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And then there’s our local media…

30 Nov

I hate to cry sour grapes, but I am confounded at the passage of Measure K (Chico Unified school bond) because of the lies, lack of information, and general disinterest of the public in  finding out the truth.  I found out a lot of distressing stuff about the school district – not the least of it, “about a million dollars” spent on a lawsuit against Chico State last year to keep the college from handing over secret e-mails sent between Chico Unified board members, staff, and the district’s attorney.

I got that information almost by accident – I was perusing the county superior court website to see how many times Chico Unified had been sued, I was just curious. There it was – Chico Unified sued Chico State.  When I began digging into the lawsuit, I found invoices for the attorneys – thousands of dollars just in one bill – for advising Chico Unified board members and employees about dumping e-mails requested by the Grand Jury and other individuals. I saw an e-mail from the district’s attorney telling Bob Feaster’s secretary that she didn’t have to give up e-mails from her computer trash bin – wink wink!

I re-read the stories about the district’s near failure in 2008, when the state threatened a takeover because of poor record keeping, major deficit spending, closures of schools due to an $8 million deficit. I couldn’t believe neither local newspaper reminded the voters of any of this mismanagement over the course of this latest election, instead they actually ran favorable pieces about how the district had supposedly been spending the bond money. Alot of the new sports field and new building they built at the high schools was done with separate grant funding, that had to be matched  dollar for dollar out of the budget that was supposed to be going toward removing asbestos and bringing the schools up to par.  

A week or so ago, the News and Review, which endorsed  Measure K, ran a snide editorial saying since this latest bond had passed, it was time the district made good on replacing the portables.

I read about the portables too. The district promised to get rid of them in bond campaign ’98, again in bond  campaign 2012. In the Measure K campaign, they admitted they still had asbestos in the schools and they aren’t compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Yeah,  they’ve had almost 30 years to get the schools compliant with federal and state law, passed $126 million in  bonds, but still aren’t compliant.

So, I had to respond to the News and Review. Why hadn’t they made that criticism before the election? 

Chico Unified issued $126 million in school bonds between 1998 and 2012, built new facilities at both high schools, but the poorly ventilated portables long ago acknowledged to contain carcinogens are still standing.  Why is the editor surprised? As claimed in this latest bond campaign, Chico schools still contain asbestos and are non-compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, passed in 1990.  The district promised to upgrade computer labs for the kids  back in 2012, claims made again in the 2016 campaign.  

Last year  CUSD spent roughly a million dollars suing Chico State to keep the college from making public  e-mails sent through the college server by Chico Unified staff and board members. What were they hiding? E-mails sent between Chico Unified superintendents advising their staff to destroy records requested by the Grand Jury and other individuals. Enrollment projections showing the district lied about overcrowding in 1998 and again in 2012.  Documents proving the district knew they would not be able to build on the Schmidbauer property when they promised that site to the voters in 1998. 

This newspaper endorsed Measure K so I expect to see a reporter at every board meeting. 

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA

I was surprised how quickly editor Melissa Daugherty got back to me:

Hi, Juanita,

I am having trouble fact-checking everything in your letter. If you can
provide links to documentation, that would be helpful. I will have to
hold off on printing this until I can verify your claims.

-Melissa

She had less than three hours to do any fact-checking, I don’t believe she did squat. For one thing, I got a lot of my information from past issues of her newspaper. Everything I told her could be checked out online. She could have asked district finance superintendent Kevin  Bultema for the pricetag on that lawsuit – I have, and I still don’t have anything from him besides promises he’ll get back to me.  She could also get enrollment figures from the district. 

I suggested she do her own digging – since when does an opinion come with footnotes? She responded again within minutes:

I’m happy to print a response on the portables editorial, but I cannot publish what you’ve written without fact-checking your claims. And, after digging around, I cannot find many of the specifics you mention, especially in the latter part of the letter.

-MD

Wow, to think this woman calls herself a journalist, but she can’t do a little research? Lazy, lazy girl.

