.

A Taxpayer's Guide to Surviving CUSD 200: Part I

An enlightening conversation with Superintendant Dr. Brian Harris and Board President Rosemary Swanson

 

Tip #1: If you want the truth, do your own homework.

I had a very interesting conversation with Superintendent Dr. Brian Harris tonight. He was hosting an informational meeting on the Jefferson Preschool project tonight which I attended.

After the (convincing) presentation regarding the need for the Jefferson project to move forward, the floor was opened for questions and comments. I went first.

I took the opportunity to express my support for the Jefferson project itself, but my disappointment with how hard it is to trust CUSD200, given all the misleading and false information they disseminate.

Dr. Harris got very agitated when the word "false" left my lips and immediately pressed me for an example of what I was talking about. So I explained to him that I was referring to what you see below, taken directly from the CUSD 200 website.

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Q:  In 2006, the estimated cost to renovate was $13.5 million.  Why, in 2013, is it $17.6 million?

A:  In 2006, design work was not completed for Jefferson.  It was removed from consideration and the focus was on Hubble.  The 2013 costs increased because:

  • The increase in the detail of the design has provided the ability for a more accurate estimate.
  • Significant issues based on "mistakes" other districts have made in their recently-built early childhood centers are being addressed.
  • The cost of materials has increased in seven years.

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When I described the question, Dr. Harris assured me he was intimately acquainted with the question and the three answers. “What was false?” he demanded.

“For starters,” I began, “the estimate was dated 2007, and not 2006. But even more importantly, the bidding was for Year 2008.”

After a bit of back and forth, it became clear that Dr. Harris is familiar with the concept of inflation and its role in pricing of contracts and bids and the like. All very encouraging.

But he still looked confused. “What's your concern?" he asked.

I had led Dr. Harris to water, but he was obviously in no mood to drink.

 “Look," I said, "let’s cut to the chase. Your website suggests that the $13.5M price tag was for 2006, but the bid is in 2008 dollars. This is your chart.”

I then showed him Exhibit A (see attachments). Exhibit A comes from the proposal presented to CUSD about 6 years ago. It shows the inflation assumptions that the architects built into their “2008 bidding” project estimate - the $13.5M number.

Dr. Harris still looked puzzled.

I then showed Dr. Harris Exhibit B. Exhibit B shows what actually happened over the past 5 years. Prices did rise in 2007 and 2008. But then as we all know the world hit the skids and construction prices plummeted in 2009. To this day construction costs still had not yet returned to their 2008 levels.

Dr. Harris still looked puzzled.

I then stated the obvious: “Your website states that one of the reasons why the price rose was that the cost of materials has increased. That’s false. The truth is, the $13.5M price is the high-water mark price and since then construction costs have declined markedly.

After a bit more back and forth Dr. Harris eventually conceded that what I was saying was entirely true and that he’d do his best to tidy up the website with these corrections.

“Dr. Harris," I then said, "it’s great that you’re going to fix the information on the website, but what concerns me most is that you put false information there in the first place.”

This time around Dr. Harris did not jump on me for using the word false.

Here's why. The below chart shows “bid prices” for the exact same project done the exact same way. The only thing being adjusted in this chart is the construction costs over time, as tracked by the Turner Construction Cost Index that CUSD 200 architects use.

 Year Estimated Cost in 2007   Actual Cost            Comment 2008 $13.5M $13.5M CUSD200 called this a 2006 price 2009 $14.3M $12.4M
2010 no estimate provided $11.9M
2011 no estimate provided $12.1M
2012 no estimate provided $12.5M This is essentially "today's price"

In essence, the above chart shows that the same project done today would cost LESS, not more, than it would have in 2008. If this were eBay, the 2012 "buy it now" price is $12.5M.

Rosemary Swanson, currently serving as President of the CUSD 200 board, was present at the meeting. She seemed strangely unconcerned with this error, the fact that it was large, or that it was on the CUSD 200 website. She said something to the effect that it was all fine and that everyone was doing their best to explain things well.

Tip #2: If CUSD200 is hiding something, see if you can figure out what it is.

