Jack Roeser Blog

Thoughts, views, and observations forged during a long, active life, 83 years, by Jack Roeser- inventor, engineer, manufacturer, soldier, racing sailor, pilot, entrepreneur, classical liberal (conservative) activist, father and husband, and proud American.

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Jack Roeser is Chairman and founder of Otto Engineering Inc. a manufacturer of electronic control and communication switches for aerospace, medical and industrial uses. Otto’s success is marked by the high precision and quality of its products. Jack has received over 50 patents in Electrical, Mechanical, Machinery and Marine products. In 1994, he ran for Governor in the Republican primary, receiving 26% of the primary vote. For over 25 years, Jack has been an advocate of education reform through the application of free market principles and of school choice. Jack's sport is sailing; he has won the Chicago - Mackinac race among many others.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Education Budget Chamberlains

Neville Chamberlain stood on the air field after returning from his treaty with Hitler to give away Czechoslovakia as a sop for what he claimed would be “peace in our time.” The same type of thinking is being put forward now by the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago which is recommending a 33% increase in the income tax and other increases in the sales tax in order to provide more money for the education budget. They should know better than to think that appeasement will make the problems with public education go away.

These are prominent businessmen whose experience should have taught them that throwing money at a problem is not the way to operate. In business, if you’ve got a problem you certainly don’t say “Lets just jack up the amount of money we’re spending and forget about how well we’re spending the money we’ve got; let’s just flush all our troubles out with money.” That’s a good way to wreck a business and it won’t do anything to improve the quality of education. In the meantime, the plight of the poor taxpayer in Illinois will get much worse by this maneuver.

Half-Truth Reporting Paints a False Picture

In the Chicago Sun-Times, education bureaucracy lobbyist Ralph Martire says even the Civic Committee’s recommended tax increase is not enough and calls again for double that amount, saying such a drastic tax hike is necessary because Illinois is 42nd among the 50 states in spending on education. Martire chooses to use misleading figures originating from the “edu-crats” that reflect only the portion of spending that comes from state-level funding, neglecting the money going to public schools through real estate tax, the federal government and other local sources. Even the NEA ranks Illinois 10th out of 50 states in overall spending per pupil.

Note the tremendous spending on education salaries which are at a very high level and increase rapidly at the end of a teacher’s career, providing the base with which their immense pensions are calculated. This practice, which has absolutely no basis in providing a better quality of education, has put the public teachers’ pension fund over $23 billion in debt, the worst in the United States. Ironically, In its report entitled ‘Facing Facts,’ the Civic Committee did admit that these pensions "are more generous and expensive than those of most of the taxpayers asked to pay for these benefits,"

The High Cost of the Current System

Over 80% of a local school district’s education fund goes toward salaries for certified so-called professionals. Our web site, www.thechampion.org, contains a database showing the bloated teachers’ salaries as reported by the State Board of Education. It may surprise a new visitor to our site to see that in most of these districts, there are many teachers that are making over $100,000 a year for a job that entails only 180 days of 6 hours working time. Taken together, this is about ½ of that of the private working force. Connect this with retirement at age 56 along with an increase in pension payments of at least 3% every year. Many pensions for teachers are $70,000 a year and an increasing number are commonly ranging over $200,000 a year.

Locally, District 300 whose largest city is Carpentersville had 35 retiring teachers. All but one of them had salaries over $100,000 a year. Carpentersville is not a rich area and very few of the taxpayers there will be getting retirement pay averaging over $85,000 a year. Its worth noting that these teachers begin drawing pension benefits relatively early in life, and it’s not unusual for them to go on to take another job if they wish since they are still quite capable of working and earning an additional pension. By comparison, those paying into Social Security are restricted in doing something like that.

Another area of irresponsible spending that these businessmen need to take a closer look at is in building construction, where as much as $250 per square foot is spent for buildings that private firms get built for about $120 per square foot. Any accountant who’s taken a close look at school financial reports is aghast at the loose spending and accounting practices, including some potentially criminal kick-back schemes and some just plain misrepresentations to suit the needs of district bureaucrats to increase their own incomes. What we have here is excessive spending, not a revenue problem.

The influential men of the civic committee have been in a rarified atmosphere of high finance for too long if it doesn’t startle them that $10,000 a year per student with 25 students in a class equals about $250,000 for each classroom. Even with an annual salary of $70,000 for the teacher, allowing $10,000 to $15,000 each year for classroom space, and throwing in another $15,000 to $20,000 each year for buses and paper and pencils you get to something around $100,000 a year. That isn’t even half of the total, and you wonder how all these geniuses of education can spend $250,000 a classroom and still not have enough. Nope, we have a spending problem not a funding problem and these businessmen should call in some of their financial people who know how to count and have them do an examination of the books of these school districts that are spending so much more than any sensible business would spend on either personnel or facilities.

The Hidden Costs of Higher Taxes

The civic community claims that we can hit the business community with a 33% tax increase without adversely affecting Illinois consumers. Weren’t they watching when Governor Blagojevich increased a great many fees on businesses and trucking companies , driving many of them to leave the state?

In order to pay for the ever rising cost of education we’ve increased the sales tax numerous times, we’ve put in the lottery ,we put in the riverboats, and still there never seems to be enough money for education. In the meantime, the quality of a public education has gone down, not up.