So I sent her some clues.  A lot of the stuff I found didn’t have a direct link – like the court case. You just have to go to the index and search  for it, and you will find different stuff every time.  I also had found e-mails that I couldn’t forward, and most of them won’t cut-and-paste – hey, I don’t get paid to do this, I don’t get paid to take courses in Tech-BS, I do the best I can. Read it from the bottom.

 Done. Mkki Gillett, Director of lnformation Technology Willett@mail.chie CHICO UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT 1163 E. 7th St, Chico, CA 90928-5999 5301891-3000, ext 150 From: Ray Quinto Sent: Tuesday, September 19, 2006 B:2G AM To: VikkiGillett Subject FW: Block – Jeff Sloan FYI Fro m : Robert Wilcox [mailto : rwilcox@ bcoe.org] Sent: Monday, September 18, 2006 3:28 pM To: Ray Quinto Subject: RE: Block – Jeff Sloan Hi Ray, I have added this email address to a black hole. Let me know if you need anything else. Robert Wilcox Network and Operations Manager Butte Coung Office of Education 530-s32-5770 From : Ray Quinto [mailto : rquinto@mail,chicousd.org] Sent: Monday, September 18, 2006 3:25 pM To: Robert Wilcox Subject FW: Block – Jeff Stoan Can you black hole this one for us? Ray

They’re talking about cleaning their computers of anything requested by former Marsh Junior High principal Jeff Sloan and his attorney. “Block – Jeff Sloan“? How obvious does this stuff have to be to get the attention of Snoop Daugherty? 

But, I realize, she had a point. I was “stating facts not in evidence,” which is allowed in court, but see, I’m not a lawyer. So I asked her, could I make my “claims” in the form of questions? Would that suit her?

We’ll see if she even bothers to respond. 

No on Measure K: this bond will leave our kids over a quarter of a billion in debt

27 Oct

https://noonmeasurekchico.wordpress.com/2016/10/27/110/

No on Measure K: a look at the campaign contribution reports shows financial support is coming from those who stand to profit from the bond

22 Oct

The campaign reports are available at Butte County elections – 

http://static.netfile.com/agency/bco/

If you don’t know the name of the organization you want to check, look at the measure or candidate they support and you’ll find  their name.  

I’ve been looking over the contributions to Measure K, and as I suspected, it is being funded by people who stand to gain from the bond money – mostly construction companies and telecommunications firms.

https://noonmeasurekchico.wordpress.com/2016/10/22/who-is-funding-measure-k/

But the biggest contributor, at $30,000, is the California Charter Schools Association. It’s a no-brainer the local charter schools expect to get their chunk of this money. Under a great deal of criticism nation wide, charter schools have been accused of violating laws in their enrollment practices and have shown little real improvement over traditional schools, while draining a lot of money out of the school district by stealing students/ADA.  This donation to our bond effort looks like butter on somebody’s donut. 

In looking at all the reports, I didn’t see what I would call a legitimate donation from any local citizen’s group, just big donations from companies that stand to gain from the bond. It’s just one big juicy pie to these people, and we’re supposed to pay for it.

No on Measure K. 

 

School districts licking their chops over four revenue measures – it’s a lose-lose-lose-lose situation for the taxpayers and win-win-win-win for the unions

18 Oct

Today  as I darkened the bubbles on my mail-in ballot, I again realized – there are four school funding measures on this ballot.

  • State proposition 51 promises $9 billion ($17.6 billion with interest) for K-12 and California Community Colleges for “new construction and modernization” of facilities. 
  • State proposition  55 extends for 12 more years the “temporary” personal income tax increases enacted in 2012 with Prop 30 
  • local measure J asks $190 million for Butte-Glenn Community College District for “upgrading aging classrooms/technology, removing asbestos/unsafe gas lines…” They mention programs for veterans.
  • local measure K asks $152 million for Chico Unified School District, citing leaky roofs, rotten plumbing and electrical, and the need to construct and modernize classrooms,  with a mention of disabled students’ access

The first thing I notice is the repeated claims that our schools are crumbling to the ground, and now we see, Chico schools have not achieved compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, passed in 1990. They keep coming back every  four years with the same claims – when, oh when, will they actually fix the schools?   

