Saturday, February 17, 2007

Lunch lady jailed for shorting kids

The following piece appeared in the Union Leader.

The following piece is a reminder as to why we must be more vigilant about the people and the institutions with which we are to trust the care of our children 180 days a year, seven and half hours a day. Public schools are government schools and just like in the government there is waste, fraud and corruption. Public schools are a gravy train for the employees as long as there is not outside oversight and full financial transparency by the institution parents must take watch over the education of their children.

Parents should have a choice to where they send their children to school. Parents should not be forced to send a child to an institution they do not trust.

Lunch lady jailed for shorting kids
New Hampshire Union Leader Correspondent

BRENTWOOD – When Heidi Morrison noticed her 11-year-old daughter's lunch money account at Hampstead Middle School was running out faster than usual, she asked then-cafeteria manager Terry Moulton what was happening.

Moulton told Morrison that her daughter was spending her lunch money on extra ice cream desserts. Morrison explained that she and her husband were concerned because the girl had suffered from an eating disorder, and they were worried that she was suffering a relapse. According to Morrison, Moulton agreed that was probably the case.

But the girl wasn't buying extra snacks, and she wasn't suffering from an eating disorder; Moulton was stealing the girl's money and blaming the child when anyone asked where the money went. In total, prosecutors estimate that over the course of two school years, Moulton used this method to pocket $10,123 from more than 200 students.

According to police Detective Kenneth Owen, Moulton, 51, of 21 Jesse George Road, Plaistow, would accept checks and cash that parents would send into school with students to be deposited in lunch money accounts, but would credit their accounts for less. According to parents, there were other times when Moulton would charge students extra -- despite their protests -- and keep the difference. The thefts were sometimes only a few dollars, but there were hundreds of incidents, Owen said, noting that he submitted more than 3,500 pages of documentation detailing the crime.

Moulton pleaded guilty to two felony counts of theft by deception last November. Yesterday, Rockingham County Superior Court Judge Tina Nadeau sentenced her to 1 1/„2 to six years in state prison, with an additional five to 10 suspended pending good behavior for 10 years. She must also pay full restitution.

Moulton's attorney, Brian Lavalle, compared his client's deeds to other workplace thefts and said she was facing tough times and made a bad choice.

"Some people, like Terry Moulton, find themselves in dire personal situations and make foolish decisions,'' he said.

Nadeau took issue with that characterization and said Moulton deserved to spend at least as long in prison as she spent stealing the money.

"You made a choice day-in and day-out,'' Nadeau said, referring to evidence that out of 290 school days, Moulton skimmed money from lunch accounts 212 days.

Nadeau took particular issue with Moulton's interaction with Morrison.

"I need to say this is not an ordinary theft. She stole from a child with an eating disorder, a fact she knew and exploited,'' Nadeau said. "In all my years on the bench, it's difficult to imagine a more depraved effort to conceal a crime.''

Lavalle asked Nadeau to sentence his client to 12 months in prison, suspended, and 100 hours of community service. Nadeau, however, seemed swayed by the string of parents who described how Moulton not only took their money but also destroyed trust between them and their children.

Michelle Iturralde told Nadeau about how for two years her now-14-year-old son tried to tell her that Moulton was charging him for things he didn't buy -- sometimes charging him the price of two meals for a single bottle of water -- and taking his money. Unlike several other parents who said they doubted their children were telling the truth about their money, Iturralde said she just thought her son didn't understand.

On more than one occasion, Iturralde said, after her son filled his lunch tray with food, Moulton informed him that he had no money in his account, took the tray and dumped it in the trash.

"I was furious and heartbroken my son went hungry because someone stole his money,'' she said. "I am embarrassed I was not more persistent'' in investigating.

Iturralde said that at one point, her son confronted Moulton himself, asking what had happened to his money.

"He said she made a face and sarcastically said, I took it,'"‚'' Iturralde told Nadeau.

