AllenN's blog

Regional school grabs extras from Acton

The warrant was released this week for the annual Town Meeting starting on April 7, 2014. You can view the warrant at the town website here: http://www.acton-ma.gov/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/5502

The warrant contains several articles related to the expanded regionalization of the schools. Warrant article 22 (page 49) is concerning and Acton Forum has asked for more clarification on it. We will send out an update when it is received, but the appearance so far doesn't look favorable to us.

FinCom sees little picture

Acton's Finance Committee, charged with long-range financial planning, once again missed the boat at their last meeting (March 11, 2014) by voting 6-3 to recommend the new regional school assessment, despite an obvious imbalance in the assessment formula which favors Boxborough over Acton.

O'Bamas reveal Irish roots

(KIEV, UKRAINE, MARCH 17, 2014) -- President Barack O'Bama, while on a whirlwind tour of exotic lands with his wife, announced he is actually an Irishman in disguise. He was joined by Michelle O'Bama in the Ukraine, who also revealed deep Irish roots, having once worn a green dress in public.

Why are town leaders not surprised by the assessment shift?

In Part one, we examined the causes and magnitudes of the school assessment increase. See "Assessment shift is the issue" at http://www.actonforum.com/blogs/allenn/assessment-shift-issue).

Now, we are going to look at the public statements made by several town leaders who claim not to be surprised by this shift. In other words, what our leaders are trying to say is that Town Meeting was not misinformed last June, we all expected this shift in favor of Boxborough, and nothing unusual is happening. Perhaps none of these leaders attended last June's Town Meeting?

Assessment shift is the issue

Over the last few weeks, we've learned that the school budget is going up 2.6% (down from 4% after some fancy footwork which moved many items "off budget") but Acton's assessment is going up 4.6%, for an extra $1 million that Acton taxpayers will have to pay.

If school spending were to blame for this shift, as some have suggested, then Boxborough's assessment would also be going up. Instead, their assessment is decreasing 6%.

Putin the Bully

Our schools are teaching the lesson now that bullying is wrong and they have vowed to eliminate it from the school. It's a good lesson in a world without bullies. Our kids are going to grow up not knowing how to handle people like Vladimir Putin.

Free Ride

Acton's school cost next year is projected to be $50.4 million, which has been calculated as a net 4.6% increase over last year's school spending. If you try to figure out how that was calculated, forget it. No one seems to understand it, but one thing we can all understand is that our taxes are going up next year in spite of all the promised savings from regionalization and a declining school enrollment.

You get less of it

"If you tax it, you get less of it."

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) just released a new report on the effects of a higher minimum wage. It looked at raising the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 (President Obama's number) and to $9.00 (something in between). See their report at http://www.cbo.gov/publication/44995

No one should be shocked by the news that forcing companies to pay higher wages will result in significant layoffs. That seems to counter what you hear most politicians and voters saying: they want more jobs, not fewer jobs.

Regionalization recap

As my regular readers know, Acton is going to be facing some unique fiscal challenges over the next few years, which are being created in part by our decision to fully regionalize our schools with Boxborough. Some of the dangers were discussed at a recent Acton Leadership Group (ALG) meeting by the Finance Committee members. While most people seem to recognize that there are issues, no one seems to know yet the scope. It could take a couple of years for things to become clearer.

School budget cuts bogus

Editorial opinion by Allen Nitschelm

Many have said that they thought the transition from three school committees to one would be rocky. They were right.

Acton voters have woken up to find out that some promises made to them at Town Meeting last year during the expanded regionalization debate were misleading at best. Projected savings that were discussed in terms of whether we should spend them or return them to taxpayers have completely disappeared and been replaced with higher costs that will require more taxpayer support than had we not fully regionalized.

Regionalization costing Acton extra $1 million per year

Editorial Opinion by Allen Nitschelm

The plan to fully regionalize the Acton-Boxborough schools is costing Acton taxpayers an extra $1 million per year for five years, and more thereafter, contrary to what Acton voters were told at the Special Town Meeting in June, 2013 at which the expanded region was approved.

New study proves human bodies cause global warming

A new study by NASA and the Obama administration proves conclusively that human bodies are in fact the sole cause of global warming.

This surprising result was mentioned in passing during President Obama's State of the Union speech, in which he said that "climate change is a fact."

What Obama was referencing was the new NASA study that has linked the increase in global warming to the increase in the human population. The global population tops 7 billion, with 317 million in the U.S. alone.

