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Sunday, April 30, 2006

Misleading Budget Point of the Day

I received the annual budget mailing (available in full in PDF format here) from the Lawrence School District last week. Nice job. At least from the point of view of manipulation of facts and propagandizing, that is. Many details bothered me about the budget publication. I think I will post them gradually, a few a day, in the days leading up to the election. Enjoy the new series.

  • (p. 2) "support for our nearly 7,000 students." Of course, that figure is correct - if you factor in that the inflated number includes a majority of Private School students that do not attend the public schools, and therefore utilize vastly fewer resources and services.
  • (p. 4) "86% of the 2005 graduates of Lawrence High School went on to higher education." That's a nice statistic, but what about that fact that even with teacher's salaries at among the highest in the district, and an extremely low teacher/student ratio of 1:10 (it also appears from the information available on this site that Lawrence High School has the second-lowest teacher/student ratio for any high school in Nassau County), the actual graduation rate from Lawrence High School is close to the bottom of the pack of all of the 56 Nassau County districts? How in the world are we supposed to feel that this status quo is acceptable? Second-highest teacher/student ratio, and yet one of the lowest graduation rates? Great.
  • I see nothing in the budget whatsoever about per-student spending, and how that spending compares with spending in other districts. That may well be because, as I outlined in the update to this post, SD #15 spending is the highest in Nassau County and among the few highest in NY State.
There is much much more to come.

34 Comments:

Anonymous MYCROFT said...

Everyone knows the demographic makeup of LHS is much more similar to those whose graduation rates are lower than theirs- compared with those of roughly the same demographics-their graduation rate is not bad. BTW that is the hidden context behind much of the debate. The PS population are a much different socioeconomic group than the Ortho population of Lawrence. Of course, the PS population has a very substantial minority population-which the Ortho family does not have much of. All reasons why the normal funding debate-between those who benefit and those who pay is exacerbated in Lawrence.

7:30 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...



Everyone knows the demographic makeup of LHS is much more similar to those whose graduation rates are lower than theirs- compared with those of roughly the same demographics-their graduation rate is not bad.


Perhaps that is true, but how to ignore the fact that LHS has a teacher/student ratio that is in some cases HALF that of those with "roughly the same demographics", yet is very close to the bottom of the pack? Are you actually suggesting that Lawrence's practice hiring many many more top-salaried teachers than those schools with a similar demographic has not really helped test scores or graduation rates in any measurable fashion?

7:43 PM  
Blogger Lakewood Venter said...

and I thought Lakewood was the only place where they try to pull the wool over our eyes with their so called "budget"!

8:52 PM  
Anonymous MYCROFT said...

"that LHS has a teacher/student ratio that is in some cases HALF that of those with "roughly the same demographics", yet is very close to the bottom of the pack?"

Your link shows that Lawrence had an 85% graduation rate, Glen Cove 81%,Westbury 79%, Uniondale 75%, Freeport 66% Roosevelt 53% and Hempstead 45%. 85% graduation rate is not close to 45% rate at bottom of list.

"Are you actually suggesting that Lawrence's practice hiring many many more top-salaried teachers than those schools with a similar demographic has not really helped test scores or graduation rates in any measurable fashion? :

Is Lawrence paying more or do they have more teachers with greater seniority-due to decrease in student body-they need fewer new teachers and thus would have more senior teachers and thus higher salaries. I don't know-I am not employed as a teacher-no one in my family is employed by SD 14 and I am not aware of anyone that I know being employed by Lawrence SD.

9:01 PM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

"Lakewood was the only place where they try to pull the wool over our eyes with their so called "budget"

Similar demographics-large Ortho and Chareidi population-neither have any desire in general with the general population-and naturally don't want to pay for people with different demographics-vhamevin yavin.

BTW I am a day school parent.

9:05 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Is Lawrence paying more or do they have more teachers with greater seniority-due to decrease in student body-they need fewer new teachers and thus would have more senior teachers and thus higher salaries. I don't know-I am not employed as a teacher-no one in my family is employed by SD 14 and I am not aware of anyone that I know being employed by Lawrence SD.



Oh, they are certainly paying more. Check my post on the salaries and raise schedules for Lawrence teachers. It's a few posts down, and all salaries are listed.

9:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All this discussion about salaries and budgets is academic. The discussion no one seems to be having is WHAT DO YOU WANT TO HAPPEN?

