Franklin Countys First News

Letter to the Editor: Time to hold schools accountable

If you’ve lived beyond 40 years, you’ll remember schools being quite a lot different
than they are today. From the way students and teachers dress to the way education
was presented, schools 40 years ago were a lot different. Funding for those schools
was also different. Towns paid for most of the costs of running a school. There would
some financial assistance from the State, but if a new school was built, the towns footed the bulk of the cost.

Fast forward to 2000. Most everything is different, particularly when it comes to education.

Between the mid-1960’s and early 1970’s, the towns were expected to consolidate because a larger school meant a better education. Some of us would argue that. It certainly is a different education. With that enlargement came less control by each town. Towns were sent a bill for education at the first of each year, and each town had to figure out how it was going to pay that bill.

In the beginning, the costs rose, but not to a point of choking the taxpayers. But as each year passed, the cost became greater and greater. The relationship between the schools, the schools’ administrators, the towns, and the taxpayers grew apart, until no one knew anyone anymore. That made it very easy for the administration to pass on larger and larger costs to the taxpayers simply because they didn’t know them, and frankly didn’t care. It’s easy to tax someone you don’t know. The taxpayers became nothing but a revenue source.

Years ago, when budget meetings were held, every employee of the school was expected to attend, as they do now. Few, if any taxpayers came. There was no point. Thirty taxpayers couldn’t overturn anything because they were outnumbered. And the budgets went up and up. The schools/administrators knew had they the majority, so they could pass anything they wanted and they did.

Then a bill was passed in the Legislature to allow towns to VOTE on a school budget at the town level. If you were a taxpayer, you could vote for or against a school budget. Many towns just passed the budget – teachers came to vote just like they did at the budget meeting. And the budget passed. But that isn’t happening now. Towns, with less revenue coming in, and larger tax bills going out, have increased the tax bills and the “people” are starting to take notice. In towns all over the state of Maine, school budgets are being over-turned. That holds true in our own district.

But because the taxpayers are finally standing up and voting NO on a budget, the supporters are very upset. Why wouldn’t they be? They’ve steam-rolled over the taxpayers and the towns for years, and NOW they are being stopped. And the idea that they can’t get their own way, after years of being spoiled, makes them very unhappy.

After 40 years of being taxed and taxed some more, there are some people who have had the courage to speak up, stand up, and be counted. And maybe, just maybe the school will finally see that we’re sick of paying up when the teachers’ and administrators’ salaries are the only ones going up. This opposition will continue until there is more instead of less transparency in the budget.

Now that the budgets have exceeded the $30 million mark, that expense is killing the towns. The state is stepping in to help the taxpayers with increased Homestead Exemptions, some tax relief on income tax, and some increased reimbursements to the schools toward expenses. But what hasn’t happened, and is so frustrating to those of us who are paying more and more each year is that the schools themselves have not cut back on their spending, nor do they intend to do so. Last year when the schools received some extra funds from the state, it was to come to the towns for tax relief. I predicted, at that time, the school would continue to increase their budget, thinking the taxpayers would forget since they got some reduction in their taxes. Well, this taxpayer DID NOT forget. And better yet, there are others who didn’t forget either. And the budget was voted down on the first round. Now they’ve reduced the budget a measly $344,000, banking on help from the state again this year. And then the supporters scream that the State is supposed to fund at 55 percent. RSU9 has been funded closer to 57 percent. So why does THIS school system think they should get more? It’s not because they’re producing a higher percentage of brilliant students.

The budget WILL get all the support it needs for spending from the members of the School Board because there is only one "POOR" person on the board. The rest are retired professionals, or they are married to working professionals with incomes that far exceed the median incomes of most of the taxpayers. I just hope on the next referendum vote on Aug. 3, the people who are sick of being railroaded by the school will show up and make their voices heard at the polls by voting NO again. It’s time for the schools to become accountable.

