Monday, March 31, 2008

Overreliance on property taxes? Always!

William Phillis of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding -- the group of over 500 Ohio school districts fighting for more state tax revenue -- loves to bring up the "overreliance on property taxes" issue. Yet, given the insatiable appetite for spending of public school districts, increases in the reliance on local property taxes will always exceed increases in state formula aid. Why is that so?

Consider this: Even if the state resets its funding formula so that the split between state and local revenue becomes 60%/40%, the state share would quickly reduce over time. You see, the state increases its share at a rate that is close to inflation while local districts tend to increase their costs at a rate that is close to twice inflation.

So, in five years, the split becomes 52%/48% since school districts refuse to address rising costs. And, because local districts would likely, given an influx of new state dollars, allow their costs to increase by an even higher rate, the split would tilt closer to the current 50%/50%.

The only means to slow the rise of public education in Ohio is at levy time. Giving districts more state aid will lead to quickly rising local costs. This will result in the need for new local tax dollars as costs quickly exceed the additional state aid.

So, you get stuck twice: from the state through increased statewide taxes; and, from the district through increased local property taxes. Not much of a solution, is it?

To: Superintendents, Principals and Treasurers & others
From: William L. Phillis
Re: No change in reliance on property tax

In DeRolph I (1997), the Ohio Supreme Court stated, “Emphasis of Ohio’s school funding system on property tax is a factor that contributes to the unworkability of the system and must be eliminated”. Three years after the first DeRolph decision, the Ohio Supreme Court opined, “The most glaring weakness in the state’s attempt to put in place a thorough and efficient system of education is the failure to specifically address the overreliance on property taxes. If this problem is not rectified, it will be virtually impossible for the revised school-funding system to be characterized as thorough and efficient.”

Reliance on property tax has not diminished since 1997. In fact, from FY 1997 to FY 2007 total state revenue for public K-12 schools increased 158% while local revenue increased 166%; thus, there has been no appreciable change. Therefore, the “glaring weakness” continues.

With the State GRF Budget shortfall looming in FY 2009, the overreliance on property taxes will worsen. The school funding amendment crafted by the major education organizations is the solution to the school-funding problem. Send completed petitions to E & A Coalition, 100 S. 3rd Street, Columbus, OH 43215 or OSBA, 8050 N. High Street, Columbus, OH 43235.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Feeding at the Public Trough: coming up for air

Let me get this straight: A law, which has a direct impact on the finances of the Olentangy District, was passed three years ago, and it's now news to Andy Kerr, district director of facilities.

According to, "The law, signed in 2005 by then-Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, is designed to protect and improve the environmental health and safety of students and staff in school buildings." Yet, the cost of the improvements -- likely to total more than $500,000 -- has not been budgeted by the district.

Did you get that? The district just passed a huge bond issue and Kerr forgot to add in the known costs of a law that is three years old. Three years old!

You can read this a couple of different ways: Kerr and the administration are incompetent; or, they are already telling tales of woe in support of the next levy.

Let's look at incompetence: How can Kerr and company miss such a big ticket expense? Amazing, isn't it? Everyone associated with public education knew about this law. Well, let me take that back. Everyone with an ounce of competence knew about the law. Yet, there stands Kerr declaring to the papers that he and the rest of the administration missed it altogether. He built a bond issue but forgot the law. Shameful.

Or, tales of woe: I wouldn't be surprised that the district is about to begin bombarding its taxpayers with tales of woe regarding state-mandated expenditures. Sure, this law is a real waste, but that doesn't excuse the district from missing it altogether. It looks like we will hear three years of how smooth the district operates, and how the mean old state is out to get it. Yet, the district never mentions the fact that it has been on the receiving end of millions in state basic aid due to a flaw in the state funding formula. That's right. Olentangy was considered an impoverished district right before the 2004 levy passed. The result, the district has received over $10 million more than it would have if the formula didn't have a few holes. Of course, it's the tales of woe that sell levies -- plus threats, etc.

So, it's either incompetence, or a tale-of-woe PR stunt. Or, and this is my guess, Kerr and company had to come up for air and finally took noticed of the new law. You can only keep your head buried in the public trough for so long.

note: Of course, the district is flush with residual bonds and investment income. But, for the OFK fanatics, I am assuming that none of that exists; the district is running a tight ship with no money to spare. Huh!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Coalition's laughable solution to Ohio's economic woes

For the past 18 years, the Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding (representing over 500 Ohio public school districts) has been fighting for more tax dollars for public education; a lot more tax dollars ... actually, an unlimited amount ... OK, limited by the Coalition's imagination, but you get the idea.

Coalition executive director, Willim L, Phillis, acting in his role of Don Quixote, has done just about everything save "takin' it to the streets."

In today's memo, Phillis equates additional taxes directed toward public education with an economic turn-around for Ohio. According to Phillis:
"Ohio’s economy and demographics continue on the downward spiral relative to other states. The nexus between high quality education and a strong economy is irrefutable. Perhaps a generation of Ohioans will rise up and demand that state officials secure high quality educational opportunities for all students as the Court ordered eleven years ago this day, March 24. Then and only then will Ohio’s economic condition improve."
Phillis, who is all rhetoric and no economic theory, has his causations backwards; the mark of the truly self-deceived.

When he was superintendent of Morgan County Local Schools, Olentangy's Scott Davis was also a big advocate of unlimited tax dollars for schools -- wait, he still is a proponent of unlimited funding. Somethings never change.

Let's let Phillis speak:

To: Superintendents, Principals and Treasurers & others
From: William L. Phillis
Re: Eleven years ago today: School-funding system ruled unconstitutional
Date: March 24, 2008

In the landmark DeRolph decision, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled the system of school funding unconstitutional eleven years ago today. Although the decision spurred the $23 billion school facilities program and an impressive increase in the portion of the State General Revenue Budget allotted to public K-12 education (34.5 in FY 1992 to 39.8, currently), the “complete systematic overhaul” of the school funding system ordered by the Court has been essentially ignored. The school funding system is still unconstitutional!

Ohioans often ask, “How can state officials brush aside this decision without redress?” The answer to this has implications far beyond the school funding issue. When legislatures and governors brush aside a court decision and the court ultimately waffles and gives them a pass, the rule of law breaks down. When elected officials defy the court and are elected again and again, the sanctity of the rule of law is diminished. When the state’s dominant, influential media fails to hold state officials accountable and rails against the court decision, the efficacious principle of the rule of law is greatly compromised.

Ohio’s economy and demographics continue on the downward spiral relative to other states. The nexus between high quality education and a strong economy is irrefutable. Perhaps a generation of Ohioans will rise up and demand that state officials secure high quality educational opportunities for all students as the Court ordered eleven years ago this day, March 24. Then and only then will Ohio’s economic condition improve.

Enough said. Yet, watch out for these folks. They already have one hand on your wallet.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Socialists ... er, Greens ... will need a new lie

From The Australian:

Duffy asked Marohasy: "Is the Earth still warming?"
She replied: "No, actually, there has been cooling, if you take 1998 as your point of reference. If you take 2002 as your point of reference, then temperatures have plateaued. This is certainly not what you'd expect if carbon dioxide is driving temperature because carbon dioxide levels have been increasing but temperatures have actually been coming down over the last 10 years."

Read the complete story
The Socialist will need another lie to tell.

The Incredible Bread Machine

A classic tale of the free market and government interventions:

The Incredible Bread Machine
By R.W. Grant
This is the story of a man whose name
Was a household word: a man whose fame
Burst on the world like an atom bomb;
Smith was his last name; first name Tom.

Now, Smith, an inventor, had specialized
In toys, so people were surprized,
When they found that he instead
Of making toys, was BAKING BREAD!

The way to make bread he'd conceived
Cost less than people could believe!
And not just make it! This device,
Could in addition, wrap and slice!
The price per loaf, one loaf or many,
The miniscule sum of under a penny!

Can you imagine what this meant?
Can you comprehend the consequent?
The first time yet the world well fed,
And all because of Tom Smith's bread.

A citation from the President,
For Smith's amazing bread,
This and other honours too,
Were heaped upon his head!

But isn't it a wonderous thing,
How quickly fame is flown?
Smith, the hero of today,
Tommorow, scarcely known!

Yes, the fickle years passed by,
Smith was a millionaire,
But Smith himself was now forgot,
Though bread was everywhere...
People, asked from where it came,
Would very seldom know.
They would simple eat and ask,
"Was not it always so?"

However, Smith cared not a bit,
For millions ate his bread...
And everything is fine, thought he,
I am rich, and they are fed!

Everything was fine, he though,
He reckoned not with fate.
Note the sequence of events,
Starting on the date,
On which the business tax went up.
Then, to a slight extent,
The price on every loaf rose too:
Up to one full cent!