Just recently I posted this story from cal watchdog:

https://noonmeasurekchico.wordpress.com/2016/10/15/chico-unified-made-calwatchdog-list-of-schools-with-multimillion-dollar-project-requests-from-districts-where-student-enrollment-has-declined/

While Chico Unified does not mention “overcrowding” in the ballot measure, claims of “preventing overcrowding” are made throughout their arguments in favor of measure K, including the flier that went out last week. But cal watchdog looked at the budget reports for the last four or five years and only one year did enrollment go up instead of down, for whatever unexplained reason. As of 2015, Kevin  Bultema was back to telling the  board that declining enrollment was causing a serious revenue drain for the district. 

Four different tax measures making essentially the same claims, asking BILLIONS in new taxes. And here we have Butte-Glenn and Chico Unified asking for their own measures concurrent with state measures from which they will also benefit. 

Pardon me, but your slops are showing folks.

Here, Legislative Chair of the Cal Retired Teachers Association Rick Light tells us how bad it will be for us here in Chico if we don’t pass Proposition 55, without one mention of Measure K.  He  also talks about a decrease in per-student funding without mentioning that Chico Unified is losing students every year. 

From Chico Enterprise Record:

I respectfully disagree with your editorial endorsement to not fund Proposition 55.

I contacted Kevin Bultema, assistant superintendent of business services for Chico Unified School District, to see his estimate of the loss per student (average daily attendance, or ADA) if Proposition 55 did not pass. His calculations means there could be a loss of $1,330 per ADA. They have approximately 13, 817 students. If they have a 90 percent attendance rate that would be on the lean side of 12,000 ADA. That number times the estimated $1,330 loss would total a whopping $15,960,000 loss.

Since at least 90 percent of a school district’s budget is personnel costs ( being a service industry) there will be a tremendous cut in not only teachers but supporting staff as well. That is $15 million the community businesses will not see. That means classroom size will increase to an unhealthy (educationally speaking) number per certificated teacher.

As to the health funds, many less economically fortunate parents cannot purchase all the needed health care their families require. This produces lost school experiences for our children due to preventable illness.

Are we also losing our sense of humanitarian responsibility? I urge you to reconsider and vote yes on Proposition 55.

— Rick Light, Chico

Here’s who is really pushing these funding measures:

http://div32.calrta2.org/about-us/

“Your partners in pension protection.” 

Yes, they must protect the pensions. A year ago, Rick Light reported to his fellow CalRTA members,

Click to access Winter-2015.pdf

Governor Brown’s budget now includes in the proposal $1.6 billion in State General Fund money for the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS). This represents the full state contribution to both the Teachers Retirement Fund and the Supplemental Maintenance Benefit Account.” 

He continues, “Please show our gratitude for his effort by writing a simple note to the governor…” He ends his column in the newsletter with a warning of “legislation introduced to radically change pensions in California.” I’m guessing he was talking about San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed’s pension reform proposal, which has since been struck down by Kamala Harris, pensioneer. 

This is the machine we’re up against. These are the school  yard bullies who demand your lunch money, your kids’ lunch money, your grandkids’ lunch money…

Claims of overcrowding in Chico schools blown out of the water by calwatchdog report

16 Oct

One of the claims Chico Unified School District is making in seeking approval of $152 million Measure K is that they want to prevent overcrowding. It shocks me they’d make this claim when finance director Kevin Bultema has warned the board again and again the district is losing students.  That’s a bummer for them because each kid represents a little over $11,000/year in funding.  Bultema has been crying about declining enrollment for years now, reporting almost 2,000 students lost over the last 10 years, and predicting another 135 to 185 lost over the next two years. 

