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Thursday, November 24, 2005

More Lawrence School District

An editorial in the local paper, the Five Towns Jewish Times, has an update on the Lawrence School Board conflict (previously posted about here I, II, III, IV, V, VII, VIII). The editor, Larry Gordon, writes that he was anonymously mailed a newsletter, apparently put out by the Lawrence Teachers' Association, called Bits and Pieces. One of the columns, titled The Elephant In The Room, written by President of the LTA Samuel Clements, addresses the trouble he has been having getting the community to approve generous pay increases or new contracts for his teachers. As Gordon quotes Clements:
As I look back at my 33 years of teaching here in Lawrence, I am trying to understand what has changed in that time which has caused much of this community to have so much venom towards its teachers and our union. (In case you haven't noticed, read the local newspapers.)
First of all, the complete mischaracterization of the simple and democratic act of voting down a proposed budget as stemming from "venom towards teachers" totally poisons the debate. Clements seems to willfully ignore the fact that many members of this community - both Orthodox and not - have raised grave concerns over the Lawrence School District's shrinking student body and yet ever-growing budgets.

Clements then talks about the economic hardships that would have a community voting to lower taxes, but he says that:
...here in Lawrence, if you drive down most streets all you see is Dumpsters with people renovating their homes and making them larger. Hardly a sign that people are suffering...
I'm sorry, but who is Clements to decide that the residents of Lawrence should be
apportioning a larger piece of their pie to education because they are doing home improvement? If someone were to get a raise, would they then be required to tithe a certain amount of that money to the Lawrence School District? Or should, instead, the district come up with a plan
that has them educating their students in a fiscally responsible manner? Obviously, the latter.

Mr. Clements lets slip a very interesting tidbit in the piece:
The district was always committed to paying its teachers well. Our first contract at the inception of the Taylor Law in the late 1960's includes a provision that the teachers in Lawrence have to be in the top 10 percent of the county. Our salary, for the most part, is in that tenth percentile.
Excuse me? Clements is complaining that he cannot get a budget approved to pay his teachers competitively, and in the next breath, he admits that they are presently paid in the top ten percent of the county, and that they have a contract that stipulates that they continue to be paid at that level?

He then goes on to question the high number that has been thrown about of $22,000 that the district spends to educate each child. Clements claims that the number is inflated due to the cost of transportation and textbooks for private school students that are included in every budget. Except that Larry Gordon completely debunks that theory, pointing out that even with the $10 million of the private school students' portion of the budget subtracted from the $88 million budget, Lawrence is still spending $78 million to educate 3,400 enrolled students. The per-student cost of public education in Lawrence still comes to $22,941. Pretty high, especially compared to the US Nassau County median per-student cost of $8019 $16,800.

Bottom line, someone who is in a leadership position like Clements should ostensibly be acting responsibly to bridge the divide in the community - not sending out poorly-argued diatribes against the segment of the community that happens to be standing in the way of his goals to enrich the members of his association. No one is denying him the right to advocate for his members - but he shouldn't at the same time disingenuously claim to be looking out for the taxpayers' best interests.

85 Comments:

Blogger Education4Less said...

This is nothing new from the LTA President. Clements shamelessly declared in public a couple of years ago that the the District taxpayers can afford tax increases.
I'm curious to know how many of the District's big-earners reside in the community and pay the high taxes. While it's understandable that the District must hire the best teachers and administrators that it can find, it would be nice to see members of the community filling more of these coveted positions - even with the changing demographics in District 15.

1:07 AM  
Blogger Just Passing Through said...

Good piece & very well-written Mom.

10:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1) The community should be honored that they have none other than the esteemed Mark Twain (Samuel Clements) teaching in their district.

2) The district has a long history of employing district residents. A very large percentage of employees, including teachers, are current or former residents.

11:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, Orthomom, thank goodness you're writing about the schools again. I get so bored, being anonymous and all. But now that you've raised the subject again, I once again have an opportunity to muddle the matter with my bitter, specious arguments, which drive home the repeated point about orthodox jews being the enemies of public education committed to fight the innocent and never-venegeful non-orthodox residents of lawrence and cedarhurst until every public school building in district 14 is a burned out hulk as a result of malicious underfunding and callous intransigence in the face of mounting fiscal crisis. And that they won't smile at me when I walk down central avenue. grrrr.

2:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anon, here. FYI, OM, the obnoxious comments above are NOT mine. I am continuing to honor my promise not to be snide in an effort to foster real dialogue. (however, the Mark Twain reference was me.) I really should get a real login name someday.

4:20 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Anon 2, I'm glad to hear it. I'm always up for real dialogue. That being said, you don't have to register to pick an online handle - just choose one and type it in every time you post. It does get confusing.

6:46 PM  
Anonymous charliehall said...

'disingenuously claim to be looking out for the taxpayers' best interests'

Isn't comparing a US median per-student cost to the cost in one of the most expensive areas of the US a bit disingenuous? Lawrence teachers can't commute from Iowa!

12:30 AM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

Charlie Hall has a good point comparing US median to Lawrence is disingenuous.
I don't live in your school district and make no judgement on the efficiency of the school district-but one thing is clear it is a chilul hashem for the Ortho community as a community to be fighting against education for the poorer residents of the community. I have no problem with Orthodox Jews as individuals voting against school budgets because they want to save their money-but it is not and should not be a "OrthoJewish Issue"
Thus if Orthomom had blog eg Disgusted Larence Resident-no problem but not as an Ortho Jew.

12:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"one thing is clear it is a chilul hashem for the Ortho community as a community to be fighting against education for the poorer residents of the community."

When people think of Lawrence, people think of wealth. However, many people are surprised to find out about the high levels of poverty in the community. Of the 56 school districts in Nassau County, only five districts, (Hempstead, Roosevelt, Freeport, Uniondale, and Westbury) have higher poverty levels than does Lawrence. (Elmont is very close.) The Lawrence community also has among the highest levels of ESL students in the county. When services are cut, these students suffer more than any. Unfortunately, the most recent stats I could locate are from 2002-03. (link below for verification)

http://www.co.nassau.ny.us/YouthBoard/Stats/Report2.pdf

7:21 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Isn't comparing a US median per-student cost to the cost in one of the most expensive areas of the US a bit disingenuous? Lawrence teachers can't commute from Iowa!
I certainly wasn't bring disingenuous, but you make a very fair point. I will change to County average.
I don't live in your school district and make no judgement on the efficiency of the school district-but one thing is clear it is a chilul hashem for the Ortho community as a community to be fighting against education for the poorer residents of the community. I have no problem with Orthodox Jews as individuals voting against school budgets because they want to save their money-but it is not and should not be a "OrthoJewish Issue"
Thus if Orthomom had blog eg Disgusted Larence Resident-no problem but not as an Ortho Jew.


