Thursday, October 31, 2002

THURSDAY: Go Big Ed (Nebraska education issues, http://www.GoBigEd.blogspot.com)

OPS OVERRIDE: IS IT REALLY ‘FOR THE KIDS’?

Recommendation: OPS spending-lid override, vote "AGAINST"

1. OPS has total budget authority this fiscal year, counting construction and other off-budget spending, of $705.9 million, or $15,419 apiece for the 45,782 students enrolled

2. Operations alone will cost $6,793 per pupil this year, a 44 percent increase over 10 years ago despite K-12 enrollment that has been essentially flat

3. OPS is already $322.3 million in debt

4. OPS projects that a lid override would bring it another $115 million over 5 years above what the Legislature set as the levy lid, yet state government faces a multimillion dollar budget deficit

5. Override is likely to cost the owner of a $100,000 home at least an extra $750 in property taxes over 5 years

6. OPS has 6,002 employees, which figures to one employee for every 7.6 students, but only half are regular classroom teachers; the rest work in special education, building and grounds, student support services, administration and so on, so nonteaching staff cuts are eminently possible

7. Health and dental insurance is free for full-time employees and after four years, they pay only 60% of family coverage, a valuable fringe benefit not often discussed; perhaps they could start paying a percentage

8. OPS has $88.7 million in its various cash funds that could be tapped; the cash cushion is too large

9. Taxpayers have funded the OPS Employee Retirement System that now has $774.6 million, and educators can now take early retirement with full pension at age 55 with 30 years of experience; it’s not like we’re stingy

10. OPS students do have more learning problems associated with poverty, including being more transient than suburban children, which sets back achievement. But recently-reported test scores are causing grave concern that the district may be failing our neediest students and reacting by just wanting to throw more money at the problem spent the wrong ways. There is ample documentation that with simple curricular changes that actually cost less, not more, learning would improve in the inner-city OPS schools. Look at the inner-city Catholic schools that are doing a better job than the public schools at less cost, the Marva Collins-style success stories, and the great results from shedding traditional bilingual education such as OPS has in favor of better, cheaper English immersion programs. There is no evidence that additional money given to schools improves academic achievement for any students, including those from disadvantaged homes.

---------------------------------------------

Sources:

1. 2002-03 Omaha Public Schools budget, www.ops.org, p. 3

2. Ibid, p. 7; $311 million general fund divided by 45,782 enrollment; note that enrollment includes 500 more pre-kindergarten students than in the past who technically shouldn’t be in a K-12 enrollment tally; 1992-93 figures from OPS’ past annual financial reports on file with the State Education Department: http://ess.nde.state.ne.us/SchoolFinance/AFR/search/afr.htm

3. State Auditor’s website, school districts, bonded indebtedness, OPS, 2001-02, http://www.auditors.nol.org

4. OPS projections of $23 million per year in extra taxes from the override, multiplied times five years, Omaha World-Herald, Sept. 29, p. 1

5. Ibid

6. Employment figures obtained by adding categorical subtotals on pp. 51-85 of the 2002-03 OPS budget, www.ops.org and dividing by 45,782 in total enrollment for the staff-to-child ratio

7. Employee Compensation and Benefits subpage, www.ops.org

8. Total obtained by adding the various cash balances for OPS funds listed in its 2000-01 annual financial report on:
http://ess.nde.state.ne.us/SchoolFinance/AFR/search/afr.htm

9. 2002-03 OPS budget, p. 141

10. “Report Card on Education,” American Legislative Exchange Council, www.alec.org . . . “They Have Overcome: High-Poverty, High-Performing Schools in California,” Pacific Research Institute, www.pacificresearch.org . . . demonstrations of the effectiveness of strong phonics-based curriculum, discipline and parental respect: www.noexcuses.org

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

WEDNESDAY: Funnies

Bunny Monster

The mommy rejoiced at finding a truly darling white, fuzzy bunny costume that could double as winter pajamas. The 2-year-old rejoiced, too: "I'm going to be a bunny for Halloween! I'm going to be a bunny!"

There was a hood with the longest, cutest, floppiest ears you ever saw. There were paws. There was a flouncy little cottontail on the back. They bought it, brought it home, and practiced hopping and nose-wiggling.

"I'm going to be a bunny!" the 2-year-old chortled. "Hop! Hop! Hop!"

As the big day drew near, the mommy bought the funniest, longest carrot she could find.

She dug through 19 years of collected costume materials to find the lone stick of face-paint that was left, to make whiskers and a little dot on the bunny's nose.

She laid it all out in the 2-year-old's room, in plain sight, as anticipation built to a fever pitch. "I'm going to be a bunny!" were the toddler's joyous words at bedtime.

And then, the morning of the big preschool party, she took one look at the bunny costume, and she said:

"I'M NOT GOING TO BE A BUNNY! I'M NOT! I'M NOT!"

No amount of wheedling and cajoling could change her mind.

So the bunny costume stayed in a heap on the floor . . . and the 2-year-old went to the party as a monster, instead. She didn't have on a monster costume, at that short notice. She just wore her regular clothes.

But a monster is what she wanted to "be," and a monster she was.

She didn't look much like a monster, but she ACTED the part . . . monstrously well.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002


TUESDAY: Hot Potatoes

Let’s Lose the ESU’s

Ballot-marking recommendations for E.S.U. #3 Board (voters in all school districts in the greater Omaha area besides OPS, including Westside, Millard, Papillion-LaVista, Ralston, Bellevue, Elkhorn, and 13 smaller ones):

1. Vote for Alan F. Moore, an incumbent from Bellevue who has done a good job, has a lot of horse sense, and has an MBA from UNO among his credentials.

2. Vote for Ron Erlbacher, an educator for nearly 30 years (currently director of student services at a local community college) who . . . gasp! . . . is brave and honest enough to state that the “C” word – consolidation – might be a good idea for Nebraska’s 18 ESU’s.

Don’t use your other two votes in order to get these two on that board.

And then . . .

3. Start advocating for the abolition of the ESU’s in Nebraska, or, at a minimum, consolidating the 18 of them down to one each for Nebraska’s three congressional districts. Either way, we need to ban the collection and storage of individual student records outside the individual school walls, such as in an ESU databank.

We would save a whopping amount of money, and might be able to head off some bad things that I think are in store for the ESU’s. I’m talking about shifts in funding and operations associated with the continuing nationalization of public schools. These include what’s happening with the No Child Left Behind federal education law and the nationalized assessments coming our way that threaten to ruin what’s left of local control. I think the ESUs are poised to become the databanks here for a nationalized system.

If we “off” Nebraska’s ESU’s now and disperse their assets, or at least keep them out of the student-record processing business, the feds would have a lot harder time taking over our schools -- which they don’t even call “schools” any more. They call them “local education agencies.”

Ewwww!

A little history: ESU’s began in Nebraska in 1965 as a way for school districts to collaborate on such costly but specialized items as special education, inservice training, and technology infrastructure. Funding comes from federal, state and local tax sources. The idea was to collaborate to save money and hold the line on school-district staffing.

Ironically, look what has happened to school spending and staffing since then. According to the Nebraska Blue Book, in 1960 there were 13,316 teachers for 337,365 schoolchildren. By 2000-01, there were 20,785 teachers for FEWER kids, 329,445.

Hold the line, eh?

ESU’s have their own staffs, of course. Each of the 18 ESU’s in Nebraska also has an elected board. They do not draw salaries, but they do have expense accounts. More about that later.

Remember, computerization was like an old sci-fi movie in those days. Special ed was just getting started. A lot of the exciting things that only a collaboration like an ESU could do, then, are now being done routinely by districts, or should be, because of the advancements of ed-tech over the past nearly 40 years.

But the ESU’s have become sort of an out-of-sight, out-of-mind honey pot for educators. Even though taxes flow into them, they don’t have anywhere near the visibility of public school districts. Their accountability ratio as far as Joe and Joan Q. Public is concerned is almost zero.

But we’re talking big bucks here. ESU #3 spent $18,992,811 last fiscal year, about one-third of it from federal tax sources, plus a few million each in state-aid taxes and local property taxes.

You can visit their website at www.esu3.org for more on what they do. You can see their directors, all middle-aged white men; the ESU board is apparently a “perk” for retired school administrators, who get together to play golf and go on junkets ostensibly to learn amazing education facts that they couldn’t POSSIBLY get by reading a book in their own homes, but instead must obtain at those meccas of educational wisdom, LaJolla, Padre and Key West. Just kidding: but going on trips is a big part of board activities.

You also can get their budget information from the great online databanks prepared by State Auditor Kate Witek and staff at http://auditors.nol.org

I first became aware of ESU #3 a few years ago when I was president of our middle-school parents’ group. I asked our school office for a printout of all the kids enrolled in order to produce a student directory. I was told I had to get that information from the ESU. I thought that was pretty odd, considering that enrollment data would seem to be in the job description of school office staff.

But oh, well. I drove up to the ESU #3 complex, and literally gasped. Its stupendous building and grounds at 6949 S. 110th St., looks like a penitentiary for zillionaires.

As I walked inside the brand-new, high-class building, I marveled that you could shoot a cannon down the spacious halls and offices and not hit anybody. They’re that spacious. I couldn’t help comparing that to the halls of our public schools, where backpack-laden kids have to step sideways to get from class to class, and they’re sitting on the floors in study hall in some schools.

That day at the ESU, a whole lot of teachers were there, attending an all-day inservice on multiculturalism. It had a lavish display that went on for miles of some of the dumbest curriculum and “fun learning activities” you ever saw. Of course, I peeked: my tax dollars at work showing teachers how to skip math instruction and instead have each kid make 1,000 origami cranes to send to the Hiroshima Memorial in Japan because it was all OUR fault they got nuked . . . NOT!

Anyway, the large turnout of teachers made me wonder . . . who was back in their classrooms, caring and sharing and folding origami cranes with our children? Subs, of course: another double-dip day into the public trough, paying the regular teacher not to teach and the sub to take her place, compliments of today’s progressive education philosophy. Sigh.

