A Gaze Back and Looking Forward: Education Funding is Changing Forever

The gravy days are over. The citizens are paying attention to many aspects of education that were never discussed, like teacher salaries being excessively high, and buildings with luxurious amenities. In a recent survey from Braun Research Inc. who conducted phone interviews with more than 3,400 Hoosier registered voters November 12-17, 2010, that firm’s president, Paul Braun, expressed confidence in the accuracy of the study’s results, due to “thorough briefings stressing objectivity, heavy monitoring, sample performance reviews, verifications and post-data-collection checks on each survey by interviewer and phone center.” Of the many conclusions of that survey Indiana voters lacked awareness and information about how much is spent in public schools. Nearly two out of three respondents (64 percent) underestimated per-student spending in the public schools.

As usual, Doc Thompson did some great work on this topic that he covered on the January 12, 2011 broadcast that is worth listening to. It is refreshing to have real discussions about these issues now. The gist of this discussion is that things are going to change, and change rapidly for public education funding.

But know the door has been opened. I know how difficult it was and I felt the wrath of attacks when I first started the enterprise of enlightening the public about education funding. The organized labor behind these tax levies attempted to apply The Delphi Technique on me, like they do everyone who speaks against wasteful spending, so I understand first-hand how the information has been kept quiet all over the nation for such a long time.

I countered that technique by using aspects of my personality that are entertainment oriented, something I’ve developed over the years performing in wild west shows and interviews for other projects, to throw a curve-ball at their strategy and start the ball rolling so others could hold the door open, and then others behind them could start pouring in to get control of the out-of-control spending that has been occurring in schools. It took that initial surprise from the organized unions by my approach to pry the door open. They really believed that by painting me as some hick cowboy running around with a whip that I would be made into something of a fool, which they counted on. What they didn’t know was that I have a business background, and I’m better at understanding difficult concepts than I am with the whip work. So because of their one-dimensional understanding of people, they were unprepared. And much to my surprise, people enjoyed the image I was projecting, of rugged individualism, and standing firm in overwhelming odds.

The truth of the matter was that it felt that way to me, like I was against the world. But I actually had hundreds of people behind me supporting the structure of everything, people who put up the money for the yard signs, people who went to all the meetings and took notes that they’d pass to me. People from inside the school system that was tipping us off to what was going on, and people who were going door to door to pass out literature. There were other people who worked the email campaign, and helped in so many other ways. But since I was the face of it, the wrath came at me, and I deflected it with the cowboy image while the business side worked with some very smart people to crunch numbers and get to the truth.

At the end of the day, that cowboy image says more about me than the business side. My children and grandchildren won’t discuss someday how good I was at working with numbers in a spreadsheet or negotiated a contentious point in a dispute. They’ll talk about the speed and accuracy competitions at cowboy events, and the many times I’ve shocked audiences with my fire whip displays, including professional stuntmen. So that image is far from just some conjured up image for marketing reasons. But it did help in this case, to overcome the opposition in a unique way.

What usually happens in management is that once you show people how to do something, they’ll then take that information and put their own spin on it. And that’s what’s happening by people who are far more passionate about education reform than I am. I have discovered now through correspondence from people who have been fighting this fight for many, many years, that all some of these people needed was a crack in the door. And they understand more about how the game is played than ever, now that we’ve started having really intelligent conversations on WLW.

Darryl Parks has been talking this talk much longer than I have, so it wasn’t difficult for him and me to feel some passion about the shake-down that occurs. But I think everyone was surprised when I went on WLW with our treasurer, Dan Varney and discussed the wage levels back in September, because that information was straight out of the newspaper. But the game that is played is that information is released in March, when the last things people are thinking about are schools or elections. Spring is on their minds, and coming out of a long winter. So most people would wad up the paper and toss it in the trash.

But my good buddy Graham George, who is a senior citizen, and is always organized kept that paper from March of 2010, and we went on the air at WLW and discussed it with Scott Sloan. The reaction from the public was so violent and sudden that I was surprised that nobody had done this kind of thing before.

Fortunately I had scheduled with the Cincinnati Enquire to have a backyard interview with me because of my YouTube video, A Whip Trick to Save America the very next day, and they wanted to do a feature about that and how it applied to my resistance to the school levy. So when that story came out, the gloves came off. The progressives all over the state that were listening to WLW decided to make me out to be some illiterate cowboy, which of course didn’t fit the facts I was able to put out on the radio broadcasts. People saw how the game was played and when I didn’t turn away and hide, but only increased my activity, it allowed people to see the structure of the game.

Now that the deed is done, the School Board is struggling to figure out what to do next. They are talking about solar panels, which is fine, but still doesn’t address the largest cost to the budget which is wages, and should be explored regardless of a budget crisis. The board is now fighting for the president position arguing over who should lead. Ray Murry is talking the right type of issues, discussing whether or not the district should have spent 90K on an employment search for a new treasure and superintendent. Those are nice discussions and I’m happy to hear the debate on both sides, but in reality, it’s just politics because the numbers are just peanuts compared to the elephant eating them.

However, the problems will only get tougher, so while the School Board is struggling with each other to figure out what the community wants, they would be very “wise” to accept the help of our local business leaders that have offered to assist.

I have placed the offer to the board and was told that “most business people would probably become frustrated by the restrictions.” That was a polite way to say that the situation is too complicated for most businessmen to deal with. Well, that complication has been made complicated for a reason, and it’s to prevent “outsiders” from being able to offer fixes. It’s all part of the organized labor strategy, and the community knows it.

And I can promise that the education of those types of methods will only increase as more and more people send me information hoping that I’ll articulate it on the radio or on this blog.

So it is advisable that the games stop now. Grab the hands that are offering to help and be ready to do things you’d consider unthinkable 6 months ago. If you do it now, you can save the district and yourselves, and many, many jobs. If you don’t we will go off a cliff as a district.

The next levy attempt will not be about Rich Hoffman the cowboy whip cracker. Too many people want to be involved and I will gladly accept their help. I have enough personality and success that I don’t need the attention. I’ll put myself out there if people don’t feel comfortable doing it themselves, but I don’t see that being a problem in 2011. Because I see a wave of volunteerism, and other people who can speak coming boldly forth to push that door open even wider. So the decision doesn’t just sit on the shoulders of Lakota, but every public school everywhere.

So stop the games. Embrace the public, because they are your employers anyway, and be ready to do what’s right. Things are at a point where many things can be fixed and nobody has to be contentious enemies. It’s just business, and there are people who can offer that assistance for free, and once it’s done, Lakota could serve as a bright light of hope for all others to follow. But it takes one school to courageously step forward and be the first to open the door. Everything else will take care of itself.

But cling to the way things have been done, and the world will soon swallow you up.  So make a decision…..quick!

Rich Hoffman