Tonight’s D-64 Public Budget Hearing: Edu-Speak For The Clueless Masses


We’ve often criticized the lack of transparency and accountability from the two local taxing bodies who take more money out of Park Ridge property taxpayers’ pockets – approximately 66% combined – than all other taxing bodies cumulatively: Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 and Maine Township High School District 207.

Not surprisingly, both those governmental units have mastered the art of extracting larger and larger amounts of tax dollars from the citizenry while at the same time avoiding accountability for producing lower and lower levels of measurable performance and student achievement.

Nevertheless, both of those school districts have a cadre of committed apologists who respond to any criticism of their favored district in knee-jerk reactionary fashion. You can see prime examples of such reactions in the comments to our 08.29.14 post about D-207’s Board member appointment process – although it should be noted that 28 of those 45 comments existing as of the publishing of this post (8/29 at 10:11, 10:31, 10:47, 10:56 and 11:06 p.m.; 8/30 at 7:10, 7:35, 8:10, 9:22, 9:24, 9:43 a.m. and 5:30, 5:37, 5:43, 6:36, 7:07 and 7:23 p.m.; 8/31 at 8:46 a.m. and 1:58 p.m.; 9/1 at 11:31 a.m. and 12:05, 12:11, 2:34, 2:54 and 3:34 p.m.; and 9/2 at 3:53, 4:24 and 4:40 p.m.) were submitted by the same person.

A shy D-207 Board member, perhaps? Or a Board member’s spouse? Or just a D-207 toady?

Maybe that’s why we got some perverse satisfaction from the story in the current edition of the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate, “District 64 to hold Sept. 8 hearing on proposed budget,” (09.03.14), about tonight’s budget hearing scheduled for 7:15 p.m. at Jefferson School, 8200 Greendale Ave., in Niles.

Actually, it wasn’t the hearing itself that provoked a wry smile. It was wondering how the D-64 Board members could maintain straight faces while announcing the opportunity for members of the community to comment on the proposed 2014-15 budget while the District’s grossly overpaid (at close to $220,000 this school year) budget manager, Rebecca Allard, was declining to share the budget’s total revenues and expenses until the hearing itself because “[t]here are adjustments [to the budget] that the board has not seen.”

So much for any interested taxpayers or the local press showing up tonight with any advance knowledge of arguably the two most important components of that budget: revenues and expenses. And in addition to no final revenue and expense totals, Allard also said that the amount the District plans to spend on capital improvements won’t be disclosed before the hearing, either.

Just when we thought D-64 and its Board couldn’t be any less transparent or accountable, they give us a game of 20 questions masquerading as a “public budget hearing”…where even the Board members apparently won’t find out the answers until kick0ff!

That’s exactly what we’d expect out of Allard and the rest of the illusionists who run D-64 like a Vegas magic act, using sleight of hand to convince trusting and/or gullible parents and taxpayers alike that the tens of millions of dollars D-64 shakes them down for each year really do turn into marvelous educational achievement of equivalent or even greater value. Or into a white tiger, depending on whether you attend the matinee or the dinner show.

And, unfortunately, these D-64 Board members – whom we elected and entrusted with the duty to ensure that every tax dollar is spent in the most prudent manner so as to maximize its value to the students whom are its intended beneficiaries – are either bigger rubes than the rest of us in the audience, or they’re actually part of the  act and charged with getting us to look in the wrong direction so that we miss the bureaucrats’ false shuffles and their palming of the Ace of Spades.

Worse yet, the H-A article states that the D-64 Board approved a tentative budget back in July. So it appears that, for the past 30-plus days, Allard and her financial munchkins have been diddling each other when they should have been crunching numbers. Or they’ve actually been engaging in a deliberate effort to bamboozle the taxpayers by keeping enough loose ends and empty places in the budget so that neither the public nor the press can ask informed questions at tonight’s “public” hearing.

And if that means the D-64 Board is kept in the dark, so much the better – because neither the current Board nor any of its predecessor boards have let even pitch-blackness stop them from rubber-stamping whatever the bureaucrats du jour hand them. So even though the taxpayers – and the Board, apparently – have no idea what Allard’s “adjustments” will be tonight, that didn’t stop them from moving the process forward on what the H-A article blithely reports to be salary increases of 4.9%, along with an approximately 4% increase in benefits.