All I wanted was a copy of the ESU budget. I was sent hither and yon to get it. I finally reached the right office, the swankest of the swank. Instead of the report, for a few minutes, I got the third degree. I think they might have even shined a high-powered lightbulb in my face, and believe me, it would have been the best wattage money could buy. “Who are you? Why do you want this information? What are you going to do with it?”

I felt as though I’d wandered into a private club, only instead of dancing girls, the floor show was an Educational Spendorama: unencumbered, unaccountable, undecipherable expenditures . . . but this show was different.

It was all taking place offstage.

People know nothing about ESU’s, and yet their budgets are bigger than most taxing authorities in the state.

Maybe there are good reasons the education bureaucrats don’t say much about the ESU’s. Maybe nobody knows anything about them because they’re an example of another idea in public education that might have made sense at the time it got started, and even though times have changed and it doesn’t make much sense anymore, it’s still there, sucking up cash from the poor, beleaguered, unsuspecting taxpayer.

They’ll let me have it for this. I know. If this is a bureaucratic boondoggle, it’s our fault for putting up with it. I’ve been a terrible watchdog. I’ve never shown my ugly mug at an ESU board. Mea culpa. But neither has anybody else, I expect . . . who didn’t have a hand out to get some money instead urging them to hold the line.

I’m sure many ESU employees do good work, especially those in greater Nebraska, who really do have to consolidate and share and drive inconvenient distances in order to make a go of it – just barely – in this cold, cruel world of declining enrollment in the rural areas.

But . . . there are many ways to skin a cat . . . and . . .

The ESU’s have to go, or at least be consolidated ‘way down to three instead of 18, and transfer and reduce or eliminate their functions, for the simple reason that we can’t afford this anymore . . . this notion that you can spend millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars with little or no public awareness or accountability.

I mean, down at the Omaha City Council meetings, people are MUD-WRESTLING over $2,000 decisions with reporters and cameras crawling all over every dime spent . . . and yet here’s little old ESU #3 in its gigantic building, spending nearly $19 million, sight unseen.

Well, it’s time we saw some things. For instance:

ESU #3 directors turned in $153,121 in reimbursement requests for travel, lodging, meals, conferences, rental cars, airline tickets and mileage claims in the fiscal year 2000-01. That’s according to State Auditor Kate Witek’s http://auditors.nol.org site. Read all about it, and weep. Some of the other ESU’s spent even more in this category: $170,471 in ESU #16, $163,204 in E.S.U. #9, and the grand champion, $248,954 in E.S.U. #10.

Think what that money could have bought for kids.

I’m not saying it’s wrong or it’s fraudulent or anything like that.

I am saying we can consolidate those boards into three instead of 18. And we can . . . and should . . . do a lot better job for both the kids and taxpayers who are supposed to be served.

Monday, October 28, 2002

MONDAY: Show 'n' Tell for Parents

Taxpayer Rap

Total spending, Omaha Public Schools, 2002-03: $705.9 million
Students: 45,782
Classrooms: 2,300
Schools: 81
Spending per pupil: $15,419.
Spending per classroom: $306,935
Spending per school: $8.7 million
(Source: ’02-’03 budget, www.ops.org)

People can vote “no” on the OPS spending-increase request Nov. 5 and still be “for the kids.”

Look again at the funding we’re already giving OPS. It’s not as if a “no” vote would be snatching chalk out of children’s hands and forcing classes to be held outside in tents. We’ve already been more than generous with OPS.

But recent test results are raising big questions about whether we’re getting the most out of our money and using the right methods of teaching reading, especially with regard to disadvantaged children. Too many inner-city OPS students are functionally illiterate despite high levels of school spending (World-Herald, Sept. 26).

It’s time OPS got the message that, while we support public education in general and we love kids, we’re not going to feel a bit guilty about saying “no” this time, and demanding more fiscal responsibility and accountability from them. That’s not being a Scrooge; that’s being smart.

You know, we taxpayers really are “for the kids.” But enough is enough. We’re for modeling good public policy and wise money management for them, too.

I feel so strongly about this, I feel a song coming on:

Taxpayers get a bad rap.
Schools treat us like a sap.
If more spending we forbid
They say we’re mean and we hate kids!

Yo! Bureaucrats!
That’s not fair. We’ve had enough.
We’re mad at you ‘cause kids aren’t reading up to snuff.

You’re so rigid;
So headstrong.
Could it be you’re teaching wrong?
The kids are fine,
But you nitwits
Turn ‘em into
Illiterates.

Now
You want
More of our dough
To
Go
Down
Your
B
o
t
t
o
m
l
e
s
s
Rathole?

No!

Wuzzup, bureaucracy?
You think money grows on trees?
Want us homies to pay MORE
Though your test scores hit the floor?

Get real!
First, you swing those budget axes.
Take that, bureaucrat.
We refuse to pay more taxes.

Millions are not what you need
To teach our children how to read.
‘Til you do your basic mission,
We aren’t raising your tuition.

Until
You make schools most cost-effective
We will
Keep our dough and stay objective.

You have
No excuse for kids not reading.
You hurt
The disadvantaged and the needy.

Kids learn
With inexpensive, simple phonics,
Whether
They’re rich or poor, black, white, or onyx.

Ding dong, the school bell rang;
Kids can’t read! Someone should hang!
‘Stead of more money, hey, you slobs,
Maybe YOU should lose your JOBS!

Just foolin’. Keep on your pants.
We just want good schoolin’.
And we’ll give you another chance.

Stop this academic bleeding.
Just teach our children proper reading!

Umh! Umhgawa!
Taxpayers got the power!

Wake up!
Get hot!
Get the lead out of your
You-know-what!

Help our schools out of this wreck.
Don’t just hand them a blank check!

----------------------------------

-- Dedicated to longtime tax activist Ed Jaksha, an 80-something Omahan with the moves of a teenager when it comes to public policy and good citizenship. Go Big Ed!


Sunday, October 27, 2002

SUNDAY: Radiant Beams

Ne-Bra-Ska

But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love. . . .
— 1 Thessalonians 5:8a

For something that I wear every day next to my heart, you’d think the brassiere would symbolize feminine beauty, peace and joy to me.

But no. Bras are armament, and this is war. This Saturday, the Battle of the Bra is coming to Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb.

Let me explain.

It all started with April Coleman in sixth grade. She was the tallest girl and the coolest girl in the class. She had a Paul Revere and the Raiders record. We idolized her. And then one day, she came to school, and right through her white shirt you could see the outline of . . .

A BRA!

The boys practically fainted. They flocked around her. The rest of us saw, as it were, the spiritual power of the female undergarment. We were on the battlefield but we were ungirded and unprepared. Inferior weaponry! And so it began.

We whined to our mothers that WE needed bras, TOO. That Christmas, I happened to be opening a present that turned out to be my first bra, a flowered jobbie straight out of Annette Funicello Beach Party Bingo . . . but my dad chose that moment to train the lights and camera on me for the home movies that they still show to this day to watch my face catch fire. They made me hold it up and wave it around and everything. Sheesh!

Bras continued to be a big part of my life. When my cousin was marrying a rodeo rider, I had no choice but to become Dolly Parton and sing country and western songs at their rehearsal dinner. The wig, I happened to have, but the bustline? I believe $7.99 bought a size 54DD bra that could double as a two-person pup tent in inclement weather. I set out two grapefruit so that they would be at room temperature, put on the bra, and then plopped them in there. Voila! I could open doors from halfway across the room. Some of the cousins twice removed are still arguing over whether that bustline was real.

I kept that bra. It served me well. When we moved into a new house once, neighbor ladies on both sides were gorgeous and well-endowed. My husband was in hog heaven. But I needed to make a statement. The former owner had left the clothesline up. So I marched out there and pinned up my size 54DD bra, leaving it there for all to see exactly how things . . . uh . . . stacked up at our house.

A well-aimed bra: a missile of self-defense.

Then I got some maternity nursing bras. Man, they were complicated. It was sort of like working the locks and levees of the Panama Canal to get those flaps open one-handed and the dairy at the ready while cradling the squawling baby with the other arm. Someone should invent remote control for those. They really should.

When our third and, we thought, last child went off to kindergarten, I joined a bunch of mothers celebrating the first day of school at the local coffee shop. I had just seen Mel Gibson’s movie, “Braveheart.” So I stood in the doorway of that coffeeshop, took out a lighter and an old bra, set it on fire, and whirled it above my head, shouting:

“FREEDOM!”

The patrons stopped gabbing for two seconds, stared at me, saw that my tattered, smoking bra was about to set off the fire alarm, sighed, and went back to their conversations.

Darn. I was born too late for the feminist movement, when everybody was burning their bras for the cause. Nobody wants to do anything FUN anymore with bras. Maybe it’s because they’re no longer cheap. I should know: we now have three teenage daughters, and taking them bra-shopping requires refinancing our house.

Not only that, but the bra departments now take up whole floors, they have so many kinds and colors in stock. You walk through all those racks of bulging, cone-shaped, fur-lined, front-fastening, underwired, overpriced, hookless, strapless, upless, downless undergarments for too long, and you’re in for some serious nightmare action. “Doctor, doctor, what does it mean? I was being attacked by sideways mountain ranges, and they were PINK!”

Now, to my mind, Victoria’s Secret is that she sells doll underwear in her store for women to buy and leave in their lingerie drawers for show, while in reality they are wearing their wide-elastic, sensible, lasts-for-years, boring, everyday underwear. I called mine “Buicks.”

But most of us have one novelty bra that we maybe haul out once a year, just to make a stab at being sexy goddesses of erotic allurement for our husbands. I have a black one, though it is a East German Border Guard type of black one, and not all that sexy. I have had it for years.

