"It is a plain dictate of honesty and good government that public expenditures should be limited by public necessity, and that this should be measured by the rules of strict economy; and it is equally clear that frugality among the public servants is the best guaranty of a contented and strong support of free institutions."
The blog is a view of life, science, politics and education from an engineering perspective. As engineers, we are taught to view the world objectively. We can hope, believe and calculate a particular outcome, but natural laws are inflexible and pay no heed to who we are or what we believe. We must approach the objective dispassionately, while compensating for our own distorted perceptions. Balance is also a key element; balancing between the ideal and the pragmatic, balancing cost and functionality, balancing analysis with action, etc.
Scheduling routine critical self-analysis is the foundation to objectivity. If we do not fully understand and compensate for our own failures, tendencies, habits and skewed thought processes, we will not see the world as it is. Without a regular critical self-analysis we will see the world as we are and then fall prey to self-delusion.
Failure is a great teacher. When failure is coupled with perseverance, it produces the fruit of patience and humility. An engineer, fresh out of engineering school is typically set up for failure early and often. The failure breaks the new engineer of any ideas of self-importance, arrogance and book smarts. Only then can the new engineer be formed and molded into a productive element in the industry.
The Kettle Moraine School district will be asking tax payers to approve a $49.6 million referendum on April 1st. Is this reasonable?
- New Richmond opened a new high school in 2013 at a total cost of $17.9 million. It is a state of the art facility with 2 floors and 130,000 sq ft. It is wired with Wi-Fi, security camera at all doors and windows with control of doors remotely.
- The remodeling of the Rice Lake middle school, planning to open in 2015 will cost $20.3 million. It is essentially a re-build of the school with new gymnasium, library, science wing, bus drop-off area, high tech security system, etc.
- The construction costs of the Rivercrest Elementary School totaled $15.4 million in 2008; including the 42 acre parcel of land. It will accommodate 600 students. The Rivercrest Elementary school was considered by some residents to be a monument to the school board because it’s extravagance.
Kettle Moraine could almost do all three of those projects with the funds raised through the referendum.
Are the facilities at KM a little dated? Yes, but functional.
Do the schools at KM feature the latest in high tech security? No, but even the best security measures will not keep students 100% safe. I only expect the school to do a reasonable job of security with the resources that it already has.
Is space cramped at KM? Perhaps, but perhaps the expectations of programs and services are too high.
The passage of the referendum depends on the voters’ view of the role of government. The traditional role of government is frugality; see Grover Cleveland’s second inaugural address. The local school district should provide no more than 80% of the students’ needs at not one dollar more than absolutely necessary to achieve 80%. The parents are the experts in their child’s education, not the school. If the school offers every bell and whistle known to man, the parent is likely to defer to the school and neglect their parenting responsibility; that is simply human nature.
Typically, if the taxpayer knows about the referendum, they vote against it. The referendum in the town of Delafield was voted down three times, before they passed it. The small caveat in this referendum is that it was passed in the dead of night with no visibility. Only a few hundred people voted on the issue. Even then the vote was close. Did the town of Delafield lose any services following the three prior rejections of the referendum? No. The town had provided a reasonable level of services even without a Taj Mahal being built.
A more recent development in US local government is the promotion of extravagance of tax payers’ expense. Local mayors and city council members are building monuments to their own greatness; they might be nice to look at but serve no purpose beyond what a facility at half the cost could provide. This careless approach to governments' largess has resulted in a $18 trillion national debt.
Government, at every level, is a necessary evil. Constant vigilance is needed to insure that the scope of the governmental entity remains small, that its impact is small and its drain on tax payers is small. Tax payers should look to themselves and their neighbors to solve its problems; not to government. This includes education.
KM is providing far more than 80% of the students’ needs. I think that it is time to start cutting, not expanding.
The below is quote from Democratic President Grover Cleveland’s Second Inaugural Address dated Sunday, March 4, 1893.