Hampstead School District Assistant Superintendent Richard LaSalle also spoke, telling Nadeau that the community has lost its trust in the district.

"We teach our children there are dangerous strangers and safe adults; anyone who enters a public school must be the latter,'' LaSalle said. "This is a classic case of the schoolyard bully.''

Assistant Rockingham County Attorney Lisa Ricks, who became visibly emotional during her argument regarding Moulton's incarceration, agreed.

"She's the ultimate school bully,'' Ricks said. "The fact that someone would equate this to (regular) employee theft is mind-boggling. It's stealing from children.''

Moulton did not speak during the hearing and was led away by sheriff's deputies.

Speaking on her behalf, Lavalle said she "expresses nothing but regret.''

Quote of the day

"I have absolutely no idea what my generation did to enrich our democracy. We dropped the ball. We entered a period of complacency and closed our eyes to the public corruption of our democracy."
Wynton Marsalis

Friday, February 16, 2007

How much should a teacher make? A private sector equivalency calculation

The following piece is from a friend of ours in Illinois. The city names could easily be changed to New Hampshire names and be just as relevant to our teachers here in New Hampshire.

The following piece is posted on The Family Taxpayers Foundation website.

How much should a teacher make? A private sector equivalency calculation

By Bill Zettler

We believe that teaching is an honorable and well-respected profession and teachers should be compensated in a manner equivalent to what private sector peers earn taking into account all fringe benefits. Our argument is that most teachers, especially those in suburban Chicago, are more than adequately compensated compared to their equals in the private sector.

Over the last 10 years, due to teachers unions influence on politicians of both parties, teacher’s salaries and benefits have increased to the point where in many cases they far exceed what the private sector earns. The people paying the taxes should not make less than those being paid with the taxes.

So we will work through a scenario where a private sector salaried employee, making a salary of $100,000 per year, goes to his/her boss and asks for changes in compensation to match what local teachers receive. What you end up with is $50,000 per year for a teacher is the private sector equivalent of a $100,000 per year salary.

Here we go:

EMPLOYEE: Well boss, I have decided I need to change my lifestyle and I am talking to you today to see if we can come to an agreement on what I should be paid based upon my new employment needs.

BOSS: Well, OK you are a valuable and hard working employee and we will do what we can to accommodate your needs.

EMPLOYEE: Thanks boss. First of all, I would like to work less. Basically, I would like to have 2 weeks off for Christmas each year and the summers off to be with my kids while they are home from school. In all I would like to work 180 days per year or 36 weeks.

BOSS: Wow, that is going to be hard to accommodate. As you know, everyone wants off for Christmas and summer is our busiest time but you are a valuable employee so we will do it. Right now you work about 48 weeks a year after taking time off for holidays and vacations so that is an easy calculation, you will have to take a 25% cut in pay to $75,000 per year.

EMPLOYEE: Right boss, I agree a straight 25% off of my 12 month salary because I am only working 9. That’s fair. Now we are at $75,000.

EMPLOYEE: Now boss I also want to retire at age 55 or 56 on 75% of my pay with automatic 3% increases each year even if inflation is less than that. I am willing to pay 9% towards that on my own.

BOSS: That is a very expensive proposition. With Social Security you contribute about 7% but you only get $18,000 maximum at age 62. If you want to retire 7 years before that and get about 300% more we are really going to have to pump some major dollars into your pension plan. Our actuaries tell us that we would have to contribute at least 25% of your salary in addition to the 7% we have been contributing on your behalf for Social Security or another $ 15,000 per year. So we would have to take your salary down to $60,000.

EMPLOYEE: You are right boss, my salary should go down to $60,000 but I still have a few more things I need.

EMPLOYEE: I want you to guarantee me a job no matter what. You can’t fire me unless I commit a felony and I don’t have to move around or change jobs if I don’t want to. And I want a raise every year whether I do a good job or not. In fact you cannot even review or judge me to see if I deserve the raise or not. I get my raise no matter what.