That is ridiculous. I make the point again and again in the posts I referenced that this issue is decidedly NOT an Orthodox one. It is simply about fiscal responsibility. I would understand your point if there was anyone standing up here and trying to deny the public school students anything - but people were perfectly happy to maintain status quo. The only reason rejecting the budgets even came onto the radar of the people in thi community is because the budgets began to presented with hikes that translated into double-digit tax increases. In addition, School budgets are being voted down in record numbers all across Long Island. Every other community suffering that fate has little or no Orthodox population. So somehow, those districts are managing to deal with the problems without blaming the Orthodox. This has nothing to do with being a Chillul Hashem. The only people making this into an Orthodox/non-Orthodox battle are the people who represent the Public Schools and are looking for a scapegoat. And those people should instead look at squarely at the people who continue to ratchet up the rhetoric and make this into an us vs. them issue. Let me tell you, the numbers from the last election showed that many of the people voting down the budgets were non-Orthodox. This has nothing to do with level of Jewish affiliation.

8:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Let me tell you, the numbers from the last election showed that many of the people voting down the budgets were non-Orthodox."

Actually, OM, more people voted in favor of the most recent budget than the total number of people that voted either for or against the budget ten years ago. This points to a huge voter turnout, and large public school support, especially with a shrinking public school population. Also, if you look at the school by school voter breakdown, the overwhelming majority of people voted in favor of the budget in the neighborhoods with smaller Orthodox populations, namely Atlantic Beach and Inwood.

8:49 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

I didn't say MOST, I said MANY. That being said, it is true that most non-Orthodox people who voted down the budget were likely senior citizens or others not as deeply invested in Public education. And I do think inroads have to be made to impress the importance of public education upon all members of the non-public school community - but what i can tell you with certainty is that the way to do that is not to continually trash the Orthodox community and make them the scapegoat as we have been seeing in this community. Please, someone, reach out in a public manner! Maybe it will actually get you somewhere - because this wedge-driving is getting no one anywhere.

10:24 AM  
Anonymous charliehall said...

'I certainly wasn't bring disingenuous, but you make a very fair point. I will change to County average.'

Thank you.

One of the anonymous posters gave some legitimate reasons why costs might be higher than average in Lawrence. I will offer another. There are individual public schools in New York City that have more students than the entire Lawrence system. There are in fact tremendous economies of scale in consolidating school districts. I lived in Connecticut where the Harford area had around 18 school districts with 18 superintendents; years earlier I had lived in Fairfax County, Virginia with 1 superintendent and 4 deputies. The savings in the salaries and benefits for the superintendents alone was well over a million dollars a year. There are also huge savings from reduced employee benefit costs, volume purchasing discounts, less administrative overhead....the list goes on and on. Partly as a result, property taxes in Fairfax County were much lower than in *any* Connecticut town except Greenwich. I am sure that is one reason why property taxes in New York city are low compared to almost every other urban area in the US. (The existence of a city income tax and high rise office towers in Manhattan are other reasons.)

In much of rural New England, school districts have consolidated to save money and to provide better services. There is no reason this could not be done in the New York suburbs. Property taxes really ARE high in Nassau and Westchester; I don't see how people pay them. But if the Lawrence school district stops paying teachers competitive salaries, all the good teachers will leave -- for other school districts or for careers that pay commensurately with their abilities. And I also agree that it doesn't look good for Orthodox Jews to appear to oppose public education.

Finally, the per-student cost of public school in Lawrence is about the same as the per-student cost of the Orthodox Jewish High School in my neighborhood. I would think that anyone should be concerned about the high -- and increasing -- costs of Jewish education; there is a discussion of this issue on Marvin Schick's blog:

http://mschick.blogspot.com/2005/11/rjj-newsletter-tuition-crisis.html

We appear to share a common problem with the goyim. Unfortunately I do not have a solution.

10:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"And I do think inroads have to be made to impress the importance of public education upon all members of the non-public school community - but what i can tell you with certainty is that the way to do that is not to continually trash the Orthodox community and make them the scapegoat as we have been seeing in this community. Please, someone, reach out in a public manner!"

I agree with you 100%!! Where is the leadership? What has the superintendent done to reach out to the Orthodox community? If he's done anything, it might be nice if people knew about it. Just one more thing, OM, what did you mean by, "I didn't say MOST, I said MANY." I couldn't find the reference.

10:49 AM  
Anonymous charliehall said...

'There is no reason this could not be done in the New York suburbs.'

I may have spoken too quickly. Maybe there *is* a reason. Could someone enlighten me? I lived most of my life in Maryland and Virginia where the public school systems are part of the *county* government and I've never understood why every little township needs its own school district.

10:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Public School anonymous person here.

First off, let me state that the teachers have been riding the gravy train for way too long. Public school parents all agree that there needs to be a freeze in pay put in place immediately.

Secondly, there have been many outreachings to the Orthodox community by the superintendant and Board members.

In fact, it was suggested to Trustee Mansdorf to get some of his big whigs together with public school people to discuss ways to resolve. That request went unanswered. This has gone on for the last 4 years.

There was another instance, where a prominent public school leader requested to meet with Jerry Williams, a private school big gun. Jerry Williams response 'Why would I want to meet with you? There is nothing to work out'.

3:51 PM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

Orthomom:
Of course the reason why :awrence has voted down the school budget vs. other districts is the number of Orthodox Jews in the District. Is there any other school district that has been on austerity for 3 budgets in a row.
The wedge driving is by both the Ortho and Public school community. Look we all know that 95% of the Ortho community would vote down any budget-similar to 85% of the public school community would vote for gold plated washrooms. Lawrence is an example where the vast majority if they could would vote to eliminate public schools-why should we pay for something we don't use. The "inefficiencies" are a red-herring.

10:12 PM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

" Property taxes really ARE high in Nassau and Westchester; I don't see how people pay them"
As you wrote Charlie Hall there is no income tax in Nassau. It would be easy to administer like NYC and Yonkers=but frankly the wealthy in Lawrence wouldn't tolerate. Does anyone seriously believe that most frum Jews in Lawrence would pay fewer taxes if Nassau had an income tax of 4% like NYC and low property taxes like NYC-it wouldn't even be close.
BTW take the market value of a house in Lawrence and compare what the real estate taxes would be in nearby school districts for the same valuation-the Lawrence resident would pay more in other districts.

10:17 PM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

"of the *county* government and I've never understood why every little township needs its own school district. "
Charlie Hall" npt only school districts but fire districts, parking districts, sanitation districts-Each with its own separately elected Board. The governmental system in the suburbs makes Daly's Chicago machine look tame by comparison.

10:20 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Lawrence is an example where the vast majority if they could would vote to eliminate public schools-why should we pay for something we don't use.

mycroft, I'm not sure where that comment came from. That has got to be the most inaccurate, grossly overarching comment I've heard pertaining to this debate in a while. I have yet to speak to an Orthodox Jew in this area who is not aware of the value of public education. On what evidence do you base bringing such an absurd allegation as fact??? Have you personally done a survey here? Would most Orthodox Jews favor some sort of educational choice? Yes, but until that becomes an option, supporting the public education system, even if we use only a small part of their resources, is not something that is optional.