How many of you D-64 taxpayers are getting a 4.9% salary increase this year? How about a 4% benefit increase?

Actually, we’re not exactly sure where that 4.9% comes from, because Page 13 of the latest draft (No. 3) of the “Tentative Budget Review” dated September 8, 2014, states: “The [Educational Fund] salary budget is estimated to increase by $2,304,229 or 5.3% over the previous year’s actual expense.” And Page 15 states that “[s]alaries are anticipated to increase by $99,147 or 3.8%…[as] a result of 3.5% increases for all custodial and maintenance staff.”

As we’ve come to expect when dealing with public sector raises, none of these salary and benefit increases appear to be tied in any understandable way to measurably-improved employee performance, whether that comes in the form of more work performed, or the same amount of work performed in a better way, or some other objective measurement.

We also find it interesting that, according to Page 26 of the Tentative Budget Review, even though Board Policy 4:20 requires the District to maintain “four (4) months of operating expenditures” in reserve, the tentative budget projects year-end 2014-15 reserves of double that.

Can you say “slush fund”?

But our very favorite part of the budget documents is the Executive Summary section titled “Investments in Student Learning 2014-15,” which can be found on Pages 2-4.

It starts out talking about a “five-year plan” named “Journey of Excellence” whose “original planning horizon” has been reached, thereby requiring the creation of “a new multi-year Strategic Plan.” The irony of how the old Soviet Union always implemented five-year plans – which were never successful before being replaced by the next five-year plan that also never hit its marks – apparently was lost on budget-drafter Allard, despite her $220,000 annual compensation.

And judging by the District’s lackluster performance these past five years (and by what might be its adverse effects on Maine South’s rankings), the “Journey of Excellence” might not even qualify as “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.”

The rest of that Executive Summary is loaded with edu-speak like: “Strategic Plan implementation activities will continue to be embedded within the District’s overall initiatives,” “job-embedded coaching,” “instructional shifts,” “[m]ath intervention for struggling learners,” “curricular pacing guides,” “supplemental learning experiences,” “dynamic and differentiated opportunities,” and what must be the term of the year for 2014-15: “release time.”

George Orwell would be proud of such edu-speak.

And “Winston Smith” would be confused and dismayed by it.

To read or post comments, click on title.

16 comments so far

I have completely lost all respect for the D64 Board members. The reason? I actually read the report (posted online) detailing the problems with the HVAC system installed at Carpenter Elementary school. How anyone who was involved in any aspect of that installation sleeps at night, I have no idea. It horrifies to think our children’s education is the hands of the people who rubber-stamped that project.

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the meeting when the report was discussed. I watched online as soon as it was posted, sure that there would be parents/teachers lined up for public comment. Guess what? Principal Balduf was the only one who had anything to say on the matter. Not one parent cared enough to call the Board on this gross mishandling of taxpayer money at their childrens’ expense. It was probably good that I could not have made it, as I am still so angry about this that it’s hard to be civil.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We assume you mean the August 25 Board meeting at which the Farnsworth Report was discussed. That Report identified “over 200 distinct issues [i.e., defects] pertaining to the design, installation and/or operation of the current HVAC systems,” of which over 60 “were considered critical in nature.” Although the Report (at page 4) places the responsibility for the “design issues” on the “engineer of record,” which we understand to be the District’s archtect/engineer of record, Fanning Howey, whose appointment we questioned in our posts of 05.13.11 and 09.14.11.

We can’t wait to find out how much this will cost D-64 to fix, assuming the current D-64 Board and administration can’t find a way to bury those costs.

The City used to do a similar thing; hand the crucial, detail-intensive paperwork to the council at the last possible moment, and use “the council hasn’t seen it yet” as the rationale for not letting the public in on the joke. Guess the school district’s game of KeepAway is still in play.

They are never overtly defiant; they just keep hiding the ball. Passive-aggressive par excellence.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The master of that treachery at City Hall was former city manager Tim Schuenke, who often walked into the Council chambers as the meeting was starting with new paperwork still warm from the photocopy machine.

Why you are critical of the 5 year Soviet plans? Sure they were never achieved; sure they kept people employed artificially; sure they put prisoners to work; sure there were large famines that killed millions of people. But besides that, wasn’t the unemployment rate reduced???

