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best communities: Appleton, Wisconsin.

Jeff Lindsay is an author of Conquering Innovation Fatigue. See for more info.
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Saturday, June 13, 2009


Appleton Schools and the Failed Stimulus Plan

Appleton schools have faced a painful budget shortfall resulting in the loss of some of the best teachers in the area. Thirty-seven teachers, if my sources are correct, are losing their jobs because the Appleton School District is short $3 million. One of these teachers was voted teacher of the year at North High School, according to a recent article in the Post-Crescent. The teacher's union forces the layoffs to occur according to their seniority rules, not based on which teachers are most needed and most valuable for their schools. But whatever process is used to select the victims, it's painful and ugly.

But wait - isn't the School District being helped by all that stimulus money flowing our way. Yes, the District is receiving $4.5 million from the Federal Government, about 50% more than what is needed to protect the jobs of all the teachers being cut. Problem solved? No way. The money comes with political strings attached that limit its use to special needs students and other politically favored purposes. It doesn't help address the real problem the District is facing. As a result, I understand that NONE of the 37 being laid off will get to keep their jobs.

This is the awful thing about national redistribution of wealth and national socialism in general: it results in massive waste and loss because distant politicians calling the shots can't possibly know enough to properly spend all the money they siphon out of communities and out of the economy. Even if they were smart enough to understand local needs, their own careers and image tend to be more important than the needs of communities they don't know. They will tend to make decisions based on politics for their own good. Don't expect their help to be the help that is really needed.

Tax dollars are best managed as close to home as possible. Decisions about spending money in communities are best made by the communities. Decisions about what products or services to offer and how much to make or to charge are best made by the forces of the free market, not by elite politicians who think they know enough to tell businesses what to do.

Dozens of teachers are losing their jobs unnecessarily here in spite of wasteful federal "help."

Appleton voters were offered a chance to pay higher taxes to make up for the deficit, but rejected that opportunity in the form of a referendum they voted down, presented at a time of economic disaster and in light of ever increasing taxes at the state and federal level.
I agree that the "stimulus money" should not have strings attached. However, given that it does:

It is reasonable for taxpayers to reject higher taxes in this economy.

If the teachers' union voluntarily accepted a pay freeze, almost all of those jobs would be saved. In this economy, it is reasonable to expect the union to do this, but they won't. It's a real shame.
I dislike finger pointing and the direction that this discussion has turned. We do need to find better ways of helping and educating those with disabilities. If a more in depth investigation would be perused, you would find that 50% of the stimulus money is being used to support the administration of those programs as opposed to any actual teaching staff that directly supports the disabled student. Many of those educators have had their time or support staff reduced. Special education is a growing need in our community as well as across our nation. Please stop the finger pointing and focus on solutions to educating our children of all needs in these times of economic hardship.

Thank You
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