‘Build better referendum’ - Beloit Daily News: Opinion

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‘Build better referendum’

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Posted: Wednesday, March 28, 2012 4:00 pm

Moving to Beloit in 1952 and with forty plus years as a teacher, principal, central office administrator and School Board member, I had valuable experience with the challenges which confront school districts. The issue before the voters of the School District of Beloit has given me some concerns.

I oppose the referendum for a number of reasons. Planning has been lacking on the part of the administration and the Board. For example, the Board submitted an application to the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) for an exemption to the revenue limit law to replace two boilers. This was denied by the DPI. The Board then attempted to substitute the replacement of the boilers with roof replacements at Aldrich and McNeel. This was denied by the DPI.   

Regarding the proposed grade reconfiguration, the conclusion cited by researchers Paglin and Fager at the Northwest Educational Laboratory, was “…that designing a school system to use a particular span of grades in individual schools will not in itself guarantee that students will learn well and be well adjusted.”   The National Forum, in an excerpt from the July 2008 issue of the National Forum, “To Accelerate Middle Grades Reform”, advocated the following: “Review and apply current research that suggests that simply shifting students from one type of school building to another may do little to improve student academic performance.” The bottom line; grade configuration is not what makes a difference; what is happening inside the school and classroom is what is important.

Beloit has historically supported the neighborhood schools concept. With the passing of this referendum, the bridges will have been burned and there will be no returning to those days. We will only have mega-schools which were once elementary and middle schools. While I might not agree with all being proposed by the Beloiters for a Better Referendum, I do agree with their efforts to want to be a part of Building a Better Referendum.

Arnie Lee


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  • JazzyPlayer posted at 2:01 am on Wed, Apr 4, 2012.

    JazzyPlayer Posts: 81

    Going into college, I have learned to prioritize now and not suffer the consequences of when I get there. That new fitness center is going right in the old pool space, no roofing upgrades or anything. Just some concrete and rubber floor tiles. If you haven't read the recent article in the Beloit Daily News, roofing repairs are currently underway at the high school. Due to the size of the maintenance budget, more schools cannot be done at the moment, but will be done in time.

    The fact that I am young does not constitute to me being ignorant about my priorities, or even to the issues around me, like this referendum.

    You may respond as you wish to this, but do not expect a reply back. I am done, the debate is over, the issue has passed. There is no point in me posting here anymore, as my reason for posting has expired. In short, any comments or posts aimed at me will be so at empty air and shall receive no reply. I now humbly withdraw and bid all posters and readers a farewell.

  • sobogirl posted at 8:51 pm on Mon, Apr 2, 2012.

    sobogirl Posts: 25

    jazzy, The schools are decaying? Well, if so, its because the roofs are all leaking! A new fitness center will not help that.
    You're still very young. As you mature and have to be responsible for a home of your own, you will realize how important it is to prioritize.

  • JazzyPlayer posted at 5:00 pm on Mon, Apr 2, 2012.

    JazzyPlayer Posts: 81

    Just a new pool? There is far more with this referendum that I see then just a new pool. This is an opportunity to improve Beloit's image. We have the potential to change the face of education as we know it with the 4-8 configuration. Our schools are in decay and cramped. People are leaving Beloit because we don't look nice. Yes, we do have the mechanics of a quality education on the inside. Furthermore, with the exception of James, I have not seen nor heard of any other option to improve Beloit.

    This is the second time you have now judged me based off of my character. I am not appreciating that. Your constant character judgements is highly unappreciated and I will not ask again. Please, do not judge me based off of my character. There will be no third time I ask this if it happens again. Thank you.

  • sobogirl posted at 3:46 pm on Mon, Apr 2, 2012.

    sobogirl Posts: 25

    A new school building certainly will not bring business or people. How shallow. People look at school results. Graduation rates and test scores. I know you want a new pool, but there are so many more important things.

  • JazzyPlayer posted at 9:39 am on Mon, Apr 2, 2012.

    JazzyPlayer Posts: 81

    Sobo - Alright, what will make Beloit better then? We are in such hard times right now, and with the direction the city is heading in something has to be done. What will it be then?

  • sobogirl posted at 8:44 am on Mon, Apr 2, 2012.

    sobogirl Posts: 25

    I know of only one roof being replaced.I don't think the work has even started yet, and they are not using local contractors.