Explain things well? The last justification for the price increase is patently false, and the other two justifications are comically lacking in detail.

"Dr. Harris," I said, "why didn't you just tell taxpayers the truth? None of your answers explain that the biggest reason for this price increase is the simple fact that you have increased the project size by more 25%. You want to build a bigger building. Why didn't you just tell the taxpayers that?"

Dr. Harris then tried to fudge. I didn't budge. "NO. Your website doesn't even mention the word 'space' in the answer. There is nothing there to tell the reader that the price has risen because the project got much bigger. Nothing."

Dr. Harris then assured me that they'd fix that in the website too.

Tip #3: When you catch CUSD200 hiding something, they usually promise to stop hiding it.

But of course by that time the false information is already out, and few people will get the corrected story, if indeed it is corrected.

So the conversation moved on and other people asked questions, but as the evening wound down I realized I still didn’t have Dr. Harris’ answer…  did they put the false information there in the website intentionally, or did they simply not know what they were doing?

So I asked Dr. Harris near the end of the session, "Dr. Harris, did you know that the website contained false information?"

Dr. Harris replied, "Well at first I didn't know what you were talking about, but now I understand what you were saying."

"No, Dr. Harris, that is not my question", I chided him. "I'm not asking you if you now understand what I pointed out tonight. I am asking you if you were, or were not, aware that your website is providing false information."

As soon as I said this, the room got a bit noisy, as not only Dr. Harris but also several CUSD200 board members who were in attendance voiced disgust at the question I was asking.

Rosemary Swanson turned around, looked me in the eye, and said (and I quote), "That is one of those 'Have you stopped beating your wife' questions. There is no need for him to answer it."

"Fine," I said to Dr. Harris, "I understand that you do not want to answer the question."

So, fellow taxpayers, there you have it.

Neither the President of the Board nor the District Superintendent felt that (a) a $1.7 million error is a material error, or that (b) Dr. Harris needs to explain to me or to anyone else whether the "mistake" was due to fraudulence or sheer incompetence.

Some readers (and perhaps some CUSD administrators) will wonder where I got the number $1.7 million.

CUSD200 explained their price increase with these words: "The cost of materials has increased in seven years."

Yes, prices have increased since 2006. But if we were to back out the 2006 price for that same project, it would be $11.8 million. I repeat... the 2006 price for the exact same project was $11.8 million. Think of it as inflation in reverse.

The difference between $13.5 million and $11.8 million is $1.7 million, friends.

So if CUSD wishes to talk about price increases since 2006, they have to use the 2006 price.

That means they have to explain NOT the difference between $13.5M and $17.6M, which is about $4.1M.

Rather, they must now explain the difference between $11.8M and $17.6M.

That's $5.8 million. The gap just grew by $1.7M.

So now CUSD 200 has an additional $1.7 million to explain.

Do you think they will? Stay tuned!

In Part II (my next blog, if I get to it) I'll tell you something else we discussed at tonight's meeting. It has to do with a very cool thing: CUSD is going to give everyone a free sofa. New. No charge.

Anybody want to hear that story?

