Category Archives: Politics – Wisconsin

School Spending Transparency Gets First Hearing Today

From RightRisconsin.

A new bill to make school spending more transparent will get its first public hearing at the legislature on Thursday.

The bill, Assembly Bill 810, would create a computerized database of public school expenditures maintained by the Department of Public Instruction (DPI). The agency would then post the information on the internet for the public.

“DPI must present the data on its Internet site in a format that allows the public to download, sort, search, and access the data at no cost,” according to the Legislative Reference Bureau memo. “Finally, the bill requires DPI to annually conduct a public information campaign on the availability of financial data on its Internet site.”

The law, if passed by the legislature this session, would go into effect for the 2021-22 school year.

Do it!

Governor Evers Uses Heavy Hand of Government to Quash 1st Amendment


MADISON – Gov. Tony Evers is standing by his child services officials who warned a reporter he could face jail time if he reported information from a confidential child abuse investigation.

Evers said Tuesday the Department of Children and Families acted appropriately by sending an NBC News reporter a cease and desist letter threatening legal action, a move that media law experts say is likely unconstitutional.

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“I believe it’s appropriate that DCF protects the kid in this case. Somebody’s got to stick up for that young kid who was deemed to be abused,” Evers told reporters Tuesday. “Somebody’s got to stand up for the kid, and we did and I support that.”

DCF officials sought to block NBC News reporter Mike Hixenbaugh from publishing information from a confidential child abuse investigation file, saying reporting such information would violate state law and could result in six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

As we put more and more privacy laws from HIPAA to FERPA to others, this is becoming more of an issue. Business and government officials hide their abuses and wrongdoing behind these laws and use them to thwart the people’s ability to get to the truth.


West Bend Superintendent Heading Back to South Dakota

It’s almost like I was prescient when I wrote my column this weekend. Good reporting from the Washington County Insider:

February 4, 2020 – West Bend, WI – Just a day after broke the story about West Bend School Superintendent Don Kirkegaard looking to return to his former school district and expressing interest in the interim superintendent position in the Meade School District the story got picked up by Rapid City Journal in South Dakota.

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Reporter Jim Holland writes:

STURGIS | Former Meade 46-1 superintendent of schools Don Kirkegaard has offered his services as an interim superintendent of the district, following the release of current superintendent Jeff Simmons in January.

Kirkegaard also confirmed he had contacted the Meade 46-1 Board of Education about the superintendent’s opening, but only in an interim capacity. “If you decide you’re going to do an interim (superintendent). I would be interested in being considered,” Kirkegaard said.

“If you’re going to do a full-fledged search, I will do everything I can to help you get the right candidate, but I’m not going to re-apply for the position,” he said.

Dennis Chowen, president of the Meade 46-1 Board of Education, confirmed Tuesday that Kirkegaard had contacted the board the day after a Jan. 13 meeting in which the board and Simmons announced a mutual agreement of his release from the remainder of his three-year contract.

West Bend School District needs a new superintendent

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Go pick up a copy! Here’s a part to whet your appetite.

The search for a new superintendent comes during a time of turmoil in the school district. After Superintendent Ted Nietzke resigned in 2016, the School Board hired a strong replacement, Erik Olsen. 2016 is also when the School Board began its turn to the left when Tiffany Larson was elected. 2017 completed the turn with the election of Joel Ongert, Nancy Justman, and Tonnie Schmidt. With a solid majority, Superintendent Olson was quickly paid a handsome severance to leave. Interim Superintendent Laura Jackson served well until Kirkegaard was hired by the board in 2018 after an expensive search.

Through these years, the school district has burned through four or five HR directors and business managers, ended innovation like the charter school, abandoned merit pay for teachers, stunted community and stakeholder communication, roiled the electorate with a poorly thought-out referendum that failed, and generally regressed from the gains made a few years ago. The results have been distressing as student performance has been stagnant and much of the community is disengaged and disinterested.

Meanwhile, the school district is facing some serious challenges. Due to a general demographic shift, enrollment is declining in the district and is projected to continue to decline for the foreseeable future. A district that once had 7,000 students will likely have less than 5,000 within this decade. This will mean substantially less money and the need to downsize personnel and facilities. The district is also facing competitive pressure with the expansion of school choice and the maturity of online and home-school learning options. These are structural pressures that are not unique to the West Bend School District. They are systemic and unavoidable.