BOSS: You mean even if business is bad and we are in a recession, you want me to borrow money to pay you? Do you have any idea how risky and expensive that concept is? Somebody has to pay for the loan and the interest on it. And if you are doing a lousy job I cannot fire you, I have to give you a raise? That’s insane.

EMPLOYEE: Boss, do you want to keep me or not. If you don’t give me what I want I will go to Palatine or Lincolnshire and get a job with someone who will.

BOSS: OK, OK let’s see what that cost is. I have to borrow money, perhaps hire someone else to do your job because I can’t fire you. Then when you consider how many millions of people have been laid off recently, I would have to say that is worth at least 10% maybe more. So at 10% that gets you down to $54,000 per year.

EMPLOYEE: That sounds fair but I still need a few other things before I can agree. First of all, I want a 20% increase in pay my last year before retirement to jack up my pension payments, I want 2 personal days and 2 religious days off per year, I want health, life and disability insurance, 15 sick days per year which if I don’t use I can apply to early retirement and I only want to work 7 and ½ hours per day.

BOSS: This is impossible – no one can give you all of this and possibly run any kind of functioning organization. But if I could that would be another 10% so you are down to $50,000 per year instead of the $100,000 you are making now.

EMPLOYEE: Right boss, that sounds like a good deal. I’ll take it.

Quote of the Day

"That is the biggest lie in America. They waste money." Ben Chavis, Principal, response to public schools' complaints about money.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

'No Child Left Behind' put to the voters

No Child Left Behind first and foremost is about accountability one thing educrats truly hate. They truly do not want to be accountable for spending our dollars wisely and they truly do not want to be accountable for educating our children. They rather would spend willy nilly and ask (or sue) for more dollars than live within their means and spend at the rate of inflation as well as appreciation. No Child Left Behind would never have been necessary if public schools across the country were educating our children in the first place.

In the article below, School Board Chairman Graham Chynoweth said "It all comes down to local taxpayers funding federal law." The district does have a choice they can refuse federal tax dollars and not follow the No Child Left Behind Law. If teachers are not capable of teaching and improving student performance the district should be able to hire more capable teachers. But sadly tenure and job protection far exceeds the right of parents, students and taxpayers, school districts are not allowed to seek out the best educators possible because of tenure and the requirement of hiring people with empty teaching degrees.

Mr. Chynoweth does make a point the federal government should not be involved in education and neither should the state. Both are large bureaucratic organizations that take dollars away from the local level and away from the child and our used to pay bureaucrats. Public education is government education and is plagued with waste, mediocrity and corruption.

Dismantling the federal Department of Education (created in the Carter administration) and passing universal school choice would decrease the cost of education and improve the quality of education our children would receive.

This line " But it has come under fire from teachers and school officials, who say it forces them to teach to the test and pressures schools by setting unrealistic goals for student achievement" kills me. In short NCLB is about getting our children to perform at grade appropriate levels, that by all means is not an unrealistic goal for student achievement. No parent should be forced to send their child to a school district who believes that is an unrealistic goal.

The following piece appeared in the Concord Monitor.

No Child Left Behind' put to the voters

Monitor staff
February 15. 2007

The Shaker Regional School District has a request for the federal government: Fix and fund the No Child Left Behind Act, or repeal it. District officials also want state legislators to know they expect a collaborative and comprehensive solution to New Hampshire's education funding crisis.
Superintendent Michael Cozort said he doesn't know whether lawmakers are listening, but it can't hurt to be the squeaky wheel. The school district will put the two issues before voters at the school district meeting on March 9 in the form of nonbinding resolutions, asking voters to support their positions, even if they don't have an immediate effect.

The articles were crafted by the district's public policy committee, which was formed three years ago to debate education legislation, draft position statements and meet with local lawmakers. Education groups, such as the National Education Association and the New Hampshire School Boards Association, often undertake lobbying efforts on behalf of schools and teachers, but Shaker wanted to bring it to the local level, Cozort said.

