Friday, May 1, 2015

Joe Lombardo and Ellie Corcoran Put a Teacher in Her Place

Mrs. Benz works in the beleaguered and understaffed Clarence Middle School music department. Unlike you or me, her livelihood is left up to an annual plebiscite. I'm sure being short-staffed and being made to be the scapegoat for every perceived tax ill is exasperating. She sent a letter to Ellie Corcoran, who is leading the anti-school effort this year, and candidate Joe Lombardo responded (in red below). 

It's not a letter I would have written, nor would I have counseled her to write such a letter. It's aggressive and somewhat obnoxious. But it exists, and we can handle it. What's more interesting here is Mr. Lombardo's response. He is, after all, running to be a trustee of this school district, and how he responds to an angry teacher speaks volumes about the kind of board member he would make. tl;dr: don't let this guy within a mile of that board. 

The administration cannot cut mandated classes, so it has no choice but to go after enrichment and extracurriculars. You guys hate it because the optics of kids losing teams, clubs, and activities is horrible, and because it energizes and motivates parents to react.

Bringing up your "motivation" for running is an interesting point, however. After all, Joe, you don't pay school taxes in the district; you don't own a home and you don't own real property in Clarence. You live in the home your father and mother own, and in 2014 they paid 11% less in taxes on their $500,000 property than they did in 2006.

From $6,234 to $5,524.  An 11% drop seems pretty sustainable.

Why is a "zero increase in the payroll" important? They're not even entitled to a raise that's in line with the rate of inflation? Are you going to try and break the contract, revoke teacher's contractual raises and risk spiraling the district into litigation? Would you spend taxpayer money on frivolous retribution and lawsuits, putting further pressure on the school budget? This is utter madness, and completely irresponsible. 

Correction: 96% of property taxes that Erie County collects do go to pay for Medicaid. But so what? That's a meaningless statistic, based on the fact that it's still less than 20% of the total county budget. Furthermore, county taxes have nothing whatsoever to do with school taxes. 

As school trustee, what does Joe Lombardo think he'll do to lower the Medicaid burden on Erie County? (Spoiler alert: nothing, because it has nothing to do with anything. It's just a way for anti-tax people to throw shade at the poor.)

From this report

In New York State, the State government requires county governments to administer and provide Medicaid services and to pay a portion of the cost of Medicaid. Until 2006, counties generally paid 25% of the total cost of Medicaid, the State paid 25%, and the federal government paid 50%. This was not an exact ratio of county share expense, as certain adjustments to the funding formula, including in long term care and nursing home expense starting in 2004 reduced county share expense...
...Presently, due to these various funding adjustments and also due to the State’s “Medicaid Cap” process, the Erie County share of Medicaid expense is approximately 15%. That said, the County’s annual expense for Medicaid-MMIS is still the single-largest appropriation account in our operating budget.

98% of the county budget does NOT go to Medicaid. If Lombardo can't get that simple fact right, he can't be trusted to handle a $75 million school budget. 

Benz's point wasn't that Clarence doesn't pay for its Sheriff protection; her point is that other communities help pay for Clarence's police protection. We also use the State Police, which means that taxpayers from outside the region pay for our protection. Well, young Mr. Lombardo seems to be a fan of wealth redistribution!

Yeah, I could have lived without this quip from Benz. The reason "Johnny" or "Jane" might get a ride in the morning is because the bus run is later in the morning and parents have to get to work, and can't wait around until after 8am for the bus to show up. But that doesn't mean we don't need buses, or that we don't need to replace aging and inefficient buses. 

Furthermore, Lombardo doesn't understand the difference between the operating budget and a capital bus proposal - $4 per year is the tax burden to buy safe, new buses. What Lombardo is telling me here is that he wants the kids to be on aging, inefficient buses that use more fuel (wasteful), and that break down more frequently (safety issue). Some trustee. 

But notice too that Lombardo doesn't understand that property taxes are not based on "percentage of income"; they are based on value of property. Lombardo's own property is worth zero dollars, so he has the luxury of paying zero dollars in property and school taxes. 

Another sarcastic quip, and he responds with a sarcastic quip. How many of these teachers whom you so despise spend money in the community now

So, as school trustee you will go to Albany, change the state constitution, and otherwise fundamentally change the way that New York State operates? How, precisely, will you do that? 

But according to this study, New York is 41st in property taxes, and does not pay "2-3 times the national average in school taxes". Westchester, Nassau, and Suffolk might pay that, but not Erie County. But even more significant is that Lombardo's campaign started out by demanding local authority and control of the school district, yet compare that to

“The more emphasis you put on local autonomy, the more you’re going to have local taxes picking up some of what, in other areas of the country, would tend to be state-level responsibilities,” says Joan Youngman, senior fellow at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, a Cambridge, Mass.-based think tank that researches land taxation issues. “When there’s an emphasis on local government, it often means there’s an emphasis on property tax.”
See what's happening here? 

That's weird, I don't get to vote on my electric or gas bill, and those are monopolies. I don't get to vote on my cable service, and that's a monopoly. I don't get to vote on the town budget, and they hold a "monopoly on community service", so Lombardo is full of shit here. 

Vouchers? That is huge. Lombardo is signaling that he is in favor of fundamentally dismantling the Clarence Central School District and privatizing education. The cost to send a kid to, say, Nichols or Nardin is $16,000 per year. Each. My school taxes to send two kids to Clarence schools is about $4,000, and it's based on the value of my home. 