"What's going on!" the public cried,
"He's guilty of pure plunder!
He has no right to get so rich
on other peoples hunger!"

(A Prize cartoon depicted Smith,
With fat and drooping jowls,
Snatching bread from hungry babes,
indiferrent to their howls!)

Well, since the public does come first,
It could not be denied
That in matters such as this,
The Public must decide!

So Anti-Trust now took a hand,
Of course, it was appalled
At what it found was going on.
The "Bread Trust" it was called.

Now this was getting serious,
So Smith felt that he must
Have a friendly interview
With the men in Anti-Trust.

So hat in hand, he went to them.
They'd surely been misled;
No Rule of Law had he defied.

But then their lawyer said:
"The Rule of Law, in complex times,
Has proved itself deficient.
We much prefer the Rule of Men,
It's vastly more efficient!

Now let me state the present rules,"
The lawyer then went on,
"These very simple guidelines,
You can rely upon:
You're gouging on your prices if
You charge more than the rest.
But it's unfair competition if
You think you can charge less!
"A second point that we would make
To help avoid confusion...
Don't try to charge the same amount,
That would be Collusion!
You must compete. But not too much,
For if you do you see,
Then the market would be yours -
And that's Monopoly!

Price too high?
Or Price too low?
Now, which charge did they make?

Well, they weren't loath to charging both,
With Public Good at stake!

In fact, they went one better!
They charged "Monopoly!"
No muss, no fuss, oh, woe is us!
Egad, they charged ALL THREE!

"Five Years in jail," The Judge then said
"You're lucky it's not worse!
Robber Barrons must be taught,
Society comes first!"

Now bread is baked by government.
And as might be expected,
Everything is well controlled.
The Public well protected.

True, loaves cost a dollar each,
But our leaders do their best!
The selling price is half a cent..
Taxes pay the rest.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Epistemology of John Dewey - The Father of Progressive Education

What is the epistemological basis for our current education system? What are the driving concepts that form the pedagogy in vogue today?

A couple terms need to be defined:
epistemology is the theory of human knowledge; while pedagogy is the art or science of education.

A passage that details the history of education knowledge and science:

"I have never seen anywhere in the world such a large proportion of intelligent, happy, and intelligently occupied children."
Impressions of Soviet Russia, John Dewey

John Dewey's Impressions of Soviet Russia is a quick primer on the ideas that formed the genesis of the Progressive Education Movement. Dewey, who thought that Soviet Russia was a vision of a utopian future, is considered the father of the movement. In addition, fifty years after his death, Dewey is still idolized at education schools such as Columbia University's
Teachers College, where he taught future educators and future educators of future educators.

Progressive education is alive and well as noted by the glowing references to Dewey throughout current education literature, including multiple awards given in his name. It's the ideas of Dewey that form the current educational belief system; ideas formed out of the collectivist movement that runs from Bismarck's Prussia through Lenin's and Stalin's Soviet Russia and onward.

Note Dewey's praise above for the "intelligently occupied children" of Soviet Russia.

It's the ideas of Dewey that are driving the so-called education reforms coming out of universities and being implemented in your local schools.

Zoning is Theft

Another older article published by The Ludwig von Mises Institute:

Zoning is Theft
by Jim Fedako

Zoning is theft, pure and simple. In his fantastic introduction to the Austrian School,
Economics for Real People, Gene Callahan correctly identifies eminent domain as a form of property theft, especially noting the use of government condemnation in order to secure rightfully owned property for commercial development.

It is easy to see government as the crowbar that influence-seekers use to jimmy locks and force private property owners from their land. Here we have the clear picture of Ma and Pa Kettle and clan fighting the law and "progress" armed only with shotguns, corn squeezing, chewing tobacco and shear grit. The flip side to eminent domain, zoning, is not so easily seen. But
as Bastiat revealed, the unseen is as important as the seen.

Zoning is typically defined along the lines of a government-regulated system of land-usage imposed in order to ensure orderly development. Zoning is usually a component of the larger conceptual ideal called regional planning. Of course, planned development is really the name of the road toward
planned chaos.

Zoning uses all the standard interventionist lines of thought, most notably the concepts of externalities and utility. Those who advocate zoning really believe that acting man does not have the ability to create communities that are functional and prosperous. Without plans and maps drafted and drawn by the local elected elite, developers with knowledge and foresight, and a whole lot of money to gain or lose, would purposively layout communities that are sterile and functionless. Only the marginal vote-getters — those elected — and their appointed allies are omniscient enough to peer into the crystal ball and define the perfect setting for future life and leisure. The rest of us can only marvel at their visions.

Just as the developer can use government to roll over the rights of property owners, property owners — community members — can use government to roll over the rights of developers and fellow property owners.

In Ohio, townships create zoning maps and comprehensive plans that overlay development regulations on top of current properties. Prior to the establishment of zoning regulations, a farmer could simply sell his land to the highest bidder. No one had a voice in the proposed use of the exchanged land. The sale to a new property owner incorporated full development rights, including continued farming, residential and commercial development, or parceling off pieces for home sites. Land was a commodity similar to the crops grown on it. Just as no one had a right to control the final use of the corn and soybeans reaped from the soil, no one had the right to control the next use of the land. Property rights were secure.

Zoning changed everything. The future use of existing farmland will, with the stroke of a pen, be limited in some manner by zoning regulations. The regulations could restrict future land usage to its current use — farming in this instance — or it could restrict land usage to some other form of activity.

The free market has a tool that allows a property owner to align the future use of his property with his vision, the restrictive covenant. A property owner could, for example, create a legacy by selling his land contingent on the development carrying his family name. Should the property owner be too restrictive, the value of his property will fall. He will be exchanging a psychic good, a family legacy, for cash.

Zoning is another matter altogether. Zoning restricts current landowners based on the local power brokers. In the zoning process, someone gets hurt. Had the farmers of a township wanted to keep the area as farmland, they could have signed restrictive covenants guaranteeing crops instead of homes. Property rights, and the laws that purport to protect those rights, allow individuals to act in their own best interest. Zoning, collective decision-making, use the coercive power of government to restrict usage based on the whims of those in power.

The farmer who owns this land now has his potential property rights bounded within a specific range; future use is restricted to residential developments that have no more than one house per acre. The farmer may vote, and may have voted for some of those elected, but he never agreed to the change in proposed land usage. He was robbed, and there is no means for him to restore his rights and land value; they are gone with the stroke of a pen.

I know some of those in the Chicago School will claim that the farmer implicitly agreed to the loss of land-usage rights by being born in the United States, or of naturalized American parents, or by becoming a citizen through oath. By owning property in the United States, the farmer granted majority ownership in his property to those elected and appointed, the omniscient and omnipotent. This is no way to build and run a system of secure property rights, and no way to create a free market. Rothbard is correct when he constructs his political economy on secure rights to property; anything less is the beginning of the Hayek's
Road to Serfdom.

Now we have a developer who is trying to satisfy the urgent wants of consumers, his development could include new homes, new stores, new factories, etc. The developer is a keen entrepreneur who sees a chance to turn a profit by creating a development that will be desired, and therefore profitable to him. The developer settles on a residential development and approaches the farmer from above offering to purchase his land, contingent on final zoning approval of course.

You see, the developer has been here before. He knows the ways of the local officials who approve and disapprove zoning changes on whim and fancy — or even the smallest of political pressure. The developer is not going to consummate the deal with the farmer until he knows that his proposed development is a go.

The farmer, old and worn-out, wants to retire and enjoy, along with his wife, his remaining years in leisure and comfort. This is certainly a reasonable request from someone who has worked the dirt in snow, rain, and blistering heat for decades. Who could reasonably question his desire? Commissioners and board members; those omniscient by vote and omnipotent by law.

Remember that the land was designated to be developed at only one home per acre, but the developer does not think he can make a go of it at that yield. Given the market in the area, there is no way for him to turn a profit due to the myriad of other regulatory hoops he will have to jump through in order to get approval for his development. A host of green-eyed bureaucrats see the proposed development as a tax revenue generator. The developer will have to build off-site roads and sewer improvements, donate a park or school site, and give away money to all those governments with their hands out. In addition, regional officials will balk at the proposal since it does not agree with their vision of the future.

So the developer, a Don Quixote at heart, decides to take on the zoning commission by proposing a variance to the zoning code and comprehensive plan. Mr. Developer needs to build one and a half homes per acre, a change that will require months of hearings where he will be badgered and attacked from the zoning commission and community members alike. The commissioners will request petty changes to the development's conceptual plan based on vague building standards that they most likely do not understand. Is stucco created from natural and man-made materials a natural or artificial exterior? Does 50 microns of aluminum create a better look than 49 microns? Should sidewalks be required? How high should the entrance sign stand? Is fire-red a natural color? Is a 30-foot setback sufficient for future property values? The answers depend on which commissioner has the mike at the time.