I wore it a few weeks ago, to the football game between the Universities of Missouri and Nebraska. I’m a Missouri alum married to a Nebraska football fan. He’s a good sport about my Mizzou roots, but he really does live for the Huskers, and I do, too, EXCEPT when we play Missouri. Then I’m torn.

Well, this year, one of my old sorority sisters from Mizzou was coming up to the game in Lincoln to see her future son-in-law play for the Tigers. Just for fun, I wore my black bra complete with a gold bow. Don’t worry, I was wearing it OVER my red sweater and UNDER my red jacket. I kept the jacket zipped most of the game, but unzipped it to flash black-and-gold whenever Missouri scored and flash her across the field, too.

She laughed.

Our longtime friend and fellow Nebraska fanatic, who had come to the game with us, laughed.

But my husband scowled, and said, “DID YOU BUY THAT JUST FOR THIS?”

Best bra in my arsenal, and he didn’t even know I had it. Sigh. It’s hard to be a sexy goddess of erotic allurement during football season. At least we won, and he didn’t make me burn it.

But I have an idea that would be a win-win-win:

1. Nebraska women could all make a stab at being sexy goddesses of erotic allurement.

2. We could cause a marvelous uptick in Nebraska retail sales that would draw new interest and investment into the cash-strapped Cornhusker State.

3. And we could all demonstrate our love and loyalty for our football team in a special way as only women can.

Here’s what we do: we all go out and buy RED BRAS this week. Then we wear them for the Texas game Saturday.

Under our clothes, close to our hearts . . . we’ll wear breastplates of faith in our team, facing a challenging comeback and a tough opponent.

It will be so powerful that the Longhorns will be, excuse the expression, busted.

So come on, girls: chin up, chest out . . . and Go Big Red.



Saturday, October 26, 2002


SATURDAY: Lookin' Up

Do Homosexual Activists Twist God’s Words?

Christians are in danger of getting confused and misled by some rather thorny theological questions being posed by homosexual activists. Our natural inclination to love people no matter what is being used against us. Many people are being deceived into “tolerating” a major sin, active homosexuality, and allowing it to be taught to our kids as A-OK.

Just like a certain snake, they’re playing mind games with us. They’re trying to reinterpret the Bible to fit their agenda.

Are you ready to play these mind games, and win . . . perhaps somebody’s soul? Can you answer the claims of the homosexual activists and stand for Biblical truth?

Here’s a start:

1. Aren’t sexually-active same-sex relationships OK because God ordained marriage, not necessarily marriage between opposite sexes? No, homosexual behavior is always outside God’s will.

God established complementarity in making the two sexes. They need each other to be complete, under His design. God made us to be creative, but same-sex unions do not create anything.

For lack of purpose and lack of “fruit,” meaning children, homosexual unions don’t mirror God’s plan. They just mirror the two same-sex individuals, who are neither physically complementary, nor emotionally and spiritually so. Thus, a same-sex “union” rebels against God’s plan and leaves God out of the picture.

In Genesis 1:26-30 and chapter 2, God shows that human beings are spiritual creations, too. God gives extra special attention to the creation of the woman for the man. For all of His other creation, including the animals, the Bible doesn’t mention the two genders. But for man and woman, the genders are specified and reproduction is clearly the focus of the differing body designs God gave the man and the woman.

The special attention given to the making of Eve, and not to all other female creatures, shows that humans are more than just creatures. They have spiritual and emotional aspects of their physical existence that reflect God’s glory.

Even if two homosexuals have a document that says they’re “married,” that doesn’t make what they’re doing right in God’s eyes. Homosexual living violates the First Commandment, because to love God is to obey Him and His purposes for us.

2. Doesn’t the Bible condemn only homosexual rape, so homosexual sex, where both are willing, is OK? No, the Bible’s pattern language shows God condemns all forms of homosexual behavior.

The meaning of the attempted homosexual rape in Genesis 19:5 is that the men of Sodom were doubly depraved for wanting to commit homosexual acts on an unwilling visitor. Both are wrong, according to Bible terms.

Homosexual sex is called an “abomination” and there is no differentiation between consensual and nonconsensual homosexual behavior.

In the New Testament Paul coined the term “arsenokoitai” in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and 1 Timothy 1:10-12 for “male beds,” tying homosexuals to adulterers as people committing serious sin even though both parties agree to commit it.

The meaning of terms in the Bible is governed by their context. You can’t interpret any single Bible passage correctly in isolation, outside the context of the Bible as a whole. Homosexual activists may try to take one or two verses out of context and interpret them to fit their point of view, but that is deceptive and incorrect.

Sodom is the symbol of homosexuality run rampant, including consensual forms. The Hebrew words chosen to describe Sodom throughout the Bible show that it is God’s Exhibit A of depravity and bad judgment (Deuteronomy 29:23, Isaiah 1:9, Amos 3:11). Jesus referred to Sodom and its destruction (Matthew 10:15, 11:23; Luke 17:26-37) and His disciples identify homosexuality as the sin of Sodom (Romans 9:29, 2 Peter 2:6-11, Jude 7 and Revelation 11:8).

3. Mystery religions in Bible times had cult prostitutes in their pagan temples. The King James Version of the Bible refers to them as “sodomites.” So isn’t that the only form of homosexuality that the Bible condemns? No. It doesn’t matter where the homosexual behavior takes place, or for what purpose: it’s always wrong.

The prohibition against sexual sin, including homosexual sex, is universal in the Bible, with no exceptions. It is treated with the same seriousness as child sacrifice, necromancy, adultery, incest, bigamy and bestiality.

All forms of homosexual behavior in the pagan nations were among the chief reasons God cleared them away and “replanted” with His people, the Israelites. See Leviticus 18:22: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womenkind: it is abomination” and v. 24: “Defile not yet yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you. . . .”

Homosexuality is so heinous against God that it called for the death penalty, along with other deliberate sexual sin. See Leviticus 20:13: “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”

Homosexuality is a major, major sin in the Bible, and the way the Bible treats it raises it ‘way beyond the level of a sin against a person, to a sin against the whole of society.

4. Is opposing the spread of homosexuality a civil rights issue? No.

Racial discrimination is a violation of a person’s civil rights and clearly condemned in the Bible. A person is born with a particular color of skin or ethnic background, but is completely equal with all other persons with any other skin color or ethnicity.

Why? Because we’re all equal in God’s eyes. A person has no choice: you can’t change your skin color or what country your parents came from. So being accepted for our skin color is a basic civil right that each of us has.

Homosexuality, however, is different. It is not immutable, or unchangeable, and it does involve choice in whether or not to act on behavioral impulses. Yes, people are born with a certain set of traits and may grow up in a certain environment which is conducive to forming a personality with a homosexual orientation. And that is not their fault.

But there are still two options available for those persons: to stay celibate, or to seek therapy and overcome that homosexual orientation, replacing it with a heterosexual one. Thousands of people make those two choices in responding to the challenge of a homosexual orientation.

But it would be wrong for a black person to change skin color (sorry, Michael Jackson) because there’s nothing wrong or sinful with any particular skin color. Homosexuality is not analogous to a person’s race in terms of civil rights.

Here’s an analogy: consider the thief. You may argue that a person is “born” to steal, but does that give the person a “right” to steal? Of course not. The person has a choice, to refrain from theft or seek the help to overcome that natural tendency to steal and live an honest life in the future.

Something that is wrong never comes with civil rights. So homosexual activists are wrong when they try to position their cause as a civil-rights issue. It is not.

5. Is homosexual behavior a lifestyle choice, or a sin? It’s a sin, and a major one.

Homosexual activists tweak society for harping on the fact that what they do is a sin, while “ignoring” other sexual sins, chiefly adultery and fornication. Clearly, it’s wrong to engage in sex before marriage, to live together and have sexual relations without benefit of marriage, and to have affairs outside marriage.

The difference is, there is no Society for the Promotion of Adultery trying to get a foothold in our schools, the way the homosexual activists are trying to start homosexual advocacy groups for youth and teens in schools. There are no Fornication Society ads being bought or Junior Promiscuity websites being promoted to kids. At least, not under the guise of legitimacy. And if there are any attempts to justify or promote sexual sin, especially to young people, decent people oppose those attempts.

It’s the same way with homosexual behavior: decent people will continue to oppose it and point out that it is wrong in God’s eyes. The more the homosexual activists try to sweep that truth under the rug and outshout God’s people on this issue, the more resolved and outspoken God’s people will have to become.

Remember, when Jesus used the word “judge” in Matthew 7:1 (“Judge not, that ye be not judged”) it was translated to the Greek word “krino,” which has the connotation of avenging, condemning and damning. Obviously, it would be wrong to “discriminate” against homosexuality by hurting homosexual people in any way, shape or form, yelling at them, scowling at them or hurting them physically.

But just as obviously, to those who know the Lord and His word, we are, indeed, supposed to “judge” homosexuality from the point of view of discerning that it is wrong and saying so publicly. Judgment and discernment are two different things. If Jesus had meant that we were not supposed to decide whether or not homosexuality is wrong, His words might have been translated as “diakrino,” meaning to oppose, separate oneself from or decide something is wrong. Meaning, “don’t think about what’s sinful” or “don’t try to point out what’s sinful to others.” But nowhere in the Bible does Jesus tell people to ignore sin, blind themselves, pretend it isn’t there, or fail to reach out to other sinners.

We’re supposed to oppose sin in a straightforward manner, with love and compassion for those trapped in it, because it is unholy, transgresses God’s rules for us, and keeps them from knowing and loving Him.

--------------------------------------------------------

Much of this article is based on an excellent book: “Homosexuality: Contemporary Claims Examined in Light of the Bible and Other Ancient Literature and Law,” by James B. DeYoung, professor of New Testament Language and Literature at Western Seminary in Portland, Ore.


Friday, October 25, 2002


FRIDAY: Vitamin Mom

So Long, Fish Lips

A teenager or young adult can be devastated by being “dumped,” especially for the first time.

A smart mom knows not to trash the “ex,” because that suggests your child had bad taste in choosing that boyfriend or girlfriend. Instead, use your sense of humor.