11:16 PM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

" That has got to be the most inaccurate, grossly overarching comment I've heard pertaining to this debate in a while.
Well-I don't live in your school district-but I have been in schuls in the District before School Board elections and I have heard the talk-usually spoken in code from the bimah-but open in the seats. I stand by my belief.


I have yet to speak to an Orthodox Jew in this area who is not aware of the value of public education.
Maybe-but if they had the choice they wouldn't want to pay for it.
Not a pure proxy but notice difference in other issues-elections your area Jews tend to vote GOP-rest of Nassau tend to vote Democratic. GWB I believe won the Lawrence voting area where frum Jews voted Kerry won elsewhere.

11:51 PM  
Blogger Education4Less said...

In fact, it was suggested to Trustee Mansdorf to get some of his big whigs together with public school people to discuss ways to resolve. That request went unanswered. This has gone on for the last 4 years.

There was another instance, where a prominent public school leader requested to meet with Jerry Williams, a private school big gun. Jerry Williams response 'Why would I want to meet with you? There is nothing to work out'.




Recognizing that there is an ongoing conflict in District 15 between Orthodox Jewish voters, who impose their will in a democratic fashion, and so-called "public school supporters"; the public display of anti-Orthodox sentiment only serves to stoke the conflict and drive the conflicting interests farther from the prospect of reconciliation.

Anyone who has attended a couple of School Board meetings has heard public statements from the President of the teachers' union, ALPS leaders and other "public school supporters" citing the private school community's utter disregard for public education, the interests and welfare of public school students, and democracy as a whole. Many attendees (inlcuding myself) have heard similar and sometimes more virulent public comments from members of the school board. More often than not, these hateful statements are applauded by meeting attendees (including District employees and PTA leaders) and the school board and administration do not even denounce such statements and comments, if only for their divisive effect. As is noted in the post above, the President of the teachers' union now has no qualms about disseminating divisive statements of this nature in an official newsletter. This characterization of the "private school community" and often, of the Orthodox Jewish community, is almost reminiscent of Shylock in the Merchant of Venice. When the District superintendent, administration and school board do not respond to public statements like these, they clearly do not gain any trust from members of the private school community.

How then should private school community members respond when these same people occasionally call for meetings to reconcile the conflicting interests?

It's time that the nasty public statements be curbed and the individuals (such as the presient of the teachers' union) who perpetuate this ill will, are shown the door - if only for their inappropriate public conduct. The first step toward reconciliation is a minimal display of good will. And as much as the "public school supporters" would like the "private school community" to take the first step and blindly support a budget, that will never happen without individuals like the teachers' union president first establishing the requisite good faith and trust.

1:48 AM  
Anonymous mykroft said...

The problem is conflict sells- it gives constant source of news to Gordons paper.

5:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Anyone who has attended a couple of School Board meetings has heard public statements from the President of the teachers' union, ALPS leaders and other "public school supporters" citing the private school community's utter disregard for public education, the interests and welfare of public school students, and democracy as a whole."

"It's time that the nasty public statements be curbed and the individuals (such as the presient of the teachers' union) who perpetuate this ill will, are shown the door "

Democracy isn't only about voting rights. It also happens to include freedom of speech. Disagree, vehemently, if you want, but don't be hypocritical.

7:12 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Democracy isn't only about voting rights. It also happens to include freedom of speech. Disagree, vehemently, if you want, but don't be hypocritical.

That IS rich. Many actions are covered by out constitution. To compare a public official denigrating a segment of a community in a school board meeting to a citizen exercising his right to vote is laughable. Don't these teachers have a resposibility to set an example to the students they are educating? I personally was attending the meeting where Anthony Licatesi stood up and launched a hate-filled, anti-Orthodox diatribe against the Orthodox community, to a standing ovation from the teachers' union. I, frankly was apalled. Conversely, I have NEVER heard anyone in the Orthodox community address this issue as an issue that has anything to do with Orthodox vs. non-Orthodox, yet I consistently see that kind of talk from the public school community. To reach out with a meeting request to one or two "bigwigs" in the O community, and then to consider the Public School leadership as bastions of attempted community harmony is a bad joke. Yes, the Public school community is angry. Yes, it sees thge Orthodox as the enemy. Should the superintendents and board members and teachers union leaders be allowing - even encouraging - these feelings to fester? I think not. These sentiments of treating the O community as the root of all the Public School's problems are not getting budgets approved. Wake up. Maybe your right to free speech is protected by the first amendment, but as long as people exercise it to malign a whole community, you will get nowhere.

Well-I don't live in your school district-but I have been in schuls in the District before School Board elections and I have heard the talk-usually spoken in code from the bimah-but open in the seats. I stand by my belief.

"Code" from the bima? Come on, mycroft. I live here. I don't know which shuls you are visiting, but it aint mine. (And I tend to frequent a few). Every Rabbi here knows that you can't make political statements from the bima - even "coded" ones. And I have never heard from anyone - coded or not, that they would like to stop paying for public education altogether. Who in the world do you hang out with in this neighborhood????

8:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OM, I'm not supporting the LTA president's comments. I'm merely stating that the Constitution protects his right to voice his opinion, and having him fired because he expressed it would be unconstitutional. Are there exceptions to the 1st Amendment rights? Of course. But I don't think this is one of them. The first amendment protects lots of nasty things, from porn, to the Nazi party, to the KKK. I simply feel that Edu4less shouldn't be criticizing people for attempting to interfere with his ability to practice democratic principles while simultaneously trying to deny them to others.

10:58 AM  
Anonymous charliehall said...

This entire thread is making me very glad I don't live in Lawrence.

11:30 AM  
Blogger Education4Less said...

If the only way out of this mess is by reconciliation, then a common sense approach to bringing people to the table is to curb the hateful public remarks. Citing the first amendment as a defense for inappropriate public behavior by a union leader and by elected officials is certainly not going to bring the two sides closer. Of course, it is legal for Mr. Clements, Mr. Licatesi, Ms. Greenbaum, etc. to make hateful and divisive remarks at public meetings, but such behavior only commands the respect and support of hateful and divisive people. There are probably not enough hateful and divisive voters in the district to re-elect trustees who make such remarks, but Mr. Clements appears to have a mandate from the teachers that he represents to speak his mind as he does. How does that reflect on the District's teachers?

12:16 PM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

"Code" from the bima? Come on, mycroft. I live here. I don't know which shuls you are visiting, but it aint mine. (And I tend to frequent a few)."

I have visited quite a few in my life-which unfortunately is a lot longer than yours-I wish were younger


" Every Rabbi here knows that you can't make political statements from the bima - even "coded" ones."
I don't know what they know-but I've heard statements that certainly can be interpreted by a reasonable man as political-and certainly announcements by the President and gabbaim have generally been even less coded.

5:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What would it take for the 'O' to vote for the budget. I have been hearing a lot of this is wrong and that is wrong, but no suggestions.

And please, don't tell me we want fiscal responsibility.

Tell us exactly what you want!

