Next week is election day. If you did not know about it, that is because yo’re not supposed to know about it. We hold our annual school district elections on their own day in the spring. I am sure if you were to ask why they are held in the spring and not on the day we normally vote in November, I am sure you’ll get some “corporate-speak” song and dance about the timing of their own budgeting and the way the state mandates that this is done. But that is just a smokescreen for the fact that the entire purpose of local school district elections is to keep turnout as low as possible, and to keep people “in the know” as the ones who are coming out.
Do I have “proof” that this is the case? No, not anything I’d go to court with. But we did only receive a flyer in the mail yesterday for a vote that is happening on Tuesday. I don’t see any aggressive “Get Out the Vote” campaigns by the public interest groups in my community and certainly not a single shred of conversation about the important local school district elections has occurred on my own campus. Some other pieces of flotsam related to the government schooling in my town:
(1) There is, in addition to the up or down vote on the budget (more on this below), a chance to “elect” school board members. That election is very much like the elections involving Putin, just absent the intimidation. Let’s see the 4 candidates I get to “choose” from this year: one seeking her 7th term on the board who is on the Regents advisory board and whose occupation is a Consultant to local and state Superintendants; the others are all seeking their 1st terms on the board, but they all include candidates with children in the schools. This is nice of course, e certainly want people tied to the schools running the schools. But remember, they run the schools using other people’s money. And there is not a snowball’s chance in a global warming model that anyone on the board is a proponent of shrinking the size and scope of the current government school system here.
(2) With that said, I found this on the PCSD website. I don’t think those things go together.
(3) The total budget for our school district this year is $120 million. They are estimated (see my point below) to serve just under 6,000 students. So our government schools here in Pittsford are spending over $20,000 per student per year to educate them, And as far as government school districts go, this is one of the most well-run, fiscally “responsible” districts in the country. $20,000!
(4) The flyer they sent us about the budget vote says pretty much the same thing each year. “The budget committee works hard every year to keep a handle on costs, etc. etc. etc.” And they do, for a school district. For example, in some fancy bubbly “quick facts” for the budget vote, they celebrate that the budget increase is “only” 2.26%. I suppose this is to be commended. But what they have NEVER done is make it easy to find out how many students they serve, and whether in per student terms this spending is reasonable or not. Indeed, the adopted budget does not use the term “enrollment” or “per pupil” a single time. This is not some oversight, this is borderline fraud. And it’s not because these folks don’t think in terms of the budget per SOMETHING terms. Why do I say that? The fancy newsletter they sent us to support the budget vote happily celebrates that their new budget only increases taxes on us residents by $73 per household. So, when the district is “celebrating” how fiscally responsible it is, we have no way to gauge how true that is. Are student enrollments growing? Are they flat? Are they declining? Unfortunately you’ll have to do a lot of hard digging to actually find this out. Wait, I just found it tucked into slide 12 … and they assume, to the pupil, the EXACT SAME number of students. I find that hard to believe. I’m having a devil of a time getting historical enrollment data by district (I know it exists) from the NYSED website, but even this summary chart is informative. It tells us that enrollments have been falling over time. Enrollments have fallen about 5% over the last decade or roughly 1/2% per year. If PCSD enrollment may fall by a half-percent this year, and next and so on, then those budget increases should be reported as being higher than they really are.
(5) To their “credit” most of the districts spending seems to be on instructional related things. But of course it’s not clear what that is for. We do not see in the public voting documents how much of that instructional spending is going toward teaching students how to read and write versus how much to indoctrinate them about the evils of the modern capitalist world we live in. Furthermore we see nothing at all about how much of the $93 million of salary and benefit expenditures are allocated to classroom professionals versus administrative professionals. I am scared to even mention this, because I am sure that would provide the impetus for the district to hire yet another administrative professional to do the calculation and put it up on their website.
(6) Am I the only person on earth who finds it odd that teachers and school district employees are allowed to vote in such elections?
(7) My favorite blip from the budget advertisement is this one, “Bus Proposition will NOT impact taxes and will generate State Aid if approved by voters.” Now of course we need buses and I have no problem with them being replaced and well maintained. But to perpetuate a myth that they are FREE to the taxpayers of Pittsford is fraudulent. Every district is making the same appeal. So what we have here is a case of splitting the check, yet again. Do we think that when the check is split that the “dinner bill” will not be impacted?