"I think our residents expected us to be more active politically," he said.

School Board Chairman Graham Chynoweth began the committee soon after the district started feeling the effects of the No Child Left Behind Act, which was first implemented in 2002.

The group has had lunch with Merrimack County legislators to discuss the resolutions and plans to meet with Belknap County lawmakers as well. Committee members have also written letters to Sens. Judd Gregg and John Sununu, former congressmen Charles Bass and Jeb Bradley and new Reps. Paul Hodes and Carol Shea-Porter.
"I don't know if it makes a significant difference in their thinking, or whether it's something that makes us feel better," Cozort said. "But I think if more people do this, it's not a lone voice in the wilderness."

The committee - made up of two school board members, the superintendent, and the district curriculum coordinator - has spoken out about school vouchers, charter schools and the state dropout age. The group has also issued a statement against a plan that could reduce Medicaid reimbursements for schools that provide services to students with disabilities, but the issue did not make it to the warrant this year. Foremost on the minds of committee members is the upcoming reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act and the state Legislature's task of defining and funding an adequate education.

"In some ways, we are no longer policy makers," Chynoweth said. "We are enforcers of state and federal regulations, and that's an unhappy event, from my point of view, for local school boards."

The No Child Left Behind Act is the largest set of regulations the district must adhere to, and the resolution will encourage the federal government to help by contributing more funds or loosening the requirements.

The law was intended to narrow achievement gaps among students, hold schools and teachers accountable for education shortcomings and bring all students up to grade level in reading and math by 2014. But it has come under fire from teachers and school officials, who say it forces them to teach to the test and pressures schools by setting unrealistic goals for student achievement.

In the Shaker Regional School District, 5 to 7 percent of the budget comes from federal grants. But the government's intrusion into the school district's daily operations is not proportional to the funding it provides, Chynoweth said.

"It all comes down to local taxpayers funding federal law," he said.

If approved, the second resolution would call upon all branches of state government to work collaboratively to define and support an adequate education for New Hampshire's children, as required by the state Supreme Court in its recent school funding decision.

That may be a difficult task considering New Hampshire's tax structure, but Chynoweth said the committee feels it can be done. It just needs a little work.

"Make it the first thing you do in the morning and the last thing you do at night," he said, pleading with legislators.

Although the committee's effect is difficult to measure, the results of the last election may be some indication, Chynoweth said. Hodes and Shea-Porter, who shared the school district's view of the No Child Left Behind Act on the campaign trail, defeated Bass and Bradley, he said.

"We'd like to believe that our previously voiced opinion in opposition to No Child Left Behind may have had an influence on someone, one voter maybe," Chynoweth said.

The resolutions will be open for discussion at the school district meeting on March 9 at 7 p.m. at Belmont High School.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Defining adequacy: Don't fall into the court's trap

The following editorial appeared in the Union Leader. No further commentary is needed because the Editorial Board of the Union Leader did an excellent job of pointing out the flaws of the court decision and defining and "adequate education."

Defining adequacy: Don't fall into the court's trap

GOV. JOHN LYNCH is still trying to have it both ways on education funding.

Wisely, he seeks to correct the state Supreme Court's erroneous Claremont rulings by passing a constitutional amendment to preserve localities as the primary financiers and providers of education. But he simultaneously attempts to placate the court by obeying its command that the state define an adequate education.

Education in New Hampshire is and always has been a local responsibility, and rightly so. The closer schools are to parents, the better and more responsive they are. So Lynch's constitutional amendment allowing targeted aid is the right response to the state Supreme Court's unfounded and outrageous assertion that the state must define educational adequacy and pay for it.

Why, then, are Lynch and legislators even bothering with defining adequacy? That's not the state's job.

If the people of Berlin want their children to know different things than the people of Portsmouth want their children to know, what business is it of the state? Some towns might put more emphasis on the arts, others on the sciences, others on mathematics, others on languages. What in the world is wrong with that?