9:12 PM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

Orthomom had an important post some of which I am copying "Status Strollers
I must admit to living in a neighborhood where conspicuous consumption is the name of the game. In my community, homes are being built that are true monuments to excess. And it doesn't stop there. These homes are being used as receptacles for yet more consumer items. From the luxury SUVs parked in front, to the custom kitchens inside, to the multilevel hardwood swingsets installed out back, the Five Towns is definitely not what I would call a model community for restraint when it comes to spending."
For a community like what Orthomom describes to have the one issue of achdus trying to mininize our responsiblities to those less fortunate is frankly disappointing to put it mildly.

11:19 PM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

"Anonymous said...
What would it take for the 'O' to vote for the budget"
Either Mashiach coming or what Adlai Stevenson told the Russian Ambassador at the Security Council session in the Cuban Missile Crisis that he was willing to wait for.
To be fair it won't happen any later than the PTA heads voting down a school budget.

11:23 PM  
Blogger Education4Less said...

"What would it take for the 'O' to vote for the budget."

That's a no-brainer, and I'm skeptical that anyone genuinely wonders about that.

A fine place to start would be to show an interest in providing services for private school children in the bountiful way that services have historically been provided to District 15's public school students. While I claim no expertise in state education law, I do know that there aren't that many restrictions on a school board's allocation of funds toward private school students, so long as the funding does not promote any religious interest. With 6 failed budgets in a row, the school board and administration should long ago have begun looking for ways to earn the support of this disenchanted significant group of voters.

If I were the superintendent and I wanted to get a budget passed, I would focus my efforts on figuring out how much - rather than how little - can be provided to private school students under the law. There wouldn't be threats of transportation cuts. There wouldn't be hassles in arranging for textbooks and special education services. There would be a proactive effort to create (free) opportunities for private school students to benefit from the resources and facilities on District 15 property (many of which are so lacking in the area private schools that they attend). I would foster a mentality among the school board and administration which evokes an appreciation and acceptance of the private school population for who they are and what their needs and interests are, rather than treating them like a faceless population which must support the system at all costs and need not be provided for beyond the bare minimum.

Call me a dreamer, but I'm confident that if this were the Ditrict 15 atmosphere, there wouldn't be an "anti-budget voter bloc" - there would hardly even be an opposition.

11:31 PM  
Blogger Education4Less said...

If I may ask, what the name of the idyllic community that mycroft resides in?

11:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Education4less,
Your statements are ridiculous. The only way to give the 'O' to vote for the budget is to give them a bigger piece of the pie, w/o a tax increase?!?!?!?!?

So, that would mean more cuts would have to be made to the public schools. The fat is all but gone from the public schools! We have already started to trim away at the lifeline!!

AND YOU SAY THAT THE 'O' does not want to destroy the public schools!

6:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The reality is the District will never get the budget to pass. The 'O' will always find a reason not to vote for it.

They could care less about property values. B/c if the lower the housing value, the easier it is for more 'O' to move in.

The amount of public school parents not voting for the budget is so minimal at this point. You take the 'O', or even 1/2 the 'O' out of the equation, then that budget passes with flying colors EVERY YEAR!

7:01 AM  
Blogger Education4Less said...

My point exactly - If the superintedent and the school board would have the sense to treat the private school community with generosity rather than like a bottomless piggy bank, then that would erode the existing anti-budget voter bloc, and as you correctly pointed out, you only need the support of small number of (presently anti-budget) voters to get a budget passed.

Yes, it will obviously cost the District and all taxpayers a little more money to treat private school students fairly - but that's the only way that we will see any good will in the District.

9:31 AM  
Anonymous can't we all get along said...

My understanding is that in Teaneck N.J. members of the Orthodox community have aligned with Public School parents to run a unified slate that puts kids first, both public and private school students. Such a slate in our district would force the members of the Orthodox community to "put their money where there mouth is." If services in our District were more inclusive and available to private school students, would the Orthodox community then come in in large numbers to support such a budget, even if it meant slightly higher taxes? I doubt it, but I would hope so. As to the Public School community, for such a slate to propose a budget that is not bank-busting, it would probably fracture the current alliance between public School parents and the teachers' union. This is probably all academic (bad pun) since such a unified slate would require cooler heads to prevail (on both sides of the current divide) and I seriously doubt that we will see such a monumental break from "tradition" anytime soon in District 15.

10:14 AM  
Blogger Education4Less said...

"If services in our District were more inclusive and available to private school students, would the Orthodox community then come in in large numbers to support such a budget, even if it meant slightly higher taxes? I doubt it, but I would hope so."

I wouldn't count on large numbers coming out from the Orthodox community to support anything under any conditions - This community is largely apathetic when it comes to voting.
However, as Anonymous pointed out above, it wouldn't be necessary for a large number of voters from the Orthodox community to support the budget - it would pass easily with support from even a small number of them.

That being said, I can'd see any of this happening as long as the school board is dominated by ALPS-alligned trustees. Like Anonymous (two posts above), they are far too proud and sour to allow any significant goodwill gestures under their watch.

11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once again I will say, the 'O' will always find a reason to vote the budget down.

5:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The impression that I am receiving is that it is possible to receive Orthodox support of the public schools if the Board changes its position on several key issues. Assuming this is true, I have a question addressed to OM and frequent posters such as Edu4less, Uncle Moishy, and anyone within the Orthodox community that feels like replying.

Assuming that you have been living in the Lawrence community for more than three years, could you tell me the last time you voted in favor of a public school budget?

8:00 PM  
Blogger Education4Less said...

I don't think I'm qualified to respond. But what compelling reason would any member of the private school community have had 4 years ago to support the budget that no longer exists today?

11:20 PM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

I don't live in the Lawrence school district.
I never said I live in an idyllic location. In general there is a much higher density of "frum" Jews in Lawrence School District than where I live. Of course I'm not bochen kliyot valev.
I see nothing wrong with residing there-I just happen not to.

12:03 AM  
Anonymous can't we all get along said...

I voted for the budget this year (and regret having done so in light of subsequent revelations re: bookeeping). One thing that really pissed me off, because I wear a kippah, pro-budget leafleters would ignore me (and all frum-looking people) at the train station even though I was quite interested in reading their literature.

6:08 AM  
Anonymous abc123 said...

"could you tell me the last time you voted in favor of a public school budget?

evidently not.

OM, you consistently defend the frum community by insisting that they are NOT against public education, but merely upset about high taxes, special ed. issues, transportation, low-test scores, insensitive school officials, and more. The implication is that if changes were made, the frum community would vote in favor of a budget. However, such anger at the public schools has not existed throughout the entire history of district 15. Therefore, it makes sense to assume that many members of the frum community used to vote in favor of school budgets in the past, assuming that you are correct about the frum community not being against public education, but stopped doing so out of anger over the board's (and other’s) behavior. So, can any Orthodox poster, including you OM, admit to having voted in favor of a school budget at some point in the past? So far, no one has, which leads me to conclude that the frum community has probably always voted against the school budgets en masse and have finally reached a population enabling them to control the outcome of the vote. If this hypothesis is indeed true, OM, your constant defense of the frum community as not being against public education would ring hollow, and the constant demand for changes by frum posters on this site would indeed be disingenuous because they have never been supporters of public education, and would only vote in favor of a budget if all of their demands were met by an acquiescing board.

6:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right on! Stop maiing excuses OM! abc123 is right! No one ever supported the budget, but now you have the impacting numbers!

7:07 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

The last time I voted for a budget was about 5 years ago, the same year that an Orthodox candidate, Asher Mansdorf, was elected to the school board. The budget passed as well. Clearly, if the Orthodox community had enough votes to vote in an Orthodox candidate, they had enough votes to vote out the budget. If we were enemies of public education, that would have been what happened. It was only the next year that things were revealed about the finances of the school district that caused the community to lose faith in the school board. That, coupled with rising school taxes, created much of the climate that we see today. If it's all about the number of Orthodox voters, explain to me how the next year, the budget was voted down - but somehow, the Orthodox voters (who were obviously the only ones to vote against the budget - because we are the only ones in the district to be against public education, of course) couldn't muster enough votes to vote in the Orthodox candidates. Oh...I get it. It isn't just the Orthodox community voting down the budget. Explain to me why the budget 20 years ago was half of what it is today, when there were vastly more students then. And inflation isn't a good enough answer for such a huge difference, sorry. Wake up and smell the coffee. It isn't about what the Orthodox voters think - it's what the majority of voters think. The only reason it pays to reach out to the Orthodox community is because we are a voting bloc, like any other. We are just coming out of an election season. Wasn't it clear how elections work? Candidates campaign to specific voting blocs, promising to work with their needs to make them happy, if they will vote the candidate's way? Obviously, this is a concept that has yet to be attempted by the pro-budget community. Instead, the attitude consistently has been - "eh, who cares, let's piss off the Orthodox and say inflammatory things about them." Haven't you guys noticed that this kind of behavior has gotten you nowhere?? That was the point of this post. Continue to sit idly by when the president of the LTA maligns the Orthodox community in a newsletter. Continue to allow the teachers' union to clap and cheer when a school board member stands up and presents a lengthy diatribe against the Orthodox community specifically. And continue to attempt to raise taxes while nickel-and-diming the Orthodox community for every service we get. And you expect to get anywhere when it comes to approving budgets? Want us to behave like partners when it comes to public education? Try treating us like partners. Haven't seen it happen up until now.

8:23 AM  
Anonymous abc123 said...

OM, you have chided me in the past for being snide, and I have promised to avoid sarcasm and be direct. (I'm no longer anonymous. well, actually, I guess I still am, but I have an ID now) When you write things such as, "the Orthodox voters (who were obviously the only ones to vote against the budget - because we are the only ones in the district to be against public education, of course)", you aren't exactly practicing what you preach. Now, regarding my most recent post, I said clearly that it was a hypothesis. If the Orthodox community supported public education by voting in favor of school budgets prior to the financial scandal of a few years ago, then my hypothesis is wrong. However, if they didn't, then I believe that I am correct in stating that, "If this hypothesis is indeed true, OM, your constant defense of the frum community as not being against public education would ring hollow, and the constant demand for changes by frum posters on this site would indeed be disingenuous because they have never been supporters of public education, and would only vote in favor of a budget if all of their demands were met by an acquiescing board." I do not have the answer, nor do I have the ability to survey the community to find out the truth. Being a member of the Orthodox community, you would know better than I whether or not people used to vote in favor of school budgets prior to the financial scandal. You stated, "It isn't just the Orthodox community voting down the budget." In 2003, that was certainly the case. Voter outrage was prevalent and justified, and I knew that the budget had no chance of passing. By 2004, voter outrage decreased significantly, but the budget still failed. However, in 2005, things were different. Let's go back to an earlier post. (when I was anonymous.) You said, "Let me tell you, the numbers from the last election showed that many of the people voting down the budgets were non-Orthodox," and I replied by stating, "Actually, OM, more people voted in favor of the most recent budget than the total number of people that voted either for or against the budget ten years ago. This points to a huge voter turnout, and large public school support, especially with a shrinking public school population. Also, if you look at the school by school voter breakdown, the overwhelming majority of people voted in favor of the budget in the neighborhoods with smaller Orthodox populations, namely Atlantic Beach and Inwood." You acknowledged this point by replying, "That being said, it is true that most non-Orthodox people who voted down the budget were likely senior citizens or others not as deeply invested in Public education." So why do you continue to make the point that the Orthodox aren't the only one's voting down the budgets, when you realize that very few parents of public school students continue to do so? You said, in response to my question, that you last voted in favor of a budget five years ago when Trustee Mansdorf was running for the Board. Were you a frequent supporter of the budget before that? Is it possible that people passively supported the budget by not voting at all and now choose to vote against it? If so (again, I'm speculating), I wouldn't call that public school support. I would call it ambivalence. I recall your recent call for people to "Vote GOP, vote Dem, vote early, vote late. Just vote." Have you followed this advice throughout your adult life in the district, voting either for or against the budget before the year 2000? If so, and you used to regularly vote in favor of the budget prior to 2000, perhaps I am incorrect and the Orthodox voting bloc was caused solely by events that have occurred over the last few years. However, if you used to regularly vote against the budget prior to 2000, perhaps I am correct in my earlier statement that, "the frum community has probably always voted against the school budgets en masse and have finally reached a population enabling them to control the outcome of the vote.”

11:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just go word of the 'Master Plan'. Apparanetly word is that Murray Foreman has stated that the 'O' want all of the public schools. Why not the larger high school, or the middle school you ask?

Because they need all the different smaller schools to accommodate the different 'O' sects. The high school and middle school are too big.

And all the 'O' here say that they don't want to destroy our schools!

Get real!

4:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I meant to say that they want all of 'elementary schools'

4:12 PM  
Blogger TheRebbitzen said...

I've been enjoying this dialogue for a while from the sidelines (thank you for keeping it interesting), but I couldn't help but jump in after reading these recent comments from Anonymous and abc123.

First of all, I would like commend Anonymous (in above two posts ) for confirming what I will note below regarding the baseless resentment of the Orthodox presense in the area and the for "taking over" the Five Towns. When you describe a "master plan" as Anonymous does above, it really elevates this baseless, anti-semitic sentiment to a higher level. How does one arrive at the master plan of a community of several thousand with no central leadership? And what are these "different sects" that will populate all of the former public elementary schools? And why give the Orthodox vote so little credit - maybe they're intent on closing every single public school building in the district and then busing any remaining public school children out of the District. How about reviving the timeless tradition of blood libels while you're at it.

In response to abc123's comments above, is my understanding of our present situation:

While I'm not sure what the point of this dialogue (about whether or not the Orthodox community would ever support a budget), I will try to impart the insight that I've gained into their budget voting habits.