In all seriousness, if there was more diddling going on, and less number crunching, perhaps we would have a second baby boom that would allow for generation X and generation Y to someday retire!

Or maybe it is more like, “Welcome to the Monkey House”.

The point of my comments are this, they have nothing to do with anything, just like the answers will be for justifying the D64 budget.

Bob, you meant “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.” Still one of my all-time favorite films.

It’s way funnier than what passes for the budget governance described here in your post.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Oops, Freudian slip. Thanks for pointing it out so it can be corrected.

That’s because it features the logic of So-Crates while the budget process lacks any logic.

Are these salary increases for teachers the ones given away during the contract negotiations a few years ago, or something in addition to that? The way it’s referred to it almost sounds like it’s something else.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We assume those increases are the contract increases, although it’s not like Allard or the Board make it all that obvious because then folks might start expecting real transparency and accountability from D-64. And after that, real performance and achievement.



EDITOR’S NOTE: Just as moronic as ever.

I tried to slog my way through that budget document and got through Part I and 1/2 of Part II before deciding this may be what the law requires but the district has done nothing on its own to make it user-friendly or understandable to the average citizen, even those average citizens with advanced degrees.

For example it looks on Page 13 like there will be a $5 million operating deficit. It also looks like $490,000 of raise is coming from “step” increases, $172,000 from “lane” increases, and $238,000 from “longevity” (seniority?). And $175,000 is going for a 6% “new retiree notice” (Is that the “spike” intended retirees get in the year/two/three before they retire in order to goose their pensions?) Not explained, at least not in Part I. There is also $106,000 in “Retirement Incentive” payments (P.14), without explanation.

They are transferring $426,000 for psychologists from the “exempt” classification without explaining why, or what the consequences will be.

Clear as mud.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Hey, you got farther than we did – we stopped at the end of Part I.

Frankly, we doubt a majority of the Board – and maybe not ANY of them – will understand the budget well enough even to ask meaningful questions (unless Allard writes some for them to ask in order to create the appearance of being informed) before they rubber-stamp it on Sept. 22.

Just as clear as the D-64 Board and Staff want it.

So your solution for fixing the decline in school rankings is what? Reduce salary increases because that will incentivize the teachers to do more with less? Doesn’t that assume that teachers currently are purposefully not doing everything in their power to help children achieve more? You really think that little of teachers? Teaching is generally not a career someone gets into “for the money” especially since starting salary even in our well funded school system can be in the 40k range. The salaries you often like to cite are individuals with numerous years of experience and often with advanced degrees. Decreasing raises for teachers is not the answer and will only end up hurting our students bc decreased funding will increase teacher -student ratios, decrease extracurricular activities and overall lead to decline in attractiveness of the community to the up and coming couples looking for a safe neighborhood with a desirable school that sends its graduates to desirable universities.

Keep tracing IP addresses – that must be important to free speech. Putin must be proud of you comrade while our a Founding Fathers spin in the grave

The PR underground at least had the decency to allow anonymous posters to stay anonymous not having the “editor” track their IP addresses for sport.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The publisher(s) of the “PR underground” threw in the towel almost 4 years ago – not unlike the “Anderson 7” (or 9, depending on who’s counting) did in 2007, after Frimark cut the Council in half and none of them except Rex Parker had the integrity or the stones to run for re-election after accomplishing little more than sticking us with the Uptown TIF.

Our first “solution” for fixing the decline in school rankings is (borrowing Einstein’s definition of “insanity”) for D-64 and D-207 to stop doing the same things over and over again while expecting different results. Clearly annual raises for teachers and administrators appear to be producing a worse, rather than a better, product based on objectively measurable results – while at the same time raising their costs to Park Ridge homeowners. That’s as stupid as it is irresponsible.

Teaching IS indeed “a career someone gets into ‘for the money’.” D-64’s $46K/year starting salary and D-207’s $55K (each for only 8-9 months of work, summers off, or $61K and $73K annualized, respectively) beats the heck out of what most newly-minted college grads are making in their chosen lines of work, to say nothing of those who are working the barista circuit or interning for free. Hence the stampeded of applications for every job opening at both D-64 and D-207.

