School Buildings Do Not Complain – They Crumble

Dennis Linthicum_thb

by Dennis Linthicum

A couple of weeks ago, I spoke about the $31.5M School Bond Measure at the Republican Central Committee. Before that, I spoke at Klamath Homebuilders Builders Association, Klamath County Association of Realtors and the Chamber of Commerce.

First, as a member of the Klamath County Board of Commissioners, my purpose is to encourage open dialog and debate regarding issues concerning Klamath County. Second, in this commentary I am not speaking for the commissioners, but rather, I am speaking as an individual. Third, as a pro-education advocate, I have several reasons for airing opposition to the current government model for allocating tax dollars to our education community.

In several of my presentations I received over-whelming support for my fundamental claim – that the “public education system” is broken. People would tell me, “I completely agree with you…”.  However, that statement was occasionally followed with, “But, I feel we should support our kids…”

I agree.

The best way to support our kids is by giving them a real opportunity for a quality education. Our current government delivery model does not do that. The problem is not teachers or lack of school infra-structure, the problem is Federal and State control over how our dollars are allocated back to our children.

The Problem

The chart below shows that over $100,000,000.00 (one hundred million dollars) gets spent annually on education in Klamath County. As can be seen, there is little regard for facilities and capital infrastructure. Why does this gross misallocation continue? Why isn’t more money allocated to building maintenance, repair, construction and enhancement?

Here is a bit of the data shown graphically.  The graph is color-coded to match the 20 Year Total columns which are in the summary table above.

Review the graphic comparison between Capital Allocation and Total Budget. This shows that over the 20 year life of the Bond Measure taxpayers will contribute $2 billion to education in Klamath County. Yet, our legislators “don’t permit” it to be spent on capital infra-structure.

This graph also illustrates that despite the rhetoric, the $31.5M Bond Measure won’t even begin to fix this gross misallocation of resources. This is not “lack of pride” in our local schools; this is not a lack of funding problem; this is a broken system.

Again, why don’t these precious resources get spent on building maintenance and repair or capital construction and facility enhancements?

Because, legislators and administrative bureaucrats always declare, “We just need a little more money!” Yet, these these problems are never solved and more funding is always needed. In reality using taxpayer resources wisely is the only legitimate solution.

Unions also mistakenly promote this misallocation with their myopic focus on their own members’ needs. This means member retirement plans, medical benefits and pensions will create conflicts with other fiscal priorities.

Legislators have a moral obligation to balance competing priorities in a fiscally responsible manner. But they don’t. After all, buildings can’t negotiate, plead or contribute to any legislator’s campaign fund. Buildings only crumble, decay and deteriorate over many years of fiscal neglect.

Is your school board satisfied with this unbalanced approach? Are you?

If you’re not satisfied, mount a campaign to change the system. Remember, over the next 10 years $1 billion will be poured into education, but not for any of the common-sense solutions you want. Instead, the bureaucrats, administrators and unions, along with their cronies at the legislature, will get their priorities addressed.

My Specific Suggestions

  1. Combine School Districts – Remove and reduce overhead and duplicated efforts. Share school facilities, resources, staff and ideas to improve efficiencies and economies of scale.
  2. Promote Educational Free Choice – Disband the current School Attendance Zone concept that forces children into a school by their Zip Code, instead of their families preferences.
  3. Promote Educational Competition – Competition can be promoted through school choice initiatives (e.g., freedom to choose a private or charter school instead of a public one),  educational credits and vouchers (parents given resources  to help pay for the school of their choice), and home education opportunities.
  4. Get Involved – Have teachers, administrators and volunteers join with citizens to demand changes from Salem and Washington. Hold the Legislature accountable for their gross misallocations of our tax dollars.

Klamath County must set the standard for a new educational system by using resources wisely and investing our most valuable resources for our children – our wisdom and our time.  Only these types of efforts will provide the competition and free choice that made America the “Land of Freedom, Opportunity and Liberty.”


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Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Education | 6 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • marvinmcconoughey

    I can support much of the proposal. The question of facility maintenance is more intricate than most people might understand. Briefly, the facilities owner should practice triage. Buildings slated for near-term replacement should get only minimal, safety and usability related maintenance, pending tear down.

    Most buildings should routinely accumulate minor deferred maintenance so that multiple items can be economically grouped in a single action. One example is lights in a large building. It makes sense to wait until several lights stop working, then replace many at a time. There are limits to that policy and critical lights–think traffic lights–may need immediate replacement. New buildings should come with a funds pool into which repair funds are placed for future routine maintenance.

    Serious items should receive immediate repair. Roof leaks are in that category because leaks have follow-on costs in the form of decay and interior damage.

    One of the difficulties in analyzing Oregon’s education facility maintenance needs is that leaders are seldom presented with well-organized data from which to make decisions. A chronic problem is that maintenance receives little respect and those who manage it lack power in the education hierarchy.

  • Bob Clark

    I believe in opening up public education to more alternatives, such as a combo of on-line instruction, community arts and music centers for fulfilling arts and music instruction as it offers a rich menu of private instruction from folks with actual experience (and not just degreed certification) in the arts and music (portability of music and arts public education dollars), and inter school transfers with portability of the student’s public education dollars. Possibly, allow a higher share of public education dollars based on parent finances and a lower amount for the more financially able.

    I participated in all the public workshops on Portland Public Schools’ school construction bond and discovered at least two important factors:

    (1) The impact on property tax rates (and therefore immediate tax burden) can be fairly easily modified by lengthening the term of the bonds even modestly. PPS is able to cut the property tax rate in half by simply increasing the bond term from 5 years to 8 years, and why not lengthen the term when the construction is for a much longer term than 5 years and what with long term rates historically low at this time.

    (2) The government dollar does not go very far these days, and I think it has to do with prevailing wage rate rules (and this at a time when unemployment is elevated…Geez the Great Depression work projects didn’t seem to cost nearly as much as today’s public work projects.)

  • Bob Clark

    Should have added a tuition component for the better off financially parents. But these folks also gain the ability to shop their child’s education. I guess I am trying to balance making schools more tailored to the individual child while making more affordable, and the issue of keeping equal opportunity elements.

  • Sally

    The only choice Dems want is when they murder babies.

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