Residents with property adjoining the development will complain loudly of supposed lost property values, traffic, and crime. In addition, they will attack the developer as evil incarnate bent on destroying the community. But those same voices will lose the rhetoric as soon as the developer offers all adjacent homeowners landscaping allowances. A few thousand in new trees planted in their backyard is enough to forgive any supposed loss in value, additional traffic, and hypothetical break-in.

So the developer now agrees to build roads, upgrade sewer lines, donate parks with equipment, set aside a school site, and improve residential landscape. What is gently termed exaction is really extortion by another name. After zoning comes township trustees meetings and the process begins all over again. More exactions and more regulations, but trustee approval can be had if the developer does the dollar-dance long enough. Had the developer simply slid a rumpled paper bag of twenty's across the table, a law would have been broken. Instead, the process occurs in the sunshine for all to see, and all to agree that more should have been given — or taken.

All agreed, with the exception of the developer and the forgotten farmer. You see, lost in all this is the simple desire of a farmer and his wife to retire and enjoy life, and maybe leave a little for their grandchildren. Every hand looking for a piece of the development pie is not robbing the developer and redistributing supposed unearned profits; those hands are robbing the farmer and his wife of their property value.

The risk of not passing zoning, the exactions, and readily available alternatives for investment are all reductions to the value the farmer could have obtained for his land absent zoning. The loss of value is recognized at the time the developer makes an offer for the land; the theft, on the other hand, occurs in front of the community that the farm family lived in for generations. It shows what damage a little money and power can cause in a community. Zoning is indeed theft.

Jim Fedako is a former professional cyclist who lives in Lewis Center, OH. Comment on the blog.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Response to a Nonsense Chain Email

Here is my response to one of those nonsense emails making the rounds (original email follows):
Neocon revisionist history -- pure rubbish.

Let's see:

Of course, we all know that Japanese were interned during World War II. But, did you know that the feds forced Italian Americans -- those who had not yet naturalized citizens -- to carry identity cards that labeled them as "resident aliens?" (My Polish grandparents, who had immigrated to the US some 30 years before the war, had not naturalized at that time either) In addition, Italians living in the "war zones" on the West Coast were forced to move, and some were interned for up to two years.

In addition, once Italy declared war on the US, the feds closed Italian newspapers and schools.

But, the US military certainly noted the differences between American solders. Italian Americans played pivotal roles in the Sicilian and Italian campaigns. As did all soldiers who had knowledge of culture, language and geography.

Many German Americans adopted Americanized versions of their surnames in response to threats and attacks (during both world wars). During World War II, the feds arrested and interned German Americans (some remained interned until 1948).

Doesn’t sound like the cohesive nation Rosemary (the supposed email/letter writer) remembers, does it?

My father’s parents could neither speak nor read English. The same could be said for most of the folks in their hometown of Buck Run, PA. Of course, that didn't stop my grandfather from sending his four sons to the military.

My grandfather’s last name was changed at Ellis Island by a government employee who simply wrote what he heard. This story is a common among those who immigrated during the early 1900’s. My grandfather made no attempt to Americanize his name.

By the way, the Polish Catholic church in Pittsburgh still holds services in Polish. The parishioners cherish their ancestry.

I find it smug that folks like Rosemary think it's quaint to overspend at a restaurant where the maƮtre d' speaks French, and then thumb their noses at the Mexican America busboy struggling to learn English.

Last time I looked, the Chinatowns of New York and San Francisco are still popular tourist sites, yet no one expects English only in those stores and restaurants.

Turning to migrations: Let's not forget the Catholic and Irish migrations. In fact, let's not forget every significant migration. There has not been one such migration that was not been met with open hostility or violence. The only issue that has changed in recent times is the increased wealth transfers from government programs. Funny, to my knowledge, Bush never reduced any of these programs.

But, then, the Republicans never seem to reduce any program. Of course, since the Republicans did not support Ron Paul, they deserve what they get.

Do you want to answer the concerns addressed in Rosemary's email? Then fight for reduced government, not partisan politics. Bush's policies are leading to the collapse of our financial systems. The dollar is no longer the gold-standard currency. In fact, folks in other countries would rather have the Euro. The Euro?!? What a slap in the face.

Due to the collapse, foreign countries are buying ownership in our largest banks. By the way, the Federal Reserve Bank is run by its constituent banks. Therefore, foreigners now have influence on our financial system. Talk about a real threat to our security; Iraq is just a diversion.

The Fed is a corrupt system, yet only Ron Paul was willing to address it. Everyone else -- candidates and voters -- wants to continue to expand the money supply and increase debt. We all want something for nothing -- both parties. Not much different from the strawman created by Rosemary, is it?

Republicans complain about the Democrats, and the Democrats complain about the Republicans. Meanwhile, government grows more intrusive and expansive, not to mention expensive. Does anyone really believe that McCain intends to reduce wealth transfers? Do they think he will rein in the Federal Reserve? Do they think he will reduce the growth of government? Do they really think he will return any of the civil liberties we lost under Bush?

Yet, there he stands as the Republican candidate. If ever there was a dime's worth of difference between the parties, it only a penny's worth now -- the result of political inflation.

In the end, does anyone really think that repeating the nonsense written below will do anything to solve our problems? Rewriting the past as a means to hide from our present realities is a fool's errand.



The original email:
This is a very good letter to the editor. This woman made some good points.
For some reason, people have difficulty structuring their arguments when arguing against supporting the currently proposed immigration revisions. This lady made the argument pretty simple. NOT printed in the Orange County Paper...................

Newspapers simply won't publish letters to the editor which they either deem politically incorrect (read below) or which does not agree with the philosophy they're pushing on the public. This woman wrote a great letter to the editor that should have been published; but, with your help it Will get published via cyberspace!

From: 'David LaBonte'
My wife, Rosemary, wrote a wonderful letter to the editor of the OC Register which, of course, was not printed. So, I decided to 'print' it myself by sending it out on the Internet. Pass it along if you feel so inclined. Written in response to a series of letters to the editor in the Orange County Register:

Dear Editor:
So many letter writers have based their arguments on how this land is made up of immigrants. Ernie Lujan for one, suggests we should tear down the Statue of Liberty because the people now in question aren't being treated the same as those who passed through Ellis Island and other ports of entry.

Maybe we should turn to our history books and point out to people like Mr. Lujan why today's American is not willing to accept this new kind of immigrant any longer. Back in 1900 when there was a rush from all areas of Europe to come to the United States, people had to get off a ship and stand in a long line in New York and be documented. Some would even get down on their hands and knees and kiss the ground. They made a pledge to uphold the laws and support their new country in good and bad times. They made learning English a primary rule in their new American households and some even changed their names to blend in with their new home.

They had waved good bye to their birth place to give their children a new life and did everything in their power to help their children assimilate into one culture. Nothing was handed to them. No free lunches, no welfare, no labor laws to protect them. All they had were the skills and craftsmanship they had brought with them to trade for a future of prosperity..

Most of their children came of age when World War II broke out. My father fought along side men whose parents had come straight over from Germany, Italy, France and Japan . None of these 1st generation Americans ever gave any thought about what country their parents had come from. They were Americans fighting Hitler, Mussolini and the Emperor of Japan. They were defending the United States of America as one people.

When we liberated France, no one in those villages were looking for the French-American or the German American or the Irish American. The people of France saw only Americans. And we carried one flag that represented one country. Not one of those immigrant sons would have thought about picking up another country's flag and waving it to represent who they were. It would have been a disgrace to their parents who had sacrificed so much to be here. These immigrants truly knew what it meant to be an American. They stirred the melting pot into one red, white and blue bowl.

And here we are in 2007 with a new kind of immigrant who wants the same rights and privileges. Only they want to achieve it by playing with a different set of rules, one that includes the entitlement card and a guarantee of being faithful to their mother country. I'm sorry, that's not what being an American is all about. I believe that the immigrants who landed on Ellis Island in the early 1900's deserve better than that for all the toil, hard work and sacrifice in raising future generations to create a land that has become a beacon for those legally searching for a better life. I think they would be appalled that they are being used as an example by those waving foreign country flags.

And for that suggestion about taking down the Statue of Liberty, it happens to mean a lot to the citizens who are voting on the immigration bill. I wouldn't start talking about dismantling the United States just yet.

(signed) Rosemary LaBonte


I sincerely hope this letter gets read by millions of people all across the nation!!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Mises Time

For those who want to understand what is going on in the financial markets, I suggest The Theory of Money and Credit by Ludwig von Mises (1912). Mises foretold our current state, not through a Nostradamus-like prognostication, but through a book of sound theory and explication. has the book available for
sale and as a free download.