Taking all of this into account, the next superintendent of the West Bend School District needs to be a strong, transformational, visionary change agent. It is exponentially more difficult to properly manage an organization through a contraction than through an expansion. The leader must be a phenomenal communicator who can motivate employees and build support with all of the stakeholders in the district. The West Bend School District does not need a caretaker or a toady. The district needs a strong leader to guide it through a transformation to improve educational outcomes, infuse modern innovations, and reconnect with the community while also consolidating and economizing personnel and facilities. The folks in the West Bend School District deserve a better, if smaller, school district that reflects the values of the community it serves.

To find a superintendent that matches all of those criteria will not be easy, especially given the recent turnover in the position. To do so, the West Bend School Board should follow the lead of the University of Wisconsin System and consider candidates who do not come from the government education- industrial complex. A school district superintendent must have a vision for education, but must also have skills in budgeting, contract negotiation, public relations, personnel management, finance, facilities management, organizational behavior, recruitment, marketing, legal, and more. These are skills that most seasoned, successful business executives have acquired and are not unique to people who have spent their career in education.

Toxic DNC Host Committee Purged of Leaders


In interviews with the Journal Sentinel over the weekend, two experienced political hands who have worked with the host committee described it as having a toxic culture rife with power struggles, backbiting and mismanagement.

They accused the top two officials, Gilbert and Alonso, of giving contracts to their friends in New Jersey, calling meetings and then failing to attend them and being more focused on accumulating power than promoting Milwaukee.

A New Jersey firm with strong ties to the New Jersey Democratic Party, for instance, developed the website for the host committee and manages its email platform. Both Gilbert and Alonso are top-ranking Democratic operatives in that state.

These assertions come at the same time that Alonso is being accused in his home state of New Jersey of shaking down campaign contributors for his personal consulting business.

“It’s one of the worst — if not the worst — I have worked on,” the first official said of the host committee.

The second official said they would become sick to their stomach when working with the host committee, the first time they experienced a toxic work environment, despite working on numerous campaigns. “You know it when you see it, when you feel it,” the second official said.

Letter to the Editor – Jody Geenen

Here is a letter from West Bend School Board candidate Jody Geenen

The referendum is back!  As a candidate for the West Bend School Board in April, I’ve paid particular attention to the January meetings. The groupthink of the current board appear to promise a more elaborate and expensive referendum for November than was voted down last April.  Instead of one new school plus repairs, there will likely be two new schools, an addition to Green Tree, plus repairs.

Part of the problem, I wondered was why, after hearing all of the pros on Jackson needing it’s very own elementary school situated next to the Boys & Girls Club, we didn’t have anyone lined up to give the cons so there could be a balanced discussion. After all, none of the schools in West Bend are located near the Boys & Girls Club, yet students manage to get there.  In addition, we had a task force months ago that developed an alternative plan that was viable, sensible, and more affordable. Shouldn’t someone from that committee have been given the floor to explain why that plan might be better than the one in the works?

As the only candidate running against the incumbents for school board on April 7, I would like to listen to all options side-by-side in order to formulate what works best for ALL stakeholders in our school district, including the taxpayer. Yes, it does appear that Jackson has the most potential for residential growth, but some of those properties are actually in the Germantown School District. Not only can we contribute declining enrollment to students attending secondary school in Germantown or Slinger, but we are also competing against private schools, home school and virtual school that are becoming more and more popular with each passing year. Please vote for Common Sense on April 7; please vote for me.

Jody Geenen – Candidate for West Bend School Board

WILL to Sue Madison School District over Anti-Parent Policy

Good. It is inappropriate for government employees to take it upon themselves to withhold information about a minor from their parents or legal guardians.

The district’s guidance prohibits school staff from disclosing “any information that may reveal a student’s gender identity to others, including parents or guardians and other school staff, unless legally required to do so or unless the student has authorized such disclosure.”

“Transgender, non-binary, and gender-expansive students have the right to discuss and express their gender identity and expression openly and to decide when, with whom, and how much to share private information,” the guidance states. “If a student chooses to use a different name, to transition at school, or to disclose their gender identity to staff or other students, this does not authorize school staff to disclose a student’s personally identifiable or medical information.”

WILL wrote in its December letter that it was representing a group of 15 parents with students in the district and that the guidance “contains certain policies that violate our clients’ constitutional rights as parents.”