Tell your child: “Every time you see your ‘ex,’ visualize a great, big, colorful fish face in place of the real face, with fat fish lips and a glassy stare. See the gills moving in and out comically, and icky scales and wispy fins.

“Tell yourself, ‘There’s plenty of OTHER fish in the sea.’”

You’ve just given your child the right bait to catch one, too: a jolt of extra self-confidence . . . to get back into the swim.

Thursday, October 24, 2002

THURSDAY: Go Big Ed

Education Short Takes

So many education stories, so little time: here’s what’s going on, short but sweet.

Be sure to visit http://www.GoBigEd.blogspot.com to mark the progress of the fight against the OPS tax increase that will be on the Nov. 5 ballot. Blocking it would inspire grassroots opposition to new taxes pushed by school districts across the state . . . and the fresh winds of fiscal accountability and a focus on cost-effective academics would sweep across the plains.

We hope. :>)

If I can use your name on a list of opposition to the OPS tax increase Nov. 5, please email me to that effect: swilliams1@cox.net

Please forward this to anyone interested in Nebraska education issues. Cheers!

-- Susan


Election Day Education Picks

Please consider last-minute donations to these worthy candidates in key education-related races. They will stand for children’s best interests and doing what’s right for all of us:

State Board of Education

Omaha area: Kathryn Piller (kkpiller@yahoo.com) faces a war chest of teachers’ union money given to her opponent, Joe Higgins, that totaled $8,288 as of May (see www.followthemoney.org). The Nebraska State Education Association didn’t even interview Ms. Piller, a highly-effective incumbent who made her mark as a courageous school leader who stood up to the educrats in the South High School student violence debacle a few years ago and has a distinguished voting record on the State Board of Ed. Why wouldn’t the union support such a strong incumbent? Because she won’t knuckle under to them, and Higgins, a past NSEA president and NEA official, always has and always will. He led the charge in the Legislature for the ill-advised and incredibly expensive early-retirement bill for educators. Our kids today are paying dearly in the classroom for the union’s “Rule of 55” (full pension at age 55 with 30 years of teaching) which caused an exodus of the state’s best teachers out of our schools and saddled taxpayers with enormous ongoing teacher retirement costs. His ideas are straight out of the 1960s, while Ms. Piller is young and an education professional who knows first-hand about today’s challenges. He’s the past, and she’s the future. Vote for KATHRYN PILLER.

Western Nebraska: Kathy Wilmot (kwilmot@swnebr.net and www.kathywilmot.com) is another great incumbent who should be kept on that board. She’s for local control, a focus on academics instead of socialized schooling, and fiscal accountability. Her opponent, Kandy Imes, also is union-backed, with $4,000 from the NSEA donated as of last May. Mrs. Wilmot’s able leadership about abstinence-only sex education was vindicated bigtime earlier this month by the Medical Institute for Sexual Health, www.medinstitute.org, in a report that proves that the way schools teach sex ed is anything but safe for kids. She also has been a leader in making sure schools practice the Americanism provisions in state law. Her leadership should be rewarded. Put KATHY WILMOT back in office.

State Legislature

District 10, northwest Omaha: Mike Friend (mfriend61@juno.com or www.mikefriend.net) is a good conservative who faces a heavily-financed, liberal opponent in Deb Suttle. She’s vice chairman of the Legislature’s Education Committee but has basically followed the union party line instead of making decisions that would improve learning for children. Put MIKE FRIEND in her place.

District 38, south-central Nebraska, Scott Scheierman (shy@inebraska.com and www.scottfordistrict38.com) is a highly-principled young farmer and father who is a fiscal conservative and would represent the best interests of individual voters rather than special-interest groups. The incumbent, Ed Schrock, has accepted the party line of the education establishment in the Legislature’s Education Committee. This would be a good chance to knock off a big spender from that key committee and put a true conservative in the Unicameral. Vote for SCOTT SCHEIERMAN.



OPS Cash Funds Total $88.7 Million

A check of the annual financial report posted online for the Omaha Public Schools at http://ess.nde.state.ne.us/SchoolFinance/AFR/search/afr.htm shows that the total amount held as cash in their various funds, including the operating fund, is $88.7 million.

You’d think a modest reduction in that would be enough to cover any extra spending over the next few years. With that amount of cash in hand, the demand by OPS for voters to let them override the Legislature’s reasonable spending lid for the next five years is puzzling.

An Omaha-area tax advocate looked at that $88.7 million figure in cash reserves, and said:

“Don’t just tax me to put it in the BANK!”


Lincoln Public Schools Grants Raises

According to the Oct. 9 Lincoln Journal (www.journalstar.com) the board of the Lincoln Public Schools has approved raises of 6.02 percent for its instructional staff this year and 6.25 percent for next year.

The board also approved equal percentage raises for its district executive team this year and a 4.5 percent raise for Superintendent Phil Schoo. His pay and benefits package total $160,301: a salary of $143,931, car allowance of $5,310, fringe benefit allowance of $5,310, tax-sheltered annuity of $11,500, and longevity stipend of $3,250.

Other top salaries:

Marilyn Moore, associate superintendent for instruction, $122,555; Dennis Van Horn, associate superintendent for business affairs, $103,261; Nancy Biggs, assistant superintendent for human resources, $105,161; Virgil Horne, administrative assistant to the superintendent, $108,042. All have additional benefits of car allowances, longevity stipends and fringe allowances; all but Horne have tax-sheltered annuities and life insurance policies.

According to the Lincoln Independent Business Association, over the past four years, inflation totaled 10.2 percent while LPS compensation grew by 27 percent. This year's teacher and administrator salary increases in LPS were roughly twice that of local private industry, a group spokesman said.


Are Educrats Acting . . . Adolescent?

State Auditor Kate Witek spoke to the Southwest Omaha Women’s Republican Club Wednesday and said, “Adolescence is becoming a norm in America, and it’s alarming.” Think of the educrats when you consider her definition of how adolescents act:

“They want to do what they want to do but they want you to pay for it.”

Now that the Omaha Public Schools’ budget tops a half-billion dollars and yet they’re coming back to voters Nov. 5 to override a reasonable lid on spending for even more . . . should we send some Clearasil and headphones for the OPS staff?

The Southwest Omaha Women’s GOP Club meets on the fourth Wednesday of the month at the Millard Library. To check the schedule and for more information, email Lisa Botkin, membership chairman, lisa@botkin.org


Be sure to visit http://www.GoBigEd.blogspot.com and read last week’s stories:

Go Big Ed: A Better Game Plan for Nebraska’s Children and Schools . . . Go Big Ed becomes a PAC; email me at swilliams1@cox.net to join, with or without a donation. Also let me know if I can use your name on a list in opposition to the OPS tax increase Nov. 5.

Repairing the Damage Schools Cause . . . Private tutor Rhonda Couch of Bennington is doing for kids what the public schools haven’t: teaching them to read.

The Lie About School Spending . . . Nebraska ranks 10th in academic achievement, but only 32nd in school spending, proving once again that giving schools more money does not correlate to improved learning for kids.

OPS Spending Tops a Half-Billion Dollars . . . $311 million in the operating fund plus $233 million in construction spending figures out to $13,500 in spending per pupil. Uff da!

Can OPS Avoid the Great Paradox of Education Spending? . . . see some great stats from the American Legislative Exchange Council, www.ALEC.org, which debunk the claims of the educrats by showing that some of the states that spend the least on education and have the largest class sizes have the highest student achievement.

Is OPS Making Kids ‘Special Ed’ On Purpose? . . . How much of that $47.5 million a year is for true special-needs kids with medically-diagnosable conditions, and how much goes for phony learning disabilities that weren’t there when the child started school and would be cured with proper teaching methods?

Have We Been Generous Or Stingy With OPS? . . . by the 2000-01 school year, total value of the buildings and contents within OPS had reached $246.3 million, a 45 percent increase in eight years. Don’t feel guilty about voting “no” on Nov. 5; you haven’t been Ebeneezer Scrooge, you’ve been Santa Claus!

OPS Spending Per Pupil Up 37% in 8 Years . . . operations alone reached $6,914.95 per pupil by the 2000-01 school year, and with increases since then and construction costs added on top, it comes to $13,500 per child.

OPS: Why It’s Your Fight, Too . . . it used to be that the lion’s share of school spending came from local sources, especially property taxes. Well, now property taxes make up less than one-half of the school spending honey pot. The rest comes from state and federal tax sources. If you pay state and federal taxes, you’re an OPS patron, and what happens there Nov. 5 will affect your pocketbook.

Let’s Roll! . . . that was the exhortation from an early contributor to the Go Big Ed campaign fund against the OPS tax increase. Things are rolling, all right . . . but please send a donation ASAP to cover ad buys and campaigning. The election is Nov. 5. Alert me at swilliams1@cox.net if your Go Big Ed contribution is coming to P.O. Box 995, Elkhorn, NE 68022. Thanks! And . . . Go Big Ed!

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

WEDNESDAY: Funnies

Incentive to Get Pregnant Again? . . . NOT!!!!!!!

It’s wonderful that the charity hospitals associated with Louisiana State University are going to start asking new mothers if they would be willing to donate their placentas for medical research to a New Jersey company, Anthrogenesis Corp.

It seems you can harvest quite a few stem cells from the rich umbilical cord blood and tissue that can be used to create cures for diseases and so forth. That avoids the ethical problems associated with having anything to do with the destruction of life – aborted baby bodies or embryonic castoffs from in vitro fertilization, for example – to get stem cells.

Stem cells from placentas offer a lot of hope in the discovery of cures for bigtime diseases and problems, so it is exciting that the miracle of childbirth can supply a possible miracle for people further down the river of life.

But all this news gets me into a funk.

I GAVE BIRTH FOUR TIMES!

THE FIRST THREE WERE TEN-POUNDERS OR THEREABOUTS!