In general, it is very difficult to get large numbers of people in the Orthodox community out to vote for anyone or anything. They are by and large ambivalent and apathetic. They often have large families, very busy lifestyles, take little interest in politics, and are focused on too many other things going on in their lives to take an active interest in any vote.

That is the reason why there was such a small turnout until a few years ago. In the past few years, a number of people in the community started following District politics, the District's fiscal inefficiencies were brought to the forefront in newspapers and elsewhere, and property taxes have increased incrementally. In addition, private school community has increasingly felt shafted by the district with regard to services, and maligned directly and indirectly by members of the school board and administration. (Yes, this did result somewhat from resentment of the private school community's voting habits, but it also stems from general resentment of Orthodox families moving in and "taking over" the Five Towns.) What this all adds up to is that the minority in the community that has taken an active interest in these issues has grown increasingly active in campaigning and the majority which has never and will never take an active interest is easier to convince of the importance of voting. That being said, I have spoken with plenty of people in the Orthodox community who have supported some or all of the proposed budgets in the past few years. Believe it or not, there are plenty of Orthodox Jewish residents who are repulsed by any opposition to the proposed budgets - at the same time that they support the candidates who are said to represent private school interests. And yes, there are just as many, if not more, members of the "public school community" who consistently voted against the budgets while supporting ALPS candidates.

So, in response to your probe of the voting habits of the 5T Orthodox Jewish community - they are habitual non voters. However, as they grow more informed and infuriated by gestures by the School Board, Superindent, union leaders (such as the behavior described in the post that these comments follow), and as the few community members with political savvy and motivation rouse the non-voters, we will see an increasing number of trustees with supported by Orthodox Jewish voters, and as long as the community feels wronged financially or by the deprivation of services or disgusted by comments from ALPS and LTA rabblerousers, they will likely channel their will toward defeating the budget.

What then is the solution (for individuals like abc123 and Anonymous), if they are really interested in harmony and the best interest for all children? Retire the trustees, administrators and ALPS and LTA leaders who consistently reflect poor judgment and ill will toward the growing Orthodox Jewish community, or at least, curb their behavior and comments so that it not so obvious where their intentions lie.

5:30 PM  
Anonymous Skip said...

A few comments to a few things...

First of all, it has been mentioned that at a board meeting where Licatesi spoke up that the teachers stood and applauded...that is misinformation...speaking as someone that attends Board meetings, there were very few teachers there. The teachers are being unfairly labeled (sound familiar?) as orthodox haters because of an ovation that didn't involve teachers and that is unfair.

Second, someone mentioned the rise in budget costs over the past 20 years despite a decrease in student enrollment...Have you ever heard of NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND? Have you ever heard of mandated services that are more common now? These services don't come without a price, unfortunately.

We can't live in the past, because education evolves...sometimes our thinking has to evolve with it.

Third, someone mentioned the lack of quality services for the private school parents...untrue...Lawrence teachers go above and beyond. While other schools that Lawrence is frequently compared to requires students in need of special services to get those needs met at the public schools, Lawrence teachers go to the students that need the services. Therefore, a teacher that could be in a regular class is now working with students at a much smaller teacher/student ratio.

I think it should also be clear that all the residents want is to be able to do what is best for the kids. The US vs THEM mentality is not shared by all residents.

7:38 PM  
Anonymous abc123 said...

Thank you, TheRebbitzen, for clarifying things for me. You have successfully debunked my theories. Evidently, the Orthodox community hasn't voted either in favor or against the budget in large numbers before the last few years, so failed budgets are not, apparently, due to the increased Orthodox population, but rather because of anger at fiscal mismanagement and lack of services. I must, however, disagree with you on one point. You stated that, "And yes, there are just as many, if not more, members of the "public school community" who consistently voted against the budgets while supporting ALPS candidates." Unfortunately, as I stated several times in earlier posts, this is no longer true. It was true during the 2003 and 2004 votes, which came after the mysterious disappearance of the $18 million reserve fund. In the most recent budget vote the numbers show that the overwhelming majority of public school parents voted in favor of the budget. Anyway, that is all in the past. What people need to do is focus on the future. Questions need to be asked of the "other side", "what can you do for me to make things better", while at the same time, each side needs to reflect upon what they are doing and/or saying to exacerbate the situation and immediately stop. Such things include the discontinuance of divisive comments, such as the labeling of the Orthodox community as a large cohesive unit that is conspiring to overthrow the public schools. It also includes an end to teacher bashing and an attempt to understand that there is no great conspiracy to deny services to tax paying Orthodox families. Enough for now. Thanks again for the honest, thoughtful, non-defensive response, TheRebbitzen.

9:30 PM  
Blogger TheRebbitzen said...

abc123:
You may be correct about a decrease in public school community opposition to the budget in 2005, but there really is no way to be certain. I am certain that there are people on both sides who will always buck the trend and that there are public school parents who are fed up with tax increases and fiscal mismanagement and will never support any budget - although they will never admit to that. On the other side, you will find plenty of Orthodox Jewish voters who will declare openly that they are supporting the budget and they would never oppose any effort in support of public education.

All things considered, do you think there will be any increase in support for the 2006 budget, the way things are going now?

11:15 PM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

"Evidently, the Orthodox community hasn't voted either in favor or against the budget in large numbers before the last few years, so failed budgets are not, apparently, due to the increased Orthodox population, but rather because of anger at fiscal mismanagement and lack of services."
Disagree failure of budget increases is due to demographics-other school districts have Ortho Jews voting overwhelmingly against budgets-but the numbers aren't there to defeat them.

6:18 AM  
Blogger TheRebbitzen said...

That certainly doesn't answer my question. But I would have to say that the 6 consecutive budget defeats stem from a combination of both anger at fiscal mismanagement and lack of services, and the increase in population. I don't think the population increase on its own - without the other factors would have let to the defeat of any budgets.
I still don't know what the point of this discussion is though.

And I'm still curious - All things considered, do you think there will be any increase in support for the 2006 budget, the way things are going now?

8:23 AM  
Anonymous abc123 said...

"All things considered, do you think there will be any increase in support for the 2006 budget, the way things are going now?"

I'll share my thoughts later in the day. Very little downtime at work today.

10:51 AM  
Blogger Education4Less said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:37 PM  
Blogger Education4Less said...

"All things considered, do you think there will be any increase in support for the 2006 budget, the way things are going now?"


Assuming that this story http://orthomom.blogspot.com/2005/10/lawrence-district-dishonesty.html is accurate (and I have yet to come across any refutation or response to it), the "austerity budget" proposed in June '05 that was a completely unnecessary budget increase and was no more than a ruse to gain control over many millions of dollars that had been allocated to various reserve accounts. Since that time, several million dollars have surfaced in these reserve accounts and the public has not heard a peep from the Superintendent or School Board as to why any budget increase was necessary with all of these millions of dollars in reserve funds.

That means that the School Board and Superintendent tried to fool the public in May and June and then didn't even bother to apologize for or spin the reality when the millions of reserve dollars surfaced.

