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Mail and Commentary Feb. 22, 2012 - Online Edition

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On the Boise School District Levy

The union inspired levy election campaign for the Boise School District March 13 has begun in earnest with misleading pamphlets being sent home with students. The information suggests the district is in dire straits, and without $70 million more in property taxes, massive layoffs may occur, class sizes will balloon and education quality will decline.

What are the facts? Currently, there are 1420 teachers and 25,269 students for a student-teacher ratio of 18 to 1. Current classrooms average 24 students per teacher. If the overall student-teacher ratio were 24, it would require only 1,052 teachers not 1,420. It appears the classroom average can be maintained if all the teachers are actually classroom instructors.

In a Denver Post article dated Feb. 20, 2011, William Moloney (former Colorado education commissioner) explains why teacher quality, not class size is what really matters. Making the appropriate reforms (increasing class size, fewer but better teachers) could reduce Idaho spending on education while dramatically improving results.

Why do U.S. schools perpetually trail our world competitors in international education comparisons despite spending more than almost every other nation? These other systems make their key priority high teacher quality, not low class size.

Class-size reduction, a union priority, has been a disaster. Between 1970 and 2008, while student population increased 8 percent, teachers increased by 61 percent. Spending adjusted for inflation in the same period rose 102 percent. The effect on test scores, per Charles Krauthammer, zero.

Which brings us back to the question, does the BSD actually need the levy because of decreased revenue? In 2001, funding was $171,736,000 with 26,778 students or $6,413 spent per student. If the funding actually dropped to the worst possible case as suggested by BSD ($166,000,000), the district would be spending $6,569 per student, more than in 200l, when there were 1,509 more students.

Would a small decline in funding affect the students? Not a bit. In the period 2001 to 2010-11 the budget went from $171,739 to $201,003 in 2008-08 then declined to $187,447 in 2010-11. In that same period ACT scores were flat and ISATS actually had a small decline. Education quality is not related to money spent but to the quality of the teacher. So, according to Charles Lane, in the Washington Post on Dec. 11. 2011, lack of reform, not resources, remains the problem with U S education. Something Superintendent Luna is trying to do in spite of union resistance.

If the levy passes, the funds would likely be used for salary and benefits increases, not to the benefit of students. Public school teachers already receive greater average hourly compensation in wages and benefits than any other group of state and local government workers and receive more than twice as much in average hourly wages and benefits as workers in private industry, according to a new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (press release Department of Labor Dec. 15, 2011). Read it yourself.

The big push for this levy it seems is being pushed by the BEA (Boise Education Association), the labor union financed by taxpayer funded union dues of $800,000 (the dues are paid in addition to the salaries). Yes, that is correct. These funds are used for propaganda TV spots, lobbying, contributions to political candidates etc. to promote even more taxing, spending, and union dues. There are many reasons to vote against the levy but this is the best.

—James M. Auld, Boise


Regarding Mr. Prentice's article on the Boise Schools Levy:

I beg to differ with Ms. Lovelace. Parents and patrons do have options other than voting yes and giving Boise Schools more money via higher school taxes. The Boise District's warm hearts and good intentions don't necessarily equate to responsible stewardship of public funds. Yes, this state underfunds education, but the Boise School District does not.

We all NEED more money, but let's look at how we spend what we already have.

In FY 2009-10, Boise Schools spent $8,186 per pupil while the statewide average was $6,290. For teachers with similar experience and education levels, Boise pays its teachers an average of $2,000 more than any of the other 150 plus districts or charters in the state. The BSD's teachers pay $0 for personal health benefits. The Boise School District pays $95,000 a month (in addition to published salaries) to The Boise Education Association to fund teacher's union dues and the BEA president's salary. The former Cole and Franklin properties remain unsold and vacant. $4 million in revenue from these properties was promised to patrons in the 2006 bond election. Boise has a doctorate level superintendent, as well as two assistant superintendents, yet it pays a spokesperson $100,000 a year to talk to the media and it's patrons. How is that "cut to the bone"?

Boise may be the best district in Idaho as it claims. And it should be. Patrons of Boise Schools have the highest education and income levels in the state; our children should score higher than others, regardless of what the district does. The apple won't fall far from the tree.

Boise parents and patrons do have options other than bigger class sizes and program cuts if they vote NO on this levy. We do not have to cut 200 teachers, we need to pay them on par with their peers. We do not have to cut programs, we need to hold the Boise District accountable to use the funds that it already has in smarter and more efficient ways.