Or, try Murray Rothbard's
Case Against the Fed (also at

Other excellent books for the times are
Fooled by Randomness (Taleb) and Crap: A Guide to Politics (Arthur).

Get them now. You'll learn about our current state, and you'll be able to read them under incandescent lighting -- don't forget that the do-gooders and the bureaucrats are taking away incandescent lighting in the near future (we are sheep, aren't we?).

Monday, March 17, 2008

The blog post that started this blog

A little over two years ago, while searching for sites that were cross-publishing articles I had over at, I stumbled upon the blog and post below. It caught me attention, I hadn't even considered blogging until I read the following posts. Thank you Kathie Bracy!

RH Jones responds to Jim Fedako (Board member sinking own ship)
From: RH Jones
Sent: Saturday, November 26, 2005
Subject: Re: Board member sinking own ship-a complete copy!

An "open letter" to Jim Fedako:

It is quite surprising that Mr. Fedako sets on the Olentagy BD of ED and does not realize that: Yes, indeed! Public school are answerable to the market place. The market place being the voting citizens of the Local & State BDs of ED. And, is our nation not a republic? To support our public schools, voters approve school levies, state & national taxes. Without this voter approval, there would be no public school districts, or the funds to sustain them. And, yes, we vote for school BD members to represent us; and, we hold them accountable too.

A proud CORE Member & a free American citizen who holds public schools accountable through the right to vote.
posted by Kathie Bracy at 6:14 PM

Letter to the Editor from a school board member sinking his own ship

Charter schools accountable to the market
Columbus Dispatch
Saturday, November 26, 2005

Charter schools and accountability are once again making the headlines. A common claim is that charter schools are not held to a high level of accountability, but that claim is not based on a complete understanding of market forces.

Charters are held to the highest level of accountability: the market. A charter school that fails to serve a student or parent will soon see the child transferred elsewhere.

In addition, a charter school that does not satisfy the wants and desires of a sufficient number of parents and students is bound to fail.

Parents have a host of reasons for placing their children in charter schools. In the school market, safety, delivery of instruction, rigor, academic concentration, etc., may trump tested outcomes.

That parents are utilizing charter schools shows that they believe that their children will be best served at these schools. One must never lose sight that parents seek the best for their children. But not everyone adheres to such a view.

As evidenced by his Nov. 16 letter, Tom Mooney, president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers, along with other opponents of charters, appears to believe that he knows what’s best for every child, under every circumstance.

This is quite an authoritarian and omniscient stance to take.

Charter-movement opponents also appear to fear the market. But why would they if they are indeed providing a higher-quality product?

Member Olentangy Local Board of Education
Lewis Center
posted by Kathie Bracy at 6:10 PM

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Quoting Jefferson

From Freedom Watch:
To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.

-- Thomas Jefferson

A Little Debate

Some discussions in the comments area are worthy of the front page. This is one such discussion under The Useful Idiots:



This is an area where I disagree with you, likely a first for me since following your blog.

While I agree that using a bogus standard as a baseline is well, bogus. However, since all other districts in the state use that same bogus standard means that it really is the STANDARD, the BASELINE for comparison.

Seeing that most of us send our kids to public schools, then we are all subject to the same bogus baseline. Thus, the bogus or validated discussion, becomes irrelevant. What does matter is how OLSD's "cost to build" compares to other surrounding districts using the same standard.

Assuming OLSD is building at a rate lower than other districts, it is fair to advertise that as sound use of our tax dollars. We, as tax payers, would be subjected to that same bogus standard if we lived in Hilliard, for example. However, in Hilliard, we wouldn't see near the return on our tax dollars that we do up here in OLSD becuase they spend more frivolously than we do. Does that make it right or validate spending on Corian counter tops for example? I suggest that it doesn't. Does that make the standard "right?" I agree with you and say "No!" But we can't fix the entire Ohio High School Education Association and I can't afford Private Schooling. So my only option is to ensure that OLSD is getting more than everyone else for the same buck, which it seems they are.

So long as they continue to do that, we're winning the losing battle.

My Response:

The problem is that as average costs rises locally and throughout the state, district costs can rise with the tide. And, in the face of costs rising at more than twice inflation[1], the district can claim that it is cost-efficient.

So, what to do? The district commissions a report that looks at cost drivers based on programs. The board reviews the report and presents the findings to the community. The board then uses the report to lower costs, and lower taxes.

Funny, the district did commission such a report; a report that was buried from board and community.

This report -- The State Standards Analysis Report (I uploaded most of it in prior posts) looks at costs by program. Now, there are problems with the report. It only addresses the operating fund, ignoring costs from other funds; costs associated with running a district (i.e. the cost of facilities is not included in (say) atheletic programs).

In addition, it does not apportion all costs to their cost centers (i.e. the salary of (say) the athletic director is not apportioned to the individual athletic programs).

Regardless, the report is a starting point.

What to do? Make changes. Look for ways to outsource functions, such as food service, transportation, custodial, etc.

Now, don't give me the "only public employees care about kids" line. That's like saying that the pharmacist at Wal-Mart is the witch to the local Hansels and Gretels (local children).

But, as long as you look to peer districts, and as long as you accept inefficient and wasteful state standards, the longer you will see rising tax bills.

In business, the rule is that when one store raises prices, others watch. But, when one store lowers prices, all lower the same day.

In government, the exact opposite is true, and will be true, as long as you allow the system to run by its own rules.


[1] Cost defined as cost relative to the taxpayer; increased taxation.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Useful Idiots

Supporters of the levy can be divided into two groups: those looking for a financial gain over their neighbors; and, those wanting to believe that school officials are looking out for the taxpayer. Let's take a look at the latter group.

The district loves to state that its building cost less than the Ohio School Facilities Commission standards. This certainly implies that the OSFC standards are the benchmark of efficient school buildings. Not even close.

During my service on the board, I attended one of the OSFC design review meetings -- meetings where the commission seeks public input regarding the Ohio School Design Manual. The Design Manual contains the state-recognized set of standards for new school construction. According to OSFC, "OSFC’s Ohio School Design Manual provides schools with standards of design and construction that assure a statewide standard of quality."

The key is this: If a feature (building size, technology component, etc.) is in the manual, the feature will be allowed in buildings funded through OSFC programs. And, if the feature is in the manual, it becomes part of the cost standard used by OSFC -- the same cost standard that the district quotes before each bond issue.

The meeting I attended was more "Name that Tune" than "protect my wallet." Those in attendance had a stake in the outcome. District representatives, vendors, and contractors, sat around one-upping each other. There was no one -- certainly no one on the commission -- saying, "What about the cost?" Instead, the commission employees were excitedly nodding their heads and noting recommendations.

The Design Manual is not a document listing efficient, tax-wise standards. No, it is simply the wish list of those looking to build school buildings at taxpayer expense. A form a taxation without representation.

I bring this up since the useful idiots of the district want to believe in their local officials. Of course, this desire to believe suits the district just fine.

Keep in mind that the state cost standard is not a mark of efficiency, it's the hallmark of inefficiency and waste. So, reviewing the expense of district schools and concluding that the district is cost-efficient simply because it beat the state standard of inefficiency and waste is a fool's errand, or idiot's errand, indeed.

A True Taste of Pittsburgh

The best cookies anywhere ... Order before it's too late ... Eat'n Park is fine dining in Pittsburgh ... a great place to eat!

Friday, March 14, 2008

A note from Freedom Watch

An interesting note from Freedom Watch -- Jim

Spending the Money of Future Generations


American patriots like Robert Hayne followed Jefferson's admonition that the national debt was not something to be passed on to future generations, and most presidents of that era and until the War Between the States endeavored to pay the debts incurred under their administrations before leaving office. In encouraging an unending public debt, Webster was promoting the American System of Whig politician Henry Clay which would give the government an endless supply of money with which to buy influence and power.

Bernhard Thuersam, Executive Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
Post Office Box 328
Wilmington, NC 28402

Spending the Money of Future Generations:

"The gentleman from Massachusetts (Webster), in alluding to a remark of mine that before any disposition could be made of the public lands, the national debt (for which they stand pledged) must be first paid, took occasion to intimate (that Southerners desire to pay the national debt) "arises from a disposition to weaken the ties which bind the people to the Union." But, adds he gentleman, "so far as the debt may have an effect in binding the debtors to the country, and thereby serving as a link to hold the States together, he would be glad that it should exist forever." Surely then, sir, on the gentleman's own principles, he must be opposed to the payment of the debt.

Sir, let me tell that gentleman that the South repudiates the idea that a pecuniary dependence on the Federal Government is one of the legitimate means of holding the States together. A monied interest in the Government is essentially a base is opposed to all the principles of free government and at war with virtue and patriotism. In a free government, this principle of abject dependence if extended through all the ramifications of society must be fatal to liberty. Already we have made alarming strides in that direction.

