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 SaveTheHilliardSchools.blogspot.com 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
here.
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.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jim,
Please post the entire e-mail they sent. I don't subscribe to their site...:)

Jim Fedako said...

I don't either. Someone posted it here ... http://antipositivist.blogspot.com/2008/02/olentangy-levy-closing-schools-and.html

Anonymous said...

Jim, Thanks for speaking up! Here is the email that is being circulated many times, many venues.

Neighborhood Volunteers -


Many of you have asked us for support in refuting Jim Fedako's blog. We hope this helps. This email from our OFK chairwoman will also be sent to those neighbors whose email addresses you collected. Feel free to forward to others as you see fit.





Hello Friends and Neighbors –



Some of you have expressed concern about a blog written by an ex-board member who is against Olentangy’s bond and levy. We would like to provide you with some answers.



1. Who is Jim Fedako? Mr. Fedako was a school board member from 2000-2006. Though he accomplished a considerable amount as an Olentangy board member, he has since stopped supporting the public school system as a whole. If you read through his posts prior to this levy campaign, you will find that he believes that the public school system should be abandoned. He supports both home schooling and the privatization of all schools; however, private schooling and home schooling are not viable or even necessarily desirable options for the 13,000 Olentangy children and their families now. Feel free to look into the cost of a private school education, especially if you have more than one child to educate. Costs will likely run much higher than the school portion of your property taxes.



Here’s what Mr. Fedako has said:



“I am using the remaining months I have on the school board to try to make a change. No, I am not expecting any improvements in the current system . . . Instead I am working for a revolutionary change, one that takes us back to the private system of education that was the primary education-delivery structure at the time of the Revolution; revolutionary indeed. Do not buy the “education is a public good” mantra, and do not accept the current system – a system patterned after the 19th century collectivist and socialist Prussian state. Instead work for a free-market education system . . . That is the means to reestablish liberty in the United States.” (A Misesian on the School Board, posted 5/5/06)



2. Mr Fedako’s postings are too numerous for OFK to refute one by one, but we would like to address a few of his more recent postings:



· He states that it is illegal to close schools at the end of a school day and that the district’s attorney’s opinion should be dismissed. The district’s attorney is charged with protecting the school district from lawsuits, so it isn’t logical that the district’s attorney would provide an erroneous opinion. Furthermore, Mr Fedako is not an attorney.



· He states that local school district property taxes have been rising at a rate that is double inflation. How does he arrive at that? Over what time period? Does any of that time period include the time that he was on the board and voting for levies to go on the ballot? And he completely discounts the fact that the rising costs aren’t just about inflation, they’re about growth too – a 50% increase in student enrollment in the last four years. Additional students cost the district additional money.



· He states that the average employee has been reaping yearly salary increases of close to 6.5%. In our research, we couldn’t find any time when Mr Fedako voted against the teachers’ salary increases while he was on the board. Maybe that's because he was aware that Olentangy is not operating in the private sector. The district operates in the public school sector where salaries and benefits need to be competitive with other schools in our area in order to attract and retain the best teachers and staff. Olentangy’s average teacher salary is lower than Bexley, Worthington, Upper Arlington, Dublin, Gahanna, Westerville, Columbus, Hilliard, and New Albany and lower than the state average.



· He takes issue with Dr Davis’ compensation, yet our understanding is that Mr Fedako not only approved his contract in 2006, he was also instrumental in developing that contract when Dr Davis was hired.



· He states that the district doesn’t need to cut $10.5 million. Actually, to cut $10.5 million if this levy fails is simply the most financially prudent course of action. For the 2007-08 school year, the district is spending $10.5 million more than it is taking in. If this issue fails, the district’s cash balance will be at risk. Mr. Fedako’s argument is to take the district’s cash balance down to zero. Who would deliberately wait until their checkbook is at $0 before working to make changes to ensure they could pay their bills? Dr. Davis and the school board believe that to allow the district to have virtually no “savings” would be fiscally irresponsible. Thus, if the levy fails, the district will cut the rate of spending to bring expenses in line with incoming revenue. This principle is supported by Stacy Overly, an expert on school district cash management. His opinion can be found at www.olentangyforkids.org and clicking on “Opinion on Cash Balances”.



In addition, according to its bond agencies, the district risks lowering its bond rating by depleting its cash balance. A lower bond rating means higher borrowing costs. Dublin is currently cutting costs to rebuild its cash balance in order to retain its bond rating.



3. Olentangy For Kids is not the only voice speaking out about Mr. Fedako. Even people who are not necessarily in support of our ballot issue recognize that Mr. Fedako’s motives are questionable. Here’s the opinion of an Olentangy resident named “Dave”, who posted a response to a parent on a blog discussing another school district’s levy:



“Be leery of putting yourself in the same boat as Mr. Fedako. Mr. Fedako doesn't want quality schools. He wants no schools. At least no public schools.