But here’s this “Yes on Measure K” mailer staring me in the face, telling me the district needs to prevent overcrowding.  You know, they think they can say anything, and we’ll buy it. They know better than anybody how poorly educated we are, they don’t think we can read a budget report. I wonder how surprised they were when a group of investigative journalists from Sacramento came up with this:

https://noonmeasurekchico.wordpress.com/2016/10/15/chico-unified-made-calwatchdog-list-of-schools-with-multimillion-dollar-project-requests-from-districts-where-student-enrollment-has-declined/

Isn’t that a nice distinction to bring to our little town?

It’s obvious Kevin Bultema, anxious to keep funding rolling in to pay his $130,000-plus salary and $25,000-plus benefits package, will say anything to get the voters to swallow this lump of horse puckey. 

Please, Vote NO on Measure K.

Why are we allowing Chico Unified employees to feather their own nests while facilities “are sub par”?

12 Oct

A reader responded to an old post about Measure K – read her thoughts and my response here:

https://noonmeasurekchico.wordpress.com/2016/10/12/school-district-claims-facilities-are-sub-par-why/

Why has the district allowed these facilities to deteriorate while district employees pay 10 percent or less of their pension and benefits costs? According to district finance director Kevin Bultema, 

“The employee contribution rates are as follows:

State Teachers Retirement System (STRS)            10.25% – 2% @ 60 years / 9.2% – 2% @ 62 years

Public Employees Retirement System (PERS)      7% for employees hired before 2013 / 6% for employees hired after 2013.”

Furthermore, “Administrators with a teaching credential usually participates in STRS and administrators without a teaching credential usually participates in PERS at the same rates.”

So, CUSD superintendent Kelly Staley pays 10 percent or less out of her $175,000 salary toward 70 percent of her highest year’s salary at age 60 – 62. Her package costs the district $25,000 beyond that $175,000 salary. Her total compensation amounts to five times the average family income for our city, but she stands up there and whines about rotten roofs and peeling paint. 

 I think the administration should be taken to court for embezzling funds to feather their own nests while allowing our kids to sit in this disgusting state of disgrace. 

Time to write letters

8 Sep

I know some people think I’m just a broken record, that I hate taxes and have no use for any tax.  That couldn’t be farther from the truth. I know our community depends for many services on  a steady revenue of taxes from “users” like me.

But, our entire country is on a dangerous path to insolvency because of the pensions of public  workers. I didn’t make that up – google it, and you’ll find intellectuals across the country voicing the same concern.

I don’t consider myself an intellectual, I consider myself a person with common dog sense. There is nothing sensible about the public pension system. The CalPERS system is consistently underfunded, and we just found out why – the guy who was in charge of investing for the fund was nailed for accepting bribes to buy bad stocks. That’s apparently why CalPERS has lost money for years and depended on one bail-out from the state legislature after another. They’ve also been making demands of their participating agencies – pay up on your pension liabilities now, or face high interest on your debt.

Those agencies – from small agencies like Butte County Vectors to huge agencies like City of Chico always turn to the taxpayer to pick up the slack. This time it’s Chico Unified School District, with Measure K. They say they want money to fix their facilities – they said that with Measure A, and they said  it with the refunding bond, E. And here they are again, hand out for $152 million they predict will be $270 million in pay-off.

It’s been in the newspaper.  The district notices their meetings quite loudly.  But I don’t go – the district is a machine. They have so much money – they’re like blue jays. Blue jays take over your back yard feeder,  because they’re loud and obnoxious. As soon as they get the leg up, they eat all the food, way more than they need. They grow very big, and then they take over your entire back yard. Next thing you know, all you got is blue jays.