“Specifically, the Policy allows children of any age to change gender identity at school without parental notice or consent, prohibits teachers and other staff from notifying parents about this (without the child’s consent), and, in some circumstances, even requires teachers and other staff to actively deceive parents,” the letter stated.

Bill Proposes Raising Retirement Age for State Employees

Do it. Retiring by the age of 60 is still an incredibly generous part of the benefit package for public employees.

The bill by Sen. Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, and Rep. Mary Felzkowski, R-Irma, would allow retired teachers or other former employees participating in the Wisconsin Retirement System to be rehired and work full-time for a WRS employer for up to three years and still collect their pension payments.

But the bill comes with a catch that its authors argue would account for the change and ensure the continued integrity of the Wisconsin Retirement System: Raising the minimum retirement age at which a participant may begin collecting benefits from 55 to 59½. The change would only affect employees under the age of 40 at the time the bill becomes law, and would also exclude protective service occupations, such as police officers and firefighters.

Time for Flat Tax?

Absolutely. Or no state income tax. Other states do it. Wisconsin could too.

[Madison, Wisc…] With the recent news from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau that Wisconsin’s economy continues to be strong and tax revenue is expected to be $818 million more than originally anticipated at the end of the 2019-2021 biennium, the John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy is asking Governor Tony Evers and the Legislature to consider adopting a 3% flat tax.

MacIver President Brett Healy issued the following statement:

“The most recent fiscal estimate is great news and another reminder that fiscal discipline, sensible regulation and cutting taxes has been a winning recipe for all Wisconsinites. We should use this momentum, build on our record of success and lock in long-term and meaningful tax reform that will benefit all Wisconsinites. Now is the time to adopt bold tax reform that will make Wisconsin an economic powerhouse for generations to come.”

Wisconsin’s top income tax rate of 7.65% is the 10th highest in the country and our lowest income tax rate of 3.86% is the 6th highest rate among states with a progressive income tax. Our lowest income tax rate was previously tied at the 4th highest among states with a progressive income tax before 2019 Act 9 and Act 10 tax reforms lowered the two lowest income tax bracket rates.

Though our lowest income tax rate was reduced in 2019, Wisconsin is still one of the worst places for the working poor in terms of the tax rate they pay. If Wisconsin adopted a 3% flat income tax rate, Wisconsin would have the lowest tax rate in the Midwest and the 2nd lowest flat tax rate in the entire country.

“We can use the temporary revenue surplus to create a simpler, fairer tax code that will lower the tax burden for everyone,” Healy said. “A low 3% flat tax will help Wisconsin attract new families, recruit new businesses, keep our retirees from leaving and entice college graduates to work in the state.”


Evers Creates Another Task Force

How many is that?

PEWAUKEE — Gov. Tony Evers today, joined by Department of Financial Institutions Secretary Kathy Blumenfeld, signed Executive Order #67 creating the Governor’s Task Force on Student Debt. This task force will be chaired by Secretary Blumenfeld and will be tasked with assessing student debt in Wisconsin and providing long-term strategies to reduce education-related debt, prevent abusive practices by loan companies, and improve financial literacy education.

How ’bout we focus on lowering the cost of college so that kids don’t feel the need to take on so much debt?

Evers’ latest attempted usurpation

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News yesterday.

It has become a nasty feature of modern politics that Democrats just cannot lose gracefully. Here in Wisconsin, the Democrats went into a full frenzy when Gov. Scott Walker was elected. They insisted that he “cheated” and engaged in “collusion” to win. Sound familiar? We saw the same thing when President Donald Trump won. Democrats advanced a narrative that Trump “cheated” and “colluded” to win the election. The truth in both cases was that the Republican won and the Democrats could not accept it. In their worldview, the only way a Republican can win is if they cheat.

This brings us to the abominably boring topic of redistricting. It is a topic that only political junkies find interesting, but it is a necessary part of self-governance. The process is fairly simple. Every 10 years, the United States does a census to count everyone in the country and figure out where they live. After that, the states redraw the boundaries between congressional and legislative districts to ensure that they each have an equal number of people.

States go about the process of redistricting in different ways. In Wisconsin, the state Constitution gives this responsibility solely to the Legislature. The Constitution simply reads, “At its first session after each enumeration made by the authority of the United States, the legislature shall apportion and district anew the members of the senate and assembly, according to the number of inhabitants.” The only guidance the Constitution gives on this is that, “such districts to be bounded by county, precinct, town or ward lines, to consist of contiguous territory and be in as compact form as practicable.”

