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OPINION: Schlafly Urges 'No' Vote on Ladue Schools Levy

The well-known conservative political activist is opposed to the school district's question on the April ballot.

Dear Friend,

I am writing to ask you to vote against a big property tax increase on April 3. The Ladue School Board is proposing a tax increase of $466 for every $500,000 of your home’s appraised value.

I care about St. Louis, the city where I was born and raised. I started my education long ago at the DeMun Elementary School and ended it with a B.A. and a J.D. from Washington University. I’ve lived for the last 18 years in Ladue.

The School Board says this tax increase is needed to avoid $2.1 million in spending cuts. The Board should tighten its belt like taxpayers and businesses have had to do in the current recession. There are plenty of ways to cut the budget, such as freezing salaries and benefits instead of handing out raises. The district employs 13 counselors and 12 principals/assistant principals for six schools. A “director of diversity” makes $94,913 and an “administrative intern” makes $83,981. The average full-time teacher salary (not including generous benefits) is $60,552 for 9 months of work during school hours. The superintendent makes $184,000 — 37% more than the Governor of Missouri. The $14.5 million new Early Childhood Center and full-day kindergarten are unnecessary taxpayer-funded babysitting. Elementary school foreign language instruction is a waste. The district does not need to keep spending $20,907 per student as it did in 2011 (including debt service and capital outlays). That is almost as much as tuition for MICDS.

To make matters worse, board members admit they want more tax increases in the future, because they say the levy on the April ballot is not nearly enough to dig them out of their fiscal hole.

            The way to send a message to the School Board to live within its means is to vote NO on Proposition 1 on April 3. Thank you.