Nancy Porter
Farmington

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65 Responses »

  1. Mr. Erb. What I understand you to be saying is we need to recruit and keep the good teachers. And what I keep reading from you is we consistently lose good teachers to other districts due to poor wages.
    How many teachers do we now employ that don't meet the " good " grade? Are all the teachers at Sad 9 good teachers? What percentage of teachers on the market would you estimate are bad?

  2. Other sources: Education Level vs pay, nationwide, of course pay in Maine is lower than nationwide, since some of our costs are lower. (Housing). https://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_chart_001.htm

    May want to click on the link: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/ if you are interested, or know someone interested into looking at future possibilities.....to set some personal goals for employment and the preparation work needed.

    And this link shows unemployment rates by educational attainment level: https://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_table_001.htm

    Down here is a link to income data for Maine: Please note the income gains over the last year or so:

    http://www.deptofnumbers.com/income/maine/ These numbers are used on census survey results. Maine is lagging the country in income gain, but a 3.99% increase in median income during 2015, and a 6.70% increase over the 2013, 2014, 2015 is a measurable gain, factually speaking.

    Of course Census survey data likely only sources above the table earnings.....

    So, if the question is whether or not incomes are up in Maine, the answer is yes. Income levels reflect a slowly growing economy. The next question for all of us is: Is the requested increase great than, or less than the growth % of the Maine economy, since we all know we should not outspend our incomes. (Important to include the Maine economy here, since the state provides funding for more than half of our school expenses).

    Answer: Budget growth for this year is lower than Maine's economic growth, as based on incomes.

  3. Arnold. P. "On the other hand, we could do as some of the commenters might suggest, and just raise the Minimum Wage to $15less s-$20/hour nationwide and then you could AFFORD to give the schools what they want, right?" No, families could afford to live healthy and stressful lives which would make classrooms less needy for special services. Check out the living wage index for Maine. http://livingwage.mit.edu/states/23

    Now imagine what the local economy would look like if people were stable and had steady, even disposable incomes.

    Jesse, You have reminded me of one aspect of teaching that is of great concern. We have to be on guard and alert for danger in order to protect our students. We have to be trained and practice lock down procedures with the students, admin, and local law enforcement. It hit me this year as it stirs the emotional fears of the students. I work a profession that is a target for disgruntled students, parents, or just crazies who some how think the solution is to commit atrocities. I just want to teach. That's all I want to do. I get paid for the amount of educational background and continuing professional certification... That I invest in my teaching practice. I'm sorry to hear about your friend but I also know that we are under constant evaluations. I had to be evaluated twice this year and will again next to make sure that my students are learning. As for the other teacher it sounds like you are basing this off rumors and maybe some personal interactions. In a public discussion like this I think its tit for tat when we just throw blame. I have no doubt that you are great father and looking out for the best interests of you kids. Keep doing that. I tell people that schools are not responsible for 100% of your kids education. Teaching and learning should be happening at home too. But this is only the case for less than half the students at any school. Truth is, there are kids that come to school with no at home support and when they receive it at school it doesn't go over so well. I would love to have a class that is 100% high achieving ready to go students but that is not every going to be a reality for PUBLIC schools. Good luck with your crusade. My only hope is that it results in a better community for us all.

    Anyone want to talk about other areas of the town and county budget that have raised our taxed in the past five years? I don't know if anyone notices the huge jump in the past five years but it is huge. This is another area of spend and ask for more..... http://www.farmington-maine.org/audits-budgets

  4. Some people spend a lot of time coming up with reasons for other people to pay more taxes, and little or no time actually trying to find a job and CONTRIBUTE to the economy. How many of us have never heard someone say "I can't TAKE a job because then I'd lose my/lose part of my (fill in the blank) government benefits?" Also, I haven't seen too many comments about trimming any possible fat/pork out of the school budget to minimize the tax burden, and while I see several comments about paying good teachers more, I don't see any about getting rid of any bad ones. Teaching/government jobs should not be unionized.