I PRODUCED FOUR BIG, FAT PLACENTAS CHOCK FULL OF STEM CELLS!

BUT IT’S TOO LATE FOR THEM TO DO ANYBODY ANY GOOD!

Wah! I want to be in on the life-saving heroics.

Is it incentive enough for me to get pregnant again, in my old age?

Let’s see . . .

NAH!!!!!!!! :>)


Tuesday, October 22, 2002

TUESDAY: Hot Potatoes

The Lie About School Spending

It’s getting to be Election Eve, and the hot air is whooshing around from teachers’ unions and other pro-spenders that schools need more money, and they need it now.

But a big new study by the nation’s association of state legislators proves that there is no correlation between giving schools more money and improving student achievement.

Nebraska’s rankings published in the study prove that. The Cornhusker State was ranked 10th in a measure of academic achievement among states . . . and 32nd in per-pupil spending.

The data debunk the old claim that if you give the schools more money, the kids will get better educations. The states whose schools ranked near the top in academics were in the middle in terms of amount spent per pupil.

Because of the findings of its study, the American Legislative Exchange Council has joined the growing crowd of education advocates who are calling for a halt to the spending spree for K-12 education. They urge a return to the methods of schooling that will promote high student achievement, good discipline, and adequate accountability to parents and taxpayers.

“Report Card on American Education: A State-by-State Analysis 1976-2001” is available on http://www.ALEC.org

To demonstrate the folly of the proposed tax-lid override in the Omaha Public Schools, which would bring multimillions of new dollars into OPS coffers “for the kids,” I took a look at the top 10 states ranked by ALEC in terms of academic achievement and traced how they ranked in per-pupil expenditures.

If OPS is right, and more money creates smarter kids, then the top 10 in spending ought to be the top 10 in achievement.

But that’s not what the facts show.

Here are the top 10 states ranked academically based on SAT, ACT and National Assessment of Educational Progress math test scores, with their ranking for per-pupil expenditures:

State - academic rank & per-pupil spending rank

Wisconsin 1 & 11

Washington 2 & 20

Minnesota 3 & 14

Iowa 4 & 31

Montana 5 & 28

Kansas 6 & 23

New Hampshire 7 & 25

Massachusetts 8 & 5

Oregon 9 & 6

Nebraska 10 & 32

The average per-pupil spending rank for the top 10 academically was about 20th place.

One of the most telling statistics in the study was the ranking of the public schools in the District of Columbia. They ranked dead in academic achievement but eighth in per-pupil spending.

ALEC pointed out that, of the 10 states that increased per pupil expenditures the most over the past two decades (West Virginia, Kentucky, Connecticut, South Carolina, Maine, Hawaii, Tennessee, Vermont, Indiana, and Georgia), none ranked in the top ten in academic achievement.

One of the key reasons school districts ask for more money is to reduce the staff-to-child ratio, which the public believes will improve quality. But the ALEC study showed that of the 10 states that reduced class sizes the most over the past two decades (Maine, Alabama, Virginia, Hawaii, South Carolina, West Virginia, Wyoming, New York, Georgia and North Carolina) none ranked in the top ten in academic achievement.

So over the next couple of weeks, if OPS claims it needs more money to reduce class sizes and improve academic achievement, and that one follows another like night follows day, ask ‘em what planet that correlation comes from.

Answer: Planet Don’t Think, Just Give Us More Dough . . . “For the Kids.” :>)


Monday, October 21, 2002


MONDAY: Show 'n' Tell For Parents

Magic Words at Parent-Teacher Conferences

You have to make the most of your time at parent-teacher conferences. Effective communication techniques will help you learn the most about your child's progress in a short amount of time, get your points across, and help you advocate for your child while at the same time showing the teacher you're a supporter and a friend.

Go over this list and try to use some of the words, phrases and questions at your conference:

What can I do for you?

I want to help

Cooperate

How can I make it easier?

I don't understand

Can you give me a couple of examples?

Let's put our heads together

Innovate

Adapt

On the other hand, here are some no-no words and phrases NOT to say because they might make the teacher defensive and interfere with your goals of maximizing your child's learning experience:

Bored

Compel

Forced

Incompetent

Intolerant

Mistaken

Punish

Unreasonable

Do your job

You don't understand my child

You're doing it wrong

You're not doing enough

Another rule of thumb at conference time: remember the rule of three, and the 80/20 rule. Come prepared to talk about three positive feedbacks or concerns you want to share with the teacher, but no more. Three things are about all anyone can absorb in such a short amount of time. And resolve to listen for 80 percent of the time, and talk for just 20 percent. Good listeners learn the most, and teachers learn a lot about a child if the parents are good listeners . . . or blabbermouths who monopolize the conversation.

One last thing: if things are NOT going 100 percent great at school for your child, and you have some concerns to share, bring a male to the conference. Your husband and the father of the child is best. But if that's not possible, bring a brother or a grandfather or a friend or a coach. Why? Because educators are impressed when men get involved, and children tend to get their needs met when significant men in their lives are involved. In some school settings, it's a downright novelty. It's a sad commentary on sexism in our society, but it's really true.

So BYOB . . . Bring Your Own Boy. :>)

Sunday, October 20, 2002


SUNDAY: Radiant Beams

Loser’s Hugs

(T)hat we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.
— 2 Corinthians 1:4

You’ve got your football moms. They have to sit out at night on those ice-cold bleachers and take a night class in chemistry to figure out how to get those stains out of the uniform by next game.

You’ve got your cross-country moms. They have to make vats of pasta every week for optimal carbo-loading and then only get to see their darlings dart away at the start, and stagger across the line at the end, with no visible action in between.

You’ve got your volleyball moms, who have to sit in a stuffy gym and watch kids stick their armpits in each other’s faces. You’ve got your tennis moms, who get neck aches from watching long volleys and the occasional pain-in-the-neck racquet-wielding prima donna. You’ve got your cheerleader moms and your band moms, whose kids are away so much they could sue the school for alienation of affections.

But then you’ve got your golf moms and your softball moms.

We rule.

Golf moms have it the easiest. We get to be outside but we don’t have to go out in the cold and rain. We don’t scream and yell and jump up and down. The fact that it’s all based on an objective score removes a lot of the ugly parent tantrums that mar many sports today. With golf, there’s no ref to make bad calls, no coach’s pets, no enraged parents making a ruckus over who’s starting and who’s not.

It’s just the girl against the course: pure athletics. All we parents have to do is master the polite golf clap. Your daughter hits a good shot, and you vibrate one polite hand against the other in her general direction: “pit pit pit pit pit.pit pit pit.”

Oh, we joke a lot about what we COULD do: let the air out of the tires of the other team’s pull carts . . . train the squirrels on our home course to abscond with the other team’s balls . . . serve beef SHANKS to all golfers except our own as a snack at the turn. . . .

But it’s over now, and I’m sad. I’ve been a golf mom for six years with two golfing daughters. Both managed to play Number One for their respective high school golf teams. The one who’s a senior now just competed in her fourth straight state tournament, met her goal of finishing in the top 20 places, and led her team to their best showing ever at State, ninth place in Class A.

But she thought she played lousy.

She got into tree trouble and missed a few putts. You could see the flush build up on her cheeks. No amount of pit pit pit’s could get her back into the zone. At one point, she buried her face in her golf towel for a lot longer than if she were just wiping off sweat.

These are the moments moms are made for. There are a lot of reasons I’m grateful for youth sports, but the opportunity for us parents to comfort, soothe, encourage and love our children in defeat and disappointment is one of the best.

I gave her the longest, closest mother-bear hug of both of our lives. And even though she’s 17 and oh! so competent and independent, I could feel her relax and sink into me and accept my murmured consolations just like a little child.

I bet that’s how Jesus feels, when we come to Him with our suffering. I really do.

And then there’s my other role this fall, softball mom. It’s over for the season, too, with a 27-5 record, a district championship and a good run at the state tournament last week.

I was a beginning softball mom this season, as our daughter is just a freshman. All I knew about softball parents was that one time, a bunch of them got into a dog-piling fistfight that some friends of mine literally had to back away from and sneak to their car in the parking lot, not only to avoid getting slugged but also so that their own fellow parents wouldn’t see that they weren’t getting in on the action.

That’s a long way from “pit pit pit pit pit.”

But our team’s parents had so far suppressed their sociopathic sides. The veterans taught me well: decorate lockers and stuff goodie bags before every tournament, add signs and glass paint on the bus for end-of-the-season competitions, and master the fine art of that concession-stand culinary masterpiece, the Frito Pie.

(OK, all you nonsoftball-mom lightweights: slit open a bag of Fritos, lob in two scoops of hot chili, sprinkle on some shredded cheddar, and serve with a spoon. Ballfield gourmet: eat your heart out, Martha Stewart.)

This team had lost its all-state pitcher to graduation, had only three seniors, and wasn’t expected to do much better than .500 this season. But they were good athletes and they worked hard. I loved to watch the infield come to the mound after each out and then turn and do an elaborate routine of high-fives, twists and turns to take their positions. They looked like gazelles out there. They were unified, they had fun and they loved their coach. They overachieved and made it to State.

But one-run losses in two squeakers that went into extra innings, including one by the two-time defending state champions, knocked them out.

At game’s end, I wound my way down the stands to where the girls were already engaged in that teenage ritual: long, lengthy, shifting group hugs. It was different than what happened after all those wins. Then, you would see quick hand-slaps and bright smiles, and then everybody hurried home for homework or whatever else was on the to-do list.

But this was the last game. The loss ended the season. The seniors were done.

They gathered for their last huddle. My daughter said she tried to keep a stiff upper lip but it felt as though her eyes had two huge faucets like at a water treatment plant, and when Coach said, “I couldn’t be prouder of you girls. . .” both of them opened wide and tears gushed uncontrollably.

The huddle broke up, but nobody left. Everywhere I looked, I saw parents hugging parents, brothers and sisters hugging players, coaches hugging wives, boyfriends hugging girlfriends, and most of all, moms and dads hugging their daughters, who morphed from amazons back into little girls, leaning in to them to accept their murmured consolations.