  • sobogirl posted at 8:41 am on Mon, Apr 2, 2012.

    sobogirl Posts: 25

    There is no "booming population". There will be no "booming population". No pool or new building will make Beloit a more prosperous city. Higher taxes will hurt Beloit. This is a farce.

  • JazzyPlayer posted at 2:42 am on Mon, Apr 2, 2012.

    JazzyPlayer Posts: 81

    James - First off, regardless of whether the referendum passes or not, the roofs are currently being replaced using the maintenance budget. Also, the goal at the high school is not to build a fitness center. If the new pool is built, then the old one will be re-purposed as a fitness center. To create luxuries is not the priority. To address needs, that is more like it. Think about it like this: if this referendum doesn't pass, where will we be twenty years from now? Our schools will be in even greater decay. Due to the booming population, our classrooms, not even at the middle schools, would be able to support all of the students. The worse part would be inflation. The price of a referendum latter would be far more massive then the current one due to price trends over time. Will the Beloit voters then decide to pass a referendum? At that rate, will we ever pass another referendum again? Will we ever be able to improve our schools and make proper learning environments for them, or will our schools sink into mediocrity? If we pass this referendum now, then the price of a future one can be kept under control and thus will be more realistic.

  • james posted at 11:55 am on Sat, Mar 31, 2012.

    james Posts: 63

    I assume you are addressing me, Mr. Wong. I also believe you are no longer listening or thinking clearly. Frivolous spending is wrong. It is not right to spend like crazy on luxuries simply because other taxpayers (Beloiters included) get stuck with part of the bill. The type of mentality that puts fitness centers ahead of roofs is the mentality that is driving this country into the ground. "We're not paying for all of it, so lets do it" is wrong. If everyone in the state did that the state would be broke!

  • JBWong posted at 1:17 pm on Thu, Mar 29, 2012.

    JBWong Posts: 16

    Correction on your statement, over 60% of the entire amount will be reimbursed to the School District to offset the amount levied against the taxpayers of Beloit, this is not as you put it a "small portion". Since you don't wish to try to understand what I am telling you regarding the finances revolving around this Referendum maybe you might listen to someone else. How about you call Mr. Jerry Landmark, he is the Director of Student Finance Services for the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, his phone number is 608-266-6968 or email him at jerome.landmark@dpi.wi.gov

    I have spoken and asked questions of him, 2-3 times to gain a better understanding of how the State of Wisconsin funds education.

  • JazzyPlayer posted at 1:09 pm on Thu, Mar 29, 2012.

    JazzyPlayer Posts: 81

    James - A small portion? Last time I checked, Beloit's population does not make up 90% of the population of the State of Wisconsin. Even if the state taxes are funded into it, it's not going to make us pay 100% of the bill. I trust Mr. Wong's logic on this issue. After all, as much as people hate it, appearance does play a factor in attracting people and businesses to a city, and it looks like both Votingmom and Wong understand that.

    I'm also really tired of hearing people complain about this: we are NOT building a fitness center. We are repurposing the old pool as a fitness center if the referendum passes. It's not a multi-million dollar project. You just fill in the old pool with concrete, put rubber matting over it, move the equipment out of the classrooms, and into there and woola! You're done. If this referendum does pass, what do you want us to do with the old pool? Leave it as a crater in the ground to be an eyesore for the entire City of Beloit? And I think that the pool does serve an incredibly important educational purpose. It teaches someone not only how to save someone else's life, it also teaches you how to save your own, in other words how to swim. I think logic speaks for itself.

  • james posted at 11:05 am on Thu, Mar 29, 2012.

    james Posts: 63

    Mr. Wong, Money does not grow on trees. We, the taxpayers, must repay the entire 83 million that this will cost us. The fact that other Wisconsin taxpayers will have to contribute a small portion does NOT make frivolous spending right. And if all school districts spent 7 million dollars on fitness centers and pools, it would limit the education dollars available to every student in the state. We all have to be responsible for the proper spending of tax dollars. This plan is not a reflection of fiscal responsibility.

  • JBWong posted at 10:04 am on Thu, Mar 29, 2012.

