Why Are There No Teachers in Kettering Schools Who Earn $200,000 Per Year — Or Even More?

Kettering School’s “Blue Ribbon Report” is a regular publication of Kettering Schools, paid for with local tax money. About half of this Spring’s issue is dedicated to giving a one-sided view of why voters should approve the 6.9 mill school tax proposal that is on the May 4 ballot.

The Report fails to explain that:

  • Because of a decrease in total property value in Kettering, the effective rate of property taxes needed to support Kettering Schools is increasing — from last year to this year by 2.34% — even if no new school tax levies are approved.
  • 86% of the budget for Kettering Schools goes to personnel and the need for 6.9 additional mills of tax is based on a five year budget projection (below) that shows, in the last three years of the five year projection, increases of 4.82%, each year, for personnel.
  • Teachers in Kettering now earn, on average, $63,839 each year, with generous health and retirement benefits, and recent administrator contracts averaged $103,000, each year.

I am proud to live in a school district, that, through long tradition, pays its teachers and administrators well. I feel, however, a strong school district in a democracy must have transparency. I just think the school board, via its tax supported school publications, should be up front with the public.

I’m all in favor of paying teachers well. After all, I was a teacher for 30 years. It would make a good discussion, I think, to consider the question: “Why, in Kettering Schools, are there no teachers who earn $200,000, or more?” We live in an era when top professionals often earn much more than $200,000 each year. Wouldn’t it be desirable to create a system of public education where at least some teachers could earn top professional level salaries?  For my book, “Kettering Public Education In The Year 2022: How Do We Get To A Great Future?”, I’m analyzing what a system might look like that would attract and develop top talent to its fullest potential.

There are a lot of good questions about system reform that are never asked, because it is assumed that the current system will go on forever and forever. The idea that the present system could work to find and reward top talent in some new way is exhausting to consider. The basic premise of the 6.9 mill tax proposal, reported in the Blue Ribbon Report, is that the system will continue as it is — bureaucratic, hierarchical — embedded in tradition, encoded in master contracts that seek to assure teacher equality.

According to W. Edwards Deming, who, Warned Against “Remodeling The Prison,” in every organization, overall system structure is the key to quality. What is needed, I feel, is a system that redefines teacher professionalism and teacher opportunity. But efforts to accomplish such change via bureaucratic processes is likely to fail. We need to consider redesigning public education from a market point of view.  The point is to create a system that empowers teachers to find new creativity, excellence, and energy — to build a new standard of what it means to be a professional teacher.  Such a system, would likely be more free market, more entrepreneurial — less bureaucratic, hierarchical.

As I walked neighborhoods, this past autumn, in my school board election effort, I heard a lot of good reports about Kettering Schools from parents and students. Many expressed to me their appreciation for a great education from caring teachers. Kettering Schools, I feel, deserves voter support. But, in my judgment, Kettering public education is not good enough. I believe, even in districts deemed “excellent,” with lots of good reports, public education needs transformation.

Superintendent, Dr. Jim Schoenlein, on page 1 in the Report, writes about, “preparing our kids to thrive in the new economy, developing into creative, innovative, high-level thinkers,” and I agree this is a great goal. The problem is, the present system does not have the capacity to accomplish this goal. The current system is not structured to accomplish top quality and the cost of maintaining the current system is increasing in a manner that cannot be sustained.

Dr. Schoenlein, in my view, finds himself the captain of a huge ship that is headed in the wrong direction. And, this 6.9 mill levy campaign seems all about finding the fuel needed to keep the ship headed in the same direction, not about using new energy to change direction.

The purpose of Kettering school district, at present, is the same as every other school district — to be deemed “excellent,” according to a governmental bureaucratic definition of excellence. The problem is, “schools of distinction” are failing to produce the creative, high-level thinkers Dr. Schoenlein writes about, and tinkering with the present system cannot possibly work to do much better.

“Excellent” schools, deemed so by the state of Ohio, are failing to produce the thoughtful and engaged citizens our democracy needs, and further gearing up the tests scores is not the answer. Everyone needs to remember that the original purpose of the state testing system was to define minimum standards and even today, the state testing system is still focused on minimum standards.  These tests make no pretense to be indicators of high level thinking or creativity.

During the board election campaign last fall, the League of Women Voters asked each candidate to answer this question: “What Are The Biggest Challenges Facing The Kettering School System?” I wrote, in part, “Public education needs transformation. To achieve 21st century quality, we must stop simply replicating the present system. Authentic change is rare, because it is not easy. It requires leadership and strong community support.”