I gave the Gushing Freshman the biggest, closest, wettest mother-bear hug possible.

Loser’s hugs are the best hugs . . . because they last the longest and mean the most.

All this, and Frito Pie, too? Softball moms: we rule.

When does practice start for next season?

Saturday, October 19, 2002


SATURDAY: Lookin' Up

God’s Candidates

When people say that politics and religion don’t mix, I just smile. Of course they do. They’re inextricably intertwined.

Election Day is coming up. As people get ready to decide who they are going to vote for in the various offices large and small, I hope they’ll choose the ones who come closest to doing the kinds of things that God would have a leader do.

That means stay away from people who have gone bankrupt, been divorced, favor gambling, don’t see that human life is sacred, and all that other kind of stuff. You know what I mean.

It’s more than just going down the list of political issues they’re for and against. It’s looking at their whole life’s pattern, and praying about each choice you’ll be making Nov. 5. It takes more work to be an informed, prepared voter. But it’s worth it.

As you do your thinking, remember that leaders who tend to do ungodly things in other facets of their lives are likely to hurt us by doing ungodly things with the public trust in the government jobs in which we put them. It doesn’t matter how slick their campaigns are. You have to get to the heart of the person to decide, and seek God’s guidance in the process. Otherwise, there’s a real danger of buying the prettiest horse instead of the best horse.

I don’t mean vote only for people whose religious views are identical to your own.

First of all, is there such a person in the universe? I doubt it. Religion is so intensely personal, and people’s degrees of knowledge and experience vary so extremely, that I don’t think it’s possible to find your spiritual twin.

But you can sure find your spiritual sibling, the person with values most like yours, whose views and track record seem to exhibit the best direction, the most wisdom and the least mistakes.

And guess what? That person might not be even close to your denominational line of thinking. That person might not even worship the same God you do.

But deep down, each of us knows that there are certain things that our leaders do that are right . . . things of which God approves. And there are certain other things that our leaders have done, are doing now, and are likely to do in the future, that are wrong . . . and you know, deep down, that they are wrong, whether you acknowledge the existence of God or not.

So I hope, when you analyze what the various candidates have done and said, that you will vote for the ones that you think come closest to the mind and heart of your concept of God.

It’s a match game with crucial stakes and crucial consequences. Our future literally is at stake, with how we vote.

The candidates aren’t the only ones who will need good luck this Election Day. We will all need it, for governance that is Godly, wise and good for us. That’s a tall order, but if we all play the game to win, we will win.

For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are led of them are destroyed. – Isaiah 9:16

Friday, October 18, 2002


FRIDAY: Vitamin Mom

Underachievers at Parent-Teacher Conference Time

Your child is pulling D’s and F’s and says she “doesn’t care.” You’re pulling your hair out, and here comes Parent-Teacher Conference time. You’d REALLY like it if they would offer to pay your child’s tuition at a special school . . . in Australia . . . but actually, you’re wondering how to work with her teachers to stop the free-fall and get her back on track.

Your child is most likely an underachiever. Here are some traits:

-- Low self-esteem
-- Negativity
-- Inferiority as shown by distrust of and hostility toward those who try to help
-- Indifference
-- Puts things off
-- Blaming others instead of taking responsibility for failure
-- Few hobbies or interests
-- Withdrawn in class, little academic effort apparent
-- No goals, or low expectations for the future

Now, here are some traits of the parents of high-achieving students:

-- Parents are interested in their children
-- Fathers are important life influences
-- Mothers are responsible and independent
-- Parents have high educational aspirations for their children
-- Parents are well-educated
-- Families are small
-- Children are often the first born or only child

The fastest way to help your child is to get all those traits. But of course, that’s impossible with many of these things.

But here are some things you can do to help your child quickly:

-- If your relationship with your child is not close and mutually respectful, change now. Warm up the atmosphere in your home. Give hugs. Make cookies. Tell funny stories about the past, especially stories that show that nobody’s perfect. It’s never too late, and doing a lot more listening to your child may be the single most powerful thing you can do.
-- Ask your child why she thinks this is happening, and in what ways the situation is unsatisfactory or hurtful to her. The child must desire change before change can happen.
-- Assure your child’s teacher that you and the teacher are on the same side, and you consider the teacher your partner, not your opponent or tormentor. Remember, the teacher is working for you, not the other way around. Ask the teacher’s advice on practical aids such as time-management skills for your child and assignments that allow the child to focus on an area of his or her ability and interest to spark academic effort. But you be the boss. The teacher doesn’t know and love the child like you do.
-- Build a better relationship with the teacher, either sending a note once a week or so, making a quick phone call, or emailing. Your child may be hurting and in need of hugs and encouragement; the teachers of such children need affirmation, too. Be a team player and support that teacher’s efforts.
-- Most underachievers need help connecting their failure to themselves. They just don’t see that if they don’t study, they are going to fail the test. Teach your child how to think things through realistically, recognize the patterns he or she has fallen into, learn from failures and difficulties, and make necessary changes to stop failing, and reverse course toward success.
-- The vast majority of struggling and failing students never learned how to read properly, back in the early grades. Take your child to a reading tutor who works outside the school system. You may find that your child’s reading skill increases by one grade level for every five or six hours of tutoring help. Make sure your child is tested before and after the tutoring, and if any success is documented, seek reimbursement from the school district. Why? Because you had to pay somebody else to do their job. It’s a funny thing: there are plenty of school districts out there underachieving, too.

Thursday, October 17, 2002


THURSDAY: Go Big Ed

Want to Help Fight the OPS Tax Increase?

Go Big Ed has agreed to collect donations for a short but sweet advertising campaign to encourage voters within the Omaha Public Schools to vote against the spending-lid override that will be on the Nov. 5 ballot.

If the tax increase passes in OPS, the domino effect across Nebraska might raise school taxes significantly for years to come. But if OPS voters hold the line on spending, that would send a positive message across the state.

A campaign is planned combining humorous radio ads and print ads directing voters to http://www.GoBigEd.blogspot.com to learn more about the issue up to Election Day.

The ads are being designed by Iowa consultant Paul Dorr, who has won 10 of 11 spending-increase battles against school districts in Iowa and Minnesota in recent years. A feature story about Mr. Dorr that appeared in Go Big Ed and other publications earlier this month sparked the campaign.

To keep things simple, Go Big Ed would like to collect $4,999.99 and not a penny more. That’s because $5,000 in donations is the threshold at which contributions must be reported to the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission. Donations of any size would be appreciated and names of donors would not be published.

Go Big Ed will email constant updates on the campaign’s progress and will issue a complete accounting after the Nov. 5 election.

To contribute, please send a check to:

Susan Darst Williams
P.O. Box 995
Elkhorn, NE 68022

Come on! Let’s go, fight, win! Go Big Ed!

--------------------

Visit my blog about Nebraska education issues: http://www.GoBigEd.blogspot.com


Wednesday, October 16, 2002

WEDNESDAY: Funnies

I admitted to something embarrassing recently: I accidentally pinched our high-school principal in a case of mistaken identity at a softball game, thinking he was my husband of 24 years.

That was a red-facer. But I've since heard from friends whose favorite red-face experiences are even more embarrassing than mine. Revealing, too.

Take Michelle. She was a college student out lounging poolside, engrossed in a book. It started getting pretty hot in the sun, so she stopped reading for just a second to take off her T-shirt and catch a few more rays. She went straight back to her book.

A few minutes later, she looked up, wondering why all the people who had been loudly engaged in a water volleyball game were now silently staring at her . . . and a row of people were standing at the clubhouse window, also peering intently in her direction.

Suddenly, her eyes were drawn downward. She had nothing on but her swimsuit bottoms. She had forgotten to put the swimsuit top on.

Even today, decades later, when she remembers the incident, her face turns bright red. Either that, or she's having a hot flash.

You could say her feelings of humiliation are still bottomless about the day she accidentally went topless.
TUESDAY: Hot Potatoes

A Sensible Halloween This Year

With 9/11, escalating terrorism, talk about a war with Iraq, the Washington sniper and the blown-up bodies in Indonesia, do you really, really think little kids ought to have an extra-scary Halloween this year?

Come on, now. Not only is Halloween against most people's religions, it has gotten 'way out of hand on the violence stuff in most grade schools these days. You should see the little kindergarteners' faces when the big boys in fifth and sixth grade come marching through their classrooms in their awful, macabre, blood-speckled costumes. Ewww! What's fun about that?

Let's be sensible. Talk to other parents, your child's teacher, the principal, the school board, whoever will listen, and come up with a few guidelines so that everybody can have fun, not fear, this year:

1. No scary costumes.

2. No blood, gore, dismembered body parts or any of that.

3. No weapons or guns, except squirt guns or homemade cardboard pirates' swords, maybe.

4. No jack o'lanterns; they represented dead spirits in the olden days.

5. No witches or spell-casting or cauldrons or any of that stuff; that's against most kids' religions, whether they know it or not.

Let's put the emphasis back where it should be: on fun, costumes, creativity and mild thrills, not gross-outs, violence and gore. OK?

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 14, 2002

MONDAY: Show 'n' Tell for Parents

What If Homeschoolers Hauled Us Into Court?

I have this friend, Rick Otto, who’s a sign designer and a wonderful Christian husband and father in the west-central Omaha area. His son Kenny is approaching age 13 and has been homeschooled since the end of first-grade.

Making the switch to homeschooling has significantly affected both parents’ ability to earn a living, their working hours and so forth. I’m always curious why people make such big decisions, and what’s behind the sacrifice parents make to homeschool their children.

At my request, Otto wrote down why they left public school . . . and why, now, they are thinking about filing a small-claims court case to try to retrieve the tax dollars that would have been spent on their son had they been able to leave him in public school.

I figured they have foregone something like $35,000 worth of tax-funded education by homeschooling their son.