And teaching in either of those districts would be “for the money” even if only for the constitutionally-guaranteed defined benefit pensions that can easily pay a teacher more in retirement (which can start as early as age 55) than the $80-90-100K he/she made while working, especially with the COLA’s and subsidized health care thrown in. That kicks the shinola out of most private-sector IRAs and 401(k)s, and it’s risk-free for them – unlike the private person who has to manage his/her own funds and bears the risk of bad investments. Thus, it’s the perfect career for all those folks who want no part of the risks, demands and performance accountability that comes with most private-sector employment.

Finally, we only trace IP addresses when trolls such as yourself abuse the anonymity of this blog by inundating us with comments as an attempt at creating the illusion of a groundswell of support for a particular viewpoint. But comparing us to “Putin” for blowing the whistle on trolls? At least buy American and compare us to Obama’s NSA.

Wow you really do think very little of teachers – probably dates back to your childhood but that’s for you and your therapist.
Quoting Einstein gets you no where bc your statement assumes a cause and effect relationship between riding salary and school rank. You have presented nothing to prove that to any degree. Demographics may be changing , talent pool changing, hard times people putting kids into public schools that otherwise would be private schools – all kinds of factors you disregard in order to address your special interest of keeping tax dollars in your pocket.
You look more like Putin than anyone in obamas administration.
And the GET OFF MY LAWN fits you to a tee!

EDITOR’S NOTE: We think of them in exactly the same way we think of any other employee, neither more nor less – except when they are overpaid and underperforming. We think far less of the D-64 and the D-207 school boards, which have convinced us that Mark Twain was right. But you forgot sunspot activity and the emerald ash borer as additional reasons why Maine South’s ranking continues to decline and D-64 schools rarely make it into the top 100 rankings at all.

And the moronic “get off my lawn” says more about the speaker than the subject. So keep using it.

You enjoy and rely so heavily in us news rankings. Have you ever checked where the money grubbing part of the year working teachers rank? Not nearly as high as you would think after reading your blog. 40 for high school teacher. 50 for middle and 54 for elementary. Hmmmm

EDITOR’S NOTE: No, we rely most heavily on the local rankings of local schools based on ISAT scores and whatever other factors the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, et al. use in their rankings.

If public school teachers want higher-ranked jobs, let them become respiratory therapists (32), dieticians (25) or occupational therapists (14). Of course, they would have to give up their annual raises and guaranteed defined-benefit pensions, so we don’t see any mass migration of teachers into private-sector jobs.

You are right about many employees who want to avoid the accountability and performance requirements of the private sector. But you are wrong to cast a livable salary, habitable retirement and actual health care benefits in a bad light. These things are the weakest parts of the ruthless private sector workworld that began quietly with cubicles and IRAs and “managed” care health plans and has destroyed the vigor and buy-in of a vast majority of the American public to benefit a small and savvy minority. If people could make a living — just a living! — doing other stuff, you’d see a reverse stampede out of labor-intensive, always-on jobs like teaching, and more room for the kind of talents that used to be in the field before women could get more lucrative jobs elsewhere. (You probably didn’t even notice all that had changed in your working lifetime, right?) Some of us will always relish the high of competition, performance and accountability, but that doesn’t mean we want our kids to suffer from lack of health care, or that we want to eat cat food in Uptown in our old ages if the company goes under or Sonny-Boy’s latest squeeze or college roommate wants our job. Separate the need-to’s from the nice-to’s in your diatribes, please. And don’t even think about saying affordable medical care is a nice-to, on par with a hot car, as that oblivious idiot Forbes did the other day. Don’t even.

EDITOR’S NOTE: A “livable salary”? D-64’s $46K/year starting salary (annualized to $61K) and D-207?s $55K (annualized to $73K) is well above merely “livable.” A “habitable retirement”? Teachers’ guaranteed defined benefit pensions reportedly well-exceed what most private sector employees get from Social Security and their 401(k)s combined. But thanks for acknowledging – by your “If people could make a living — just a living! — doing other stuff, you’d see a reverse stampede out of labor-intensive, always-on jobs like teaching” – that teachers are in teaching, and administration, FOR THE MONEY.

Thank you, Mr/Ms. anonymous, no more questions. Thank you very, very much. You’ve been a lovely, lovely witness.

Why is it that you have not addressed the stampede from the private sector to these cushy teaching jobs???……..NOT!!!