    JBWong Posts: 16

    James, it is unfortunate that you are "stuck in the mud". This is part of the reason Beloit has failed to grow over the last 40 years. Not sure if you have ever looked up up the definition of insanity......doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

    I am guessing you did not read my commentary on how much we as individual tax payers will pay, $13 million plus interest. When I first heard about this $70 million project, I was very skeptical, but after doing the research, asking the hard questions and opening up my mind to hear the details of this well thought out referendum it has become an easy decision-YES.

    By the way, other than reading misleading public forums, how much research have you done? How many questions have you asked?

    I found this quote that I think is quite fitting:

    I was trying to find out what it was that everybody else understood without giving up my stubborn and hard-won lack of understanding.

  • james posted at 9:33 am on Thu, Mar 29, 2012.

    james Posts: 63

    If the facelift were not proven to reduce wrinkles or make her look more youthful, I would be against it. Too many risks and not worth any amount of money.

    Look, this costs 70 million dollars plus 13 million in interest. $83,000,000.00 That is all taxpayer money of one sort or another. It is a lot of "pennies".

    They should have come up with something more prudent.

  • votingmom posted at 8:34 am on Thu, Mar 29, 2012.

    votingmom Posts: 39

    But James -- what if "Extreme Makover" offered your wife that facelift for pennies on the dollar? And as an unemplooyed construction worker whose company gets a piece of the construction work you now have a job to boot! Let's be accurate -- taking JBwong's words out of context to make it sound like this is all cosmetic is silly and a waste of readers' and voters' time. The facts are there, but apparently that carries no water with you.

  • james posted at 7:44 am on Thu, Mar 29, 2012.

    james Posts: 63

    A 70 million dollar "facelift"? I think I will go with Arnie Lee and vote "NO". If my wife were asking for a facelift and I was unemployed or the poorest guy in Wisconsin, I would have to say no.
    With research not supporting this plan, I do not want to risk our kids' future and their safety. The item Mrs. Charles had about little kids crossing highway 81 twice a day is important. Our high school kids have a problem getting across 4th street even with a cop helping them cross. I think it all boils down to what Arnie Lee says here...."Planning has been lacking on the part of the administration and the Board."

  • JBWong posted at 11:53 pm on Wed, Mar 28, 2012.

    JBWong Posts: 16

    James, first I think it is important to distiguish the difference between the Finance and Academic areas. The PhDs I spoke about are paid by the district to teach and adminster, they likely had little to no involvement with the boiler mess.

    Secondly, if you disagree with the referendum and are going to vote against it are you doing so based upon an opinion from someone who is writing a letter to the newspaper or are you getting information and asking questions of those intimately involved?

    This is arguably the biggest decision the voters of Beloit have ever had to make and $70 million is a massive amount of money. But to set the record straight, this is not the amount the individual taxpayers of Beloit will be paying. It is very important to realize that the State of Wisconsin pays for 65% of all public educational costs within the entire state. This is money raised through State Income taxes, sales taxes, Federal Aid, etc. The total amount is allocated to each district based upon property values of each respective district. Beloit is one of the poorest, if not the poorest, in the state. Due to the Equalization Aid formula that has been in place since the mid 70's and revised in 1997 our district receives a much larger percentage than all other districts. For Operational expenses we receive approximately 80% (approxmately $57 million for the 2011-2012 year) and for Capital expenditures (such as this referendem 64.7%). This will amount to around $45 million of the $70 million coming from funds outside of Beloit. Of the remaining $25 million, 46% will be paid for by the businesses within the city (ABC, Regal, Frito Lay, Hormel, etc.). The balance, approximately $13 million will be paid for by the individual property owners of Beloit. At the end of this year, the Referendum Bond from 1994 will be paid in full, if this referendum passes the average home owner in Beloit ($75,000 average value home) will see about a $68 annual increase to their property taxes. A small price for a massive upgrade.

    Having grown up in Beloit I have witnessed, like everyone else, the struggles we have faced economicially. In the last forty years we have not had any population growth and more affluent, higher income earners have exited the city and moved either across the border or to other communities.

    With the passing of this referendum we will receive an overdue facelift to our school district and community which will give not only our students/staff better facilities to learn in but also make it much more attractive to people relocating to the area and choosing Beloit over Rockton/Roscoe. One of the main reasons young families, especially affluent, higher income earners locate to a given area is the school district. Old, rundown buildings do not make a very good first impression.