The entire class of manufacturers, the holders of stocks with their hundreds of millions in capital, are held to the Government by the strong link of pecuniary interests; millions of people, entire sections of the country, interested, or believing themselves to be so, in the public lands and the public treasure, are bound to the Government by the expectation of pecuniary favors. If this system is carried on much further, no man can fail to see that every generous motive of attachment to the country will be destroyed, and in its place will spring up those low, groveling, base and selfish feelings which bind men to the footstool of despots by bonds as strong and as enduring as those which attach them to free institutions."

(The Webster-Hayne Debate on the Nature of the Union, Herman Belz, Editor, Liberty Fund, 2000, pp. 42-43. Speech of Robert Y. Hayne of South Carolina, January 25, 1830)

Educationists: First they demand your tax dollars, then they condemn you for earning them

Jeffrey Tucker over at posted the following article.

Read it and weep for our future as the Rethinking Schools teachers (follow the link below) scheme ways to destroy what remains of our Liberty. These teachers -- who I believe represent the vast majority of public educators -- play out their socialist agenda in an after-school program. An experiment in Marxist social change.

Should those of us who produce value in the private sector apologise to those who live off our toil? According to the teachers at this school, we should. We are in debt to those whose serve the state. This is a theme heard over and over again from almost everyone on the Left (note statements from Clinton and Obama). According to these folks, the private sector is no place for the next generation.

Yes, these folk believe that one most be employed by the state in order to produce anything of value. Our efforts and our products are nothing more than the fruits of our servitude to the evil capital class.

Never answered are these questions: Who will produce in this utopian paradise? Who will be left to pay the taxes?

From Legotown to Communist Utopia
Jeffrey Tucker

A commentator on this blog draws our attention to this piece on the site Rethinking Schools. It is called "Why We Banned Legos." It is indeed an amazing piece of work, a perfect distillation of the romantic attachment that bourgeois educators in a prosperous society have for a communist ideal they have never experienced or seen or, apparently, read about.

In the short version, the teachers allowed the children in an after-school program to build a massive and growing Legotown. As kids will do, they students tended to homestead certain pieces and structures, and then barter them. Eventually resentments over who owns what emerge, and, after some inadvertent destruction of some buildings took place, conflicts arose.

The teachers then used the occasion to teach a lesson straight from old-time communist ideology, bringing the kids around to the view that all structures must be public structures, that nothing can be owned but by groups, and that all structures will be standard sizes.

It is an engaging if very alarming read! I would be curious to know to what extent the kids absorb the "lesson" they were given, or, if their heart of hearts, they really do miss the excitement and beauty of the real Legotown.

In any case, reading this piece, you can understand how it is that Castro's resignation has unleashed
mind-boggling statements about the glories of the society he created, and its "immense achievements in terms of healthcare, poverty reduction and education."

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Opening the Spigot

Pass the levy ... open the spigot!

Olentangy Local Schools Board of Education Meeting
Tuesday, March 11, 2008 ‐ 6:00
Olentangy Administrative Offices
Board of Education Conference Room
I. Call to Order
II. Roll Call
__________ __________ __________ __________ __________
S. Galloway D. McFerson T. Meider J. Smith J. Wagner‐Feasel
III. Pledge of Allegiance
IV. Approve Agenda
V. Board President's Report
VI. Superintendent's Report
VII. Treasurer's Report
VIII. Public Participation Session #1 ‐ For General Comments
IX. Discussion Items
A. "My Olentangy" Parent Portal 15 minutes
Keith Pomeroy
B. Middle School Schedule Presentation 30 minutes
Mike Nicholson, Gena Williams, Penny Stires,
Jim Wightman, Kathy McFarland
X. Public Participation Session #2 ‐ Regarding Action Items
XI. Treasurer's Action Items
A. Approve financials for February 2008 Exhibit A
B. Approve board minutes from February 2008 Exhibit B
C. Approve amended FY08 appropriations at the fund level Exhibit C
D. Approve amounts and rates as certified by the Delaware County Auditor Exhibit D

E. Establish new account: Hyatts Middle School Scholarship Fund ‐ 018 9202
F. Accept donations:
From: Chris and Brian Stump; To: Tyler Run Elementary School
Smartboard valued at $2,625.00
From: Levi's 4 Floors; To: Walnut Creek Elementary School
60 Carpet square samples valued at $30.00

Page 2 of 3
XII. Superintendent's Action Items
A. Specific Human Resource Items
1. Award certified contract to the following individual for the 2008‐09 school year, pending
successful background checks and receipt of necessary documentation:
Blackley, Michelle M., Olentangy Orange High School, Assistant Principal,
effective August 1, 2008, two (2) year contract at $79,000.00
2. Award certified contracts to individuals listed on the attached exhibit for the 2008‐09 school
year, pending successful background checks and receipt of necessary documentation
Exhibit E
3. Accept, with regret, for the purpose of retirement, the following certified resignation
for the 2008‐09 school year:
Miller, Daniel C., Olentangy High School, Business, effective at the end of the
2007‐08 school year
4. Accept the following supplemental resignation for the 2007‐08 school year:
Patton, Lisa M., Olentangy Shanahan Middle School, Girls Head Lacrosse Coach,
Spring Season
5. Approve supplemental contracts for individuals listed on the attached exhibit for the 2007‐08 school year, pending successful background checks and receipt of necessary documentation
Exhibit F
6. Approve pupil activity supervisor contracts for individuals listed on the attached exhibit for the 2007‐08 school year, pending successful background checks and receipt of necessary
documentation Exhibit G
7. Award classified contracts as listed below for the 2007‐08 school year, pending successful background checks and receipt of necessary documentation:
Beachley, Dewey F., Scioto Ridge Elementary, Custodian, 2nd shift
Ray, Hillorie M., Olentangy High School, Custodian, 2nd shift
Award classified contracts as listed below for the 2008‐09 school year, pending
successful background checks and receipt of necessary documentation:
Clemens, Kathleen D., Olentangy Orange High School, Attendance Aide
Priest, Julie K., Olentangy Orange High School, General Office Secretary
Ricci, Sheryl G., Olentangy Orange High School, Library Aide
Zipf, Kathryn L., Olentangy Orange High School, Athletic Secretary
8. Accept, with regret, the following classified resignations, effective March 14, 2008:
Hieber, Paul E., Transportation, Driver
Serpa, Melanie J., Olentangy Meadows Elementary, Playground Aide
Approve unpaid leave of absence:
Feasel, Michelle A., Oak Creek Elementary, Lead Custodian, effective February 26, 2008
through April 21, 2008
9. Approve resolution to terminate a classified employee's contract of employment, effective
February 11, 2008 Exhibit H
Page 3 of 3
XII. Superintendent's Action Items
A. Specific Human Resource Items, continued
10. Approve classified transfers:
Gross, Kirk J., from Liberty Tree Elementary, Custodian, 2nd shift to Hyatts Middle School,
Lead Custodian, effective June 6, 2008
Honaker, Neil A., from District, Field Service Technician to District, Head Field Service
Technician, West, effective March 7, 2008
11. Approve classified substitute workers as listed for the 2007‐08 school year, pending
successful background checks and receipt of necessary documentation:
Abdar, Ziba, Custodian (currently on staff as food service worker)
Neumeier, William J., Driver
B. Accept bids and approve contract with MT Business Technologies for the purchase of copiers
for Orange High School in the amount of $48,522.16. Exhibit I
C. Accept donation of funds from Oak Creek Elementary PTO for an outdoor classroom.
D. Approve tuition free attendance of non‐resident students who have reached their senior year and are no longer residents of this district: David Arra (LHS), Halee Culver (OHS), Tyler Eaton (LHS)
Executive Session
Motion by _______________________, seconded by _____________________, to enter into executive session at _____ ( ). m. to discuss the employment of a public employees and collective bargaining with employees.
The board reentered open session at _____ ( ). m.
XIII. Adjournment

The Sleight of Hand

The following note on the district web site is supposed to equate with good financial practices. Yet ... the word used is reporting not practice.

The district -- actually its taxpayers -- pay a consultant to assemble the CAFR. The award is only on presentation, not financial practice or fiscal accountability.

Another example of your tax dollars at work; paying for the presentation of a report so the district can claim an award.

Office of the Treasurer Again Earns Recognition for Excellence in Financial Reporting
August 29, 2007- For the sixth consecutive year Olentangy Local Schools was awarded the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting by the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) for its Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). The GFOA Certificate of Excellence is the highest form of recognition in the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting and its attainment represents a significant accomplishment by the district and its fiscal management practices.