Does anyone actually know? What would you do if the opposition side came into power?

Until there is a definitive answer, there is no point in supporting anyone but the status quo.

10:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All this discussion about salaries and budgets is academic. The discussion no one seems to be having is WHAT DO YOU WANT TO HAPPEN?

We want higher test scores and graduation rates as a return for the top-dollar salaries we pay our teachers.

We want fiscal resposibility.

We want to end taxes that rise 40% in 5 years.

We want to bring the budget in line with a district that has 3100 full-time students.

We want half-empty school buildings to be combined and sold, and the funds put towards operating costs.

10:56 PM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

"Oh, they are certainly paying more. Check my post on the salaries and raise schedules for Lawrence teachers. It's a few posts down, and all salaries are listed"

Maybe my incompetence-I tried the link on your site-referred me to another link and that didn't download, What are the lowest salaries of teachers listed and the highest? Do you have the administators salaries listed?
My gut feeling is that salaries are marginally higher for teachers in Public Schools vs those of local day schools and Yeshivas/only fair comparison are those in day schools working full days-not half days which most work. Gut feeling is that yeshiva principals and administrators earn much more than public school ones do. I don't see the hue and cry by those on Orthomoms blog against the much higher salaries in local Yeshivas for principals and administrators. Why shouldn't public school ones earn as much as Yeshiva ones do-the public schools are larger? Why not?

11:02 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Why shouldn't public school ones earn as much as Yeshiva ones do-the public schools are larger? Why not?

First of all, the salaries are actually higher than most day schools pay.

Second, it isn't necessarily the salaries I objected to in my post, it's the system of two pay raises a year for every teacher that I found to be incredulous.

11:04 PM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

"We want higher test scores and graduation rates as a return for the top-dollar salaries we pay our teachers."

Do you really want higher graduation rates?
would you be willing to pay for public school tutoring both in school and after hours and on Saturdays-it would raise test scores and graduation rates. Doubt it-it would cost more money-and then you wouldn't have "We want fiscal resposibility.

We want to end taxes that rise 40% in 5 years."

MOney is the issue-everything else on both sides is window dressing.

11:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

mycroft, you think you are some brilliant shoot-from-the-hip commenter who really "says it like it is". But you might consider that you are not always right. Your smug conviction that everone is mercenary and could care less about his fellow human is both unecessary AND plain wrong.

11:09 PM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

"First of all, the salaries are actually higher than most day schools pay."
You believe that the salaries of the public school principals are higher than those who are in the Lawrence School District in Yeshivas?
Orthomom most Yeshivas don't release their budgets-but you are well attuned in the 5 Towns -what do you think-the administrators and principals of Yeshivas/Day Schools in Nassua County earn-from the North Shore to the South Shore?
You don't seriously believe they are less than those in public schools are earning.

11:10 PM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

"But you might consider that you are not always right. Your smug conviction that everone is mercenary and could care less about his fellow human is both unecessary AND plain wrong"

I did not say that everyone is strictly mercenary-I am stating that everyone is first concerned about his family and his group before general welfare. His group maybe public school students or it may be the Yeshiva crowd-but essentially we are in a
Zero-sum game. Money paid by taxes by Yeshiva parents is not available for them for their families. Nothing sinister about it-but that is reality.

"But you might consider that you are not always right. "
I have been wrong and have admitted it on occasions in the blogosphere. But my challenge is does anyone believe that the top principals of Yeshivas and administrators of the Yeshivas in the 5 Towns, central nassau and the North Shore do not earn more than the Principals of the public schools in the same Zip Codes.

11:18 PM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

"it's the system of two pay raises a year for every teacher that I found to be incredulous"
If one is going to pay a bonus for seniority-and I am not saying one should-and if one is going to give a separate cost of living increase-by necessity everyone would be getting two pay raises each year. Both are questions that I do not have an opinion on. But that is of necessity going to happen.

11:21 PM  
Anonymous who's mycroft? said...

First of all, we are discussing teachers - not principals. Second of all, Lawrence's administrators do happen to be among the highest paid in the State.

I'm not sure what points you're trying to make, Mycroft.

You want to somehow prove that this is all about money. You want to somehow prove that the Orthodox parents are self-centered and obnoxious. You want to somehow prove that the problems here don't exist as we say they do.

Yet you really don't bring any facts to the table to back up what you are asserting.