It had never occurred to me that people like them might have a legal claim on that money. But the more I think about it, the more I think:

What a concept!

What if all homeschoolers and private-school families, too, for that matter, suddenly filed small-claims court cases seeking the tax money that would have been spent on their children had they in good conscience been able to leave them in public school?

How many million zillion dollars would we taxpayers be liable for?

If just one family collected, what might that mean?

Could it be . . . gasp! . . . the kind of breakthrough that would finally get the attention of the educators and the policymakers? Might they finally do an about-face and start delivering what we parents and taxpayers want for our children from our public schools?

We’ve tried everything else. Maybe it’s time to take the public schools to court.

It’s sad to say, but maybe we’ve come to that point where the only thing that people understand is money, and the only way to induce public schools to change their way is to threaten to take away their money.

Now, look. I have never been one to encourage lawsuits. I covered the courts for a newspaper for years and saw the misery and strife that goes on with legal wrangling, hearings and lawsuits.

But there also are justice issues at stake, a whole lot of families with values and standards to defend, and a whole lot of children’s futures.

Maybe it is time to use the leverage of the courts to get what we want.

What do YOU think?

You be the judge. Read their story. Should the Ottos get a refund for the five years they’ve homeschooled?

====================

Why the Ottos Left Public School
By Rick Otto

When Kenny was in first grade, he would come home bored to tears and frustrated from havin' to sit on his hands while kids his age were still learnin' to read. Susan Mackerell had helped us with him, as Kenny went to Sword Of The Spirit for kindergarten. Despite the frustration, I'm sure it was gratifying for Ken to see himself as above average. He led the class in their Christmas Show number, and was one of two RingMasters in their "3-Ring Circus Play Production.” But there came an "incident.”

One day when Kenny was standing in line for something, a little girl would not stop pestering him somehow about something, and finally his patience wore out, and he said, "STOP IT, you witch!"

Well, “everyone” thought for sure he said the "B" word, and he was pronounced guilty and sentenced to be punished.

I came home from work that day to find both him and my wife on the couch in anguish over it.

They told me they wanted to quit Public School and start homeschooling. I told them not to do it so quick. It would be better if Ken would take the punishment whether he deserved it or not. Meanwhile, my wife should do the homework necessary to make the transition to homeschooling if need be. That way it wouldn't look like we got mad and stomped off as soon as things didn't go our way.

They bit the bullet, and we waited it out a bit.

Come February, Kenny came home tellin' us about a little girl in his class who was makin' valentines for her TWO mommies.

He already knew it was wack, and why. He was used to hearing us discuss issues in terms of scriptural morality. He was used to being included in what mostly is reserved for "adult" conversation. We hadn't lied to him about Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, and he knew the value of diplomacy in witnessing.

We advised him not to make an issue of it, but we soon after attended a Parent-Teacher conference.

At the conference, everything went pretty much as expected with Kenny gettin' mostly high praises for his work. At the end of it, though, she asked us if we had any questions. The last one I asked was about the little girl with the two mommies.

"What's that about?" I tried to say with idle curiosity, trying to be as mild and unthreatening as possible.

"Oh, that's ______,” the teacher replied, “and her mother is a single parent with her lesbian partner living with her."

She unhesitatingly offered that reply.

I kept it cool as I asked her, "Well, how do you handle that? Does it cause any awkward moments in the classroom?"

She said, "Well I was thinking about inviting the two women to class, so they could explain their relationship to the children themselves."

I just calmly nodded my head, and said, "I see. Well, thanks for the conference. I'm glad Kenny is doing well."

On the way out to the car I looked at my wife and said, "NOW you can start homeschooling!"

(Editor’s note: be advised that the Ottos have a number of friends who are homosexuals, and indeed, homosexuals were among the members of their wedding party. So don’t be thinking they are prejudiced or anything like that. Their objections had everything to do with the fact that these are innocent, vulnerable children in a captive, tax-paid situation. The indoctrination of moral choices that are against their family’s religion and standards are what made public-school enrollment intolerable, not the fact that it was homosexuality per se.)

A couple of years later, I managed to get a swing shift position at my job so I could help by teaching Language, Art, and Math in the mornings.

At the beginning of sixth grade (last year) Kenny complained he was bored with adding, subtracting, multiplying and division, even though he got to do it in decimals and fractions with story problems, etc. So I tested him a little by showing him this:

2A+3A=5A

He thought it was cool! So I got out an old Introductory Algebra workbook I had used at Metro Tech back in 1978.

A college textbook for a sixth-grader? He went through that last year, and did really well.

But at the end of the year he said his brain was toasted so this year he's just doing straight seventh-grade math.

I had become frustrated with the lack of real learning involved with the low level arts and crafts Art projects, so I brought out the Art History book that my brother used at Harvard.

We took turns readin' to each other and had fun distilling what we learned into memorable sayings:

"Paleolithic is CAVE Art, Neolithics decorated their HUTS."

We also would alternate with drawing lessons practicing perspective, and rendering the human form. I let him use superheroes, so he really enjoyed it.

===================

So what do you say? On principle, should they get any, some or all of the money back that they passed up to homeschool?



Sunday, October 13, 2002

SUNDAY: Radiant Beams

Why I Pinched the Principal

(W)e glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed. . . .
— Romans 5:3-5a

I blame the whole thing on Maddy’s harmonica.

EEEEE-AAAAY-EEEEE-AAAAY-EEEEE-AAAAY. . . .

She found it among some old toys of her older sisters, loved it immediately, and refused to be separated from it, 24/7.

EEEEE-AAAAY-EEEEE-AAAAY-EEEEE-AAAAY. . . .

Our 2-year-old’s two-note serenade rang out all over the house, on every car ride and in my dreams. She kept one hand on it while she ate so that Mommy couldn’t lose it the way Mommy lost the magic markers and the fingerpaints. She was like a reverse Pied Piper at the shopping mall, which emptied in our wake as normal consumers heard the harmonica and ran for their lives. We went to a restaurant with hopes of finishing an actual sit-down meal in public for the first time in months, and Maddy spent the whole evening standing up over the booth and playing her harmonica with all her might for the would-be diners on the other side.

EEEEE-AAAAY-EEEEE-AAAAY-EEEEE-AAAAY. . . .

Most people smiled mildly and cut us some slack. One guy, however, shot us a dirty look. My husband planned to get his phone number, make a recording of Maddy’s serenade, and then call him up every night at about 3 a.m. and play it for him:

EEEEE-AAAAY-EEEEE-AAAAY-EEEEE-AAAAY. . . .

We thought about contacting the military and offering her for top-secret mind control, propaganda and torture maneuvers against Saddam Hussein. You know, set up loudspeakers on all his borders and, night and day at high decibels, drive him crazy:

EEEEE-AAAAY-EEEEE-AAAAY-EEEEE-AAAAY. . . .

Then we remembered: he’s already crazy. We were just getting that way, one brain cell at a time.

Miraculously, my sister called to invite Maddy to the new Veggie Tales movie at the same time one of our older daughters was playing in her high school softball team’s district championship. I had been worried that Maddy’s harmonica would get our team disqualified or at least make the ump grumpy. Plus, the exciting lure of going to the movies was the perfect excuse to get Maddy to hand over the harmonica: you can’t have one in the movie, Honey. They won’t play the movie if anybody has one. Really. Let Mommy pry your fingers off your ‘monica, now. Come on. It can take a nap while you’re at the movie!

And she bought it! Hallelujah! She bought it!

So I was delighted. For the first time in a long time, I was going to be Maddy-free at a public event. I could go to the teenager’s softball game and see every play. I wouldn’t have to haul in the stroller, diaper bag, jacket, sweatshirt, mini soccer ball, treat bag, juice box, Binky, Blanky, Bunky and assorted books and toys like an overloaded pack mule.

I wouldn’t have to miss the whole game serpentining after the thundering sneakers of a 2-year-old track star down either sideline and past the outfield.

I wouldn’t have to sustain eternal vigilance so that she wouldn’t be kidnapped, conked by a foul ball or cause an oncoming train to derail with her antics.

I wouldn’t have spend the whole time at the s’ingset, schlide and teeter-totter at the playground all the way across the park and be relegated to peering back toward the field with my glasses propped at a 45-degree angle trying to see the game.

I was elated. It was heavenly to drive there in blissful silence, pop the keys in my pocket and, for once, walk someplace without a mountain of paraphernalia and a toddler tornado in tow.

In fact, I was so footloose and fancy free, I barely knew what to do with myself. My brain, so used to being assaulted by the two-note serenade, searched about for stimuli in the unaccustomed serenity.

I sauntered up to our team’s fans, including my husband. He was sitting on the end of the bleachers several rows up, right in front of a bevy of beautiful teenage cheerleaders. The sun was in my eyes, but I saw his golf cap; he had planned to come to the game right after his golf round.

In the spirit of the afternoon, feeling light-hearted and frisky, I went up to him and gave him a loving little pinch, right on his flank. I took a meaty chunk between my thumb and fingers, to playfully let him know I was there, and pinched. Tra la!

And he looked down at me . . . but it wasn’t my husband.

It was the school principal.

EEEEE-AAAAY-EEEEE-AAAAY-EEEEE-AAAAY. . . .

Thank goodness he is such a good sport and laughed it off.

Thank goodness our team’s color is red, since my entire body, especially my face, radiated that color throughout the whole game.

Thank goodness we won. Everybody was so happy, I figure I dodged a sexual-harassment lawsuit from the principal . . . my husband, who arrived a few minutes later in an identical golf cap, managed to understand . . . and our teenager has promised that she won’t feel it necessary to go around with a bag over her head for the rest of her high-school career, on one condition:

That Mommy loses Maddy’s harmonica, before Mommy loses “it.”

Saturday, October 12, 2002

SATURDAY: Lookin' Up

The Art of the Proper Cheek Turn

Christians disarm themselves by misunderstanding their marching orders. Yes, Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount that if anyone hurts us, we are to “turn the other cheek.” But the meaning of that passage has been twisted over the years.