It should be evident to any businessman that the K-12 education system of Illinois is quite dysfunctional. Its like giving more whiskey to a drunk. Money is not the problem with the education system in Illinois, which is controlled by the 800 lb gorilla of the never-satiated teachers’ union.

These modern-day financial Chamberlains are the ones that need to face the facts- what Illinois education needs is not more of your money, but long-term reform of the system that created this financial fix.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Snap out of it!

Whenever public education bureaucrats and go-along politicians start talking about the alleged “public school funding crisis” in this state, they often refer to the various tax revenue “sources”- federal aid, state funding, and local funding. These tax eaters like to say that the state is not doing its “fair share” of funding education, claiming that Illinois is 49th in the nation when it comes to school spending. The truth? That ranking reflects just one tax revenue “source.” Actually, the NEA ranks Illinois 10th nationwide in total spending per pupil.

Classifying tax revenue “sources” is a favorite ploy of the tax eaters, a way they can cry poor in order to dupe the public into giving up its hard-earned money. The fact is that there is really only one tax revenue source- the tax payer. That’s you and me. Whether it’s our right pocket in the form of property taxes, or our left pocket in the form of income taxes, or our back pocket in the form of sales taxes, it’s still our money.

When will they have enough? People are fond of saying that Springfield legislators spend money like a drunken sailor. But there’s a big difference there- the sailor is spending his own money; legislators spend ours!

Taxpayers need to snap out of it. We need to quit falling for the propaganda from the tax eaters and ask ourselves what we are getting for our money. Our public schools are doing a mediocre job at best with more money than they ever got in the past. Yet, they still want more. Plus, they want us to trust them to do a good job with pre-school and mental health screening when they can’t handle the tasks they currently have.

Is there a better way? Just ask the folks up in Milwaukee, or down in Cleveland, Washington D.C. and Florida. Opportunity scholarships allow parents to pull their kids out of failing schools and enroll them in a school of their choice. Charter schools, parochial schools, virtual schools, and home-schooling are all options that the tax eaters in Illinois refuse to allow. One can only conclude that they aren’t really interested in good education for all, at least not as interested as they are in getting more of our money.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

HB750: The “Tax Swindle” Scheme

The biggest propaganda campaign in Illinois today is the selling of House Bill 750- a scheme to raise our state income taxes by 67% in order to pump a ton of money into the huge education machine that’s once again screaming for more dough. It never quits hollering for more, no matter how much you give it.

This scheme would affect state taxes for both individuals AND businesses. It would drive many businesses out of Illinois while emptying the pockets of individuals and robbing corporations of their hard-earned profits. .

Let’s be clear – HB750 is totally based on the false premise by politicians in Springfield that we have a revenue problem for education. It is their latest scheme to get a lot more money for the union-controlled school system.

This spending crisis in public education is due to its high labor costs. In running a business, your money goes to the costs of labor, as well as costs for materials, buildings, supplies, etc. But in education, the overwhelming majority of the money goes to paying the huge salaries of the certified personnel.

Our website, www.thechampion.org, has a database of public school teacher and administrator salaries for the entire state which thousands of taxpayers are visiting daily. They are finding out the truth about what public schools in their area are paying in labor costs. Many are shocked to find that it’s not uncommon for many teachers in their own local district to be making over $100,000 a year for a 6 hour a day job that runs only 180 days a year.

What’s really behind this “tax swindle” idea

As they become increasingly aware of the truth about the money flow going into the labor side of education, many voters’ opinions have changed. A great many of them are now opposing the local tax increase referendums and are even organizing opposition groups. As a result, the percentage of referendums that fail at the voting booth has risen sharply. By casting a “No” vote for yet another referendum, these people are voting against the idea that more money should be poured into education. This is the kind of government that works best- the people who live in a district are the ones who should be deciding whether or not their school district needs more of their money.

As more and more referendums fail, the unions are left with a problem- how to get more taxpayer money for even bigger salaries, pensions, and perks. So they turn to the state representatives and state senators, who are apparently scared spineless by the powerful teachers’ unions- the Illinois Education Association and the Illinois Federations of Teachers. Any word about real education reform or any kind of spending control goes out the window lest they be targeted when it’s time to get re-elected. Instead, we get the lie that is HB750, cloaked under the argument that the state is not fulfilling its constitutional mandate to adequately fund public schools. In reality, when you look at total funding FROM ALL SOURCES, Illinois schools rank 11th in the nation.

The real result of HB 750- the “tax swindle” plan

House Bill 750 is just plain bad public policy. Its passage would be disastrous to taxpayers and to their children because:
• It would perpetuate the false myth that our schools are not getting adequate funding. The protected educ-crat would get richer and another generation of our kids would get short-changed with a substandard education.
• It would block the path of real reform in education, thereby helping to maintain a broken system that is failing in its mission,
• It would create a staggering burden of taxation on Illinois businesses, sending us further down the spiral of economic decline,
• It would leave a legacy of staggering taxation for the generations to come to fund a system of schools that have steadily lost ground with regard to education quality,
• It would shift the control of our schools away from local residents to the Springfield bureaucracy with their proven record of incompetence, greed, and unresponsiveness to individuals’ needs.

The real fact is that there is no revenue problem; it’s a spending problem. The K12 system is an unnecessarily expensive institution and it’s getting very bad results. It’s a government monopoly under the dominance of a very powerful union, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Our kids can’t afford for us to fall for this “tax swindle” scheme. We need to demand real reform instead.