Lombardo wants to give me a voucher for $4,000 to send my two kids to some private school? Or to enable families to take their "voucher" money out of the district and completely decimate public education in the town? 

This isn't a struggling district that justifies charters or vouchers - it's the 3rd best district in all of WNY. It used to, of course, be 1st, and had never until 2013 been below 2nd place, but systematic dismantling of public education over the past few years has jump-started the decline. 

You do not think that teaching is "noble" or "important".  You think that teaching is minimum-wage work. We didn't have a "lesser product" until the tax levy went down - go look at the tax records I posted above. The decline came from divestment. You would continue that. 

War on teachers and teaching. Clarence teachers are 13th highest paid: to say they're 10th is a lie. 13th is a verifiable, Google-able fact. 

UPDATE: On Facebook, Joe Lombardo's girlfriend takes me to task, arguing that the teachers are 10th highest paid in Erie County. So what? Counties don't set the rate of pay, so arbitrarily removing Niagara Falls, Niagara-Wheatfield, and North Tonawanda from the tote is nothing more than a cynical way to make Clarence teachers bigger villains and to artificially massage your point. Politics at its worst.  

Only veteran teachers with 20+ years of service earn anywhere near $90,000, which is a comfortable wage for a veteran professional of any sort. If you don't like the horrible health benefits that Americans put up with in the private sector, maybe you should work to improve the health benefits that Americans receive, earn, and pay for in the private sector. Resenting the teachers for having good health insurance, given that they're only paid for 10 months of work and work far longer hours than the actual school day without extra remuneration seems fair. 

UPDATE: A teacher writes that, "One of his bullet points regarding healthcare for life is a lie, we're on our own when we retire." So, there's that too. 

But wait for it...

Ms. Benz is a 25-year veteran of the Clarence School District. If $93,000 is too much, how much do you think she should be paid, Lombardo? How much pay would you take away from her? How much would you stick it to her on her health insurance? 

Ms. Benz's letter may have been intemperate and unprofessional, but she didn't make it public. Lombardo did, and his reply is not only factually inaccurate, but just as unprofessional and completely unbecoming of a putative trustee. 

There's more, though.  Here is Ellie Corcoran's own reply: 

Please don't tell me about the lives you touch. I too was a teacher, and avery good one, so I know money doesn't make a good school. In fact, I had 34kids in a classroom w/ no aide in the inner city. Do you think you could dothat? I also have a masters degree. I only made $10,000, however, when Itaught, and I loved it. 

What year is this that you made $10,000? Teaching has changed a lot since the early 60s, and we now know that class size makes a huge difference. That's why private schools advertise their small class sizes. If you're saying that teachers nowadays should operate the same way you operated in, say, 1963, that would ignore 50 years' worth of research and data on what makes a good and efficient educational system. 

My life is not unhappy, and yes, there are wealthypeople in Clarence; but there are plenty who are strapped, and who have losttheir jobs, and these increases can't continue. 
Poor Ellie Corcoran. Making do with a 33% drop in her school taxes as compared with 2006: 

If these librarians andteachers were so important, why weren't they reinstated instead ofpurchasing artificial turf, or holding classes in gourmet food, interiordecorating, foods around the world. 
The artificial turf was voted on, and approved 2:1 with an historically high turnout. Capital projects cannot, by law, be paid for through the operating budget, and the state will cover 70% of the cost. There are no courses in "gourmet food, interiordecorating [sic], foods around the world" because you helped abolish the home & careers department in 2013. You can't even be bothered to take your BS semi-information and verify its truth before vomiting it out of your keyboard. 

You have a fundamental misunderstanding and ignorance about how the school budget works. 

It's pretty easy when you spend someoneelse's money. Why don't you chip in a little more for your health benefits,if you care so much. In fact your salaries are pretty decent for workingonly 9 months. I don't begrudge the salary you make, but I do get prettysick and tired of all the bragging I hear, and how wonderful you are.
How DARE people praise the teachers who help to educate their kids?! How DARE these people earn a living wage with good benefits? 

Education is supposed to teach you problem solving and to think outside ofthe box and find creative thought provoking solutions. 
Great point! So, name one "out ofthe box" or "creative" solution that you or Showalter or Lahti have proposed. 

Yet, all I hear is"Let the taxpayer" pay for it; but you never look at the seniors on fixedincomes or people who are struggling now. Open up your eyes, Nancy. Theother 1/2 is out there, also, and someday you'll hopefully realize you justcan't have it all...especially at someone else's quit yourwhining and act like a professional.
Whining vs. resentment.

To reiterate: brave Joe Lombardo, who really showed this uppity teacher, doesn't pay any school taxes because he doesn't own his own home. He lives with his parents.

Joe Lombardo's parents, for their part, own a $500,000 property with an agricultural tax break (we pay for that), and the school tax on that property is 11% lower now than in 2006.

Ellie Corcoran's property is charged 33% less in school taxes in 2014 than in 2006.

And you have the nerve to accuse this overworked teacher, who is now doing the work that used to be done by two, of whining?

Vote YES and Vote "MD" for Michael Fuchs and Dennis Priore on May 19th. Anything else would help elect whining liars.

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