You seem to be understanding and thankful for your children and their quality education. Mr. Fedako home schools (which is a great choice for those who can negotiate the challenges) but laughs at anyone who thinks their children can get a quality education in a public facility.

Although he won't come out and say it he would take a school with a 200/1 student teacher ratio and find financial fault. He would find a way to cut their budget. He would outsource the teachers to India if he thought it would save him one penny of his tax dollars.”



Bottom line: The district and Olentangy For Kids have published fact after fact showing that Olentangy’s total costs are competitive with other districts. Visit www.olentangyforkids.org to get the facts.






Archana Springer, Chairwoman

Olentangy For Kids

Scott said...

Jim,

I guess that some good news is the fact that I have not received this email. Apparently my network of contacts do not see any value in its spin.

This type of thing is unfortunately inevitable. Heck, if my 6.5% annual increase (if I were so lucky to get one) were on the line, I would work pretty hard to spin things in favor of issue passage.

It really is telling how the 6.5% annual salary increase is not disputed. And how the annual property tax increase is questioned, but no other numbers are given. If these numbers were incorrect, OLKs should be able to tell us what they really are and how they were computed. They, of course, have not done this because your numbers are correct.

Keep up the good work, Jim. Some of us see the value in what you're doing.

Anonymous said...

Any legitimate counter argument would walk the audience through the statistics being refuted. The mouthpiece for OFK didn't do that once. All she basically says is, "don't be confused by what our adversary is saying" and then she tries to impugn your credibilty with selective quotes from your blog, rather than clarify and support Olentangy For Kooks claims so that Joe and Jane Sixpack can understand them.

I love the (paraphrase) "we're in the public education sector, so 6.5% annual increases are okay" comment. How vapid.

The central question to all of this is: if the public is so innately supportive of OLSD and Davis, McFony, Gallowaste and their minions feel so strongly about the value of their product--our "investment", then why do they feel they have to put the gun to the head of residents? I always thought the best products were able to sell themselves?

Anonymous said...

If you read the newspapers last year, you saw that teachers got a 2% raise. Some got step increases or education increases, but that does not apply to all teachers. The insinuation that all teachers got 6.5% increases is misleading --spin, if you will. Many got 2% only, but that is not what Mr. Fedako wants people to know.

Interestingly, the very people who vote no against the levy will also be angry at the district when the cuts are made if it fails. You can't have it both ways, folks. Good programs, extensive opportunites and high quality teaching staff costs money in any district. Eventually taxes will go up because that is how schools in Ohio are funded. Even if this levy were not on the ballot, Mr. Fedako would be against it next year, too, and every year because he does not like public schools. Some people would NEVER vote for a levy. How exactly are schools to operate then? Not everyone can afford private education, which is significantly more expensive than taxes are, and those who work cannot home school their children.

Jim Fedako said...

I get a lot of comments that read, "Why don't you publish my comment? You refuse to state the opposing view."

Simple, I get many comments like this; comments that are tiring and repetitive. I have addressed this specific issue many times before. But, alas, once more ...

If you read this blog OR the district's Five-Year Financial Forecast, you would know that the 6.5% figure is an AVERAGE increase.

I don't ever state that some employees only GOT a 2% increase. I only state that the budget for next year includes an average raise of 6.5%.

That means there are many employees will be getting raises well above 6.5%. That's how averages work.

Anonymous said...

My wife and I will be the first in line to gather signatures for a Tax Repeal if this should pass tonight. How would we go about leading a petition to repeal the school levy in the event if passes Jim? We the people still have a voice, and I plan to exercise that voice in more productive way than counting on lopsided campaign trickery and extortionist campaign tactics. Please advise.

Jim Fedako said...

Refer to http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/5705.261.

It's pretty straight forward. Create a petition that meets the law's requirements, obtain the signatures, and file.

Be careful, the district could beat you to the board of elections. The issue is that only one petition can be filed every 5 years.

In the past, at least one district put a reduction of some nominal millage on the ballot to stop any opposition from filing -- at least for 5 years.

The district actually had a millage reduction in the 70's. I don't know who initiated that one.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

We have to talk about compensation, rather than salary. The compensation of teachers has become lush over the years to compensate for relatively low salaries. That is, generous packages benefits and provisions have been given to teachers to offset the disadvantage of having wage-compressed union jobs.

That said, a teacher making $50,000 with my deductibles profile has the same relative salary as a private sector employee with my deductibles profile making $62,125 in the company I work for (one of the largest employers in the state). Here's how that breaks down: (T = Teacher; P = Private Sector)

Health care:
T pays $40 per month ($20 per pay cycle); P pays $341.66. This is a difference of $3,620 annually.

Taxes:
T does not pay Social Security (6% of salary) so T's monthly taxes come to $349.41; P's monthly taxes come to $740.35. This is a difference of $4,691.28 annually.

401K:
T receives an annual annuity equal to 14% of his salary, without the requirement to pay anything into it; P puts in 5% of his salary in order to get 5% matching contribution from his employer. P pays $341.66 per month into his 401K and T pays nothing. This is a variance of $4,100 annually.

