6/5/2012 GPS MEETING: NO OVERRIDE! NO CONFIDENCE!

When key Gilbert Public Schools administrators announce that teachers will lose their jobs, class sizes will increase, and art and music programs will be cut—unless a tax override passes-people notice. GPS Administration is an old hand at playing the voter like a violin. Usually, it works. I’m sure they were delighted to see union members, teachers, and parents storm the June 5 Governing Board meeting, begging them to vote YES to the override.

Who can blame the parents? They don’t want to see enrichment programs trashed. Who can blame teachers? Administration subjects them to economic whiplash by constantly threatening them with losing their livelihoods. “If the override/bond/tax increase doesn’t pass, you’re history!” So, not only are they required to teach our kids, but they are also required to fight for their paychecks.

Conservatives have the highest regard and respect for good teachers, and we despise seeing them treated this way. Teachers should NEVER be fired as a method to reduce the budget. The purpose of the schools is to educate children. Teachers do that. Not administrators. We want to see the most capable GPS teachers rewarded for their efforts. Our kids need them in order to truly be world class competitors. Right now, out of 34 countries assessed, the USA ranks #14 in Reading; #17 in Science; #25th in Math. Shanghai ranks #1 in all those categories.

These are the arguments FOR the override that we heard on June 5, 2012, from 14 speakers.

  1. “Our children need art and music; some can’t participate in sports; art and music are enriching.” I agree!
  2. “Let the voters decide.” That sounds reasonable, but the issue came before the Board for a reason. Is it necessary? Plus, it’s expensive to get the override published in all those publicity pamphlets and pay for early ballots getting mailed out, plus ballots for election day. Nobody asked, “How much will it cost the taxpayers to send the override to the ballot?” To find out, I sent a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request to Public Relations Director Dianne Bowers. She in turn will find out from the County Elections office. Dianne, don’t forget to report my name and request to Board Member der Kommissar Tram! (She’s keeping tabs on all of us who seek transparency from GPS.)
  3. “It isn’t a tax increase. Nothing will change.” It most definitely is a tax increase. It’s the continuation of a 10% property tax increase that was approved by the voters in 2007. GPS is going back to the well to keep the tax INCREASE going. There was a time when overrides were for growth. GPS has flat-lined and should be able to live within its means.

    Diane Drazinski, “proud member of teaching staff for 26 years, president of the Gilbert Education Association,” implored the Board to “support the override so we can continue to provide a high quality education”! Diane has a slight problem. Her students like her all right, but they don’t learn much. She also sided with Administration against Gilbert teacher Ms. Sarah Green, who was recently vindicated when the Board dropped all charges against her.

  4. The override simply ensures that GPS can maintain its status quo. GPS won’t be taking in any ‘extra’ money.” FALSE. Staci Burk asked Superintendent Dave Allison, “If the override passes will there be salary increases”? Answer: “YES” In fact, all employees will receive a salary increase.
  5. “We’ve had to cut back so much already. We had to cut $30 million. Now, if the override doesn’t pass, we have to cut another 17.4 million!” Clyde Dangerfield emphasized that another $17.9 million is “tough, real tough.”
  6. “I trust the Board; I trust the Administration!” I don’t.

I firmly believe that GPS has failed our teachers and students. They pay lip service to them. In the meantime, GPS has squandered millions of dollars on lower priority items.

As for things being tough. Even though we in the private sector have taken pay cuts. Even though we pay more for less health benefits. Even though we see our children without summer jobs, the place where they gain their first experience in learning what’s expected of them in the workplace. Even though we see them graduate from college with loans to pay off, and unable to find work. Even though our homes have lost nearly half their value.

In spite of all that, most of us would chip in more to GPS if we had a shred of confidence that the current board and Administration would use the money to improve education. But they have proven time and again that improving academic achievement is not their first priority. When they are flush with money, the money doesn’t go to the classroom first. When money is tight, they cut teachers.

A review of the FY2001 Auditor General’s report indicates that GPS put 63.4% of its budget toward the classroom the year before voters approved Prop 301, a tax increase “dedicated to the classroom.”

One year later, after GPS received $8,747,932 from Prop 301, GPS reduced the percentage devoted to the classroom. It dropped to 62.3%.

During 10 years of receiving the windfall Prop 301 money, GPS beat its pre-Prop 301 percentage of dollars to the classroom only twice: FY2003 and FY2004. In all other years, it was lower. By FY2011 the percentage dedicated to the classroom dropped to 59.9%.

Also, the override that was passed in 2007 was supposed to “maintain and keep quality teachers”. Sounds like the District gives teachers top priority status, doesn’t it.

So why, with override dollars pouring in, and with Prop 301 monies flowing in, did they lay off 170 teachers after the last cut in their revenue? Because teachers are not a priority.