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Charlotte Eriksen (Editor) February 23, 2013 at 01:48 AM
Here is a document posted on the district's website that explains the cost increase from 2006 that Legat Architects provided in December 2012: http://www.cusd200.org/23531086103337757/lib/23531086103337757/SD_Jefferson_Program_Narrative_and_Chart_12_28_2012.pdf.
Charlotte Eriksen (Editor) February 23, 2013 at 01:53 AM
Jan, I counted three reporters, including myself. I didn't see any who are associated with the district, unless you are referring to attendees who work for the district?
Charlotte Eriksen (Editor) February 23, 2013 at 02:02 AM
Thank you, everyone, for commenting on this. Brian, I understand your hope for a new Jefferson and for transparency from District 200. I do have to say that I was also puzzled by your initial question. I felt a little bit like I was following a game of 'confirm/deny'—with the question of what needed to be confirmed or denied still in the air. I feel like I'm late to the game here—but, is the increase of $13.5M to $17.6M not a proportionate increase, considering the increase in size, programming additions to the design and increased costs over time from '08 to '14?
Lee February 23, 2013 at 04:39 AM
JanS: How can you continually fail to understand the difference between the populations of children in the district versus children with special educational needs in the district? Any decline in “overall distrcit enrollment” you state is irrelevant. The number of children with special needs requiring Early Childhood educational services is GROWING. Growing in CUSD200, as well as growing throughout the United States. According to the CDC: from 1997-2008, the prevalence of *any* childhood developmental disorder increased by 17.1%. This is in great part due to the increase in prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) with a 289.5% increase over the last decade. In 2002, 1 in 150 children had an ASD diagnosis. Today, 1 in 88 children have an ASD diagnosis, a 78% increase. As of the 2011-12 school year, every seat of every room at Jefferson is occupied. Children are now being assigned to satellite locations for their education–requiring a *second* set of special ed. educators, materials, and resources (therapists, therapy tools and equipment, accessories, etc.) that are already available at Jefferson. This is NOT “optional pre-K” schooling…this is Federal & State mandated educational service, critical to the long-term development of our most fragile children. As this student population continues to grow, we have a legal, moral and ethical obligation to expand and meet their needs. You are running for the school board and should understand this difference.
JanS February 23, 2013 at 05:56 AM
Understanding all of this is like working a puzzle in which one must first go on a scavenger hunt to find the pieces. There are a wide variety of reasons for children to be diagnosed as special needs. And yes, I have heard that autism is the fastest growing reason. Not all of the children need special equipment. In fact, last night at the forum, Stephanie Farrelly, Jefferson Principal said that the students at Madison all have speech problems but are otherwise normally developing. Furthermore, when I submitted a FOIA for staff costs associated with the pre-K program I was told that it could not be provided because the specialist all work with multiple age groups. Thus, even if all pre-K classes were at one building, those specialist would still travel for students in other grades. I seriously doubt if any cost saving of having all pre-K in one building would ever exceed the construction cost of the larger building. According to our school report card the state average of students with IEPs is 13%. The district has 15%. How big an increase is the proposal? Based on Jefferson web and a FOIA response: currently the district is using 12 classrooms at Jefferson and two classrooms at two other schools for pre-K. that is 14 classrooms. The older estimate increases that to 18 classrooms (a 28% increase). The current proposal in 20 classrooms that is a 42% increase. For more info see my webpage janshaw200.com look under Issues / Referendum Unnecessary.
JanS February 23, 2013 at 06:15 AM
Yes, I meant attendees who work for the district. the real point is there were very few there who did not already know what is being proposed.
Brian Wells February 23, 2013 at 03:12 PM
Hi Charlotte, Sometimes analogies help. Suppose CUSD says, in May of 2007, “We need some vehicles for operational purposes. In total it’ll cost $400,000, including gas expenses. When we buy the cars in 2008 we’re guessing gas prices will be at $4/gal.” Gas was about $3/gal. at the time, and rising fast. Just a few months earlier prices had hovered just about $2/gal. But then CUSD decides to build Hubble instead. Six years later, CUSD 200 comes back and says, “Hey, about those cars. It’s time. Let’s buy them. Yes, the price now is $500,000, but you have to understand that gas prices have risen quite a bit since our initial study in February, 2007, and we also fixed a few “mistakes”.” What they don’t say explicitly is that they now want SUVs, not compacts. Nobody knows what “mistakes” means, and if anyone spot checks the gas story, it looks accurate. After all, gas is approaching $4/gal. Wow. Prices HAVE risen since February, 2007. But the $400,000 estimate WAS NOT BASED ON FEBRUARY 2007 GAS PRICES. The estimate was based on $4.00/gal, and gas prices today are BELOW that level. The real story is, of course, the SUVs. But CUSD 200 didn’t make that very clear, did they? Charlotte, I was simply asking Dr. Harris if he did, or did not, realize that CUSD had abused construction prices in the same manner that this extreme analogy abuses gas prices.