So why would anyone who opposed the budget last year, support it in the coming year - even if it is a 0% increase budget?

3:40 PM  
Anonymous abc123 said...

edu4less, you do not have an understanding of the necessity of reserve funds. it's not a ruse. every school district has them, and needs them, for unexpected expenses that may arise during a school year. without a budget approval, the district is legally constrained on how it can move money around. no money can be spent on technology, for instance, meaning that when computers break, they stay broken. this is why the last budget was a touch under austerity levels, not to "trick" anyone into voting for it. it was a desparate attempt to create much needed fiscal flexibility.

4:27 PM  
Anonymous Skip said...

Twice now I have read on this blog about a lack of services to private school students...I need to be educated on this because as far as I knew Lawrence goes above and beyond...even sending teachers to the yeshivas. That isn't necessary...Hewlett (our neighbor that we are always compared to) doesn't do it...So please clear this up.

4:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good luck skip.

6:01 PM  
Blogger Education4Less said...

abc123:

Yes, I understand the necessity of building up reserve accounts. That is not the issue. The problem is that the District has attempted to build up reserve accounts far beyond the maximum allowed under state law. So much so, that the School Board was forced to earmark as much as $9 million towards next year's budget. That means that they maxed out in the District's reserve accounts and then hoped that the budget would pass so that the excess surplus funds could subsequently be allocated for unbudgeted purposes. When the budget failed, these funds had to be publicized (as they were at a recent meeting), and ultimately returned to the taxpayers (i.e. next year's budget).
So, yes, reserve accounts are not a ruse. But not telling taxpayers about millions of dollars in excess funds that aren't even eligible to be placed in reserve accounts and asking the taxpayers for more money is a very foul ruse.

Skip:

Yes, you are correct. In general the services provided by the district to private school students are beyond the bare mimimum (though not too far beyond). But when was the last time anyone considered how close to the minimum are the services provided to public school students.
The reality is that there are many additional services that can be provided to private school students. But short of that, there is no reason why the district must nickel and dime every private school parent for the services that they are entitled to receive. Yes, there are parents with children in special ed. who fight with the district on a daily basis to secure the services which they are entitled to. In fact, I have spoken with many such people who have been turned down for various services by the district and had to prove to the district that they are entitled under state law. Even with regard to books and transportation (the other services which the District brags about providing), I hear regularly of circumstances where parents are given a difficult time for no reason and often the target of comments about the private school community not deserving services.

It's nice of you to compare District 15 to Hewlett, which has far better academic performance at a lower taxpayer cost. What you don't mention is that as roughly half the tax dollars in District 15 come from residents whose children receive minimal services. That means that taxpayers in District 14 public school parents receive $1 worth of services for every 80 cents that they pay in taxes, while District 15 public school parents receive $1 worth of services for every 50 cents that they pay in taxes.
Rather than viewing District 15's unique demographics as an opportunity to get services for 50 cents on the dollar, you may want to consider the fact that the people paying the other 50 cents may be receiving the minimum state mandated services, but they are certainly not being treated equitably and are not be serviced without resentment and opposition at every opportunity

6:41 PM  
Anonymous Skip said...

Let me start off by saying I want what is best for ALL of the kids.

Secondly, I do think that the Orthodox community is negatively attacked by some of the public school community...and that doesn't help anything.

However, in this case you have to remember that the Private school community does not live in a bubble...

I have inside knowledge of the inner workings of the Public schools...and I can tell you for a fact that the guidance staff/teachers have been told not to recommend students for special services...to give intervention services without classification.

The point of this is that the wheel moves just as slowly for the public school kids...it is not exclusive to students that go to yeshivas. It may seem that way, but it isn't

8:08 PM  
Anonymous Skip said...

Let me start off by saying I want what is best for ALL of the kids.

Secondly, I do think that the Orthodox community is negatively attacked by some of the public school community...and that doesn't help anything.

However, in this case you have to remember that the Private school community does not live in a bubble...

I have inside knowledge of the inner workings of the Public schools...and I can tell you for a fact that the guidance staff/teachers have been told not to recommend students for special services...to give intervention services without classification.

The point of this is that the wheel moves just as slowly for the public school kids...it is not exclusive to students that go to yeshivas. It may seem that way, but it isn't

8:11 PM  
Anonymous abc123 said...

Edu4less, you are truly a propaganda machine. First of all, I cannot fathom how you can attempt to compare the academic performances of districts 14 and 15 considering, as you called them, "District 15's unique demographics ". As I have stated in the past (with links to prove it) students of district 15 are some of the most impoverished in the county and have among the highest percentages of second language learners. On top of that, there is a very large special ed. population. All of these students are counted in the test results. I'm all for reform and demands for better performance, but the comparison is unsound. Now, regarding transportation and special ed. services. The district absolutely does go above and beyond. Does this mean that every parent receives every service they desire? Of course not. A very common problem for school districts is when parent's feel that their child needs special ed. services, and the district disagrees. A plot to discriminate and cut costs? No. It simply means that the district feels that services are unwarranted. This scenario is played out in districts all over the country, and insinuating that anti-Semitism is a reason for district decisions is insulting. BTW, are you aware of the recent Supreme Court case regarding special ed. services, Weast v. Schaffer? The Court decided that the burden of proof in IEP disputes falls on the parents, and it is not the district's responsibility to prove that a student is undeserving. I'm sure you are also aware that some Orthodox parents have sued the district claiming that the district doesn't offer the services necessary to educate their special needs child and that the district should therefore pay their yeshiva education. Might this be true in some cases? Perhaps. But the district has special ed. programs for the severely mentally disabled (life skills classes), autistic and Aspergers children, the emotionally disturbed, and the run-of the mill learning disabled youngster. In addition, as you know, PIPS are sent into the yeshivas to provide speech and language and other special ed. services. One more thing regarding transportation. There was a situation earlier this year when a new yeshiva was opened but missed the April deadline to apply for transportation. What did the district do when September rolled around, tell the families, "To bad. You missed the deadline.”? No. They did the right thing. They understood that exceptions must be made sometimes and they granted transportation to these families. (did I just compliment the Board? I suppose I did.) Also keep in mind that people that claim that private school students are undeserving of services are, to put it plainly, idiots.

To TheRebbitzen: I promised you an answer, and here it is. You asked, "And I'm still curious - All things considered, do you think there will be any increase in support for the 2006 budget, the way things are going now?" My answer would be no, unfortunately. Now, if a major reason for opposing the budget has been to cut back on a bloated district bureaucracy that certainly has been accomplished. Numerous times in the past I have stated that while the economic theory of "starving the beast" has merit, and even have been necessary for at least one failed budget, the point is not to starve the beast to death. I do hope that a sizable percentage of Orthodox voters understand that failed budgets are severely hurting programs for the most needy segments of the community and choose to vote for the budget, which should allow it to pass since public school parents voted overwhelmingly for the last budget.

8:14 PM  
Anonymous abc123 said...