flyoverland March 27, 2012 at 03:10 PM
If you knew my circumstances you would be ashamed of what you just said.
Heather Allen March 27, 2012 at 03:50 PM
mjf - I'm sure this isn't news to you, but I'd like to add that the Board did put out a Request for Proposal for a real estate broker on the Clayton Road site. The RFP states they will meet on this issue in March or April. http://docs2.ladue.k12.mo.us/docushare/dsweb/Get/Version-3386/RFP-Real%2520Estate%2520Broker.pdf
PEB March 27, 2012 at 04:22 PM
flyoverland - Just who do you think you and the "district watchdogs" are? Are those elected positions? Why do you feel you should get special treatment? Are you waiting for an engraved invitation to get involved? The school board meeting where hundreds of possible cuts that could be made was open to the community. The committee was comprised of parents, teachers, and members of the community. Where were you and the district watchdogs? They laid out hundreds of items stratified by how much of an effect the cut would have on the schools both positive (savings) and negative (effect on programs). Where were you?? Oh yes, sulking at home because the Superintendent forgot your special invitation!
flyoverland March 27, 2012 at 05:16 PM
Do you have a clue how the political system works? Do you think a legislator gets up one morning and says, "hey, I've got a good idea. I think I will write up a bill and put it in the hopper." Do you think a candidate for any office just throws his hat into the ring without any work on potential voters. Anyone who wants anything political gets his ducks in a row beforehand. This is the same thing. Support is gained before the announcement. If you can't see that, I can't help you.
mjf March 27, 2012 at 05:32 PM
Haley, I'm not sure how else I can explain this but let's try this way. We are talking about assessed value per student and the total additional revenue that the school has received over the last 10 years from increased assessments. Using assessed value per student as the variable, the revenue LSD receives attributable to the additional 713 students (on a per-student basis) is 713 x +/- $12,500 per student = $9,000,000 of additional revenue per year to support these additional students. (The other 3,200 students also saw the revenue attributable to them increase by around 26% over the 10 year period.) To put this in perspective, on a stand-alone basis, if you started a new high school with 713 students and $12,500 per student in revenue, you could operate a new school equivelant St. Joseph's Academy. St. Joe's has 660 students and a tuition of $11,500 per year.
PEB March 27, 2012 at 05:37 PM
So are you against this becasue you were slighted? I don't think so and I doubt it would have done any good to hold your hands and kiss your feet. Anyone can attend the meetings.
Fixed Income March 27, 2012 at 05:58 PM
I think he answered you pretty clearly. Do you really think people are sitting around wanting to go to school board meetings? There is an old story about Henry Ford who was having breakfast with his best friend who was in the insurance business. The man was reading the paper and read where Ford had just given its insurance business to the man's competitor. He said, "Henry, I'm your best friend, how could you give this to my competitor?" Henry said, "He asked, you didn't."
PEB March 27, 2012 at 06:31 PM
Again, who do you think you are? The lord of Ladue. Get involved in the process. There was a LOT of discussion before the board decided to put this on the ballot. Maybe your engraved invitation got lost in the mail ...
flyoverland March 27, 2012 at 08:52 PM
I am sure that if this district sent out invitations, they would be engraved. How is this "process" working out for you?
Robin March 28, 2012 at 03:47 AM
Flyoverland- I am sure if there are parents who think that Mckenna is still the superintendant then they are completely clueless and frankly I am having trouble believing you as he wasn't a Super. during these kids time at Ladue...so you are talking about people who know who the Super. was before they had children in the system- BUT don't know who is the Superintendant now...and haven't known the last 3? Or, the other option is they are idiots and not at all representative of the involved, educated, parents that we have been discussing. I believe there are people who want to embrace the VoteNo as they want a reason to not pay more taxes...and they have been given an excuse- no matter how inaccurate the No campaigns' information is. I wish people would just admit that they don't want to pay-instead of insulting and offending people who have DONATED an enormous amount of their time to trying to do what they think is right and helpful for their district.They may not always get it right...but at least they are putting their time/money where their mouths are. What have you done lately for your community. You have been dismissive condescending and frankly I am sick of attempting to have a polite discourse with you.
Robin March 28, 2012 at 03:53 AM
Who is making it personal now Flyover??? We don't know your circumstances any more than you know all of ours. Though this may come as a shock to you given all of your comments here.....You, do not know everything.
Haley Morgan March 28, 2012 at 05:40 PM
I have just one more thought I would like to add. The school system is also radically different than it was in 1983 since I was actually still in High School at that time. Technology has exploded and schools have had to keep up. The period of time when times were good the Ladue Schools invested in the schools by reducing class sizes, creating computer labs, adding foreign language in the elementary schools, increasing AP class offering at the high school , as well as growing our enrichment programs and creating a more competitive curriculum just to name a few. When I was in high school in the 1980's I know my experience was not what the Ladue Schools offer today. We live in a extremely competitve time academically. These things did not exist to the extent they do today back in 1983 and the changes Ladue Schools have made over the years has made them one of the top districts in the country and have allowed our graduates to be accepted at the top universities. The district did not waste money even though I am sure as with any organization they didn't always use it as effectively as they could have. In the last 10 years I have been involved with the district I have always been impressed with the financial prudence in which decisions are made and the great care and discussion that takes place in any decision facing the district.
Melissa Pesce March 28, 2012 at 05:56 PM
I have been keeping up with the debate comparing education costs in 1980 to education costs now. MJF, I understand your argument that if you simply convert 1980 dollars to 2012 dollars adjusting for inflation, then we actually have more money to spend now than in 1980. So, I did a little digging and found a ton of research that says education costs always significantly outpace the cost of inflation. I found dozens of articles explaining why. Here is a short one that explains the fundamentals: http://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2011/01/12/understanding-education-costs-versus-inflation/