Brian Wells February 23, 2013 at 03:24 PM
And for Brad Paulsen, anointed successor to the board that puts up with this stuff… Here’s another anticipatory clarifying note or two. Please don't explain to me the difference between the actual gas price you pay at the pump and the price of a gas index that covers regional averages. I get it. Furthermore, Brad, the gas analogy stands – even if you paid more than $4.00 per gallon at the gas station yesterday. (So don’t tell me.) Furthermore, Brad, the gas analogy stands – even if you think gas prices are going to rise in 2013. Brad, don’t miss the forest for the trees. Not with the gas analogy. Not with Jefferson. And finally, Brad, I can't help but note that you have much to say now, but you had NOTHING to say at the meeting. If what I was saying was so far off the mark, surely an architect who saw through my mistakes would have spoken up to defend Dr. Harris in person? No?
JanS February 23, 2013 at 03:57 PM
Another question someone asked is What is your plan B? What will you do for our pre-K students if the referendum fails? Dr Harris had no answer. Nor did the three current board members in attendance, Swanson, Knicker, Johnson.
WheatonWisdom February 23, 2013 at 04:24 PM
Comments seem to assume the supposed benefit of expanding pre-K (early childhood education) for non-special needs students. The Obama administration has released the findings of the most comprehensive studies (5,000 students) ever done on the Head Start (early childhood) program. A succinct summary review of the study can be found on a Heritage.org web page at http://blog.heritage.org/2010/01/14/long-overdue-head-start-evaluation-shows-no-lasting-benefit-for-children/ . If you are concerned about bias from this conservative organization, click on the evaluation link and read the research executive summary for yourself (an updated third grade analysis is also now available). The bottom line - taxpayer funded early childhood education provides no lasting academic benefit.
Brian Wells February 23, 2013 at 06:43 PM
Charlotte, that's a very helpful document, and it would appear that Legat has done a bit of sleight-of-hand as well, by switching to another cost index conducive to their goals. (Let's not forget, they're not in this for charity.) But to focus on that is to lose sight of the obvious: Legat explains clearly just how much space has been added. "This program shows a net add of... 9,824 gross square feet.... The cost changed as well due to the increased square footage..." CUSD 200 leaped upon the inflation part, for obvious reasons. They didn't mention the change in square footage. So... let's all get the obvious part clear. Suppose I bought a pound of sugar for $1.00/lb last year but this year I spent $1.27 on sugar. Someone (my mother, perhaps) asks me about my sugar consumption. I can... a) Blame the new price on 2% inflation. Or... b) I can inform my mother that I'm now buying sugar in 1-1/4 lb. bags. Either answer can be argued to stand alone as factually true. And of course both answers *together* give the full truth. But if I'm going to give Mom only *one* answer, which one does she want? CUSD 200 hasn't figured out that taxpayers want the truth. Well, maybe they have, but they are still not giving it to us.
Concerned parent February 24, 2013 at 03:46 PM
I still have yet to understand what building this $17M facility will do to help this population of children. While it is true that there are more children being diagnosed with special needs, our population is getting older. The age group this affects has been trending down- at least my interpretation of the census numbers. How specifically is the "building" going to improve the quality of the special education services? And please don't talk to me about bathrooms and broom closets. I've asked a few people about renovating or adding on to the current building, but I've only heard that the option was explored and would be more expensive. Can we please see that plan? How about that cup of coffee? Have you looked at your water bill lately?
Ralphy February 25, 2013 at 02:47 AM
I agree with concerned parent. I currently work with special needs students in a poorly outfitted place but it is the quality of the teaching and the services the students receive that is what matters. As concrned parent states, "how specifically is the "building" going to improve the quality of the secial ed services?"
Kevin Fitzpatrick February 25, 2013 at 03:11 PM