I just don't think you are necessarily familiar enough with the situation despite your claimed past connections with the neigborhood.

11:22 PM  
Blogger YMedad said...

uh, is OrthoMom an accountant or just likes numbers?

3:13 AM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

"You want to somehow prove that this is all about money."

ON both sides-yes it is essentially about money. "bakeseph yaaneh hakol"

" You want to somehow prove that the Orthodox parents are self-centered and obnoxious."

No more than anyone else. Chayecha kodmim. Just don't dress it up as concern for PS children.Obviously the LPS teachers are interested in maximizing their salaries-they are being hypocritical when claiming its about the children too.


I stand by my comment in the first post " why the normal funding debate-between those who benefit and those who pay is exacerbated "
Of course, it is exacerbated by the "differences" in the population paying and receiving. Just watch the makeup of the students walking to and from Lawrence Middle School and the neighborhood they are walking in to and from school and my point is obvious.

5:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We want higher test scores and graduation rates as a return for the top-dollar salaries we pay our teachers.

We want fiscal resposibility.

We want to end taxes that rise 40% in 5 years.

We want to bring the budget in line with a district that has 3100 full-time students.

We want half-empty school buildings to be combined and sold, and the funds put towards operating costs.


Now this is a start. Next question, please:

How will the noble opposition achieve these goals if elected? and what are the repercussions for the community overall if taxes are reduced. Will this neighborhood then become a magnet for less savory characters that high taxes have historically kept out?

9:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Orthomom...you are working harder than ever to get people to vote down the budget!

2:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Lawrence Public Schools:
Facts Versus Rumor, Innuendo, and Hearsay
By
John T. Fitzsimons, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools


In the March 20, 2006 editorial in the South Shore Record and the same editorial on April 20, 2006 in the Nassau Herald, the Lawrence Public School District was accused of fiscal mismanagement. The editorials conveyed an opinion based on misinformation and a total lack of understanding of our public school finances. Unlike the state and federal governments, a public school district cannot overspend its appropriations and operate with a deficit budget. Well managed districts, like Lawrence, tightly control expenditures and wherever legally possible, generate additional revenues in order to reduce local property taxes, the primary source of school funding.

For the past three years the Lawrence Board of Education and the administration have exercised tight fiscal oversight of all expenditures. This has enabled us to return millions of dollars to the taxpayers, as well as to replenish state required reserve funds that had been drawn down or completely exhausted by prior Boards.

These funds are the result of the administration’s ability to maximize all sources of revenue streams other than local taxes or state aid, such as the tuitions we receive from other districts whose students with disabilities are enrolled in our programs. In addition, we have taken full advantage of local, state, and federal grants and entitlements that are available to the district.

These funds do not constitute surpluses. The Board cannot indiscriminately use funds nor make them “disappear,” as you suggested in the editorials. They are highly regulated funds with clear legal restrictions that the Board must closely follow.

The district fund balances are subject to an annual audit by the Board’s external auditing firm, Coughlin, Foundotos, Cullen and Danowski. Their June 30, 2005 audit revealed the following fund balance reserves:

General Fund (p.29)
Reserve for Worker’s Compensation $2,066,247

Reserve for Unemployment: $262,949

Reserve for Employee Benefit Accrued Liability: $2,454,562

Reserve for Retirement Contribution: $1,200,000
------------- 5,983,758

PLUS


Special Reserve Fund School Lunch Fund Reserve for inventory: $10,487
------------
$5,994,245

In addition, an estimated amount of $1,160,000 has been designated as the amount to be appropriated to reduce taxes for the year ending June 30, 2006 (p.29). These fund balances demonstrate sound fiscal management of the taxpayers’ money. The entire audit is available to the public.

Although the district has been confronted with a series of contingency budgets, the Board has worked hard to reduce costs over the past five years. As a result, they have closed one school and reduced the professional staff by 25% and the support staff by 5% while public school student enrollment has declined by only 8% over the same five-year period. We estimate that these reductions have lowered our salary and benefits costs by over $8 million and the closing of the Number One School has lowered our building operations cost in the first year alone by $800,000.