I keep quoting David Matthews, who writes in his book, “Reclaiming Public Education by Reclaiming Our Democracy,” that, “We must have the public we need before we can have the schools we want.” To improve education, Matthews argues, there must be a more engaged, more informed, more active public. In short, to improve education we must improve our democracy.

I’m happy to live in Kettering, because it is a great community. It is exactly the type of community that should be able to make a big breakthrough in showing the way to how to transform public education. It’s a community where democracy, at least, is awake and where democracy, I believe, can be vitalized.

Kettering is a community that should be a leader in public education. For Kettering to be a leader in public education we need an informed and engaged community. Tax money spent on preparing general school publications, like the Blue Ribbon Report, should have as its mission to inform, not to persuade.

The needed transformation of public education will not come from within the current system.  The current system is all about replicating itself.  Transformation of public education must come from the proper functioning of a strong democratic community. This proposal to the Kettering public — that we should voluntarily raise school property tax by 6.9 mills — offers a good opportunity for discussion about developing a long term plan for system transformation. In the short term, it is hard for a big system to change direction. But Kettering Schools, I believe, could and should develop a long term plan with two purpose:

  • to decrease cost, and,
  • to make a big leap in quality and purpose.

Posted in Special Reports | 10 Comments

Last Year, Kettering Schools Promised “ZERO Tax Increase” — But, School Taxes Increased By 2.34%

Last May, Citizens for Kettering Schools advertised the 6.9 mill tax renewal as “ZERO Increase In Taxes,” and spent about $13,200 on a successful campaign. Letters sent home to parents of Kettering students said, if the levy passed, there would not be “not a penny more in tax.” I objected to the Ohio Election Commission that when The Kettering Superintendent of Schools promised, “absolutely no increase in taxes,” he was engaging in false advertisement.

As it turns out, since last year, not only the effective tax rate for the 6.9 mill renewal school levy increased, but, the effective rate for other previous Kettering school levies and bonds also increased. In total, the effective rate in Kettering for school property tax increased, from last year to this year, by 2.34%.

To pay for Kettering school tax, the average property in Kettering ($164,932) is taxed $48.60 more this year ($2,126.74) than last year ($2078.14). This amounts to $29.47 more per $100,000 valuation. (Regardless of last year’s promise of “not a penny more,” of this additional $29.47 tax per $100,000 valuation, 53 cents comes from the renewed 6.9 mill levy approved last May.)

Effective rates for school taxes are variable, because, according to Ohio law, property tax levies cannot raise more tax money than the amount originally approved. The 6.9 mill levy, renewed last year, for example, originally was approved in 2004, and, at that time, 6.9 mills was needed to raise $8.2 million. After 2004, total property valuation increased in Kettering, and, in order to collect the $8.2 million, but no more, allocated for this levy, the effective rate for this 6.9 mills decreased. In 2007, the effective rate was 6.1317 mills — meaning, only 6.1317 mills were needed to raise the $8.2 million. But since 2007, the effective rate has been rising. To bring in the same revenue, $8.2 million, the effective tax rate for this 6.9 mill levy, this year, is 6.1768 mills.

In total, adding all of the effective rates of of bonds and levies from 13 accounts, last year, to support Kettering Schools, Kettering properties were taxed at an effective rate of 41.142869 mills. This year, to support Kettering Schools, Kettering properties are taxed at an effective rate of 42.105200 mills. The effective rate for property tax to support Kettering schools increased 2.34% — in a year when there was, supposedly, “ZERO” new taxes. Here are some of the increases:

  • Last year the 6.9 mill levy, originally passed in 2004, had an effective tax rate of 6.1616 mills. This year, the effective rate is 6.1767.
  • Last year the 3.2 mill levy, originally passed in 2000, had an effective rate of 2.6246. this year the effective rate is 2.6311
  • Last year the 6.7 mill levy, originally passed in 1990, had an effective rate of 3.2890. This year the effective rate is 3.2970
  • Last year, the 1993 bond for $14.8 million cost .5 mills This year it costs 1.0 mills
  • Last year the 2002 bond for $102 million cost 4.5 mills. This year is costs 4.9 mills.

Here is a PDF showing the effective rates for the last five years.

In my post last year, A Decrease In The Value Of Kettering’s Total Tax Base Means The Renewal Levy Will Increase Taxes, I wrote, “I am not objecting to paying a few more dollars in taxes to support my local schools. I do object to our school board using antidemocratic practices as a strategy for funding the school system.”