Hank, I don't believe that you "understand political background that both you and Lisa have". I'm very cognizant of the taxing and spending issues in the State of Illinois and the impending doom they portend. The pension "bomb" is very real, must be addressed and unfortunately that issue can only be addressed by the State Legislature. Local districts do need to be put on notice (and they have been) that spiking salaries at the end of careers puts everyone's pension in jeopardy. This is a special needs school we're talking about here. It may be very difficult or even impossible to retrofit for this. I've seen the same dilemma with senior care facilities. Hallways and doorways need to be much wider, bathrooms are in complete need of updated standards. I believe what is being discussed here is erecting a new building on land the district already owns. That is probably the most efficient plan possible. If not, offer a specific alternative. As for material costs, some have indeed gone up significantly, specifically petroleum based materials, shingles, tar roofing, mortar. Some contractors will reduce the labor at the moment to get the work. I know you refer to holding a reserve fund balance as "padding", but I assure you the cost of borrowing is directly related to the bond rating. A reserve balance at 25-30% of operating cost is what bond houses look for. Don't take my word for it. Ask a reputable finance guy. I know this to be true.
Hank Kruse February 25, 2013 at 04:07 PM
Kevin, the hallways can be expanded to meet the needs of the students. Why is one builing needed? How about two smaller buildings, geograhically placed that will cost less money. Additionally, the taxpayer needs to review the schools past actions on building, compensation and benefits. CUSD #200's track record is not sterling in this arena.
mindy k February 26, 2013 at 03:59 AM
As a lifelong resident of district 200, a provider of early intervention (birth to three) services, and the mother of a tuition paying, typically developing child who attends Jefferson, I am sickened and dumbfounded by the repeated ignorance of people in this community. SHAME ON YOU. The questions of the bid/quote/price whatever aside, the cost out of MY pocket versus the benefit of a new school for preschoolers in the community is not even a question. Have you ever set foot inside that building and seen the condition teachers in WHEATON are working in? Yes, the teachers, the staff, every last one of them, are amazing. The teachers are triple certified in early childhood, special ed, and ELL. That is unheard of at the preschool level! I have worked with the program at Jefferson for nine years, transitioning kids with special needs from Early intervention to early childhood. And yes, that means kids who have IEPs for things as basic as speech delays, to kids with sensory processing disorders, autism, down syndrome, genetic disorders, etc. In my years working with the staff at Jefferson, I learned that it is an incredible program inspite of the building it is housed in and made the decision to enroll my son at Jefferson because I believe that it is the best preschool in our community. Yet I wonder, how much better could it be with a facility that can better and more adequately serve these kids, many of whom are medically fragile and use wheelchairs or walkers...
mindy k February 26, 2013 at 04:04 AM
additionally, the suggestion that they should have rehabbed another building in district to use as a "new" jefferson.... um, what building? and the suggestion that they build two smaller buildings is assinine. a school is a community, and part of the current issue is that the building can't house it's entire community in one location. i also have nothing nice to say about the clearly right wing anti-head start link. try the heckman equation, which the president alluded to in the SOTU address http://www.heckmanequation.org/heckman-equation - it's common sense. the sooner we start, the further they'll go. for every $1 put in at the early childhood level, we will save $7 in the long run.
Hank Kruse February 26, 2013 at 11:34 AM
Mindy, you may not like the suggestions and would rather go for the all-or-none approach. I find that looking at a situation with "fresh" eyes may accomplish the purposes of all concerned. Regarding separate buildings issue, under your scenario we should close Wheaton North and bus all the children to Wheaton Warrenville, to build community.
Sam D February 26, 2013 at 02:36 PM
Mindy, not all people have the financial means you do and while the Jefferson tax increase is by itself small, it is not the only tax that has increased. The State legislature now wants to make the 2011 temporary income tax increase permanent, water commission bills are up, the Social Security tax is up, we are paying for Hubble and so on. I think a lot people feel the School Board did a very poor job on the Hubble project are justifiably concerned they are doing a poor job here. Frankly, they could have been less extravagant on Hubble and built "2 for 1." Recall, that their handpicked appraiser valued Old Hubble at $20 million and it only sold for $5.2 million. Ironically, the $14.8 million difference is close to the estimated Jefferson project. I bet most people would vote for Jefferson, but the numbers here do not add up and the School Board has, either intentionally or by poor project management, not come across and thoughtful and most importantly, transparent.