My family will vote NO on the levy. Does that make us anti-teacher or anti-public education? Or does it make us responsible parents and patrons, doing more with less in tough times?

—Paul W. Jackson, Boise


Without a quality education, where do we go in this life? Without the ability to read well, to learn in new situations, and to understand how best to work within society, where do our children end up down the road? If we aren't teaching good decision-making, what decisions do we think our kids will make? Our society (and our economy) NEEDS good education. It doesn't come cheaply, but the alternative costs much more.

Boise needs for our citizens to make a good decision to invest in the continued success of our schools and students. Those students will be the backbone of our economy and all of us have an interest in having them become highly productive members of our society. All four of Boise's traditional high schools are on the Washington Post's list of the top 7 percent of high schools in America, a result from Boise's past investments.

On March 13, voters in the Boise School District will decide on a supplemental, five-year levy to invest in our school district's ability to continue our history of strong education. I urge everyone to vote yes and be a part of that investment.

Education is expensive, ignorance is simply unaffordable.

—Eric DeBord, Boise


I have three sons who are either currently attending or have graduated from a school in the Boise School District. My eldest now attends the United States Military Academy in West Point, due in large part to the phenomenal education and preparation he received here. His younger brothers are following in his footsteps, and we cannot overstate how positive their educational experience has been thus far.

All four of Boise's traditional high schools are on the Washington Post's list of the top 7 percent of high schools in America, and yet due to the budget cuts imposed by the Legislature, their standing as excellent places to educate our youth is being threatened. Boise's schools now face a $14 million annual deficit beginning next school year. Though district administrators have worked hard to shield the classroom from the devastating cuts that have already been absorbed, their ability to do so has been stretched to the limit.

On March 13, voters in the Boise School District will have the opportunity to vote yes on a supplemental, five-year levy to help ease the fallout stemming from this pending deficit. I urge everyone to vote yes. Let's support our outstanding schools!

—Tatia Totorica, Boise


I cannot express deeply enough the quality of education that my son has received in the Boise Public Schools and Adams Elementary in particular. Due to the school's influence, in a year's time, my son went from below proficient in reading to well above grade level in both decoding and comprehension. The Adams staff was instrumental in providing the resources and guidance that is allowing him to reach his full potential.

Additionally, I am honored to be on the faculty of one of Boise's four traditional high schools currently listed on the Washington Post's top 7 percent of high schools in America. Unfortunately, Boise schools are faced with a $14 million annual deficit beginning next school year due to the devastating cuts in state funding and decline of the city's property-tax revenue. Up to this point, administration has been responsible and accountable in cutting district expenses while shielding the classroom and maintaining quality schools.

On March 13, voters in the Boise School District will decide on a supplemental five-year levy to erase this deficit. As a member of the community, I am urging all voters to vote yes in order to maintain the small class sizes and outstanding programs that have made our district one of the best in the entire nation.

—Rick Beckett, Boise


My son is an outstanding Junior High student. Next year, he'll become a Boise High School sophomore. But he didn't get there by himself. Since grade school, he's benefited from the enthusiastic support and demonstrated excellence of dozens of teachers, counselors, librarians, administrators, janitorial and support staff. All of them contributed to his success. And it's no wonder, they really care.

I am a proud parent, but I am an even prouder taxpayer who readily supports BSD's talented, professional and thoroughly dedicated faculty and staff. They work every day to keep class sizes small and quality programs running.

Educators are a critical part of our civil society. Ben Franklin said, "The only thing more expensive than education ... is ignorance." Vote in favor of the Boise School District levy March 13.

—David Walsh, Boise


I was lucky enough to receive my education in the Boise public schools and am now grateful for the quality of my local elementary school as my children begin their educational careers. Although operating on limited funds and resources, I find their teachers and administrators to be excited, inventive, inspiring and dedicated to educating our children and laying the foundation essential for a successful future.

Boise's schools face a $14 million annual deficit beginning next school year, which has come about because of devastating cuts in state funding and a decline in property-tax revenue. District administrators have been responsible and accountable in cutting expenses while shielding the classroom and maintaining quality schools. To protect our quality of life and our nationally recognized school district, and to move our economy forward, we must invest in Boise's future.

On March 13, voters in the Boise School District will decide on a supplemental, five-year levy to help erase this deficit. I urge everyone to vote YES so that we can maintain the small class sizes and outstanding programs that have made our district one of the best in the country.

—Michele Bartlett, Boise


I am in favor of passing the levy for the Boise School District. I am extremely happy with the high quality education my children are receiving from their elementary school in the Boise School District. My older child recently benefitted, as well, from speech therapy, thanks to her teacher noticing her problem.

