely Cow list:

Hymns to Obama---Good. Keep singing.

Hymns to George W. Bush---Bad. Very bad. Followed by a denouncement, "YOU CAN'T MAKE PUBLIC SCHOOOL STUDENTS DO THAT!." Then there will be investigations, maybe even staff firings.

When it comes to the religion of global warming. Its "bad" to talk about all the cooling this year. BRRRRRRRRRRR, coldest July ever!

Speech review on content. Very dangerous.

This is why we need to know the "disfavored" religions, we don't want to be "caught" practicing them in public.

Anonymous said...

I get that you're trying to say that the 'left' has a religion through government and is supposedly favoring this religion over the 'right' religion of Jesus.

However, it is simply not so. While governmental systems and religions are similar in some cases, they are radically different in others. You are distorting your metaphor to extremes and it makes you seem a bit loony in all honesty.

Mark Peterson and others including myself have already given many reasons why your argument is inaccurate, but you have not responded directly. Please do so if you want to continue, and don't keep repeating your same post over and over again.

Anonymous said...

BTW, Dog IS God spelled backwards, after all.
(taken from the great film by UW-Madison grad Errol Morris "Gates of Heaven"((one of Roger Ebert's top-10 films of all time,BTW,))BTW

Anonymous said...

You gotta read this, it's ultimately about fairness.

seriously, once I was detained in a state facility when an emergency occurred, you know, and a medical doctor had to examine my ass-hole.
and I had to apologize to him about the condition it was in.

Note that usually it's the other way around. Gives new meaning to the term "ass-backward."

But methinks their is a kind of hierarchy of toilet tissue quality amongst the levels of the state. We (the poor,unwashed masses)were given t.p. seemingly made from cardboard.

But up at the school, the paper is better, so that the assholes up there are kind of cute and respectable;bu they are still prone to spewing shit all over the place.