To the Editor:
Jan. 31, 11:37 p.m.: I left work a little early tonight in order to get a seat at the region-wide school budget rally at Columbia High School. Not that I thought I would hear anything new when it comes to public schools demanding their “fair share” but I felt an obligation to report back to my fellow taxpayers with what to expect in coming months.
The objective of the rally was to “inform and energize influential stakeholder teams” representing the 47 school districts in attendance. There were about a thousand people there and each was given a flyer filled with great advice for helping their district achieve its budgetary goal.
Among that advice was an admonition to write letters to newspaper editors, although I don’t think they want to read mine.
The keynote speaker of the event was Dr. Rick Timbs and he was a terrific choice for the job. He was very funny. He put forth a great presentation that made such mundane data as “combined wealth ratios” seem interesting.
He spent just enough time on the subject to show us how those numbers are derived and to get everyone there to feel as though their district was not getting the funding they deserved while others were getting far more than they needed.
But he failed to incorporate one tiny little detail. A district’s “combined wealth ratio” has no correlation to educational outcomes. I did my research and wrote about this in a letter to the editor on March 3, 1998. If you Google: “The Albany City School District has a combined wealth ratio similar to that of North Colonie at 1.262,” you will be directed to that letter.
Dr. Timbs went on to entertain us with a cute story about how he got his 4-year-old granddaughter to understand the difference between equal and equitable. He said he put a $1 bill under each of the four cushions on his couch and asked Gracie if he had divided the money equally. Of course she agreed.
Then he asked her to imagine that the cushions were people but that cushion number one was some poor homeless person and the next was someone who had no job and I think the third had no home or job but the forth person he gave the dollar to was Justin Bieber. That got a lot of laughs.
He asked his granddaughter if she still thought he had distributed the money fairly and of course she said no. She suggested he spread most of Bieber’s dollar among the rest and leave him with a few cents.
Again, for the entertainment of the crowd at this event, he hilariously suggested substituting Justin Bieber with Warren Buffett. But I had my fill of the comedy, remarked how much that sounded like socialism, and made my way to the door.
I had an important date with a treadmill at the gym. At 60 years old, I’m in the middle of training to run my first marathon, which will be a piece of cake compared to the ordeal of trying to get our education community to stop drinking the Kool-Aid.
The reality of the economic problems we face are the opposite of what Dr. Timbs imagines them to be. The wealthier people of our school districts who feel they can afford to pay higher taxes have been voting for spending that the less fortunate residents of the community cannot afford.
Justin Bieber and Warren Buffett do not pay these taxes so playing to the crowd’s propensity for class envy is disingenuous. The way I see it, the crowd Dr. Timbs was playing to had a 4-year-old’s understanding of economics and his presentation sought to keep it that way.
Editor’s note: David Crawmer owns a business in Guilderland.