SS March 28, 2012 at 07:48 PM
The amount of language students learn taking Spanish at the elementary schools is amazing, considering they only get it for an hour a week, if that. They are like little sponges. While some of you consider it an "Extra," in many other countries, students start a second, third (or beyond) language very young as standard practice. The US is one of the most educated countries, yet so far behind on this. Students should be learning another language everywhere. It would be a travesty to lose another language. Second of all, the Director of Diversity position should be eliminated. The person in it is someone who almost no one in the district respects, can't get an administrative job that actually leads a building, and is just put in a corner of the admin building to be invisible. Yet, it's NOT being eliminated, whether Prop 1 posses or not. Why? You tell me. Lastly, the counselors and principals at the elementary level are extremely stretched thin. There are so many kids who get pulled out of class due to behavioral concerns that they have to be with them all the time. There isn't enough time in the day.
Melissa Pesce March 29, 2012 at 02:04 PM
MJF- My response was tailored only to the discussion about the increased property valuations sufficiently covering increased education costs without a tax increase. As to the argument that 3/4 of LSD operating costs are for teacher salaries, I basically agree. If you look at all other districts and private schools, teacher salaries account for 70-80% of their operating budgets, too. That information is also readily available online. My only purpose in providing a response is to make sure the correct factual information is out there for voters who may be undecided. I am in no way disillusioned into thinking my remarks will in any way change your mind or the minds of others who are firmly opposing the tax increase. In the same regard, there is absolutely nothing you could say to change my mind either. I respect your opinion even though I disagree with it. Personally, I think we live in the greatest school district in the state. The fact that our teacher salaries, cost per student and other expenses are not the highest in our area and we still maintain such a high standard of excellence is a tribute to the quality of our district. That is my opinion, and I am certain others will disagree.
cck March 29, 2012 at 04:38 PM
mjf said - "Haley, I agree with you that teacher’s jobs should be spared at all costs, and should be the last thing the Board cuts. The Board made this about the teachers when they said to parents, "Pass Prop 1 or we’re firing teachers", as if they don’t have any other choices." If you eliminate Spanish that means FIRING teachers!!!! If you cut back on PE, that means FIRING teachers. If you eliminate the buses, that means FIRING bus drivers. If you increase the class sizes, that means FIRING teachers. If you elimate gifted programming, that means FIRING teachers. If BASK is taken to market value (i.e. the YMCA comes into run it to make a profit), that means FIRING the BASK employees.
MomOfThreeBoys March 29, 2012 at 04:38 PM
I do not know your circumstances. I was commenting on "unelectable". Please do not twist what I said. No personal attack intended.
cck March 29, 2012 at 06:23 PM
Prop 1 has NOTHING to do with increasing teacher pay to the rate of pay in Clayton.
Melissa Pesce March 29, 2012 at 06:25 PM
There is a lot of talk about "average" teacher salaries in Ladue but not much about starting salaries to bring that number into perspective. Ladue teacher starting salary is $38,850, which is actually 6th out of the top 8 county schools (behind Clayton, Kirkwood, Pattonville, Rockwood, Parkway). Not far behind Ladue are Webster Groves and Maplewood. I think this is very important so that voters realize that Ladue is NOT setting the pace for teacher salaries. And, while the average teacher salary is approximatley $60,000, we all know how averages work. One teacher who has been with the district for 25 years and makes a nice salary can really affect the average. So, while I don't dispute the average salary being posted, I think it is important to remember that teachers don't start at $60,000 and many teachers don't make anywhere near that number.
Jill Moore March 29, 2012 at 08:15 PM
I'm voting YES on Prop. One. But I strongly disagree with any district raises at this point. I care more about my own child than I do about giving raises. I understand that we need to retain good teachers but there are hundreds of thousands of teachers out of work nation wide. We're not the only district having problems. If there are teachers in our district who cannot stick it out a few years for a raise then so be it.....I'm sure there are other wonderfully qualified teachers who will fill those spots. I'm not really interested in getting into a competition with other districts over who pays their teachers more or who has the highest starting salary. We're taking our eye off the ball. Do the math. If we give even a 2% raise to all teachers that will mean taking a LOT of money out of the budget which could have been used to save programs or to bring previously cut programs back. We can't have it all people. We have to live in the budget and I for one want to spend the budget in a way that is of maximum value to my CHILD not to adults who want raises. Not saying they don't deserve them.....just saying it might not be the smartest choice right now. We NEED Prop. One to pass and then we need to get real about how to spend the budget.
Jill Moore March 29, 2012 at 08:18 PM
Also meant to add. I in NO way agree with Mrs. Schlafly on her statements regarding full day Kindergarten or early learning of foreign language. These are VITAL to a strong educational foundation and I find her views on this extremely antiquated. I am a stay at home mom and choose full day kindergarten because of the wealth of knowledge my child is experiencing.....it's not day care.
Mark Wilson March 31, 2012 at 04:51 PM
After reading through every comment on this article, my IQ dropped about 30 points.
Fixed Income March 31, 2012 at 07:58 PM
Jill, if every teacher offered to forego a raise, we wouldn't need the tax increase. The shortfall is a little more than $2 million. The tax increase will raise about $7 million. They will use it for more raises and then be broke again. Their own projections show another multimillion dollar deficit in 2015. Voting yes is simply enabling a board that is insatiable. If this passes, they will be back again for more within a year.
LAS March 31, 2012 at 11:44 PM