"I have inside knowledge of the inner workings of the Public schools...and I can tell you for a fact that the guidance staff/teachers have been told not to recommend students for special services...to give intervention services without classification."

Skip is right, especially considering the fact that the district was investigated by the Office of Civil Rights a few years ago about the high numbers of minorities in special ed. classes. That's part of the reason for the recent push nationwide for inclusion classes. It's considered least restrictive, and keeps kids out of self-contained special ed classes.

8:19 PM  
Anonymous Skip said...

Those inclusion classes cost more too...2 teachers in one class...which is why those arguments about 20 years ago are not fair...education is not the same as it once was.

8:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has the 'O' left the building?

4:07 PM  
Blogger Education4Less said...

abc123 said: "Now, regarding transportation and special ed. services. The district absolutely does go above and beyond. Does this mean that every parent receives every service they desire? Of course not. A very common problem for school districts is when parent's feel that their child needs special ed. services, and the district disagrees. A plot to discriminate and cut costs? No. It simply means that the district feels that services are unwarranted. This scenario is played out in districts all over the country, and insinuating that anti-Semitism is a reason for district decisions is insulting."

At a recent meeting the following "Special Education Enrollment" figures were publicized for the 05-06 school year:

Non Public School Total Student Enrollment: 4,275

Public School Total Student Enrollment: 3,451

Number of Non Public School Students Approved for Special Education Services: 320

Number of Public School Students Approved for Special Education Services: 631

I'll crunch the numbers for you to clarify the point of all this. For every 100 public school students, the District approves 18 students for special ed. services. For every 100 non-public school students, the District approves only 7 students for special ed. services.
Of course, there are a myriad of explanations and excuses as to why there are so many more public school students approved for services and some of them may even be valid, but this disparity is far too pronounced to write off as just a conspiracy theory. I've heard firsthand from too many private school parents whose children have been rejected for services. And I've spoken with even more private school parents who were approved for services (after much haggling) and have since been forced to struggle with the District at every stage to receive and state-mandated services to maintain the level of services that they are entitled to.

Private school parents have always been and continue to be made to feel as outsiders and resented for any requests that they make of the District - despite state mandated entitlements. This disparity in special ed. approvals is only the tip of the iceberg, but it highlights an area where the District clearly has a lot of room for improvement, but chooses to make no strides.

3:55 PM  
Anonymous abc123 said...

Edu4less, do you really read my posts, or simply skim them for areas to disprove. The biggest reason for the discrepancy (I don't doubt your figures) is DEMOGRAPHICS! Low-income families are more likely to need special education services. You cannot simply do the numbers, figure out percentages, and claim, “Look! It’s unfair!” Children most certainly are not numbers, and children most certainly do not come from the same surroundings and come to school with the same basic skills. Also, don't forget that our right-leaning Supreme Court recently ruled that the onus to prove the need for special education services is on the families. Are you going to say, "The district doesn't have to behave this way just because the Supreme Court says so!” Remember, there are rules and protocols to administer before special ed. services can be administered and one of the criteria for receiving services is not the opinion of the parents. You don't seem to care about the fact that many, many public school parents are denied services as well for the same reasons that private school students are denied services. They may be low functioning, but they don't qualify for services. Are there anti-Semites in the community? I'd say yes. Do they run the school district and conspire to hurt the children of local taxpayers? Absolutely not. I recall a community member complain to me in frustration a few years ago about the district, stating, "You have to be Jewish or Italian to get what you want around here." (She was of Irish ancestry.) I politely told her that I didn't think that district officials promote racist policies, just as I'm telling you that they don't promote anti-Semitic policies. However, just as my Irish acquaintance disagreed with me, I'm sure you will as well. Maybe the two of you should debate it out, for you both can't be right!

5:24 PM  
Blogger Education4Less said...

As I expected, you managed to whittle away some of the disparity in numbers between the services provided to public school students and those provided to private school students. And since you neglected to do so, I'll fill you in on the rest of the excuses/justification given by the SD15 administration for this disparity:
1. private schools resolve special ed. cases and needs on their own
2. special ed. cases are far less common in private schools because far fewer students come from broken homes
3. private school parents are often wary of the stigma associated with their child being serviced with special ed.
4. private school special ed. students are often re-integrated into regular classes, and at a faster pace
5. private school parents frequently enroll their children in public school when the children have special ed. needs

These explanations may be true to a small degree and they certainly make for good conversation, but they certainly won't bring harmony to the community or pass a budget or garner support of "public school candidates". A supreme court decision similarly makes for good conversation, but you're better off considering how many private school parents have challenged denials of service and won (because the District frequently fails to follow state law in denying services to private school children). And while these justifications may explain away a small disparity between the services being administered to public school children and those being administered to private school children, the leap from 7% to 18% is far too great to explain away with a few semi-plausible excuses.

But since this forum should really be about resolving the issues (rather than quibbling), there is one certainty in all of this - With or without justification, these disparities will never pass a budget or restore harmony to District 15.

11:32 PM  
Anonymous abc123 said...

It boils down to this. I see the entire population of school aged children as a giant entity with equal rights to state mandated services, including special education. Every student's case is looked upon individually, and those that qualify receive services. Because of the reasons we have both outlined in previous posts, some private school families are indeed denied special ed. services and the proportion of services they receive is less than that of the public school students. The difference is that you are not looking at all of the school aged children as equals on a level playing field; you see them as two separate and distinct groups that should receive the same percentage of services. But this is inequitable. For instance, take an Orthodox child that has petitioned the district for special ed. services and clone him, with the clone attending public school. According to your logic, the same child would receive services in the private school but would not in the public school. This certainly is not fair to child denied the service. Currently, it is my belief, that the vast majority of students necessitating special ed. services receive them, or will upon appeal. There cannot, however, be preferential treatment given based on percentages. All kids in the district are equal and should have equal access to services. This is the reason the public school population receives a higher percentage of special ed. services. They are needier. Anyway, even if the district gave special ed. services to every private school parent that asked for them, you still wouldn't support the budget, for as you said, "This disparity in special ed. approvals is only the tip of the iceberg."

2:49 PM  
Blogger Education4Less said...

I agree with one statement of yours: "This disparity in special ed. approvals is only the tip of the iceberg."

And, as I pointed it out earlier, there most likely is justification for the disparity in special ed. (and other) services being doled out, but certainly not enough justification to bridge the 11% gap that I highlighted above. And not enough justification to rebut the verbal abuse and palpable resentment which parents of private school children must put up with when they express a desire for state-mandated services. Keep on explaining to those parents that a Supreme Court decision entitles the special ed. administrators to deny services without justification, and keep on assuring private school parents that services are evenly apportioned despite the obvious disparities - and the District will be only farther from passing a budget and electing school board candidates who are truly interested in serving all children equally.

11:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alternatively, Fitzsimmons and his school board can continue their self-destructive practice of treating the majority of the voting community like enemies, condoning demonization and discrimination of this majority by district employees and effectively roll out the welcome mat for new school board candidates who will ultimately clean up this mess.

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