Sad Vindication

I am truly sad to report that my misgivings about full regionalization of the Acton and Boxborough schools appear to be coming true.

The vanishing Post Office

The post office is pricing itself into oblivion. The cost of mailing a letter just went up three cents.

The Post Office is eventually going to go out of business with their pricing strategy. You might not think this is true, but hear me out. How often does a business in trouble raise their prices? It doesn't make sense and I can't think of an instance where this has happened--except for our Post Office.

Write for Acton Forum and Get Paid!

We have come up with a new way to pay local journalists and bloggers for their work.

Journalists can do weekly or monthly stories on local news or events, feature stories, or cover breaking news as it happens in Acton.

Bloggers can do opinion pieces on politics, favorite activities or hobbies, or areas of expertise.

We would love to publish things about Acton or Massachusetts that make it unique. Tips for finding hidden treasures, great biking or walking trails, the best local farms for produce or apple-picking, or the latest book reviews from your local book club.

The demise of Patch

As some of you may be aware, the chain of "hyper-local" news sites called Patch has hit a rough one.

Another round of staff layoffs has occurred which has directly affected Acton's Patch. We've had a succession of Patch editors over the last year or two and now our local editor (who I just met with two weeks ago) has apparently been fired.

School mission: social service agency

Acton's school mission has had a fairly profound change over the last few years, and I'm not talking just about our newly expanded regional school system.

At the "budget Saturday" meeting on February 1, 2014, a parade of school administrators led by Liza Huber, the Director of Pupil Services, explained how the role of the schools as a social services agency has evolved. Huber, whose primary responsibility is to oversee special education (SPED) services, now has several other areas of concern related to how they may affect student learning.

Will raising the minimum wage hurt nutrition?

I am against the concept of raising the minimum wage.

This idea has its roots in workers having no bargaining power; therefore, the state needs to act like a nanny and dictate what a private company can pay in wages to a private individual, both of whom are acting of their own free will.

All titles are not created equally

Editorial opinion by Allen Nitschelm

In Part One, we described how Marie Altieri, the "insider" candidate who is a finalist for Acton-Boxborough Superintendent position, does not have minimum academic qualifications to be named Superintendent, based on what is normally required for the position, requirements mysteriously left out of the job description that was approved by the School Committee. (See http://www.actonforum.com/blogs/allenn/flawed-superintendent-search-proc...).

Questionable hiring clouds candidate for Superintendent

Editorial opinion by Allen Nitschelm

In Part One (http://www.actonforum.com/blogs/allenn/flawed-superintendent-search-proc...) we examined what appears to be an attempt by the Acton school committees to promote an internal candidate by relaxing the requirements for the Superintendent's post.

In this Part Two, we look at the peculiar circumstances surrounding the appointment of this internal candidate to her position at the AB Schools in 2007. We end with some concluding remarks.

Flawed superintendent search process yields unqualified candidate

Editorial opinion by Allen Nitschelm

(Part One of a three-part series. Links to Part Two and Three are at end of article.)

Obamacare cost-savings draft memo

A strange coincidence happened today.

I read in today's Wall Street Journal (1/7/14) a defense of the "Affordable Care Act" by one of President Obama's economic advisors. It talked about how well it was working to lower rising healthcare costs. He also predicted lower future deficits and debt and the creation of millions of future jobs. (This was interestingly juxtaposed with another article which claimed that Obamacare had not impacted the relative slowing of healthcare cost increases, but perhaps the advisor didn't see that before he wrote his op/ed piece.)

The future of the United States

The US has been the world's leading power since World War 2, or approximately 70 years. How long are we going to stay on top?

Two thousand years ago, China was the leading power and remained so (unknown to the "west") for hundreds of years. England ruled most of the world for a couple hundred years and with some of its European neighbors, for much longer.

If you take the long view, 70 years or 200 years is a blink of the eye.

You didn't sing that

It's time to give teachers a 100% pay raise.

We all know that teachers work very hard and the work they do is important. Let's take that as a given.

It's time for American society to start paying teachers what they are really worth. We should have a goal of doubling the salary of every teacher. This will put more money in the hands of ordinary local citizens and help put a dent in the disparity between the wealthy and the rest of us, the so-called income inequality. And I have a plan to get it done.

Don't raise the minimum wage

The battle over minimum wages is heating up all across the country. Massachusetts is proposing a large increase, supported by the usual Democratic suspects in our state legislator, and other metropolitan enclaves are also trying to raise wages in places like Washington DC and Seattle.