That’s why I don’t feed wild animals, and for the same reason  I am suspicious of new taxes. Lately all the public workers seem to be  hands out for us to fund their crazy pensions – for most public workers, it’s 70 – 90 (“public safety workers”) percent of their highest year’s salary, available at age 50 – 55. Teachers must wait til 60 – 62 years.  A paycheck  for life, with cost of living increases, health benefits, even life insurance paid in full. For this teachers pay 9 – 10 percent of their pension contribution.

Non-certified employees pay only 7% for employees hired before 2013 / 6% for employees hired after 2013. What? It went down?

According to assistant superintendent Kevin Bultema, “Administrators with a teaching credential usually participates in STRS and administrators without a teaching credential usually participates in PERS at the same rates.”

The district retirement is handled by both California Teachers Retirement System and CalPERS – obviously the teachers pay into CalSTRS.  CalSTRS did not have a guy accepting bribes to make bad  investments, so they are doing okay. But of course, both are demanding more money all the time. And, the taxpayers still pick up more than twice the employee “share.” 

Am I wasting my time fighting this bond? No, but I know what I’m up against, and I need other people to wade in here. Please write letters to the papers, let other voters know what’s going on. Don’t take my word for it – go to the district website and look for the budget – it’s not there. I had to ask Kevin Bultema for it – that’s kbultema@chicousd.org

Read the  budget, see for yourself, the administrators are lavishly salaried, and pay the same percentage for their pension as the teachers. Hey, teachers don’t do too bad. Full time teachers are making in excess of $65,000/year, some of them tipping in close to $100,000/year, plus benefits. And, if you look  at the publicpay.gov website, you’ll see, they list their overtime pay (which  I have been told includes subbing for another teacher or even playground supervision) separately, anonymously, so you don’t really know how much these teachers are yanking in. 

For their average salary, they figure in everybody – including part time workers making less than  $1,000/ year off the district. Blue jays cheat and play dirty, you can  expect them to bend the facts any way they want. Read it for yourself. 

And then write a letter to the editor of the daily or the weekly, or both if you want. If we fight this thing, inform the other voters, we have a rat’s ass of a chance of beating this bond. 

Do you want to pay $60 for every $100,000 assessed against your house? For what? 

Here’s my first volley:

In 1995, Chico Unified School District placed Measure N on the ballot, a $32 million bond specified “to acquire land and to construct new high school facilities and to construct new and renovate existing facilities on the Pleasant Valley High School Campus.”  The measure failed.  

In 1998,  Measure A specified $48.7 million would be used to “acquire land and to construct new high school facilities.”  This measure barely received two thirds approval.  But, the district reneged on the new high school, instead using  Measure A money for many uses not specified in the original measure. The Grand Jury investigated, but declared the school board was allowed to spend the money however it saw fit. 

In 2012,  complaining about aging facilities in disrepair, Measure E asked another $78 million, promising “local Chico  school  facility improvement.” This bond passed because the threshold had been lowered to 55 percent. 

Four years later,  the district still has the same complaints – schools over 50 years old, failing roofs, sub-par playground equipment, etc. Measure K asks for $152 million, $270 million with interest. 

While they say they will fix facilities, yearly budgets show a pattern of increasing employee costs and decreasing maintenance expenditures. The  district practices “deferred maintenance,” spending less than 8 percent of their total budget on maintenance while spending roughly 90 percent on salaries and benefits. 

If they really care about the students, they would have been maintaining the facilities instead of padding their pensions.

Juanita Sumner, Chico

School district expects us to bail them out of deficit, again

31 Aug

Well, here’s where I been lately.

http://clerk-recorder.buttecounty.net/elections/archives/eln35/35_local_measures.html#k

Measure K is Chico  Unified School  District’s latest bond – $152 million up front, $270 million with interest.  Again they complain the schools are falling apart and they need money for repairs. Here’s the measure:

Click to access 35_measure_k_resolution.pdf

And here’s the breakdown on what it will actually cost:

Click to access 35_measure_k_tax_rate_statement.pdf

They already have bonds totaling over $130 million, plus interest. Passed in 1998, $48.7 Measure A, with which they promised to build a new high school, was “frittered away” with the excuse that enrollment had suddenly tapered down and the third high school was no longer needed. In 2012 they started whining about how old and crappy the schools were,  and needed another  $78 million.  That passed a lot more easily because the legislature had lowered the threshold from 2/3’s to 55 percent.  The general public does not support school district decisions, but CUSD has enough employees and idiot parents to beat the rest of us into a corner.

