Saturday, April 30, 2011

Still More This Week in Opt Outs

This week saw twelve letters to the editor of the Yankton Press & Dakotan.  Seven support the opt out while five oppose. The Yankton County Observer published one letter opposing the opt out.  In addition, the YSD School Board held a forum.

On Monday, Dale and Sherry Oare opine ". . remember we can vote on the opt-out, and we can’t vote on any of these other budget busters. The kids will still get a quality education and most of the teachers that were laid off will be called back regardless of how this vote turns out. I believe that anyone who tells you otherwise is just flat out wrong."  I gave a brief rebuttal here. I will also note that the Oares do not cite any sources that back up their assertion.

In the same edition, Mike Gillis sees the situation differently.  He writes, "If the opt-out fails, the Yankton school board will be forced to make barbaric cuts deeper than already passed."  Gillis, like Robin and Jon Flom, urges a pay it forward approach.  The Floms write,
We pay it forward. We believe that is what members of a community do. We are not willing to passively accept the cutbacks already outlined in the newspaper, not to mention those still to come. When the time comes to vote on the opt-out, we will have yet another chance to repay a little of the debt that we owe. We will vote YES. 
One must note that the Tuesday school board forum lends credence to Gillis's and the Flom's assertions that more cuts will occur without the opt out.   Page 22 of the handout distributed at the forum shows that the equivalent of 12 full time positions will not be filled this year even if the opt out passes

On Tuesday, Larry and LaDawn Remington claim that "the school board “decisions” that cost us an arm and a leg in higher taxes."  Other parts of their letter have been discussed here.  Also, on Tuesday, the Yankton School Board held a forum attended by 500 citizens.  At the forum, board member Chris Specht reminded attendees that property taxes are lower now then they were were in the early 1990s.

On Wednesday, Leon and Arlene Heine assert that the school has become a "nanny state" that will "overtax parents to where they can’t feed their kids equals the school will send supper along with homework every night."  Several online commenters to their letter explain some facts about the meals that the school sends home.

Also on Wednesday, Carll Kretsinger publishes "research" that shows "something . . . a bit wrong" with the fact that 12 of the teachers laid off were paid with federal funds.  Kretsinger also claims "all teachers and staff over age 52, when they retire they get a bonus of 75 percent of their annual salary."  The latter bit of research is both unsourced and factually wrong.  Kretsinger does not explain why federal funding "smells" wrong or whether it is guaranteed to be renewed.  Wednesday also saw recent graduate Katy Adam share some fond remembrances of her YSD education.

On Thursday, John Trombly tries to apply the theory of "creative destruction" to the the school district's funding problem by asserting "make the tough cuts now or choose to increase your taxes to perpetuate the problem and likely end up with cuts regardless."  Because schools can't charge for the education that they provide, it seems unlikely that Joseph Schumpeter's theory applies to education.  If you don't trust the Madville Times's reading of South Dakota law, see page 16 of the school board forum handout.

Also on Thursday, Dr. John Sternquist writes,
I am a retired physician who over the years has been intimately involved in the recruitment of physicians to our community. I have been proud to tout the advantages to these young people of our great school system. I even recall a Redbook magazine article listing Yankton as one of the 100 best school systems in America, giving me additional ammunition. We have been able to develop and sustain a tremendous medical community by enticing well-trained young men and women with the promise of a great place to raise their families. The mainstay of that promise is an educational system of which we are proud. Degrading that system by these extreme measures will make recruitment of young business and professional people more difficult. 
On Friday, The Yankton County Observer printed a letter from Ruth Ann Dickman who claims that she knows how "important education is" because she has a daughter who "became a teacher."  Dickman takes issue with the recently built bus barn and administration building.  She doesn't indicate how those buildings which were funded from the capital outlay fund apply to the opt out which will provide funds for the general fund.  She also doesn't source how the opt out will "turn Yankton into a town without many business places."  She also doesn't recite any anecdotal evidence, something that Sternquist and Paige Elwood do.

In Friday's P&D, Dr. Paige Elwood echoes Sternquist's claims.  Duane Grimme offers some numbers that show the school board position in a favorable light, although I wish he had provided more context for the his research.  Finally, former candidate for the YSD School Board Matt Pietz writes to support the opt out "because I want my children, current students, and future students to have the same, if not better, opportunities to succeed as those before them. In order to maintain our schools and the ability to offer a high quality education that the Yankton community is accustom[ed] to, the opt-out is necessary."

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