Monday, February 14, 2011


Wow, what a day Friday was. First I learned that President/Dictator for Life Murbarak of Egypt stepped down making that country the second one in a few weeks to overthrow their government. There are several other countries in the background who may begin the process of overthrowing their government. Time will see how this will all play out and how it will affect us.

Then shortly after lunch as I was scanning the local headlines, the Superintendent of our local school system abruptly resigned for personal reasons. When he was hired three and a half years ago, he had a history of going into a school system, building a new multi-million dollar school and then moving on so it was no surprise when he moved into our district that a new school was on his agenda. There were a couple problems with that agenda. The first is that although this town is a local hub for the surrounding rural area, we are still largely a rural area. Rural Iowa area don't have a lot of businesses and thus high paying jobs and so we are not capital rich. The only way to afford a new school that cost more than selling bonds could raise, we would have to dramatically increase our taxes. I have a fundamental problem with raising taxes because once they have been raised, they never are lowered. Instead, whatever entity gets their funds from this increased source of revenue expands to fill the void so to speak. In a time when household income has been stagnate for two decades, it just didn't seem like we could afford such a project. The school board at the behest of the Superintendent tried to raise our taxes to build a brand new school but it was soundly shot down by the voters. His next attempt was to add onto the current school and yet all published plans essentially had a brand new school right beside the old school that might or might now be remodeled in the future. It too was soundly shot down. I wasn't in the minority who felt we could afford paying more in taxes. My second fundamental problem with a new school is that the student enrollment at our local school has been dropping steadily for the last 30 years. This past year alone we lost 46 students to the urban areas of our state. I had figured once that the high school building, the one they wanted to build a new one to replace, had lost almost 400 students in the last twenty years and yet the biggest reason given as justification for building a new school was lack of space. It just didn't make sense. Finally, the building itself is a beautiful brick building 50 years old and structurally sound. Without internal load bearing walls, it could very easily be remodeled to bring it up to date at the fraction of the cost of a new school and we would still have a very beautiful school. So with the resignation of the Superintendent, I breath a temporary sigh of relief until we found out the next one and I hope the next school who gets saddled with his leadership either have deep pockets or the fortitude to keep voting his absurd proposals down as we did.

Finally, as I was driving up to the urban jungle for the weekend, I tuned into one of my favorite local to our state talk show hosts with whom I politically agree with on a lot of subjects. To my shock, he was holding his grand finale show and had resigned his job to pursue other opportunities. What those opportunities were he couldn't elaborate as he really didn't know just then but he suspected they would be political in nature. Being Iowa is moments away from jumping into the presidential race of 2012 since our presidential caucus is less than a year away, he may be helping out a candidate or perhaps a candidate himself for an Iowa office either here or in the national legislature. I wish him well but I will miss listening to him on my drives up to the urban jungle in the evenings.


Three Score and Ten or more said...

I have watched the story evolve in Egypt, and I am cautiously optimistic, but since it began, and since, at it's beginning and I watched Obama, in his schoolmarm way saying "Change must come NOW", indirectly telling all of the Middle East that we are the BOSS, I have had a bad feeling. I wish I could shake it, but I think that the overall situation in that area is going to get a lot worse before it gets any better.

R. Sherman said...

Of course, you're absolutely correct about tax increases and the fungible nature of money. Here, the lottery and casino gambling were sold on the premise at 100% of the gaming taxes would go to education. Most people believed that those would be additional funds.


The legislature promptly reduced education expenditures from general revenue on a 1:1 ratio to gambling tax revenue received.

That's why I never vote for earmarked taxes, no matter how worthy the government program might be.


Frank D. Myers said...

Chariton always has taken a cautious approach to new school buildings which seems to translate as affirmative action when buildings were needed (two newer elementary schools to replace hopeless buildings that dated from the 1870s and 1880s and a new middle school that won approval after a silly site plan was changed). The high school,well-built in the 1920s, doubled in size in the 1950s with a privately funded community auditorium, community center and gymnasium added later, has been the bone of contention. Now, however, the old building is being remodeled and adapted and there seems to be peace in the valley. The key to winning support seems to have been a focus on demonstrating why the buildings really were needed rather than on building something new just to build something new that looked cooler than the old one.

Ed said...

3 Score - I have a bad feeling about Egypt too but only because the people who want to run it are very anti-American. It should be a wake up call that we need to change our foreign policy and though you may not agree, change Bush's policy of 'you are either with us or against us.'

R. Sherman - I am of the opinion that my tax bracket is enough and should be enough to effectively govern me.

Frank - I certainly hope our school takes the same approach. Up to now however, the majority of the school board seems to think that we need to have a new school for our kids because that is what all concerned parents would want for their children. I however would rather have a quality education than a new school for my child.

sage said...

I've been too involved with school politics as someone in my house was appointed to a school board position last year and now is getting ready to run for the seat... I do see that the building of a new school and the addition to another, done in the late 90s, were misguided as we've been losing 2-3 classrooms a year for the past 7 or 8 years.

As for Egypt, we all pray that things will work out well. As Colbert reported the other week, our friendship with that country has keep us safe (as in there have been no mummy attacks on the US in recent history--you might have needed to see the show to get the joke)

R. Sherman said...

I however would rather have a quality education than a new school for my child.

Spot on.

Our little Lutheran School in the clean but old building and 125 students from Pre-K to 8th Grade consistently has most students which score in the top 20% on national standardized tests and all in the top 30%.

It's definitely not about the money, the building or anything other than the quality of the teaching and the commitment of the parents.