It was Bob who pointed out to me, nobody ever seems to oppose these tax grabs.  He’s right – nobody formally opposed either of those last two CUSD bonds. No group or individual has been opposing the various sales tax increases put up in towns like Paradise, where less than 200  people even voted on the measure. 

So, I looked at the county clerk’s website, and I found out any individual who is eligible to vote on a measure can submit an “Argument Against” for the ballot. I was given a copy of the measure and I had about a week after the measure was posted to come up with a 300 word argument as to why it should not pass.

Click to access 35_argument_against_measure_k.pdf

Yes, they’ve been spending all the money on themselves, no surprise there. About 90 percent of the budget goes to salaries and benefits, less than 8 percent goes into Capital Outlay, of which maintenance is only a tiny fraction. In some budget years, Capital Outlay is listed as “$0”.   So excuse me if I find their spastic claims of 50 year old rotten buildings just a bit disingenuous. 

Oh but look who’s peddling this turd – your mayor!  

Click to access 35_argument_in_favor_measure_k.pdf

Why do you think Katie Simmons left out her title as director of the Chamber of Commerce?  

Here’s my rebuttal to their “Argument For”

Click to access 35_rebuttal_to_argument_in_favor_of_measure_k.pdf

I think I did a pretty good job of answering their claims, I put a lot of time and research  into it.  Meanwhile, they just resubmitted their “Argument For”, asserting that I “missed the point.” 

Click to access 35_rebuttal_to_argument_in_favor_of_measure_k.pdf

Yes, I see they’ve got themselves a new band. Look at all the public salaries involved in support of this tax measure – makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? 

No, I don’t think I missed the point, I think I hit it pretty good and hard. The district doesn’t care about “the kids,” they care about their paychecks and their retirement bling.  They salaried, benefitted, and pensioned themselves into deficit, and now they expect us to haul their asses out again.

No.

Chico Unified, CARD getting ready to dive into your purse

16 Aug

We will have at least two new taxes coming at us this coming year, including Chico Unified School District Bond Measure K on the November ballot, and a mailed assessment from Chico Area Recreation District.  

CARD will have a speaker from “Every Body, Healthy Body” discussing efforts to include Nance Canyon in the assessment area. That’s Thursday night, 7pm, at the CARD center at 545 Vallombrosa.  

The best way to fight these grabs, is get involved early.  I’ll try to keep you posted, but I wish I could get somebody to attend the school board meetings and report here. 

 

 

Supervisor Kirk responds to my concerns about Chico Unified bond

25 Jul

I wrote a note to my third district supervisor, Maureen Kirk, about the Chico Unified School District bond that is before the Butte Supes tomorrow, and this is all she had to say:

“I understand your concern. The Board is not recommending the bond. We are putting it on the ballot.”

I had asked her to pull the item from the consent agenda for discussion, but she didn’t get back to me.

Frankly, I’ve been frustrated with Kirk lately. I asked her to protest the Cal Water and PG&E rate increases, and she filed for “party” status. That’s not a protest, that is just a notification list. To the CPUC, it fulfills the legal requirement to notice these rate increases. But neither Kirk nor Butte County, nor the city of Chico, filed formal protests, they all filed as a “party” to the rate increase.

The definition of the term “be a party to something” is “a participant in something; someone who is involved in something.”

In other words, our supervisors and city council and county and city staff just helped these utility companies raise their rates. It’s a boon for the city – as our bills go up, our utility tax payments will go up.

Thanks Maureen and company – with friends like you, who needs enemas?