When you add up the variances you see that $12,000 more is being taken out of P's paycheck annually than T. This is why T, at $50,000 annual salary has the same takehome as P who makes $62,125.

Scott said...

anonymous,

Please keep us posted regarding this petition. I would be glad to help. Personally, I would like to see a millage reduction that would lower the annualized tax increase to 3% or less. 3% should be enough.

And great post about compensation. A real eye-opener. These are the kinds of facts that can support a petition to reduce millage.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and remember that T is paid for only eight months of labor, while P works 11 months:
Assuming T has 15 years teaching experience, T has four weeks of vacation and six days of personal days; P has the same.
T Works from August to May, 9 months
T gets another four weeks for Christmas break and Spring break
Te gets other, miscellaneous snow and "educator-related" days off (nice, but won't I won't count them here).

And this is just a simple analysis. One really has to look at hours worked per day to gain a complete understanding of the teacher labor-compensation dynamic. That would make for a much more lopsided outcome.

Alas, if P's salary was prorated to T's workyear P would have a salary of only $42,000. T is making $50,000.

Whichever way you slice & dice the data teachers don't have it so bad. Total compensation--not just salary--has to be factored into wage negotiations.

Anonymous said...

I agree that teachers receive a "nice pay" for the time they work, but what it really boils down to is the fact that teachers don't just "work the contract." Teachers spend countless hours outside of the school day preparing lessons, grading tests, papers etc. Many private jobs do not force you to do this...you can just come 9-5 and do your job. A teacher who really cares is not able to do this.

As a teach in the Worthington school district, I spent last year doing a little scientific experiment where I counted all of my hours that I worked then took my salary + benefits then divided by the number of hours to find out my hourly wage. Believe it or not, my hourly wage came out to less than minimum wage. Don't you think that is ridiculous? I do! I don't think you all give teachers the credit they deserve...you just assume they work from 7:30-3:10 which is the contracted hours for a middle school teacher at olentangy. That is only 20 minutes shorter than an 8 hour work day. They don't work any less than anybody else. Don't discredit teachers. It is the administration that gets paid too much for their jobs.

Anonymous said...

you're an exception and should be commended. however, your ethos is not of the typical teacher in the public system--at least not ours, who nickle-and-dime the district for supplementals if they're going to go a minute over their contractual workday. are you a public or private teach? I bet private. That you're even posting here tells me you have private sector sensibilities, which are anathema (at the very least, alien) to the intellectually constipated public teachers who rant here.

I knew one teacher who made a point of telling me that she got to school at 6:30 every morning; she took particular pride in that because she was the only teacher in the school who arrived early. she's no longer with the district--go figure.

Anonymous said...

Davis likes to point out that a recent vacancy yielded 3,000 applications (just as a vacancy last year coincidentally attracted 3,000 applicants). As a Westerville teacher I chatted up at a local park told last summer, "Of course we all want to work in Olentangy--they have it so good over there". So, the attraction that teachers have to Olentangy apparently has less to do with the "culture of excellence" than it does with the cushy lifestyle.

Scott said...

Right after graduating college I had a roomate that was a teacher. He got to work at 7:30 and left at 2:30. Did no work in the evenings. Had a planning period during the day. Had a lunch period. Graded all papers in class. So his work day was 6-7 hours. Of course there were the numerous sick days, holidays, breaks, and the summers off.

He didn't have to answer to performance. His increases were based solely on the contract. So why work early or late? As long as he stayed out of trouble and kept his education current (paid for by the district of course) he kept his job.

My point? I'm sure that there are teachers that put in longer hours. But that motivation comes from within. And I know firsthand that there are teachers like my roomate. But we don't hear much about those.

Anonymous said...

The reason Westerville teachers want to come here is because we support our schools. The morale in Westerville is shot because of their levy problems.

There may be teachers that only work the minimum but my personal experience is they are not the majority. I've had teachers come to my kids outside events on weekends. I've found teachers in the classroom at 5 and even 6PM. I've found teachers and administrators at events in the evenings.

We have a core of great teachers in Olentangy and we need to responsibly work to keep it that way. They are the key to our successful district.

Scott said...

Gotta love these "we support our schools" comments. So, do we "support the United States" only if we raise federal income taxes at ever increasing rates?

Anonymous said...

"Teachers spend countless hours outside of the school day preparing lessons, grading tests, papers etc. Many private jobs do not force you to do this...you can just come 9-5 and do your job. A teacher who really cares is not able to do this."

You must be kidding me right? 9 -5? Who works 9 - 5 anymore? I leave at 7 and get home at 6:00, if I'm lucky. I spend a lot of nights and weekends entertaining clients. If that is during the week, I leave at 7AM and get home at 10PM on average. Lump travel and total time away from home and I double the amount of hours a contract teacher works in a year.

And I'm not the abnormal worker... my clients are usually there when I'm there. My peers are too.

Teachers have it made.