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.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Once again, spin, spin, spin in your anti-public education crusade.

Not only do our district's supporters recognize we build at less than the recommended state standards but also below the state average and regional comparisons. That means Olentangy has built its schools cheaper than surrounding districts like Dublin, Hillard and Westerville along with the majority of districts in the state of Ohio.

These is not some "wish list" dismissal but true hard facts.

You may dismiss that but most of us consider that good, fiscal responsibility.

Jim Fedako said...

I really tire of folks like you ...

I simply noted that the state standard is not one of efficiency. The standard is one of ineffeciency and waste.

So, to state that the district builds schools below this standard proves nothing whatsoever.

Oh, and there is neither a regional nor a state comparison group for building costs ... other than that which is the product of your fantasy.

Jim Fedako said...

I really tire of folks like you ...

I simply noted that the state standard is not one of efficiency. The standard is one of ineffeciency and waste.

So, to state that the district builds schools below this standard proves nothing whatsoever.

Oh, and there is neither a regional nor a state comparison group for building costs ... other than that which is the product of your fantasy.

Jim Fedako said...

By the way ... you are the poster child of a useful idiot.

Read John Dewey's observations of Soviet Russia to learn your epistimological roots. (Dewey, by the way, is considered the father of modern public education, and an ardent socialist.)

Anonymous said...

I've always thought the Libertarian tripe was the product of a useful Idiot.

You statement of the state standard was meant to disparage the efficiency of the school district management in the area of construction costs. When called on the fact that the district record is built on more data than one standard you want to spin away from your original purpose.

We do have comparison groups of like sized districts in both the area and state. Data on the building costs incurred by these similar districts is available both from the state and these districts. I've actually gone and done the research on what these other districts spend on building various buildings. Too bad you haven't you would see how specious your criticisms really are.

Jim Fedako said...

Prove yourself for once ... publish all this knowledge you gained through your research.

Funny, you do all this work but never link to an original document. Why keep such good stuff to yourself?

Jim Fedako said...

And, by the way, none of this proves that the buildings are cost-efficient ... unless ... of course ... your bias is that government is cost-efficient by definition. Such a belief would, again by definition, make you either a socialist or a useful idiot.

Personally, I can't decide which you are, though I am leaning toward the idiot based on your comments.

Anonymous said...

Jim,

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 meens 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 frivilously than we do. Does that make it right or validate spending on Corian countertops 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.

Jim Fedako said...

The problem is that as the average rises locally and throughout the state, the district can rise with the tide and still 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 present 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 (I upload 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.

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.

Anonymous said...

If the district is using crap as their benchmark for efficiency (it is), then they're producing marginally more efficient crap. At the end of the day it's still just a bunch of crap.

Seriously, after the error laden and purposefully misleading marketing campaign we saw from these folks during the levy debate does anyone believe a thing the district tells the community?