I wrote, here, “The problem is, these ads trifled with the public’s trust. Losing public trust has long term consequences. In the long run, the only factor that can possibly make a strong system of public education is if the system is supported by a strong community. … This means transparency — it means inviting the public into meaningful participation.”

Now, the Kettering School Board is asking voters to approve a new levy for 6.9 mills, and in this important request, the Board should be held to a high standard of transparency to explain their reasons for this request. More on this new levy in a future post.

Here is how I calculated the amount of average Kettering school property tax increase — $48.60

  • The current average listing price for houses in Kettering is $164,932. This seems a fair definition of “average Kettering property.” If the county auditor values a property at $164,932, then the tax requirement for this property for this renewal levy would be determined as follows: 35% of $164,932 = 57,726 (the taxable amount); the current effective rate for Kettering Schools is now 42.105200 mills ($42.105200 per $1000 of taxable property), so, 57,726/1000 = 57.726 and 57.726 X 42.105200 = $2430.56. After the 12.5% rollback this becomes $2,126.74
  • Similarly, 41.142869 mills (the amount last year) on a property worth $164,932 has a tax of $2078.14.
  • The difference is $48.60
Posted in Special Reports | 8 Comments

PAC Supporting Kettering Schools’ Tax Levy Campaign Doesn’t Pay State Sales Tax — Election Records Show

According to the Finance Report, filed at the Montgomery County Board of Elections, “Citizens for Kettering Schools,” a registered Political Action Committee (PAC), in the 2009 campaign didn’t pay sales tax on items it purchased. Here are six invoices. All six invoices, made out to the Kettering PAC, show zero sales tax was charged. Two of the invoices show that sales tax was originally calculated and then later scratched out.

I talked briefly, by phone, with Steve Harsman, the director of the Montgomery County Board of Elections, and asked whether it is possible that a Political Action Committee, seeking to influence voters to support a school tax levy, could be tax-exempt. He said he didn’t think so, but didn’t know for certain.

I have a call into the Ohio Department of Taxation, to inquire if this Kettering PAC, “Citizens For Kettering Schools,” is permitted by Ohio law to be exempt from state sales tax.

I did check out a couple of the six invoices by telephoning the businesses involved. Each business confirmed what the invoices say — the Kettering PAC paid no sales tax.

It doesn’t seem reasonable, to me, that a school levy advocacy group should not pay sales tax. Tax exempt organizations, like churches, I thought, were prohibited from partisan advocacy of candidates or issues. But, experienced school people are in charge of the “Citizens for Kettering” PAC, so, I’ll be interested to learn how this zero sales tax is justified. When I find out more information I will post it.

To pay for advertisements, to promote last year’s 6.9 mill renewal levy, “Citizens For Kettering Schools” spent $13,262. Much of this money came from small donations. School employees in Kettering, I’ve learned, are permitted to have money withdrawn from their checks on a monthly basis as a contribution to the “Citizens for Kettering Schools” PAC. In the 187 pages, in the finance report, are pages and pages of names and addresses of contributors, each making small gifts of $1, $2 or $3, or so.  It sounds like these donations are for one paycheck and, so, over a year accumulate to a much larger total donation per person.

The “Citizens for Kettering Schools” PAC started the 2009 campaign to support a 6.9 mill renewal levy with about $15,951 in the bank.  The PAC spent over $13,000 in the 2009 campaign, and ended up with a reserve of $13,012. The biggest gift reported in 2009 was $1000 from the Kettering Education Association.

So, for the 2010 campaign, in preparation for the May 4 election — to gain a “Yes” vote for 6.9 additional mills– the Kettering PAC started out with over $13,000.

To find out this information about the Kettering PAC took some effort and money on my part. It required that I make the trip downtown Dayton to The Board of Elections’ office to get the finance report. At 10 cents a page, I was required to pay $18.70 for a xeroxed copy of the PAC’s Finance Report, and, then, on top of that, I had to pay $2.00 in parking fees.

I complained to Betty Smith, the Deputy Director, as I was picking up the documents, that it would seem, here in 2010, that Montgomery County would be using the tools available today, via electronic files and the internet, to make all of the “public information” more accessible to the public.

Had I known about it, I would have mentioned to Ms Smith that this very week (March 14 – 20) is “National Sunshine Week”. The Montgomery County Board of Elections, it seems to me, needs to do better in helping the public to let the light shine.

Posted in Special Reports | 5 Comments