Although redistricting is the exclusive purview of the Legislature, the state Supreme Court ruled that the maps had to be passed as a normal bill and signed by the governor. This gave the governor a role in the process. The third branch of government, the courts, have an oversight role to ensure that legislative districts adhere to the Constitution and that they do not violate any federal laws or constitutional protections.

The process of redistricting is inherently political. It could not be anything but political. This is why it is appropriate for the Legislature to do it. That is the forum to which the people elect their representatives to debate political issues and make decisions on the people’s behalf. And the more controversial and heated the topic is, the more important it is to be debated by our representatives in the light of day. Decisions made after heated debates by elected representatives on the floor of the Legislature are far preferable to those made by unelected commissions or judges.

This is why Gov. Tony Evers creation of a socalled “People’s Maps Commission” is so offensive. It is a deliberate attempt by the governor to usurp the will of the people as expressed in their elected legislators. Instead, Evers proposes to appoint a group of commissars who will draw new maps according to the will of one man: Tony Evers. In a representative government, we do not decide big issues with unelected commissions with allegiance to the governor. We decide big issues by debating them in the People’s House – the Legislature.

Evers’ reason for this attempted usurpation is the reason cited at the beginning of this column. Democrats just cannot accept losing elections. The Democrats have claimed for years that the Republican majorities in the state Legislature are due to rank partisan gerrymandering. For evidence, they point to the fact that Democrats won statewide elections at the same time that they failed to win majorities in the Legislature.

The problem with their argument is threefold. First, politics are truly local. During the time that Republicans have held majorities in the state Legislature, Scott Walker, Donald Trump, Barack Obama, and Tony Evers all won statewide majorities. In the state Assembly, for example, Republicans have held the majority for all except two of the previous 26 years. The fluctuations in regional turnout have more impact on these discrepancies than the boundaries of the districts.

Second, Democrats conveniently forget that Republicans first swept into their most recent legislative majorities in November of 2010 in legislative districts drawn by the courts after the divided legislature deadlocked in 2001. Their majorities are not a result of maps that Republicans drew. Republican majorities are due to good local politicking, good candidates, and good policies.

Third, partisan gerrymandering, while perhaps unfair and annoying, is not illegal or unconstitutional. The United States Supreme Court affirmed that fact as recently as last year. Governor Evers’ unelected commission of usurpers is pretending to fix or prevent something that is perfectly legal and constitutional. The truth is that their purpose is not fairer maps. Their purpose is maps that favor Democrats.

Governor Evers has repeatedly demonstrated that he lacks the skills, personality, or will to work with the Legislature on important issues. Instead, he seeks to circumvent the Legislature and concentrate power in himself. In doing so, Evers is attempting to circumvent the people’s right to self-governance.

Evers Hides as Vice President Visits Wisonsin

And one more to show just how even-handed and nonpartisan our governor can be.

MADISON, Wis. — Democratic Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers won’t be in his office when Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to give a speech just a few feet away in the rotunda of the state Capitol.

The event Tuesday in battleground Wisconsin is believed to mark the first time a sitting vice president or president has appeared inside the 103-year-old building.

Evers is a petty, bitter, partisan man who can’t even rise up enough on behalf of the people of Wisconsin to welcome the sitting Vice President to our state.

Democrats Announce “Nonpartisan” Commission

I heard Jay Weber talking about this on WISN1130.

Gov. Tony Evers signed an executive order Monday creating a nonpartisan redistricting commission that excludes lawmakers, lobbyists and party officials from participating.

The commission, which Evers unveiled in last week’s State of the State address, will consist of members from across the state and present maps to the Legislature for consideration after completion of the 2020 Census.

Evers, Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul and most of the governor’s cabinet assembled in the Capitol Monday for the executive order requiring the creation of the People’s Maps Commission, which will visit each congressional district in Wisconsin to help create the maps.

Funny how ONLY Democrats were invited to announce what they are pretending will be a “nonpartisan” commission, eh?

Evers’ latest attempted usurpation

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. It’s about Governor Evers’ ridiculous “People’s” Maps Commission. Here’s a part.