Once they make their cash (perhaps as a partner at a law firm) they may go teach, probably at a university, as a lark more than anything.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The “stampede” is continuous for college graduates who already know that the pay alone – not counting the 8-9 month work year and the unbeatable pension – is better than what many/most of them could make in the private sector. Plus they know they won’t be required to perform at a high level, they are unlikely to be fired, and their employer can’t shut down or relocate.

The “stampede” also occurs any time there’s a teacher opening in either D-64 or D-207, just like there’s a “stampede” of applications every time a police or fire job opens up in Park Ridge.

“The “stampede” is continuous for college graduates who already know that the pay alone – not counting the 8-9 month work year and the unbeatable pension – is better than what many/most of them could make in the private sector”.

What??? You changed arguments mid stream. First you said……….” so we don’t see any mass migration of teachers into private-sector jobs” but you follow with your statement above. ”Let’s start with the first one. You seem to think that this “lack of migraton” is some sort of valid measurement. There is no more migration the other way. I mean if teaching were such a great gig wouldn’t you see a huge migration from those already working in the private sector…..salesmen, programmers, lawyers, doctors?? The truth is, while there is not great migration from either side, more teachers (especially younger ones) leave for the private sector then come the other way.

Related to the second comment, a stampede from college grad…..?!?!?! Are you really saying that more young adults entering college choose teaching as a career that doctors, lawyers, bankers, software engineers, etc, etc, etc?? Are you saying that more new college grads choose teaching than other professions let alone all private sector jobs combined??? You call that a stampede??

EDITOR’S NOTE: The entry obstacle to any migration from a non-teaching career to a teaching career (in both public and private schools) is the teaching license. Even the alternate teaching certification programs generally require a one-year intensive course followed by a year of full-time teaching and mentoring ending with a comprehensive assessment.

Where’s your data that shows how many teachers leave D-64 or Maine South “for the private sector then come the other way”?

What we’re saying is that, given the number of teaching positions v. the number of positions in all other occupations, colleges appear to be producing more graduates who have satisfied the teaching requirements than there are available positions. Add to that the graduates without teaching credentials who go into the prestigious Teach For America program and the Alliance for Catholic Education programs, and it would seem that teaching may be the most pervasive back-up plan for graduates.

Obstacle to migration??? As if there are no obstacles for a 10 year teacher deciding they want to be…..let’s say a lawyer. They would have to go to school for YEARS (not one year) followed by passing the bar. I do not even want to go into if they wanted to become a doctor. How about an architect?? Engineer??

The fact is if you decide you want to “migrate”, whether it be from the public to private sector or visa versa, what you are really doing (with very few exceptions) is changing careers. That requires some additional education and training (or obstacles as you call them).

EDITOR’S NOTE: Yep, which is why we aren’t aware of a whole slew of “10 year teacher[s]” in D-64 or D-207 migrating to the legal profession or any other “profession” (i.e., those occupations whose members don’t unionize or collectively bargain). Or even leaving D-64 or D-207 for any private sector job.

Other than the true “professions,” the vast majority of private sector jobs don’t have the same requirements as teacher licensing.

Just like I am not aware of a “whole slew” (must be a legal term) of private sector job holders leaving their positions for the cushy world of D64/D207.

EDITOR’S NOTE: No, a colloquialism.

Let us know when teaching at D-64 or D-207 gets so bleak and onerous that open positions go begging for applicants. Perhaps at least one of us might still be alive.

and how many of those applicants would be leaving a job in the private sector?

EDITOR’S NOTE: No idea. It might even be a bunch of Starbucks baristas just waiting for the opportunity to use their teaching degrees. Or it might be teachers from other districts coming here for the higher pay and cushier conditions than they might have in the inner city, or less affluent suburbs. The point is that the current D-64 Board is no different than previous D-64 boards: it keeps on paying more money for less performance.

But at some point the ranking for Maine South, fed by D-64 grads, will slide down to a level (30th? 40th?) where the more achievement-oriented and demanding parents from Chicago or lesser suburbs looking to relocate will realize that the value provided by our schools is nowhere near cost in home prices and taxes. And then the bubble will burst.

By then, however, we suspect folks like yourself will already have used up the services and moved on to someplace with much lower property values and taxes, kind of like locusts.

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