The Boise School District has produced four traditional high schools on the Washington Post's list of the top 7 percent of high schools in America. Because of devastating cuts in state funding and a decline in property-tax revenue, Boise's schools now face a $14 million annual deficit beginning next school year. These cuts will cause an increase in class size and will cause ancillary services to be canceled. Our children really benefit from these outstanding programs and I urge everyone to vote yes to pass the levy to keep class sizes small and continue these programs.

On March 13, voters in the Boise School District will decide on a supplemental, five-year levy to help erase this deficit. I urge everyone to vote yes so that we can maintain the small class sizes and outstanding programs that have made our District one of the best in the country.

—Ashley Davis, Boise


I am the parent of two children in the Boise public schools, specifically the gifted program at Cynthia Mann Elementary School. My third- and fifth-grade children are being taught by two of the most inspirational teachers I have ever met, Bob Bishop and Scarlett Randall. My children are reading Hamlet, entering invention competitions, writing long essays, and being taught about values and character.

On March 13, voters in the Boise School District will decide on a supplemental, five-year levy to help maintain this excellence in the Boise School District. Boise's schools now face a $14 million annual deficit beginning next school year, which has come about because of devastating cuts in state funding and a decline in property-tax revenue. Passing the levy will erase this deficit and continue current spending levels for the Boise schools.

I urge everyone to vote yes on March 13 so that we can maintain the small class sizes and outstanding programs that have made our district one of the best in the country.

—Penny Beach, Boise


In Support of Paul

Ron Paul. Love him or hate. As I travel about wearing my Ron Paul button, I find that for the most part, people don't really know why they don't like him.

So, why do young people flock to his banner? Could it be because he has promised to reduce the federal debt?

Those who do understand something of Ron Paul object to his foreign policy or legalizing drugs. First off, Ron Paul is not an isolationist, but a non-interventionist. That means we don't go into another country and kill their leaders when they have done nothing to harm us.

Some of our leaders want war with Iran. Fine! So, how many innocent men, women and children will be killed if we do that? Israel has much more at stake than we do, and they have plenty of nuclear weapons.

Ron Paul has never suggested legalizing drugs. It is just that he believes this ought to be left to the states—just like murder, assault and rape.

If Ron Paul is elected, the only ones who need to worry are those with their hands in the cookie jar.

—Jim Hollingsworth, Coeur d'Alene


Nix Daylight Savings

Why do we disrupt our lives, twice a year, and spend or waste millions of dollars in higher energy costs, increased traffic accidents, lost productivity and taxes, not to mention the proven human costs in psychological and physiological damage, all so a bunch of guys and gals can chase a little white ball around an extra hour after work?

My research shows that there is absolutely no logical reason for us to put farmers, the elderly, children, truckers, school administrators, folks with mental health issues and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) through the twice-annual scourge of Daylight Saving Time. I've tried to "follow the money" and the only group I can see DST benefits are the golfers. All the other objections are easily rectified in a flexible and profit-driven business climate.

If you can grasp the magnitude of the problem and the simplicity of the solutions, we can make a difference in every American's life. And it won't cost us anything, except an hour on the links. Please make the Repeal of Daylight Saving Time a topic of discussion during the upcoming summer and fall campaigns at all levels. I think it's an issue that merits consideration.

—Dennis Fuller, Orofino


On Add the Words

Last Friday, I attended the print hearing for the "Add the Words" legislation that was up before the Senate State Affairs Committee. There were so many people there to show their support for this legislation that the chairman had to move the proceedings across the hall to the auditorium. Despite the overwhelming public support displayed and the moving testimony by the bill's sponsor, all but two senators voted no to print this legislation and give it a public hearing.

Aside from my initial disappointment, I was outraged by the callousness displayed by Sen. John McGee in his statement he made to the press after the hearing. "This is not a new issue," McGee said. "Nobody here believes in discrimination or discriminating against anybody." But, he said, "I don't think we want to continue to create separate groups and separate categories for this."

My question to Sen. McGee and the rest of the senators in his caucus that voted against printing the bill is this: Would you have said the same thing 40 years ago about adding the categories of race, gender, ethnicity or disability to the Human Rights Act? Aren't these separate groups, senator? Do you currently have a problem with the groups that are currently afforded protections against discrimination in the areas of employment and housing? Many Idahoans do face discrimination in the workplace and in housing because they are gay or transgender. Why is this kind of discrimination more tolerable to you than others?

—Katie Hagadone, Boise

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