Investing in quality educators does not equate to financial irresponsibility. I spend almost every waking moment of every day thinking about my Ladue students. To those of you commenting on how funds should be allocated in a more child-centered way: I would suggest that you trust the teachers that your children interact with for 6-8 hours every day-- dedicated individuals that know and value child-centered practices, from both an academic, and a social-emotional standpoint. If salaries freeze, a quality teacher may eventually move on-- not because he or she is greedy, but because, as people in all other walks of life who accept promotions/raises know, a teacher wants to maximize his or her market value. Haley Morgan says her child has already paid a price, and Jill Moore says she wants the district "to spend the budget in a way that is of maximum value to my CHILD not to adults who want raises." Jill, Haley is not imagining the effects of cuts on her children's education. Top-tier teachers will leave if they are compelled to. Teachers ARE selfless, but it doesn't make financial sense for them to leave Brentwood/Kirkwood/Clayton money on the table. If other districts continue to give raises, and Ladue does not, it will become a less attractive destination-- maybe marginally, or maybe significantly over time.
LAS April 01, 2012 at 12:21 AM
I apologize for back-to-back comments, but I just wanted to add one more thought. If Prop 1 does not pass, class sizes will increase. Elementary classes currently have about 20 students. The recommendation is that class sizes increase to around 27 students. This may be another cause for teachers to search for a job that provides a better quality of life. I feel that by teaching 20 students, rather than 27, I have a greater opportunity to make a difference in my students' lives, simply because I can devote more individual time to each child. I'm sure some would consider a move motivated by class size a betrayal of the community's children. From the outside looking in, it's really hard to understand the impact of an extra seven kids. It's been said again and again, but please trust someone who teaches to understand the practice of teaching. As a teacher, I want to make the biggest impact I possibly can. Our work is replaceable, no doubt. But if the conditions for work become less favorable, the high-quality education that Ladue is statistically-proven to provide will be more difficult to replace.
Fixed Income April 01, 2012 at 12:42 AM
This election is not about the teachers. The district made it about teachers when it said it would fire some if this didn't pass. Teachers are paying the price for bad decisions made by the school board. Probably every teacher in the district now wishes the board had not been so impulsive to buy Westminster in a recession. The opponents of Prop O were right. Everyone sees that now, except the board and its administration. Think about it. Who else was going to buy it? We probably could have even bought it for less if we made them wait. Any business guy would tell you that's how it works. The board then made the bad decision to try to soak taxpayers with a huge increase when a more modest, temporary increase probably would have passed without opposition. The board never even bothered discussing it with those they knew would oppose it. Then you get the junk mail propaganda from the incumbents and they brag about what a great job they're doing. They honestly can't be serious. Do they think all those yellow signs are the work of three or four cranks? Half this district is disgusted with the job they are doing. Until the teachers have a vote of no confidence in the board and the parents field a blue ribbon panel of board candidates, nothing is going the change. There is plenty of money, this is about how it's being spent. This board has never seen a buck it didn't want to spend twice.
Jill Moore April 01, 2012 at 12:42 AM
LAS, I want you, and all teachers, to know that I appreciate you VERY MUCH! And I do not think you are greedy for wanting raises. It is not that I do not want teachers to have raises.....it is just that I feel it is wrong for the district to cut programming and increase class sizes saying we have no money and then turn around and give raises. It sends the wrong message. I completely agree with you about the extreme value of smaller class sizes. It is better for the students and better for the teachers. When the district is increasing class sizes and cutting programs yet still giving raises, it feels like those raises are on the backs of our children. I think most teachers are rational, appreciate their position, appreciate the seniority they have built up within the Ladue district and appreciate that, when the economy is better, we will continue to increase pay. However, I do not like the scare tactics the district is using right now and all the propaganda about keeping "competitive" with other districts. I don't stay "competitive" with what all my neighbors buy or spend money on because I can only afford what MY budget allows. I am PRO teacher and PRO prop. one. I just think we need to hold off raises right now if, in fact, the district feels our funds are so low that class sizes cannot return to preferred levels right now and if we are still talking about programming cuts.
Jill Moore April 01, 2012 at 12:48 AM
Ran out of character space above but I also wanted to mention this. I am willing to give MORE than the amount of money Prop. One will cost my family if it means we can get class sizes to preferred levels, keep all programming AND give TEACHERS raises. I am told it is a monumental task, but I am currently trying to work with the district on ideas for a charitable fund to which parents could donate annually. The fund would then be divided up evenly amongst district teachers. Here is my thought. A 2% raise on the average Ladue District Teacher's salary is $1,200 per year. However, if we averaged a $100 donation per student, teachers could see a check closer to $2,200 per year from the charitable fund. Of course, some parents will not be able or willing to donate but some parents will donate MORE than $100 per student they have in the district. I'm TRYING to come up with a solution that would make the teachers and moms like me happy. Like I said, it's not that I don't want the teachers to make more money.....I just don't want my children paying the price by losing programming and having these large class sizes. If we can get back to Ladue preferred class sizes, keep programs AND give teachers raises, then I'm all for it and I'll happily write a check over and above the Prop. One increase.
Jill Moore April 01, 2012 at 12:53 AM
well enlighten us then Mark......what would you do to solve the problem?
Jill Moore April 01, 2012 at 12:57 AM
Fixed Income. I still support Prop. One. I really do believe our schools and our property values are in grave danger if we don't pass Prop. One. However, I agree with you that we all need to be more vocal and more involved in how the budget is spent from here on out. We need to make sure the district will NOT be back with another levy in the near future and we need to get our class sizes back down. I do not think the district is currently asking too much but I DO disagree with some of their plans for spending in the next few years. There is still much time to get involved and affect change in the budget process. I would urge you to vote yes in support of the children, then join me in holding the district's feet to the fire to make sure not one penny is mis-spent from here on out.

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