    Also, last night at the School Board meeting part of the agenda was a discussion as to how the bidding for this major contract will be awarded. There is a major push to see that as much of the overall contract is awarded to contractors/subcontractors from Beloit. Yes, this is legal it is currently done by the State of Wisconsin with other major contracts. Wouldn't it be great to recirculate a good portion of the $70 million dollars to those who live in Beloit? I am sure there are plenty of trades people in the city that would benefit greatly.

    Please review what I have stated above closely, I have plenty of facts to back up what I stated and am more than willing to discuss what I have questioned and researched. Vote with an open and knowledgable mind.

  • letsbehonest posted at 11:19 pm on Wed, Mar 28, 2012.

    letsbehonest Posts: 15

    :) you agree with Mr Lee because you are the one who led him down the path of mistruths! Please bring out all your other names and help defend this unfortunate misstatement of information from an individual that normally does more than his share of homework. This is a terrible shame.

  • james posted at 10:56 pm on Wed, Mar 28, 2012.

    james Posts: 63

    The whole 1.2 million thing is a mess. What in the world is going on here? Seems such intelligent people, working on their PhDs could read the law and get it right. I agree with Mr. Lee. I have my doubts that they will handle our 70 million correctly.

  • JBWong posted at 10:35 pm on Wed, Mar 28, 2012.

    JBWong Posts: 16

    I'm glad someone is reading this stuff.

    Please join the rally this coming Saturday, 9:00 a.m. at the Lagoon, bring lots of friends. Especially those who oppose it.

  • Pro-Beloiter posted at 10:30 pm on Wed, Mar 28, 2012.

    Pro-Beloiter Posts: 37

    AMEN, JBWong and votingmom. Nothing more need be said! Vote YES!

  • votingmom posted at 9:33 pm on Wed, Mar 28, 2012.

    votingmom Posts: 39

    JB I agree -- while some of the folks who oppose the referendum do have years they can point to regarding sincere service to the District, time spent in these bulidings and with the kids over the last 5 to 10 years (for me) is enough to encourage my vote in the "YES" column.

    In fact, having taught as a substitute (on call, k-12, ISS, you name it) almost 20 years ago, I can say from personal experience that the problems that existed then in terms of space are present today as well. I have taught and tutored in hallways; I have monitored winter recesses in gyms where "out-of-bounds" means face first into a wall; and I have seen kids learn "art from a cart" - heck I've subbed that too.

    The educators in our district do a great job with the tools they have. Just THINK of what they, and our kids could do with facilities that are simply up tp par.

  • JBWong posted at 6:06 pm on Wed, Mar 28, 2012.

    JBWong Posts: 16

    In response to Mr. Lee's two Letters he has written in the last week. First of all, I have know him for over 20 years and respect the vast amount of service he has given to the city of Beloit over the years. But with that being said, I have serious concerns regarding his comments regarding his view of the upcoming referendum.

    First, I question his knowledge on the history of the application to DPI for the two boilers. The FACT is the application was accepted but due to changes, outside of the control of the school district, the boilers were not able to be replaced by the deadline required. The change was made to use the funds for roofs,which qualify for the exemption, but upon a questioning by a certain Beloit resident DPI felt that since the adjustment was made after the application deadline they would retract the funding. This information I personally received from Jerry Landmark, Director of Student Finance Services at DPI. Arnie, who did you speak to to get your information?

    Secondly, the configuration of the schools has been researched and developed by the brightest minds in our school district, all of whom have their PhD or are working towards it. The idea of retaining neighborhood schools is great if there is an unlimited amount of money but there isn't. The new configuration will not only provide a large amount of savings, $2.3 million each year to the Operating Budget but it also provides enhancements to the academic process that we don't have today nor could accomplish with neighborhood schools.

    Lastly, while Mr. Lee has had a lot of experience in education. I have to really question the last time he even entered one of our buildings, 10, 20 years ago. Over time changes occur, what may have worked in the past becomes obsolete in the future.

    I have spent countless hours questioning and researching this referendum, from the configuration, economics for the community and the finances. I have take the time to question Mr. McNeel, our State Representatives, DPI and many staff members on a number of items to busing, future maintenance and the Equalization Aid. My wife and I volunteer time weekly within the schools. Beware of the "Naysayers" who are making misleading and false statements with little research knowledge. This referendum is right for our schools and our community. Vote "yes" on April 3rd.


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