The process of redistricting is inherently political. It could not be anything but political. This is why it is appropriate for the Legislature to do it. That is the forum to which the people elect their representatives to debate political issues and make decisions on the people’s behalf. And the more controversial and heated the topic is, the more important it is to be debated by our representatives in the light of day. Decisions made after heated debates by elected representatives on the floor of the Legislature are far preferable to those made by unelected commissions or judges.

This is why Gov. Tony Evers creation of a socalled “People’s Maps Commission” is so offensive. It is a deliberate attempt by the governor to usurp the will of the people as expressed in their elected legislators. Instead, Evers proposes to appoint a group of commissars who will draw new maps according to the will of one man: Tony Evers. In a representative government, we do not decide big issues with unelected commissions with allegiance to the governor. We decide big issues by debating them in the People’s House – the Legislature.

Milwaukee Tool Announces Major New Site in West Bend

Excellent news in the Washington County Insider!

January 27, 2020 – West Bend, WI – Neighbors in West Bend are abuzz about the news Milwaukee Tool will be building a manufacturing plant in West Bend.“It’s huge for West Bend,” said District 5 alderman Rich Kasten. “It shows we can play with the big boys and start to build back some of that manufacturing we lost over the decades.”

The location for the new $26 million plant that will manufacture hand tools is the new TIF 14 located to the south of Rusco Road along the east side of River Road. According to City Administrator Jay Shambeau, Milwaukee Tool will be in the 62 acres of Area A with the road extended off Rail Way.


-The proposed $26 million plant will manufacture hand tools for professional electricians and utility linemen.

-Ground breaking is expected to be in April 2020 with the plant opening in early 2021.

-The deal to build in West Bend happened quickly and West Bend won out over a competing location in Indiana.

City Administrator Jay Shambeau said West Bend was able to secure a deal with Milwaukee Tool because the “City is within close proximity to to their corporate headquarters in Brookfield and its proposed additional corporate presence in Menomonee Falls. Plus the sheer size of our industrial park with ample room for expansion helped set us apart.”

WASB Rejects Push to Ban Native American Nicknames

Good. And it wasn’t even close.

BROWN COUNTY (WLUK) — Efforts to ban the use of Native American nicknames, mascots, and logos at schools across Wisconsin was shut down by a 218-101 vote from school board members on Wednesday.


“There’s not a single person in education that seeks to discriminate or disrespect, so if we need to have those conversations with a population of people that feel disrespected then let’s have that conversation. But we don’t need legislative language to dictate that,” said Superintendent Nichole Schweitzer.


Madison Uses Welfare to Fund Transportation

You can’t make this up.

A $40 vehicle registration fee for City of Madison residents is new in 2020 and was created to support the expansion of Metro Transit bus service, including the future implementation of bus rapid transit. As part of the program, the City implemented new subsidies for low-income bus riders and youth.

The Madison Finance Committee also passed a budget amendment in October 2019 to pay for a reimbursement program for clients of the Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) nutrition program.

Families who participate in the WIC program and live in the City of Madison are eligible to receive a $40 Visa gift card. The program went into effect on January 21, 2020. Families must provide proof that they paid their vehicle registration in 2020. Proof of payment is the Certificate of Vehicle Registration that comes with the license plate tags. Families can receive a gift card for each vehicle they register.

Madison passes a wheel tax, but then passes a subsidy for folks on WIC to pay for the wheel tax. The real world effect is that they are transferring welfare money into the transportation budget.

Buy Local

It is not a bad idea to buy local. I just don’t really understand why it would take state action and state money for a local school or a local business to buy local. It seems that they could do that perfectly well themselves.

Evers signed two executive orders shortly after the address, creating a new committee specialized for the issue, and calling lawmakers to the Capitol next week to take action on the $8.5 million package of bills.

Notably among the plans are funding efforts to increase dairy exports, not only across the country, but locally, with funding for farm-to-table and farm-to-school programs.

On Thursday afternoon, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes spoke on what these efforts might look like for the La Crosse area.

“This is what the people are calling for,” Barnes said. “People feel comfortable spending their dollars locally, but we want to be able to make that as simple a process as possible.”

The programs and funding would help local farmers partner with area businesses to get healthier, closer products to tables and schools.

What to do with a surplus?

Boy, if this story doesn’t perfectly illustrate the state of politics in Wisconsin. Tax collections are way up thanks to a booming economy under President Trump and policies put in place by Wisconsin Republicans. Republicans want to give the surplus back to the people. Democrats want to spend it. Evers is playing pickleball.