"We are extraordinarily proud of having earned this third-party, professional recognition for excellence in reporting," said Becky Jenkins, Treasurer of Olentangy Schools. "It is a credit to our staff that work so hard in this area and is something about which our community can be proud."

The district first received this honor in 1997, and has graciously accepted the award on nine occasions. This award represents the fiscal year ending June 30, 2006.

The Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) provides a range of information on the district's financial position and is used for a variety of constituencies including area residents, federal and state governmental agencies and debt companies. The CAFR is the district's audited annual financial report prepared in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America.

The CAFR is comprised of three major sections: introductory, financial, and statistical. The introductory section provides general information on the district's structure, services and environment. The financial section contains the auditors' opinion, balance sheets, statements of revenues, expenditures and changes in fund balance, and budget basis statements. The statistical section provides trend data and non-financial data for additional analysis of the district.

The CAFR was judged by an impartial panel according to such standards as whether the report demonstrates a constructive spirit of full disclosure and whether it motivates potential users and user groups to read the CAFR. The GFOA is a nonprofit professional association serving approximately 15,000 government finance professionals.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Quotes to Consider

From FreedomWatch:
We (our government) meddle... People don't like to be meddled with. We tell them what to do, what to think, don't run, don't walk. We're in their homes and in their heads, and we haven't the right. We're meddlesome.

~ Joss Whedon's Serenity

From The Future of Freedom Foundation:
Where in the Constitution does it say that Congress may interfere in the internal affairs of a private baseball league or its players? How exactly have these vainglorious congressional publicity hounds come by the idea that their jurisdiction has no limits?
— Robert Higgs, “There's a Time and a Place for a Beanball” [March 3, 2008]

Pension: pay given to a state hireling for treason to his country.
— Samuel Johnson, A Dictionary of the English Language [1755]


New readers of this blog may be wondering about the meaning of anti-positivist. Simply put, an anti-positivist is one who does not subscribe to positivism. OK, so what's positivism. According Ludwig von Mises:
Positivism. A doctrine taught by Auguste Comte (1798-1857). It holds that man's knowledge of all subjects passes through three stages (theological, metaphysical and positive). Contemporary positivism seeks to apply the experimental methods of the natural sciences (q.v.) to the study of the problems of human action (q.v.). The maxim of positivists is that science is measurement. (from
Note: Auguste Comte was both the founder of sociology and an intellectual father of Marxism (the relationship between the evil ideas and ideals of sociology and Marxism is quite obvious -- the siblings have an uncanny resemblance).

In short, positivism is the belief that one must use observation and correlation in order to study human action. In practice, it looks any of the host of useless studies produced by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The positivist belief is that if one can correlate two sets of data, they are related.

What you end up with is sheer nuttiness, studies such as those below. Rest assured, in the end, its your tax dollars that paid for most of these studies. Enjoy them. Just do not think that these studies can impart any real knowledge.

This subject to be continued ...

National Bureau of Economic Research
Week of March 3, 2008

The following NBER Working Papers that match your selections
were released in electronic format this week. Abbreviations
in parentheses refer to NBER Research Programs. (visit for Program information.)


1. Caste, Kinship and Sex Ratios in India
by Tanika Chakraborty, Sukkoo Kim #13828 (DAE)

2. Reference Prices and Nominal Rigidities
by Martin Eichenbaum, Nir Jaimovich, Sergio Rebelo #13829 (EFG ME)

3. Political Entry, Public Policies, and the Economy
by Casey B. Mulligan, Kevin K. Tsui #13830 (IO PE POL)

4. International Economic Policy: Was There a Bush Doctrine?
by Barry Eichengreen, Douglas A. Irwin #13831 (IFM ITI)

5. Social Learning and Peer Effects in Consumption: Evidence from Movie Sales
by Enrico Moretti #13832 (IO LS)

6. Identifying Agglomeration Spillovers: Evidence from Million Dollar Plants
by Michael Greenstone, Richard Hornbeck, Enrico Moretti #13833 (LS PR)

7. Intermediate Goods, Weak Links, and Superstars: A Theory of Economic Development
by Charles I. Jones #13834 (EFG)

8. Evaluating the Impact of Technology Development Funds in Emerging Economies: Evidence from Latin America
by Bronwyn H. Hall, Alessandro Maffioli #13835 (PR)

9. Testing for the Economic Impact of the U.S. Constitution: Purchasing Power Parity across the Colonies versus across the States, 1748-1811
by Farley Grubb #13836 (DAE)

10. The Increase in Leisure Inequality
by Mark Aguiar, Erik Hurst #13837 (EFG LS PE)

11. The Cognitive Link Between Geography and Development: Iodine Deficiency and Schooling Attainment in Tanzania
by Erica M. Field, Omar Robles, Maximo Torero #13838 (HE LS)

12. Is There an "Emboldenment" Effect? Evidence from the Insurgency in Iraq
by Radha Iyengar, Jonathan Monten #13839 ( POL)

13. The Role of Labor Market Changes in the Slowdown of European Productivity Growth
by Ian Dew-Becker, Robert J. Gordon #13840 (EFG LS PR)

14. Globalization and the Great Divergence: Terms of Trade Booms and Volatility in the Poor Periphery 1782-1913
by Jeffrey G. Williamson #13841 (DAE)

15. Capital Inflows and Reserve Accumulation: The Recent Evidence
by Carmen M. Reinhart, Vincent R. Reinhart #13842 (IFM)

16. Does Temporary Help Work Provide a Stepping Stone to Regular Employment?
by Michael Kvasnicka #13843 (LS)

17. Is the Taxable Income Elasticity Sufficient to Calculate Deadweight Loss? The Implications of Evasion and Avoidance
by Raj Chetty #13844 (LS PE)

18. Language in Visual Art: The Twentieth Century
by David Galenson #13845 (LS)

19. Global Rebalancing with Gravity: Measuring the Burden of Adjustment
by Robert Dekle, Jonathan Eaton, Samuel Kortum #13846 (IFM ITI)

20. Education and Labor Market Consequences of Teenage Childbearing: Evidence Using the Timing of Pregnancy Outcomes and Community Fixed Effects
by Jason M. Fletcher, Barbara L. Wolfe #13847 (CH HC)

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Killing two birds with one stone

A prior post at the Blog at

By Jim Fedako
The two birds: My wife's desire for additional landscaping; and, your carbon guilt. It's really simple. You go to The CarbonNeutral Company website and calculate the amount of the carbon emissions resulting from your daily commute. Note the estimated values for carbon mitigation. You then go to PayPal and send me one of the amounts shown. Don't worry, I'll accept whichever amount you select. After receipt of your funds, I'll send you a certificate - suitable for framing - stating that I have declared your commute carbon neutral. My wife and I will then go to our favorite nursery and buy trees and bushes. Of course, we'll snicker behind your back. But, hey, you'll never know.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

From Legotown to Communist Utopia: A tale of indoctrination

Public educators condemning the source of their wealth -- the productive private sector. Oh, and don't think such nonsense doesn't happen here. -- Jim

note: I know, I know, there he goes again, picking on public educators. But, I ask, why do they make it so easy?

From Legotown to Communist Utopia
Jeffrey Tucker

A commentator on this blog draws our attention to this piece on the site Rethinking Schools. It is called "Why We Banned Legos." It is indeed an amazing piece of work, a perfect distillation of the romantic attachment that bourgeois educators in a prosperous society have for a communist ideal they have never experienced or seen or, apparently, read about.

In the short version, the teachers allowed the children in an after-school program to build a massive and growing Legotown. As kids will do, they students tended to homestead certain pieces and structures, and then barter them. Eventually resentments over who owns what emerge, and, after some inadvertent destruction of some buildings took place, conflicts arose.

The teachers then used the occasion to teach a lesson straight from old-time communist ideology, bringing the kids around to the view that all structures must be public structures, that nothing can be owned but by groups, and that all structures will be standard sizes.

It is an engaging if very alarming read! I would be curious to know to what extent the kids absorb the "lesson" they were given, or, if their heart of hearts, they really do miss the excitement and beauty of the real Legotown.

In any case, reading this piece, you can understand how it is that Castro's resignation has unleashed mind-boggling statements about the glories of the society he created, and its "immense achievements in terms of healthcare, poverty reduction and education."

Thursday, March 06, 2008

To those who say, "Enough is enough!"

The time to act is now.

As the base grows, so grows the next levy. The actions that the board takes in the next few months decide the timing and amount of the next levy. If the board controls costs, this levy can stretch and the millage remain relatively low. If the board negotiates away its new cash balance, the base grows, and the next levy is set in stone.

To cut the base is to cut programs. Under this scenario, the board and administration win due to the way folks in the district tremble at any threat of cuts. So, the solution is to stop the base from growing; and that time is now.