It’s used all the time as a distortion of scripture so that people can rationalize all kinds of sin and immorality, and redefine Biblical truth to suit their fancy.

It’s an attempt to win the spiritual battle against Christians by keeping us off the battlefield.

The “turn the other cheek” misinterpretation has cropped up again as a wedge against the death penalty. The Old Testament says “an eye for an eye,” but that led to too many personal vendettas, the story line goes. So in the New Testament, Jesus tells us to let people get away with evil and just “turn the other cheek.” At least, that’s what the enemies of Biblical truth would have you believe.

So many people take that scripture to mean that Jesus is commanding us to be wimpy little doormats. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Look again at His instruction in Matthew 5:39:

“But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

Now, think about that. Imagine someone hitting you on your right cheek. Which hand would your assailant be using?

It would be the left hand.

Think what that means. The vast majority of the people in the world are right-handed. So a blow to your right cheek would be coming from that person’s left hand. If that person were really trying to slug you, that person would have used his or her right hand and the blow would have landed on the left side of your face. But instead, it was your assailant’s left hand and the blow came to your right cheek.

There’s a reason Jesus put it this way.

By referring to the “right” cheek, Jesus was making it clear He was referring to a back-handed, insulting slap, as when someone slaps you with the back of the hand. A blow from someone’s left hand doesn’t cause physical pain and damage so much as emotional pain and damage.

Jesus didn’t mean we aren’t supposed to defend ourselves against real, serious, threatening pain and injury. Of course, we are supposed to stand up for ourselves against that kind of injury, and stand up for Him, at all times. He was telling us, however, not to get provoked into revenge or repaying evil for evil when someone tries to goad us into sinning with a cowardly little slap in the face.

It didn’t really hurt you, did it? So you turn the other cheek. If it happens again, it still didn’t really hurt you. Does that mean you ignore the real, serious, threatening hurts in this world, to yourself and others?

Of course not.

Of course you should never hit back with any degree of force, whether a blow to you was weak or strong. Of course you should never try to get even in a sinful manner or give “payback” to someone who hurt you. Of course you should respond with love and mercy to someone who wrongs you, reject retaliation, forgive that person, and pray for that person, too.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t defend yourself, and God’s truth, against all enemies, foes, cheaters, liars, assailants and assorted other bad apples.

Of course you should.

Jesus was all about justice. Never forget that. He stood up for what is right, and He stood up for the Law. We should, too.

If you ignore sin, how is the sinner ever to understand why what he did was wrong? If you stay silent, how will the sinner ever hear the truth about Jesus Christ and His forgiveness and salvation?

Don’t let the anti-Christian Bible revisionists take away your spiritual rights. Your rights definitely include Godly self-defense and the God-given processes of swift, sure, lawful justice. Don’t get cowed into remaining silent and helpless when confronted by evil and sin.

Remember, He said to turn the other cheek. He never said to keep your mouth shut in the process.

There’s an art to turning the other cheek. It’s one of the Christian’s best moves. When it’s done right, then not one, but two sets of eyes are turned toward where they should be: Jesus Christ.

Friday, October 11, 2002

FRIDAY: Vitamin Mom

Peacekeeping

Former President Jimmy Carter got a Nobel Peace Prize. I’d KILL for a Nobel Peace Prize!

Those are the kinds of conflicting messages our society often gives children about war and peace. Aggression seems to be at an all-time high in our world today. From TV to schoolyard fights to family strife that leads to arguments, children are taking in plenty of aggression and anger these days. But how well are they getting rid of it?

Whether we have peace or war in the world all starts with lessons learned in the home. Teach kids peace, not war. Conflict resolution skills should be of primary importance in your parenting repertoire.

You can use their sense of humor and irony to help them as you model peaceful living. Examples:

-- If one child calls another one a bad name in front of you, instantly say, “And what does that make YOU?” For example, if one child says to the other, “You are a dumbie,” say: “And what does that make YOU?” The surprise of that puzzling interjection usually makes them stop and think, and leads to a smile and a bit of d├ętente.

-- Sew a lot of sequins and spangles to the middle finger of the left hand on a pair of cheap knit gloves. Wear them while driving. If someone cuts you off in traffic, lift your whole hand, not just that finger, up at the other driver. The sun will sparkle off those sequins. Your point will be made with humor and style.

-- What’s bugging your child and creating anger? Have him or her write it on a piece of paper: HOMEWORK SALLY GETTING CUT FROM THE TEAM Whatever it is, safety-pin or tape that paper to a pillow, and then shut your child into a room for a minute and tell him or her to punch that pillow as many times as they can. The child should keep count. Then give your child that many hugs in a row. Just the humor of that many short little hugs is enough to break out the smiles again.

Thursday, October 10, 2002

THURSDAY: Go Big Ed

(Visit my new blog focusing on Nebraska education issues: http://www.GoBigEd.blogspot.com)

Studying For the OPS Pop Quiz Nov. 5

Yes or no, should Nebraska’s largest school district be allowed to tax people higher than the state legislature said it could from now through 2007-2008?

The request from the Omaha Public Schools to override the state’s spending lid and increase property taxes by up to 15 extra cents per $100 of valuation will be on the Nov. 5 ballot for those who live within OPS.

The measure would cost homeowners in OPS hundreds of dollars in extra property taxes as both the levy and property valuations rise in coming years. It also would cost an unknown amount of additional money in the form of increased rents and higher prices, since about 35 percent of the property within OPS is commercial, rather than residential, and commercial property owners are likely to pass the tax increase on to customers.

All Nebraskans have a stake in what happens, not just OPS taxpayers. Half of OPS’ funding comes from local property taxes, and the rest comes from state and local taxes, which we all pay. When OPS increases its spending, the bill comes to all of us, sooner or later.

We all want what’s best for the more than 40,000 kids in OPS. But what happens Nov. 5 will go far beyond them. It will affect school spending patterns statewide for years, and either encourage or discourage other districts from seeking tax-lid overrides and new bond issues.

So let’s take a look at some study notes:

1. Enrollment in OPS dropped from 57,823 in 1975-76 to 43,039 in the 2000-01 school year. That’s a decline of more than 25 percent. Enrollment has since stabilized and has ticked up a bit. But just in the last 10 years, OPS operations spending has increased by 56 percent, from $208.5 million to $326 million. Meanwhile, its staffing levels are among the highest in the state, at 14.1 pupils per teacher, according to the State Education Department, compared to the class sizes of 30 and 40 kids of years ago. How’s that for a business plan: the number of people served has declined, the number of people employed has increased, and spending is up by more than half.

2. Attendance in OPS has been running far short of actual enrollment. In the 2000-01 school year: 43,039 were enrolled, but average daily attendance was 39,501. That’s 3,538 kids missing or absent each school day. That’s 8.2 percent, nearly double the rate in the rest of the state. We’re paying millions for the OPS staff and facilities to educate kids who aren’t even there. And now they want even more? Wouldn’t a more prudent course of action be to pay the schools for educating only the kids who are there? Oops. That would be a cut in pay instead of a raise for OPS.

3. Title I federal remediation funding for kids who are educationally disadvantaged has increased to OPS from $6.5 million in 1992-93 to $10.2 million in 2000-01, which is 57 percent more. But test scores in the inner-city OPS schools have been called “horrible” by State Education Commissioner Doug Christensen. OPS kids taking the ACT college entrance exam scored 20.8 on a 36-point scale, below the statewide average of 21.6, which is bad enough. Meanwhile, the dropout rate in OPS is 7.45 percent, vs. 2.71 percent statewide. The OPS graduation rate is 86.98 percent, vs. 93.61 percent across the rest of the state. Yet OPS spends more per pupil than the statewide average. If more spending produced more learning and really helped the kids who need the help the most, shouldn’t that show up by now?

4. Special education spending in OPS increased by $5 million in eight years, from $22.7 million to $27.7 million. The No. 1 cause of increased special-education spending is ineffective curriculum and instruction in the early grades, which produce learning disabilities. The lion’s share of the special-ed budget goes to handle disabilities that were caused or made worse by whole language, whole math and the rest of the motley “progressive” education school deforms. Forget the spending increase for OPS. Educating the little bitties right in the first place would remove the need for the spending increase. The only way to force schools to teach kids right is to make them cut their spending so that all they can afford is the right way, which costs significantly less and works significantly better. It’s ironic, but it’s true.

5. OPS operations cost $4,713.76 per pupil in the 1992-93 school year. That increased by nearly 35 percent to $6,346.49 in 2000-01. On top of that, voters in 1999 gave OPS a $254 million bond issue for school construction, which will have to be repaid plus interest in the coming years. It’s Debt Service Hell for OPS taxpayers, for years ahead. This is in an economy in which many people are struggling to make ends meet, and many retirement portfolios have taken a severe downturn in the stock market. But here’s the kicker: if you added up all of the cash funds held in reserve by OPS in the latest financial report on file, you’d find that OPS has more than $88 million sitting in its various cash funds.

Bottom line: Is OPS really cash-strapped?

Or is OPS the one making US cash-strapped?

Let’s try this. Let’s take all of our remaining money, what there is of it, and fashion it into nice, long straps. We can use them to beat the bushes to get people to go out on Nov. 5 and vote “no” on the OPS tax increase.

Sources:

Annual financial reports, Omaha Public Schools and statewide averages, 2000-01 and 1992-93, http://ess.nde.state.ne.us/SchoolFinance/AFR/search/afr.htm

Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom, www.netaxpayers.org

The Omaha World-Herald, “OPS sees the need for override vote,” Sept. 29, 2002, p. B-1.

Nebraska Property Assessment and Taxation office, www.pat.nol.org, Lincoln, (402) 471-5984.

“Scraping for Change to Buy Billy a New Textbook,” report on Nebraska K-12 education spending, Nebraska Tax Research Council, January 1998