Randy Johnson February 26, 2013 at 03:58 PM
We know - every teacher is amazing - they all deserve new buildings to work in, and raises, and increased pensions, and more time off..... The problem is this - HOW DO WE PAY FOR IT? Many people have not had a raise in 5 years, their property values have fallen, but their taxes keep going up. How long do you think this trend can last?
Lee February 26, 2013 at 08:47 PM
JanS, The only issue I find puzzling is your presentation of statistics. Again, your stats (this time it’s “state average of students with an IEP in IL versus the district”) are irrelevant. I'm hoping you're not intentionally trying to mislead voters. But I thought your bio indicated you once taught high school math and worked in technology? Hence, this should be straightforward to one with your educational background. Your statistic tells us there is a 2% greater saturation of students with IEPs in our district, vs the overall state average. And this includes all IEP students from Jefferson, as well as our Elementary, Middle, & High Schools. There are 289 seats at Jefferson. There are 13,423 students in the district. Do you really think the enrollment at Jefferson is the deciding factor on how many “extra” IEP kids are educated in district 200? But even that answer is irrelevant! It doesn’t matter how many of our 3 –18 yr old students in CUSD200 have IEPs vs. the State. This issue is about an outgrown, outdated building that fails to comply with the needs of our 3--5 yr old children who are eligible for early childhood education. The only the numbers that matter are 1) the number of seats available at the Jefferson building, 2) the number of children being sent offsite due to Jefferson's 100% capacity, and 3) the continued, year-over-year growth of the special needs population, WITHIN our existing district boundaries, that we will see over the next 5+ years.
Lee February 26, 2013 at 08:50 PM
(cont. 2) But even that answer is irrelevant! It doesn’t matter how many of our 3 –18 yr old students in CUSD200 have IEPs vs. the State. This issue is about an outgrown, outdated building that fails to comply with the needs of our 3--5 yr old children who are eligible for early childhood education. The only the numbers that matter are 1) the number of seats available at the Jefferson building, 2) the number of children being sent offsite due to Jefferson's 100% capacity, and 3) the continued, year-over-year growth of the special needs population, WITHIN our existing district boundaries, that we will see over the next 5+ years. This is not statistics…this is simple “more than, less than” comparison. There are 289 seats at Jefferson. Two years ago (2011-12), all 289 seats at Jefferson were filled, while an additional 59 children with EC needs were sent offsite. This year (2012-13), there will be more than 59 children being sent offsite from Jefferson. And, next year, there will be even more children requiring EC services. In fact, there will be continued growth in children born with and diagnosed with special needs over the next 10 years, according to the CDC.
Lee February 26, 2013 at 08:54 PM
(cont 3) You’ve been complaining about “why build something so big?” since December. And your big “beef” in your last comment is about an older building estimate, made in 2007, specifying construction of 18 classrooms, while the new plan specifies 20 classrooms. And this TWO CLASSROOM difference makes you angry and distrusting of the district. However, back in 2006-2007, the Jefferson building was NOT filled to capacity. How many classrooms were filled back then…maybe 9 or 10 or out of the 12 available? That was FIVE school years ago. In the 5 years since that outdated estimated, ALL remaining classrooms have been filled and, at least, 2 classrooms are held outside Jefferson. That tells us that ECC enrollment today is already, at a *minimum*, 3 classrooms greater than in 2006-7. (Why 3? Because the Jefferson building was not at 100% capacity…there must have been, at least, one unused classroom.) Hence, we’re already “using” those 2 additional classrooms that you dispute (in addition to the unused Jefferson capacity in 2006-7.) Are you suggesting we build a brand new facility (or restore an existing facility) that will be outgrown in the near future?
Lee February 26, 2013 at 08:58 PM
(final) Both the District Administration and the Board of Education are responsible for long-term planning. From the long-term planning perspective, they have made a rational and resourceful capacity planning decision. How can you contest this historical growth, the expected future growth, and the need for additional room? The fact that you have not drawn this same conclusion displays how drastically under-qualified you are for such a position. If you want any of your cohorts (who oppose the current school board for rational reasons) to have a chance, you should immediately withdraw from the campaign and not dilute the vote.