MADISON (AP) — Wisconsin tax collections are expected to come in more than $818 million above projections made last summer, an increase reported Thursday that will fuel the push to make an election year tax cut.

Republicans who control the Legislature are discussing a tax cut, while Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has been more cautious and voiced concerns about meeting other priorities and warding against a future economic downturn. Senate Republicans, whose leader Scott Fitzgerald is running for Congress, are pushing to lower property taxes. Assembly Republicans also support cutting taxes, but aren’t fully behind lowering property taxes.

Fitzgerald said he will continue to work on a property tax cut that can be passed before the Senate adjourns for the year in March.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said Republicans would not ‘‘grow the size of government’’ but instead would look at paying down debt or cutting taxes.

He didn’t specify which taxes or debt might be targeted.

Democratic Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz said any surplus should be used to address areas of urgent need, including bolstering school-based mental health and funding for the University of Wisconsin System.

Evers did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Forensics analysis: Watch your spending

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News yesterday. What a debacle.

We have seen this movie before. Filled with wrath and vim, parents and students crowd a school board meeting to bewail budget cuts to their beloved programs. Only this time there was a surprise ending. The budget was never cut, and, if fact, the school district had used discretionary funds to cover overspending. The story is instructive for several reasons.

At the Jan. 6 meeting of the West Bend School Board, students from the high schools’ forensics programs and their parents spoke for 45 minutes about the cuts to the programs that were preventing them from participating in events for the rest of the season. The students were eloquent and passionate, but completely wrong. Superintendent Don Kirkegaard responded at the meeting that there were not any cuts, but would look into what happened. What happened is that the forensics teams massively overspent their budgets the prior year and just assumed that they could do it again.

The two high schools’ budget for forensics is $13,400 plus transportation. Last school year, they actually spent $17,818 — 33% over budget. The high schools had a little surplus last year, so they covered the overage with the surplus. This year, the forensics teams kept spending at the same rate. Half way through the year, they are running out of money, but there isn’t a surplus this time to cover the overspending. The fact that the teams cannot overspend the budget by more than 30% the second year in a row is why the students and parents rose in anger at “budget cuts.”

This was a magnificent learning opportunity for the students. Faced with less money than they want to finish their season, their teachers and parents could have taught them about living in a budget, fiscal stewardship, dispute resolution, how local government works, overcoming obstacles, and the consequences of choices. Instead, these kids were fed a lie about “budget cuts” and pushed into the public square to advocate for more spending. Armed with sympathetic appeals for the arts and indignant admonitions, the kids were used as activist props by adults who were supposed to teach them.

Somebody told the kids that the budget was cut when, in fact, it was being blown by the people in charge of it. Were the adults intentionally misleading the kids or were the adults ignorant of the truth? Either way, the adults in these kids’ lives perpetrated a grave disservice on them.

There is also the issue of the fiscal controls and financial decisions being made in the school district. The two forensics teams overspent their collective budget by 33% last year and are already running out of money this year. That does not happen by accident. It is a choice. Last year, the high school principals decided to cover the overage with some other pile of money. This year, Kirkegaard has said that “for the 2019-2020 school year, we are going to amend the budget to reflect 2018-2019 expenses.” In short, there will be no accountability for the people overspending their budgets by over 30%. Instead, their overages are covered and the administration will just amend the budget to match expenses. It is no wonder that the adults did not take this opportunity to teach the kids about budgeting and fiscal responsibility. They are incapable of it themselves.

Finally, at the Jan. 6, School Board meeting, board member Nancy Justman beclowned herself in response to the hullabaloo. Instead of getting the facts and representing the interests of the all district stakeholders, Justman took the students’ characterization of the issue that there was a “budget cut” at face value and immediately took up their cause. Justman harangued the superintendent to bring her details of the budget (Hint: School Board members decide on the budget), demanded that the administration find the money somewhere, and called it “shameful, very shameful” that the students were being told that they would not be able to take a trip. Justman behaved like an aggrieved PTO parent instead of an elected school board member charged with serving the whole community’s interests.

In the wider perspective of the school district’s $70 million annual budget, this is a minuscule expense and small problem. It could have been easily fixed by good fiscal management and a few reasonable choices. Instead, the way in which it was bungled and manipulated from the School Board to the parents indicates a deeper, systemic dysfunction at work.