You can expect that the next contracts will be for three years, and that they will include large increases since the unions will demand raises commensurate with the supposed support of the voters. If the board negotiates away its cash balance now, the community can do nothing later.

Either a recall campaign is started soon, or pressure is put on the board to negotiate in the interest of the taxpayer; pressure at board meetings, via emails, phone calls, letters, etc.

The future is today!


The reality is this: Boards use residual negotiations. They look at what they have as far as cash over the levy cycle, and negotiate it away.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Olentangy Levy: Parents Blinked

Frightened by your own board.

It certainly appears that threats work. But, to be threatened by your own elected officials and paid bureaucrats. Well ...

A little push and the board wouldn't have cut your busing -- it had no reason to cut that or any program. In your hearts, you knew it. Yet, you cowed under pressure of your own elected officials. Democracy at work, I assume.

Really, 10 parents in the boardroom are enough for any board to question its decisions. Make that 50 parents, and busing would have stayed, along with everything else.

Keep in mind that accountability is a two-way street. The community must be willing to stare down the board and administration every now and again. Otherwise, in their own minds, the board and administration grow more and more conceited. Olentangy saw that in the 90's, and I expect that we will see it again.

So, as the board and superintendent stared, the parents blinked. The result is this: Parents gave the board and superintendent a mandate to do whatever they choose. Whether the next issue is likely high salary increases, perverse books, or something else -- parents, do not complain. Your blink allowed whatever power you once held to pass from community to board and superintendent.

Transportation for control -- a Faustian bargain of sorts.

It was as simple as that.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Ouch! The Springer Stinger

You got to love this -- OFK is sending out an email refuting the issues and facts I've posted on this blog. As you read, ask yourself this: Why does OFK feel that their supposed $80,000 levy campaign (partially paid by district contractors) is threatened by this blog and its facts?

Let me start with my favorite.

Springer quotes a blog post over at by some unverified poster named Dave. She does not provide Dave's complete comment. Here is a little more wisdom from Dave: "I think our Olentangy levy will not pass. I think they have asked for too much and threatened the voters. I'll be in favor of a trimmed down honest version." Unlike Springer, I've provided the link.
Then there are these whoppers:

-- Springer states that I was instrumental in developing the Davis contract. True. But the issue is not the original one. The issue is the amended contract approved last June, when I was no longer on the board. The board amended Davis's contract and changed his performance bonus to a guaranteed bonus. In fact, the board approved his bonus for this fiscal year last June. Did you get that? The board stated in June, 2007, that Davis already satisfied his performance for 07-08. In addition, the board added close to $400,000 in potential post-employment liabilities. Shameful for the board. Shameful for Springer. By the way, I posted his contract here.

-- Springer quotes Stacy Overly as some unbiased expert on school district cash management. Overly works for Baird, a company that will make hundreds of thousands from the bond portion of the levy. Unbiased? Huh.

But, read the Overly comment, he never states the next claim that Springer makes regarding bond ratings and cash balances. Why not? Because it's not true. The Overly comment is found
here, click on Opinion on Cash Balances.

-- Springer disputes my claim that school-related local property taxes are rising at double inflation. She wants to know which time frame I used in making that claim. Look back 10 years. Or, look out 3 years. This levy is close to a 25% increase in your local school district property tax, and it will only last 3 years. That is almost an 8% annualized increase. More than double inflation.

-- Springer never refutes my claim that teacher salaries are rising by 6.5%. She only states that I never voted against such raises. Sure, I held my nose many times while serving on the board, but my past errors are no reason to continue down a faulty path. What you learn on the board is that the majority will spend whatever it can. The best the minority can do is fight for lower increases.

-- Closing schools. Yes, Springer and OFT love that threat. But the attorney only opined on the information provide by Davis. I tried to get clarification from the attorney and a copy of the Davis information from the district. Alas, no one is talking. You can read this sordid affair
Of course, there are the expected ad hominem. While such attacks make good politics, they are light on substance.

Really, just go back to the Dave comment to see the games being played over at OFK. Whatever happened to truth? Times change I suppose.

Olentangy Levy -- Voter Check-List

Here's a final check list as you prepare to vote. I encourage you to read all my other postings so you can understand that there is no need for the March levy.

Let's focus on just five of the things we know:

  1. The $10.5 million in cuts is not required.
  2. Bond investment is available and can be used.
  3. The administration and board have no intent on negotiating tighter contracts.
  4. Schools cannot be closed to the public, churches are safe.
  5. The last year(s) of all district levies have deficit spending.
Additional explanation:
  1. The cuts list is a threat; plain and simple.
  2. The fact that there is bond investment income means that the district is not selling bonds only when bond money is needed. I don't think anyone wants the district to sit on a pile of bond money -- funded by tax dollars -- so that investment income can be earned. The board will consider this option after the levy fails.
  3. The negative balance in FY09 is cleared by tighter negotiations. It's that simple. The district is not currently proposing this as a solution, but it will after the levy fails.
  4. The district can't close schools to the public. Never could. State laws will not allow it.
  5. Deficit spending in the out-years of a levy is normal, in fact all district levies are structured that way -- including the one on the ballot.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Kicking Churches Out of Schools

Pass or fail, I learned a lot during this levy campaign. One aspect of the campaign that troubles me most is desire of the superintendent and board to close school buildings to churches, should the levy fail. Why is this so troubling?

Many Christians lament the fact that God is no longer welcome in public education. They believe that a faceless government has done this, against their will, and against their beliefs. Yet, come levy time, some of these very same folks play God as a bargaining chip: "If we can't have our levy, you can't have your church!"

Think about that for a minute. The superintendent and board is looking to use God and His Church as a means to pass a levy. In this instance, need has no meaning. Such a stand is pure arrogance and disobedience. Christians threatening churches is an action to mourned. But they've done it, and they are doing it.

I noted the lilt and glee coming from the board during the discussion of the threatened cuts.[1] Not one defense of taxpayer, community, parent, or church. It was as if closing the schools to churches is a good thing -- or, at least a good threat. Shouldn't someone have protested? Alas, there was no voice in the wilderness.

There is no need for the proposed cuts, pass or fail. This district faced a situation that was much worse in FY03.[2] Yet, no cuts were made in FY04. Different board, different superintendent.

Instead of taking the high road and negotiating contracts in favor of the taxpayer, the district is claiming that it will kick churches out of its buildings should the levy fail.[3] That really troubles me. It should trouble you.

The next time that someone laments the removal of God from public education, remember that it's not always some faceless government doing this, it may just be our friends and neighbors doing it for some worldly reason.

Something to think about.

[1] The audio is available on the district web site.
[2] The deficit for FY05 was greater than the current deficit, and, the district's valuation was much lower. Greater deficit with less resources.
[3] As I have posted many times, the district cannot close its buildings to churches, or any organization for that matter, should the levy pass and the cuts enacted.

Olentangy Levy: Closing schools and rewriting law

Let me visit this one more time.

A comment was posted implying that the district can close buildings. Keep in mind that an opinion from a school-paid attorney is worthless.

If the superintendent was looking to be truthful, he would have asked the county prosecuting attorney for an opinion. Yost -- county prosecutor --- likely would have asked for a state attorney general's opinion. That is the proper way to obtain a legal opinion.

Ironically, that is the manner that was used in Morgan County when Davis was superintendent there (refer to the AG opinion noted below).

So, Davis knows the right way to get an opinion yet he games the system in order to have a worthless opinion in hand. Davis played Olentangy for Kids as well as district residents and churches.

I call that dishonest, but standard for this administration and this campaign.

But it's important to understand the level of deceit used to pass this levy. It also calls into question other "fact" being stated by the schools. I suggest that you read additional posts on this blog to get the facts.

Olentangy Levy: Closing schools and rewriting law
or, how Scott Davis spun a tale and Pat Schmitz opined nonsense

The Law

The Olentangy district and the Olentangy for Kids levy committee state that, should the levy fail and the proposed cuts be enacted, the district can close its buildings to the public next year. Never mind that Ohio law and opinions from the state attorney general have a completely different view, the district and its paid attorney have reinterpreted state law to their benefit.

I have previously posted that the district cannot close its schools to the public. This is the straightforward read of 3313.76 of the Ohio Revised Code:

3313.76 Schoolhouses available for educational and recreational purposes.
Upon application of any responsible organization, or of a group of at least seven citizens, all school grounds and schoolhouses, as well as all other buildings under the supervision and control of the state, or buildings maintained by taxation under the laws of this state, shall be available for use as social centers for the entertainment and education of the people, including the adult and youthful population, and for the discussion of all topics tending to the development of personal character and of civic welfare, and for religious exercises. Such occupation should not seriously infringe upon the original and necessary uses of such properties. The public officials in charge of such buildings shall prescribe such rules and regulations for their occupancy and use as will secure a fair, reasonable, and impartial use of the same.