WheatonWisdom February 26, 2013 at 10:01 PM
Thanks for taking the typical progressive liberal approach of attacking people that disagree with you rather than dealing with the facts. Let me repeat, THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION is the entity that released the Head Start report. They tracked 3 and 4 year old cohorts comprised of 5,000 children through 1st grade and 3rd grade (split between control and Head Start). They could not find any significant academic benefit from Head Start pre-K. It is hard data rather than the altuistic qualitative statements like the one you quoted. There was absolutely no data presentd to support his economic analysis nor were there any sampling details for any study. I highly recommend readers go to both links and compare the information presented. Theorizing and hoping that pre-K makes a difference does not make it a reality. More to come on "investing"....
WheatonWisdom February 26, 2013 at 10:10 PM
Now let's examine the INVESTMENTS taxpayers have to make for the non-special needs students. Now consider that fully allocated CUSD 200 operating cost (including instruction) per pupil is $11,529 from the 2012 Illinois Interactive Report Card. Using Jefferson tuition of $235 per student per month for two sessions per day times 10 months, total “student” tuition amounts to $4,700 which means that taxpayers are losing $6,829 for every tuition based “student”. Therefore, I disagree with the district information that tuition students are covering their costs. They are not, they cost thousands per year per student. No wonder there is a waiting list at only $235 per month. However, supporting our most vulnerable is not just a government mandate, it is the right thing to do. If the current Jefferson facility requires reasonable expansion, remodeling, etc. to provide appropriate facilities for the special needs students we should spend some money - maybe it should be funded by the grant money. But this voter is not convinced that a $17.6 million referendum or a $23.4 million debt for a completely new building with all the bells and whistles is warranted at this time. The taxpayers have already burned by the financial disaster of Hubble where voters were promised $20 - $30 million for the old Hubble property.
Lee February 26, 2013 at 10:17 PM
The “Head Start Program” is a program of the U.S.Department of Health and Human Services that provides comprehensive education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services to low-income children and their families. This is not the same as, nor should be confused with Early Ed. programs offered at Jefferson or any other local preschool. Although valuation of preschool is completely off-topic to Jefferson referendum, here’s a great article from the 02/13/13 Washington Post, “Hey Congress: Pre-K is a better investment than the stock market” indicating: “A number of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have been conducted to measure the effects of high-quality early childhood education. The most influential are the Perry Preschool Project and the Carolina Abecedarian Project. Those are two randomized trials, conducted in 1960s Michigan and 1970s North Carolina, respectively. Participants have been followed ever since so as to ascertain long-term outcomes in terms of things like Incarceration Rates, Teen Pregnancy, Average Education Level, Average Income, and more. Because the studies were randomized, we can know beyond a reasonable doubt that any significant differences are due to the influence of the preschool programs. BOTH FOUND HUGE ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL GAINS TO HIGH-QUALITY PRESCHOOL." It's all about the quality of the education!!! http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/02/13/hey-congress-pre-k-is-a-better-investment-than-the-stock-market/
Lee February 26, 2013 at 10:40 PM
The US Census does not poll for nor publish any data on the number of children being diagnosed with special needs. Which census numbers are you trying to interpret?
Brad Paulsen February 27, 2013 at 12:00 AM
As Lee wrote earlier today the program at Jefferson is not a Head Start program. Head Start is a federal program focused on low-income students and families that have challenging socio-economic "situations". Any conclusions drawn from whether Head Start is effective or ineffective are irrelevant to the merits of the Jefferson proposal.
WheatonWisdom February 27, 2013 at 09:58 PM
Brad, let me explain the relevancy. First, who do you think the "fee waiver" students are and will be at Jefferson - low income and families that have challenging socio-economic situations. Second, it was a pre-K study and the most recent and expansive study done on pre-K benefit (Jefferson pre-K more closely resembles Head Start's program than the studies cited by Lee - see the WSJ for a recent article). Finally, I guess you had not heard that CUSD 200 has a partnership with the Head Start program currenty and it may expand - on this relevant fact I had expected more from someone running for the school board.

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