So Serious it’s Not Even Funny

Eds Note:  You may have noticed that Mr. Rosenberg and Dr. Rent are pretty much go-getters.  Every Sunday each of these gentlemen send me their post for the week, regular as clockwork.  And this week, they are not only on the same page, they are on exactly the same subject: schools.  Must be a vibration in the universe.  So, welcome to school week here on the Wausaublog.  We’ll let Jim lead off and Dr. Rent bat clean-up.  And I am pretty sure they are not clowning around.

Jim RosenbergBy Jim Rosenberg

I ran into the D.C. Everest Clown Troupe last June, well after school was out of session for the year.  It’s a volunteer thing and a great example of what happens when creativity meets community service to positively influence both the young people involved and those that they come in contact with.  They’re popular with all ages and they visit everything from grade schools with anti-drug DCE Clown Troupemessages to elderly care homes, where troupe members have said they feel especially valued by their audiences.

What’s that got to do with education and the mission of a school district?  Everything and nothing, depending on the kind of community people want to live in.

The D.C. Everest School District has a lot on the line in their upcoming $4 million referendum to cover increases in operating costs over the next several years.  As a fast-growing district in terms of enrollment, the Everest District is punished under the state aid formula, which takes three-year rolling average enrollments as the basis for payments to the district. That can essentially mean hundreds of unfunded students at any given time under the formula, which ordinarily covers approximately 70 percent of the cost to educate a student in the Everest District.

Look at it in this oversimplified way: if you added 250 students to the district, you would need 10 instructional staff, plus support, to cover it — and you might get very little additional state aid in the first year to cover that increased cost. Now presume some of those students are special needs, with an even lower teacher-pupil ratio. We hear a lot about declining enrollment in some school districts and the problems that creates, but increasing enrollment scenarios present their own challenges.

While families and students may seem like the direct beneficiaries of things like extra-curricular programs and enrichment experiences, maintaining an excellent K-12 education system is also an important economic development asset.  People looking at our area look hard at the schools, along with the taxes.

D.C. Everest District Superintendent Kristine Gilmore understands that, which is why she’s is an active leader in the Marathon County Partners in Education group at the Wausau Region Chamber of Commerce.  Joining with other representatives of education and business, MCPIE helps tune the educational experiences of area students toward relevance in the fast-paced, information and technology-driven world that comes after graduation.  Employers looking to maintain, expand or locate operations in our area have a great stake in seeing that there is a solid public school system. It helps produce a critical pool from which some of their future workforce will be drawn and it’s something that qualified potential employees right now look at as they make choices about where to live, work and raise a family.

Think about that as it applies to something like staffing the new St. Clare’s Hospital with medical professionals.  Consider the kinds of people that Greenheck Fan needs to remain a viable and vibrant global competitor. There is a reason that the field house has that name it.  That company has a lot more at stake when it comes to property taxes than any homeowner by many multiples and they care plenty about their operating costs, but you’re not going to see them taking a position opposing quality education.

I don’t live in the Everest district, but if I did, I would vote to invest what amounts to about 10 percent of my monthly cable bill to ensure continued excellence in the schools. Even if the growth rate slows, it won’t solve the budget problems of the next couple of years because of the lag inherent in the funding formula.  Beyond the resources necessary to maintain high quality educational services, the voters will send an important message this month to young people, educators and everyone else about the priority that their community places on education.  We’ll never know how many times over that $4 million may be repaid or the losses that could be compounded through the unrelated choices of businesses and individuals in the coming years who will be taking the message and its impacts to heart.



7 responses to “So Serious it’s Not Even Funny

  1. First off, thank you Bill.

    I say this, I find this argument solid and flawed.

    I live in the Everest district, and graduated from the school. Served me well.

    I was with you until you decided to get all Chamber of Commerce-y on me.

    If you want to ask me to give four bucks more a month for a child to get books, or to pay a new teachers salary…fine. Where do I mail the check?

    If your want to include the development of workforce in this discussion, I will go to the mat fighting you on principal alone.

    To discuss a child who has not graduated high school yet as a potential work force is the sort of gross over reaching we consistently read about the corporate mindset doing. It is insulting in my opinion, and dangerous. Failing to see the individual as anything more than a stat.

    Jim, your a cool dude. You want me to give you four bucks this month so a child can have a good teacher or science lab stuff…fine. For the most part when I read when Rosenberg is in, I tend to be in as well. But anything after the fifth paragraph and I am not your guy.

    Money for teachers=Good

    Comparing children to workforce=Bad. And a little bit too much like Dickens for me.

    They are children. Not welders.

  2. Well no gruel for you, then!!!! 😉

    I think you’re missing the point. While it is true that the young people from this area are likely to be part of the workforce of the future and it is important to equip them to succeed, that is not the main argument for RIGHT NOW. The story right now is that parents and would-be parents who are making choices about where they want to live are going to look hard at the quality of the school system.