However, in the meantime, we have not been able to address the escalating capital needs of the system. Such needs have been documented in our recent Building Condition Survey, filed with the New York State Education Department. The report, completed by the engineering firm WGC, estimates that the district will need to spend $33.8 million over the next five years to address needed repairs and structural deficiencies of our school buildings. The Board, in recognition of our deteriorating building conditions, agreed to put aside a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the Number One School to address these capital expenditures. To that end on May 16 ballot, you will find proposition No. 2 calling for the approval of a capital reserve fund. By no means, can these actions be judged as was stated in the editorials as “a one-shot cash infusion from the sale…”

Your editorial board never spoke with Frank Parise, the Board President, or our Assistant Superintendent for Business, Frank Ruggiero, or me before publishing editorials that served to undermine the credibility of the district’s management of its resources. I would be very interested to know which sources influenced you to write such ill informed editorials.

I am pleased that your executive editor, John C. O’Connell has agreed to meet with me in the week ahead to gain a better understanding of the Board’s 2006-2007 proposed budget that will go before the voters on May16.

2:56 PM  
Blogger Just Passing Through said...

"Gut feeling is that yeshiva principals and administrators earn much more than public school ones do. I don't see the hue and cry by those on Orthomoms blog against the much higher salaries in local Yeshivas for principals and administrators. Why shouldn't public school ones earn as much as Yeshiva ones do-the public schools are larger? Why not?"

A valid point. At least the public school system has to disclose their expenditures. Why is it that we don't see any similar outcry about the lack of fiscal disclosure in the yeshiva system?? Can Orthomom respond on the yeshiva salaries when just about no one knows?

4:18 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Anonymous said...

Orthomom...you are working harder than ever to get people to vote down the budget!


That's a silly (and erroneous) statement. I have never gave any direction to any of my readers as to whether or not to vote down the budget. What I can tell you is this:
No one has attempted to reach out to the Orthodox community in any meaningful way to persuade us, with the use of facts instead of rhetoric, that the budget is worthy of being passed. Why do stupid things like put up signs that call for voting for the budget on the very same sign that urges voters to vote for the candidates that proclaim themselves "the public school candidates"?? Do you think that is a well thought-out plan to get the non-public school community to vote for the budget? To me, it just looks like a tactic that is a surefire way to make the private school community feel more alienated and that their needs will be less attended to in the budget - and that may just translate into their disinterest in passing the budget. Again. Someone is giving the pro-budget campaign bad advice.

5:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I have never gave any direction to any of my readers as to whether or not to vote down the budget. "

ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

7:01 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Laugh all you want. Find me a quote where I directed my readers to vote "NO" in the upcoming budget vote. You don't like that I am questioning the expenditures and bemoaning the misleading tactics used to present the budget in its current state. Tough. This is America, and I am entitled to be informed about my choices before I vote. You don't agree with my beefs when it comes to the budget? You have a diferent case to make that supports the budget in its present state? Great! I would love to hear it. That's the point of this blog. Let me give you a little overview: I put up a post outlining my opinion on something. My comment section is then opened for readers to express their agreement, their dissent, or both. It's as simple as that. Why complain instead of backing your complaints up with facts and/or opinions??

7:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

chill out.

7:10 PM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

BTW a comparison for the one year that NYS released scores for private schools and public schools on the 4th and 8th grade reading/math tests-showed that scores of the local Yeshivas/Day Schools were not higher than their comparative public school districts of Lawrence, Hewlett and Long Beach. It was an real eye opener. I believe the scores were published in Newsday when they were released. The private schools complained now only the public schools scores are released.

12:38 AM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

"No one has attempted to reach out to the Orthodox community in any meaningful way to persuade us, with the use of facts instead of rhetoric, that the budget is worthy of being passed"
A reach out to the Ortho community would be a waste of time. Tell me any LI School District where the Ortho community has voted for any school budget.It won't happen.Nothing wrong with that people tend not to vote for expending programs that won't help them or their loved ones.
When School No 1 was still in existence-it was obvious-the ratio of yes-no votes for the budget/was always drastically different than the other polling places in the Lawrence School District.
BTW-there is a general correlation between Presidential election voting and school Bd election voting. In 2004-GWB won the Ortho area of Lawrence-the rest of the 5 Towns went for Kerry. Nassau Herald published those figures-check in your local library. Not sure Nassau Herald even has old copies-fire of their plant since election.

12:47 AM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

"You have a diferent case to make that supports the budget in its present state? Great! I would love to hear it. That's the point of this blog"
As one who has disagreed withOrtho mom of4 on issues-I will state that Ortho lets opposing views be heard.

12:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did anyone go to meet the candidates?