Effective Date: 10-01-1953
District buildings must be available to the public as long as the activity does not "seriously infringe upon the original and necessary uses of (the buildings)." (emphasis added) Of course, the district must "prescribe rules and regulations for their occupancy and use as will secure a fair, reasonable, and impartial use of the same." It's all plain and simple.

The Opinion

When challenged, the district sought an opinion from its attorney, Pat Schmitz of the Scott, Scriven, and Wayhoff. The opinion reads:


I am responding to your question about the use of school buildings by outside organizations. You indicated that the Board of Education has proposed closing its buildings after the school day as a cost-saving measure if the March ballot issue fails. An individual has claimed that Ohio Revised Code Section 3313.76 compels the Board to keep its buildings open for public use. You asked whether the Board may limit public use of its buildings after the school day. Based upon the information that you have provided to us, we believe the Board may do so.

Ohio Revised Code Section 3313.76 states, "Upon application of any responsible organization, or of a group of at least seven citizens, all school grounds and schoolhouses, as well as all other buildings under the supervision and control of the state, or buildings maintained by taxation under the laws of this state, shall be available for use as social centers for the entertainment and education of the people, including the adult and youthful population, and for the discussion of all topics tending to the development of personal character and of civic welfare, and for religious exercises. Such occupation should not seriously infringe upon the original and necessary uses of such properties. The public officials in charge of such buildings shall prescribe such rules and regulations for their occupancy and use as will secure a fair, reasonable, and impartial use of the same." (Emphasis added.)

The Ohio Attorney General has opined on several occasions that Ohio Revised Code 3313.76 does not give any organization a vested right to use school buildings. (See, e.g., Ohio Attorney General Opinion No. 2004-002 and opinions cited therein.) The Board of Education retains its discretion and authority to establish policies that limit building use, and the statute expressly allows the Board to limit any use that would infringe upon the "original and necessary uses" of its buildings. You indicated the Board has concluded that if the ballot issue fails it would be compelled to make a series of budget cuts to reduce expenses, and that limiting the public's use of its buildings outside of the school day would be one of many reductions made to pay for the School District's essential programs.

Boards are permitted to charge a "reasonable fee" for building use, but the fee typically cannot cover all the costs of usage, which include labor, utilities and other expenses. As such, the Board's proposal is consistent with Ohio Revised Code Section 3313.76 and the Board's broad discretionary authority to manage, control and make necessary rules for the government of its schools pursuant to Ohio Revised Code Sections 3313.20 and .47. Please note that if the Board limits public use of its buildings as part of its reduction package, the Board should amend its building use policy to reflect this decision.

In sum, for the reasons stated above, we believe the Board may limit public use of its buildings after the school day if the March ballot issue fails. If you have any other questions about this issue, please contact me at your convenience.

Patrick J. Schmitz
Scott, Scriven & Wahoff LLP
50 West Broad Street, Suite 2600
Columbus, OH 43215
Schmitz opined that the district can close its buildings to the public based on its fiscal condition next year should the levy fail; he reinterpreted the law. Very interesting.

In his opinion, Schmitz references Ohio Attorney General
Opinion No. 2004-002. What does this opinion state?

The language of R.C. 3313.76 provides that certain public buildings must be made available to responsible organizations and groups for educational and recreational purposes, under reasonable rules and regulations for their occupancy and use, and with the limitation that providing such access “should not seriously infringe upon the original and necessary uses of such properties.” R.C. 3313.76. By its terms, this statute applies to school grounds and schoolhouses, other buildings under the supervision and control of the state, and buildings maintained by taxation under the laws of the state. It contemplates that the buildings to which it applies are being put to necessary use by the governmental entities that supervise and maintain them.
Ironically, the opinion relates to Morgan County Schools while Davis was still there. The opinion reasserts the "must" with regard to districts opening their buildings to the public, with the standard exceptions regarding infringement on the original and necessary uses of the buildings.

Though the opinion was based on issues that are not relevant to our current situation, viz., the use of a building where the then-current fitness and public uses had not yet been determined, the essense of 3313.76 stands.

Request for Clarification: a simple yes/no

Confused, I asked Schmitz for clarification. In essence, can a school district reporting an $8.5 million ending cash balance close its buildings just as he had opined.


I read your opinion regarding the Olentangy district's claim that it can close schools, and I have a few questions:

You state that:

  1. The district is "compelled" to make cuts when, in fact, the district only has to correct it's reported negative balance of $2 million for FY09. Compel is an interesting choice of words, the state does not "compel" cutting programs, only correcting the negative balance. And, it is an especially interesting choice of words given that ThisWeek Olentangy (Feb. 14, 2008) is reporting that Davis states "he is 'not claiming that state law is mandating' the cuts he's proposed."
  2. Closing schools to the public will protect "essential programs" when, in fact, the district is reporting no savings from closing buildings. Since the district has never quantified any dollar savings from closing buildings (refer to the district website), any savings resulting from closing buildings is not part of the $10.5 million in proposed cuts, and, hence, has no impact on programming.

Just so that you are aware: though the district is facing a $2 million negative balance in FY09, it is proposing $10.5 million in cuts. Once these cuts are enacted, the district will be reporting an $8.5 million positive balance. Therefore, the cuts would put the district in a better financial position than most districts in Ohio. Closing buildings to the public will not affect FY09 programming under this scenario.

The $2 million can be corrected by any means, such as tighter negotiations with the unions. So, once again, the word "compel" -- as in compelling cuts -- does not apply in this situation.

Since general funds are more or less fungible, based on your opinion, Olentangy could have closed buildings years ago due to cost saving reductions. The district could make the claim that open buildings always impact programming since it could be argued that the district would have initiated program X if it could rid itself of expenses associated with open buildings, all the while reporting positive carry-over balances in its general fund.

And, if it were the case that districts can close buildings to the public based on these types of cost savings, no district would ever have to comply with 3313.76 in our world of scarcity and alternate choices. The law then has no teeth; it's invalidated by your opinion.

Is this what you are opining? That districts can close buildings on any claim
of supposed cost reductions and savings.

note: I recognize that you only opined on the information provided, but your opinion is being used based on the current situation in the district. Also, please refer to NCLB and Boy Scouts. Allowing the PTO's in the schools would require the district to allow Boy Scouts, unless, of course, the district is willing to forgo federal funding.


Jim Fedako

The Response

A simple yes/no question deserves a simple yes/no answer. Yet, Schmitz equivocated:


I have received your messages. If there is need for further discussion, I will let you know.

Pat Schmitz
Now, to be fair to Schmitz, he is employed by the district in this instance. But there would have been no reason not to have responded yes to my question, if yes was indeed the correct response. He didn't. Why?

A Records Request

In order to dig deeper, I sent a public records request to the treasurer. I wanted to read the story conveyed to Schmitz. The request reads:

(P)lease forward a copy of the letter(s) or email(s), along with all information provided, sent by Superintendent Davis or any other district employee to an attorney or attorneys at Scott, Scriven & Wayhoff LLP requesting an opinion regarding the district's authority to close buildings to the public.

A Response

The treasurer did some research and provided this:


We have no emails/written correspondence by any employee regarding the closing of buildings to the public.

Still at a Loss

So the conversation between Schmitz and the superintendent was via phone or some other means. But what was the message? Did the superintendent tell the true story? Did Schmitz rewrite Ohio law with his opinion? Or, was some other story told to Schmitz? A story that would necessarily result in the opinion that the district desired.

The Truth about Opinions

An attorney can only opine on the information provided: the tale. It's not his duty to research the validity of the claims -- in this instance, the fiscal condition of the district after the cuts are enacted, should they be enacted.

And, someone fishing for an opinion to hold in hand can obfuscate reality -- spin the tale. Certainly the opinion wouldn't stand up in court, but it looks impressive in hand, providing psychic cover for the levy committee.

What We Do Know?

This we do know: Schmitz appears to have opined new meaning into 3313.76; his name is on the opinion. Based on Schmitz's opinion and his unwillingness to respond to a yes/no question, I have no choice but to assume that he continues to claim that school districts can close buildings while reporting an $8.5 million cash balance. Schmitz is legal light years ahead of everyone else in Ohio

Maybe other Ohio districts will now use this opinion to threaten their voters. Or, just maybe, Schmitz will respond to a yes/no with a yes/no. Don't hold your breath.

The district cannot close its buildings to the public; it's a threat, plain and simple. But what about the ethics of a superintendent who will take any action, make any statement, with the exception of the honest, forthright one? Hmmm.

So a lot of time, money, and effort went into lying to churches. But, in the end, it's the district taxpayers who end up paying for nonsense opinions that end up being wielded as threats. Fiscal accountability. Huh.