    If you had a family with kids (or were planning such a thing), would you relocate into an area that you thought was short-changing its programs or would you be more inclined to choose a place where you felt your children would flourish in an environment of quality, stimulation and diverse opportunities?

    That’s the here and now. As for the future workforce, I think I hear Fagan calling me so I’m going to have to get off the computer. 🙂

  3. The point is the school needs me to give them 4 dollars. They need this 4 bucks for school stuff like books and teachers.

    I am in.

    Everything else is over reaching, and a losing argument. You want me to spend money to develop a school district so that a corporation would feel more at ease coming here…I do not care about the corporate comfort level. I am not so naive as to not understand that we need this level of discussion, but lets look at the infamous corporate partners in communities.

    I know we need the mills, or the hospital, or the whatever. Tax base, blah blah blah. I got it.

    Get it away from the kids. Do not roll Enron into the guilt one has taking funds away from children. Let those funds flow.

    I spend my four bucks so Jimmy can have tater tots and test tubes to heat stuff up in, frogs to dissect.

    Where I would relocate to is of supreme irrlevance.

    If you want to go to Corporation X and tell them to come here because we spend the money on tater tots…that is fine. That is ulitmately your job as a city councilman. But you want to sell this to the public, yeah you do not include the idea of the children as workforce. Just let me give for Jimmy. Not for Jimmy the statistic.

    Ask for money for kids.

    Not workforce.

  4. Valid point. I think there are different parts of the justification that would appeal to different people. You seem pretty altruistic and I can sometimes be accused of being a bit idealistic myself. Is that slant enough to carry more than half of people along when they vote? I’m not certain that it always is.

    Would it lose your vote in favor of the features that appeal to you if reference is made to aspects of the issue that may resonate with others — those who may have a different perspective, but would land on the same side of a yes-no question with you for their own, entirely different reasons? Or would it be enough of a turnoff to keep you home from the polls?

    In any case, I appreciate your candor and I can see your point.

  5. I just want to know that when I am old.. that the next generation is going to be able to handle things..

    and I will say this.. as a Junior Acheivement volunteer for the last 7 years or so.. about 2/3 of the kids worry me.. A LOT!

    I just hope that 1/3 that shows a great deal of promise can carry the load.

  6. I think when you speak to the voters, and I had no idea that is what we were doing, but I think that if you are speaking to voters you model your discussion based on the argument that you think is the strongest. So you, for example, want me to vote yes, or you want me to vote no. This is hypothetical.

    You pick the side. You make your argument. You stand with your argument or you do not. You win or lose based on your argument. You do not get to taylor the argument based on who you think I am.

    And if you do, then your brilliant. And common in politics.

    In this case, you want me to vote for the 4 bucks, you tell Dino that you are spending it on books for kids. Dino signs his name twice to pay for more books for kids.

    You tell Dino that you need to build a solid schools to attract corporate interests. Dino tells you to get off my porch.

    Voters tell you to get off the porch.

    My parents, my aunts and uncles, my friends and family tell you to get off the porch.

    You make that argument to someone looking to develop a corporate base or partners in the community, then you win.

    How many of those families are there? In Weston…30. Maybe more, but not many more.

    You tell the person who bought there dream duplex in Weston that they need to give up 4 more bucks to help there future kids, they pay. They pay because schools are the right thing, tonight, tomorrow, next week or next year.

    You want to campaign an issue based on some corporate growth rate, all the people in your party are going to tell you to run. Run away. Not even flat red states go for that.

    Ask the party professionals…kids or corporation.

    You want to sell me, sell me. But at the end of the day, kids win. Red, Blue, Green, Purple. Gay, Straight, Black, White, Jew, Muslim, Christian…kids win. All of us pay for kids.

    Few of us pay for corporations.

    So, if your trying out your argument, I think you see where to sell on.

  7. I find myself agreeing with everything said so far, but I’d like to reiterate a point that (I think) Dino’s made a couple times.

    It worries me when the health and vitality of school districts are tied, in any fashion, to the desires and needs of corporations. There’s a fine line between saying that we should support our schools so that corporations feel more open to setting up shop in the area, and saying that we should make sure that our schools properly cater to the needs of those corporations, with all their tax-and-revenue capabilities. This very issue, in fact, has been the main ideological thrust behind the ongoing attempts by, among others, powerful statewide lobbyists in Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce to greatly damage both the curriculum and infrastructure of the state’s public schools. For this reason, I almost reflexively cringe at the close association of school and corporate needs, even when – as I think Mr. Rosenberg accurately points out – the specific aims of that rhetorical linkage are more ambiguous.

    The referendum will rise or fall in the manner of all other educational referenda: if the district makes the case that the spending will improve the quality of education enough to justify the expense, then the measure will be approved. If they don’t, it won’t. Whether or not the points Mr. Rosenberg raises ultimately prove relevant with the voters of the Everest district is a separate issue, but one that I don’t think will become the central pivot point in the election.

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