All 4 candidates are bumbling fools that are clueless about District issues.

Both sets of candidates are merely tools of their constituents. You know, like Bush.

1:22 PM  
Anonymous The REAL Dr. John Fitzsimons said...

Well managed districts, like Lawrence, tightly control expenditures and wherever legally possible, generate additional revenues in order to reduce local property taxes, the primary source of school funding.

What I meant to say is that Lawrence DID steal $18 million and waste most of it without voter approval, much of it in direct violation of state law. But since we got our hand secretly slapped by the state, we fired our incompetant law firm and tried to clean up our act.

Guess what President Clinton....back step all you want and try to dodge the ball. But until the school district comes forward and admit what actually happened and apoligizes for the theft of our tax dollars, don't expect us to trust you with an approved budget in this decade.

3:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First Orthomom, I must say you obviously have too much time on your hands.

And as for your saying "I have never gave any direction to any of my readers as to whether or not to vote down the budget." PLEASE!
It's quite clear you do not support this budget, nor do you encourage anyone else to, as you continue to post negative comments.

It has been four years since the "battle" began, that's unfortunately what it is, and where have we gotten? Neither side has moved forward, we're all spinning our wheels in the sand and we're not moving forward, just deeper in the sand. And if anybody thinks they are in a better position today than they were four years ago, they are just fooling themselves.

We are facing a fourth year on a contingency budget, that WILL affect the entire community, both public and private.

It would be nice, if the entire community could stand together and support all of the children and come out and vote YES on May 16th. That's not to say that we are in favor of the teacher's contract or the test scores or even the budget itself, but to finally say "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH", and let's start working together to solve the issues at hand.

It does seem to many in the public school community that the Orthodox community is trying to drive us out and has no interest in the public schools, since their children are educated elsewhere, but I'm told that is not true, which I find hard to believe. If that is not the case, a YES vote would certainly be that olive branch that someone had mentioned and would help heal the wounds of the past and let us all work together. I think we will all be surprised to see that we have more similaritites than differences and there are good people on both sides, none of whom want to throw their hard earned money away.

9:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think everybody is missing the point. My children attend the Lawrence SD so I am deeply concerned about this. At the same time I can somewhat understand the viewpoint of the Orthodox families. Their children do not attend the public schools so why should they support the budget? From a strictly economic standpoint this may make sense but is ultimately self-defeating. There are two reasons why Private school families should support the budget.
The first is that if the budget actually passed there might be more services provided for their children. I am not one of those reactionaries who say that children who go to private schools should not get services. That's nonsense. The public school district is exactly that, it belongs to the people, just like the park system. I see both public and private school kids at North Woodmere park, just like I see public and private school kids playing in the schoolyard of School #6. Just like I see private school kids from a local Yeshiva playing basketball in the gym at School #6. The point is that if we do not come to some arrangement these after school services may not be available to any of our kids and that would be a shame and might force us to find someplace else to live. That brings us to the second reason.
My wife and I and family are not the type of people any community wants to lose and that goes for most of the public school families in Woodmere, Cedarhurst, North Woodmere, and Lawrence. We are the upper middle class, and upper class familes of professionals that are the glue of this community. Right now if a few of us move out, more than likely an Orthodox family moves in and maintains the status quo. The problem comes what if many of us get disgusted and say the hell with it and many of us decide to move out within a short period of time and it is getting close to that. Do the Orthodox families really believe that there are enough Orthodox families in other areas to buy up these homes and maintain property values. DON'T DELUDE YOURSELVES. You need us just as much as we need you. The end result of all of this bickering is going to be a glut of homes on the market and falling property values. Portions of SD15 will no longer be exclusive areas. Now I know that nobody wants to talk about this aspect, well TOUGH, all of us better start thinking about it.
I think that once the Orthodox families get past some of the bluster of some of our more vocal School Board members, they would realize that most of us Public School families are quite pragmatic individuals. We don't want to pay higher taxes any more than you do, but we want our children to have the best possible education. Just like most of us want your children to get the best possible edcation as well. And although you may not want to admit it, a lot of us in Research and Higher Education mentor some of your children which we do gladly. I will tell you that I am looking at positions out of the area and that would be a shame if we left, because what I and my colleagues do is a resource for the community.
I think what we as Public and Private School families need to do is get together, get past our animosities and decide what's best for all of our kids and our community before it is too late. I'm willing, are you?

1:25 PM  
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