Board member Lily Tram stated that the reason dollars decreased in the classroom was due to a decrease in revenue, plus fixed costs remain the same. GPSINFORMEDVOTER disputes that assertion in the article The Gilbert Public Schools Status Quo Satisfactory to the Electorate?

If the override succeeds, GPS says it will be able to “maintain” the status quo. Actually, their first order of business will be to pass out pay raises to all employees.

What exactly is “status quo spending” in Gilbert Public Schools?

It’s difficult for most of us citizens to peel back the GPS financial curtain and shed light on wasteful spending, but from what little we do see, we should seriously question the judgment and spending habits of key GPS Administrators and the rubber stamp Board that “trusts” them:

  • $100k for a strategic planner, with little to show for it. He wasted more staff time than all the citizen FOIA’s stacked end to end.
  • $2 million of taxpayer dollars wasted on software from Crosspointe, only to file lawsuits when it didn’t work, then scrap the software and scrap the lawsuits, and spend another $1.2 million on software that would work.
  • What happened to the $58 million “Technology” override that voters passed in 2007? At $8.1 million per year, wasn’t that supposed to be used to fund new computers and other classroom equipment, plus a network to improve Internet connectivity and information-carrying capabilities? How much has been spent, for what, and how much is left?
  • $21,000 to Dr. Ulan, a pre-election consulting service. “Mr. Ulan’s efforts have resulted in successfully passing more than 200 tax-related issues throughout the state.” (4/13/2012 Memo to the Board from Dave Allison). More time and money is spent on lobbying the electorate instead of correcting poor spending decisions.
  • How much has been spent on retaliatory legal issues, such as silencing Board member Shane Stapley from “asking too many questions that wasted staff time.” This resulted in the ludicrous Tram’s Rule.
  • How much was spent in retaliatory legal issues, plus salary and benefits, to fire board certified teacher Ms. Sarah Green, only to drop all charges against her, because GPS did not have a case? And now, through the Administrator’s and Board’s actions, the vindicated teacher will probably sue the District. How many other teachers have heard the threat, “Resign or Be Fired”!
  • How much in salary and benefits are paid to substitute teachers who replace teachers who “resign” or are fired? (All of this is “money spent in the classroom.”)
  • $195,000 per year was recently approved for the new SpringBoard curriculum, a highly controversial program that many citizens and teachers find inferior and overridden with Leftist propaganda. Stay tuned, because that $195,000 slim figure will start packing on the pounds! Scottsdale recently adopted SpringBoard.
  • Why is Core Construction almost always chosen for projects? And why would Core Construction be the largest financial contributor to the Gilbert Education Foundation? See Who is Behind the Gilbert Education Foundation?

Ms. Staci Burk was the only board member who questioned the need for the override, and she voted against it.

She stated concerns about the steady reduction in the percentage of dollars going to the classroom after Prop 301 money started flowing into the District.

Ms. Burk asked if the District has begun seeing the $500k per year in energy savings after spending $6.8 million on energy saving lighting. I wonder if the $6.5 million purchase of “energy saving lighting” will end up being a GPS boondoggle? There should be significant energy savings! Not only from these new energy saving light bulbs, but also the $2 million saved by “turning out the lights when you leave the room,” according to Superintendent Dave Allison. (12/7/2011 Community Budget Committee meeting.)

What about energy savings from the free solar panels given to the District by SRP? They are mounted on rooftops. Taken together, the energy savings should be staggering.

Ms. Burk brought up the issue that an election is coming up in November. There will be a new board in January, so there might be more places to cut. She stated very clearly that she doesn’t know whether this is the right time to put the override on the ballot.  "I hear from the community they want to make a statement by voting no," Burk said. "If we send this to the ballot now, in this climate, perhaps the override would fail.  I’m not sure that’s best for kids. I could see cuts in other areas and still maintain quality education."

Read more:  GPS Board Approves Fall Budget Override Ballot Measure.   

Ms. Burk asked Board Member EJ Anderson: “If the override doesn’t pass, would you fire teachers? Ms. Anderson responded saying, ”I support music, but these are recommendations of Administration.” (Translation: She would fire teachers.)

Ms. Burk then asked her, “Are you ok with wasting $1.8 m on software that didn’t work? Are you ok with wasting money on consultants?”

Ms. Anderson responded stating that Administration has been very careful: “I think we’re ready for a vote.” Her comments begin in Part 2: 25:00 minutes.

Ms. Burk voted NAY. The Lady’s Not for Turning.

Four citizens spoke out against the override. Here is the link to the videos, which can be found on
Western Connections.

Citizen comments are found in Part 1. See below for where each person’s statement begins:

Jean Frakes 8:34
Glen Frakes 24:40
Unidentified Fantastic Speaker 32:10
Anita Christy 40:49

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