  5. See Al Diamon's column: "The Legislature repealed the tax on big earners that was supposed to channel over $300 million to schools. And it amended the minimum-wage hike to strip out tipped workers."

    Disheartening, to say the least.

    Per SD: "...imagine what the local economy would look like if people were stable and had steady, even disposable incomes."

    Under the prevailing circumstances, I can't.

  6. I know many teachers. Most are fine people trying to do a good job.
    Just like other groups of people that are trying to do a good job.

    I applaud the work ethic that Dan describes, But no more and no less than the other fine groups of workers.

    But "they" are not on here painting a picture.
    I get the "impression" that you think you are somehow more valuable to society than others.
    I don't think so.

    The highly trained professionals who provide other services also play a critical role in keeping the wheels of our society rolling. Medical/Mechanical/Etc....
    But they are not on here like you guys are.... On your soap box.
    And they also receive a lot of negative in their jobs as well.
    Some more,,, some less.

    But it's you guys who have long ago organized and collectively strong-armed the taxpayers.
    Thus, This "reaction" from the citizens.

    Why is what "you" do any more or less valuable than what the rest of us do?

  7. It's possible that if the Socialist wannabees actually moved to a Socialist country, Sweden, for example, they might be happier. I'm certain the rest of us would!

  8. A chance for everyone to have another say about the budget will be on JULY 25 at 7:00 P.M. at MT. BLUE auditorium when each article of the school budget will be discussed and voted on. A chance to raise or lower the $ amounts.before it goes to referendum vote on AUGUST 3rd. IF you care be there! YOU can make a difference!

  9. "Adam Ruins Everything - Why You Should Tell Coworkers Your Salary" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xH7eGFuSYI

  10. Are we all in this together? No one is claiming that teachers are more important. Please read the letter to the editor and the following conversation. This IS a conversation very specific to education funding, educators pay, and property taxes.

    Of course education is only one field of publicly funded service and All public service is essential to a functioning community and society. I would be more than happy to change the subject to the appreciation for all town maintenance workers, firemen, social workers, police, librarians, judges, public defenders, soldiers, town office workers.... And everyone else who essential to providing the public services that we benefit from. I absolutely appreciate and depend on medical field workers... but this has not been a part of this particular issue and discussion.

    Thank you for expanding the dialog, Nancy.

  11. SD I guess it depends on which editor is reading responses, as to which ones get left on for others to read. I've tried twice to put some facts on here as to why I vote no, and they have been deleted !!! Hope to see you on the 25th work permitting...

  12. SD,, sorry but ALL other workers ARE relevant to this discussion.
    Since they are the ones footing the bill.

    You're just trying to shut people out of the discussion.
    Which is what happens when someone opposes the will of the educational "system".
    Change is happening.

  13. Nancy, this has been great . Both sides coming out on their opinions of the issue. A FEW have been discovered and tripped up. Exposed. What is happening is that finally, the taxed with no voice are going to be the ones finally finding courage and voice to set their own tax rate for a change, instead of the "school" doing it!!! The July 25 budget meeting at Mt. Blue should be something! I hope for a good attendance. Your leadership and writing is to be applauded!.Thank you and thanks also to the DAILY BULLDOG for making this possible.

  14. May a well-informed, fair-minded majority rule.

  15. I think that in the olden days (I will be 64 in a few months) we had a school in each town. Ever since things went consolidated, it has led to more disruptions from students due to having a lot of kids in each classroom. I think kids learn better in smaller settings. It isn't the teachers' fault. It is also changes in things. Teachers can only teach what they are supposed to. I am not and never was, a teacher. But nowadays, spending millions on schools when some don't even have books or teach kids cursive writing is wrong. How is a parent supposed to help a child with a difficult subject if the parent has nothing to read? And with no books, it also hurts paper mills

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