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Cutting Waste in School Budgets. My Reply to a Math Teacher’s Letter.

I recently sent out an Email stating that, yes, there is plenty of room within K-12 school budgets to cut waste.  It was forwarded to a math teacher in Hudson, Kansas, and this was the math teacher’s reply to me, in which the teacher claimed that my point of view was not fair.  Out of respect to the teacher, I’ve removed the person’s name.  The teacher’s letter is first, and my reply is below the teacher’s letter.

Letter to me:

Dear Mr. Hodge,

I am not entirely sure where you get your information but as an elected official you need to find a better source. As a parent of students in grades k-12, I don’t appreciate you sitting in Topeka saying what is best for my kids having no background in education yourself.

School funding did increase from 2005-2008 because education was so poorly funded. Students need up to date textbooks not the out dated falling apart ones they have. Students need access to computers, which in case you don’t realize are expensive. In order for students to have the education and knowledge they need to succeed in higher education and in the work force, it takes money. This list could go on and on not even beginning to mention all the testing the State and Federal government require to meet No Child Left Behind, which has to be done on the computer.

I agree with you that schools are top heavy but cutting funding isn’t cutting administration. Do you honestly believe that the school superintendents are going to go their school boards and suggest that administration be cut, possibly putting their own jobs in jeopardy because they make the most? Yes, I know districts have to have a superintendent but it doesn’t mean that’s not where a school board might cut and hire someone cheaper if the Superintendent makes that suggestion. I have seen my children’s school cut teachers left and right the last few years. The school district has lost programs and is jeopardy of losing more. The class sizes continue to increase. Let me tell you, not once has it been mentioned that school administrators be cut. The lunch menu has been cut back to one choice with no seconds and smaller portion sizes. My kids never get enough to eat. Again, not once has it been mentioned that administration be cut. It isn’t the administration getting cut, it is the young good teachers.

Maybe you and some others in Topeka need to start talking to your constituents about what is really going on in their schools and towns.

I would also like to say that at this point in the cutting process it doesn’t matter if it is Education or Social Services or anything else. The different associations have met their limits and people are losing their jobs. Every time you cut an agency, they are letting someone go. This means less people paying state income tax and less people paying sales tax. Stop cutting programs and stop cutting agencies. Start finding a way to bring revenue into the state.

One last thing, I have seen where all of you in Topeka expect the rest of us to cut until it hurts (and it does hurt) but I have yet to see any of you take a cut. I haven’t seen anyone suggesting that all of you take a pay cut or cut your staffs back. I would be willing to bet that things are not run real efficiently in Topeka. I also have an accounting degree and I haven’t ever seen a government run efficiently. I would suggest that you take some of your own advice and start cutting, then maybe you might see how the rest of Kansas is feeling.

[Name of teacher]

My reply:

[Name of teacher],

I’m replying with the hope that you will appreciate a healthy debate. What some voters prefer is a watered-down, feel-good answer; I’m hoping you’re not one of them, so I’ll reply more meaningfully.

My thoughts in reply to your Email, in no particular order:

  • I am not currently elected, to be clear. As my Email indicated at the top, I was in the state legislature from 2006-2008. But I am not currently elected. I do operate a state political action committee.
  • You’re incorrect to assume I do not have educational experience. I served as a trustee of the largest college in Kansas, Johnson County Community College, for four years, and more reform — included the needed replacement of the president — occurred during my tenure than during any four-year period in the college’s history.
  • You wrote, “As a parent of students in grades k-12, I don’t appreciate you sitting in Topeka saying what is best for my kids.” That’s false. I don’t think this — I don’t think that I know what is best for your children. I think that you know what is best for your children. However, you are stating that you know what is best for other people’s children, by mandating that they only have one choice of government-run education. Why should you have the ability to mandate a lower quality of education for a student, when the student’s parent believes they could obtain a better quality of education, elsewhere, through educational tax breaks or vouchers?
  • I encourage you to consider your arguments as a type of faith. You’re welcome to any religion you wish to have, but it should be recognized that it is a faith-based argument to assume that more money equals more results, or that monopolized government-run K-12 education is best for every student. I’ll point you to the following study from the US Department of Education (which, I’ll note, should be considered unconstitutional), which demonstrates that the DC voucher program out-performed government-run DC public schools, and while the DC voucher program spend $7500 per child, compared to $25,000 per child for the public schools: http://www.heritage.org/research/education/wm1965.cfm.
  • After a brief Google search, it appears that you are a math teacher, and you wrote that you have an accounting degree. Yet you write, “Every time you cut an agency, they are letting someone go. This means less people paying state income tax and less people paying sales tax.” Then, I ask you, why not have 100% of Kansans serve in government, with a 100% tax rate? Your argument appears to be based on emotion, rather than objective data. When more can be done with less money, as it can be done in this case, it will be better for the economy (and thus everybody’s pocket books) to have less government, and not more.
  • You mention NCLB. You’re not obligated to anything under NCLB. Simply opt-out, and Kansas schools will merely lose 13% of total funding. I am on record a couple years back, suggesting that the state do this.
  • You wrote, “Do you honestly believe that the school superintendents are going to go their school boards and suggest that administration be cut, possibly putting their own jobs in jeopardy because they make the most?” Yes, I believe that they should be required to behave in responsible, ethical manners as they spend the taxpayers’ money — other people’s money.
  • You wrote, “Let me tell you, not once has it been mentioned that school administrators be cut.” Did I not read that you are a KNEA member? I must ask, why are you wasting your money on your union membership, if your union does not make obvious recommendations? Why don’t you mention this?
  • You wrote, “I haven’t seen anyone suggesting that all of you take a pay cut or cut your staffs back.” From where do you obtain your news? Not only has it been mentioned, it’s even been voted on. After my comments, I will copy and paste a press release from one state senator, regarding a 5% pay cut. Furthermore, the Kansas House members do not have “staff.” There is one part-time secretary shared between either two or three legislators. The legislators, themselves, operate in a rather efficient manner.
  • I fully agree with your comment here: “I haven’t ever seen a government run efficiently.” Why, then, should I assume on blind faith that your school (a government) is run efficiently? Put your itemized expenditures online, let the taxpayers see where the money is going, and the citizens of Kansas will then finally be able to determine whether your school is run efficiently. Until then, please stop demanding blind faith.
  • Regarding legislative pay cuts, the following is from a current state senator. This is not an endorsement of the candidate.

Leading by Example – Huelskamp Votes to Cut His Own Pay

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 19, 2010
CONTACT: David Ray: Office: 620-227-9807 Cell: 901-288-4300

DODGE CITY – Tim Huelskamp, Republican candidate for Congress in the First District, voted today to cut his own pay as part of a larger effort to close the state’s budget deficit. The measure is set to result in a 5 percent salary cut for legislators, judges, and certain political appointees.

“As a citizen legislator, I have always believed in leading by example,” Huelskamp said. “I fully support reducing legislative salaries as contained in this bill. Additionally, I call upon my fellow legislators to reduce their office expenditures and out-of-state travel expenditures.” Huelskamp added “If we expect the rest of state government to tighten their belts and eliminate unnecessary spending, we must be willing to do the same.”

The Topeka Capitol-Journal reports that these compensation cuts will save the state nearly $1 million through June 30. In the last year, Huelskamp has saved the state over $4,000 in office expenditures alone.

###

Paid for by Kansans for Huelskamp

Sincerely,

Benjamin Hodge

______________________

Connect with Benjamin Hodge at FacebookTwitterLinkedInThe Kansas Progress, and LibertyLinked. Hodge is President of the State and Local Reform Group of Kansas.  He served as one of seven at-large trustees at Johnson County Community College from 2005-’09, a member of the Kansas House from 2007-’08, a delegate to the Kansas Republican Party from 2009-’10, and was founder of the Overland Park Republican Party in 2011.  His public policy record is recognized by Americans for Prosperity, the Kansas Association of Broadcasters, the Kansas Press Association, the Kansas Sunshine Coalition for Open Government, the NRAKansans for Life, and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

 


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