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.


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