We know, the state already sets minimum standards. So why not go ahead and write a state definition of adequacy? Because it's playing into the court's hands. Creating state definition of adequacy amounts to accepting the court's flawed premises, takes more control from local school districts and sets up the state for additional lawsuits.

What happens when the state defines adequacy? No matter how much money the state provides, districts will sue for more, arguing that it's not enough to meet the state definition.

The governor and legislators need to remember that the court is wrong. The state is not required to define adequacy, and they are wasting their time trying to do so. They should focus on correcting the court's error so that the state can continue its proper role of helping local districts meet their educational needs.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Forums to discuss the definition of an "adequate education" announced.

Forums will be conducted around the state to discuss the definition of an "adequate eduation." We received the following note from the state house about the forums. We encourage all who can attend, to attend and let your voice be heard.

Plymouth -- Monday, Feb. 19 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Plymouth Regional High School Auditorium, 86 Old Ward Bridge Road.
Manchester -- Tuesday, Feb. 20 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Memorial High School Auditorium, 1 Crusader Way.
Dover -- Monday, March 5 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Dover City Hall Auditorium, 268 Central Ave.
Claremont – Monday, March 12 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Location TBA

The Task Force was created by House and Senate leaders, who each appointed four members to serve on the eight-member panel. The Task Force has been asked to gather public input, summarize findings and make recommendations to the House and Senate education committees on a definition of an adequate education.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Lynch moves on education proposal

The following piece was posted on the Union Leader website.

Lynch moves on education proposal
State House Bureau Chief

Concord – Gov. John Lynch proposed solving part of the school funding puzzle today with what he called "a simple and significant" definition of an adequate education.

Backed by legislative leaders, Lynch said he wants to rely on the standards for school approval and curriculum guidelines that are already in place as a step toward satisfying Supreme Court school funding rulings. The court's Claremont decisions said the state must fund an adequate education for all public school students.

The proposed definition of adequacy includes a broad range of academic subjects, from reading and math to technology and the arts, but does not include a requirement for kindergarten.

Lynch and others agreed the proposal is a starting point for public discussions that move to Nashua tonight in the first of five statewide forums on the topic of adequacy.

Lynch said that in the next few weeks he will present a proposed constitutional amendment that will allow the state to target more school aid to poorer communities.

The Lynch definition sets the stage for an amendment by stating that because towns and cities have a variety of economic conditions, they will need different levels of support.

The proposal does not include any reference to costs, which Lynch said will only distract from the debate over what children ought to learn to succeed in the modern world.

"I think it is inappropriate to start that discussion now because then there will be a debate about the cost and then the cost will drive the definition," he said.

Senate President Sylvia Larsen, D-Concord, said Lynch's move will help "meet our responsibilities to the children of our state."

House Speaker Terie Norelli, D-Portsmouth, said the public will be part of the broader debate on the subject, but called it "a great starting point in a very important discussion."

Utah lawmakers OK vouchers for all public school kids

The following piece appears on the CNN website.

Utah lawmakers OK vouchers for all public school kids

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (AP) -- A divided Utah Legislature approved one of the nation's broadest voucher programs Friday, allotting up to $3,000 for any public school student to put toward private school tuition.

Voucher programs in the handful of other states that have them generally are aimed at poor families or students attending schools that have poor academic records. There will be no such restrictions in Utah, which has the largest class sizes in the country and until now has spent less per student than any other state.

The Senate approved the bill 19-10 on Friday, a week after the House endorsed it by a single vote, 38-37. Both chambers are controlled by Republicans. Gov. Jon Huntsman, a Republican whose children attend public schools, has said he will sign the bill into law.

The vouchers will be open to any of Utah's 512,000 public school students. The amount will depend on family income, but even affluent families would be eligible for at least $500 per child. Students already in private schools would not be eligible.

To view the whole story visit the CNN website.

Quote of the day.

“What is needed in America is a voucher of substantial size available to all students, and free of excessive regulations”
— Milton Friedman