On June 10, 1999, the author of this web page received a call from a Plano Police detective requesting to meet me at the station. During the half hour of questioning, I was asked about my recent involvement with the school district. The detective wanted to find out if I was ever angered by the repeated rebuffs by the school district. Half in jest, I replied, "I'm a pastor, I know better not to give in to dark side." She was still incredulous. So I told her, "Why should I be upset when their every move is anticipated - even this very meeting today with you." Towards the end, I realized the true nature of the interrogation which is explained in the following news article. I was requested to give prints of both hands including the palms.
I asked a hypothetical question, "Since I have given out handouts in public meetings, it could be that my prints would show on the evidence. What then?" She said that I would have to submit a DNA sample to match the saliva!
Is he ... ?
Or is he ... ?
When this incident is placed in the context of my experience before the school board one week earlier, it certainly gives rise to disturbing questions concerning motivation. This opinion piece published in the Plano Star Courier in June describes the encounter. A transcript of the board meeting would be published soon.
School Board Should Listen, Not Lash Out
At the June 1st meeting of the Plano school board, a private citizen, Rev. Timothy Soh, presented some information comparing PISD’s per pupil spending to that of other large districts in Texas. Plano’s spending topped the list. Consequently, Trustee Gary Base challenged Soh's credibility, questioned his sources, and dismissed his conclusions with something less than the courtesy called for by the board's own operating protocol.
Soh’s source was the Performance Reporting Division of the Texas Education Agency. This agency makes available on its website the annual "Snapshot," based on information submitted by the districts themselves. Despite that, Base continued to insist, in a follow-up e-mail, that it is up to private citizens like Soh to verify whether or not the government is being dishonest or inaccurate. That’s a bizarre point of view, especially coming from a man elected to do the job he now demands of his constituents.
Also claiming that the numbers were inaccurate, Associate Superintendent Jim Damm nevertheless offered this defense of Soh: it was TEA’s fault. Damm’s assertion, reported in the Plano Star-Courier, has been disputed by TEA, which states that it publishes all data exactly as submitted by the districts.
The number in dispute was per pupil operational spending, reported at $6,198 by the TEA. Damm claims that overstates actual spending by about $500, because it includes Recapture (Robin Hood), which is not included in other district’s reports. Base leapt on the discrepancy, concluding that this must account for the $470 by which Plano’s instructional spending exceeds the statewide average for large districts.
Yet a closer examination of available figures confirms Soh’s basic point. Regardless of the source used, Plano’s instructional spending remains well above the statewide average for districts with more than 25,000 students. Even Jim Damm has not disputed that PISD’s total operational spending, per pupil, exceeds that of every other large district in the state.
Focusing on PISD’s reporting deficiencies, or blaming discrepancies on the citizens who make the mistake of believing school district reports, is easier than answering the indisputable substance of Soh’s presentation. In business, one would expect PISD’s size to result in certain efficiencies, economies of scale, that would lower our per pupil spending, without compromising quality. No such economies are apparent, and school board members should be asking why, not lashing out at citizens who ask the question for them.
Despite Gary Base’s contention that it is up to individual citizens to verify government reports, we ought to be able to rely on our elected representatives for that. In PISD, we’ve got seven elected representatives. Seven people who are supposed to represent the people, not rebuke them. Seven people who are supposed to understand budget details, not issue blanket denials. Seven people who are supposed to care more about doing what’s right than proving us wrong.
Or is he ...
This school district is so ... predictable. Machiavellian schemes are to be expected. There is a Chinese saying:
Driven to Liangshan Mountain
Towards the end of the Northern Song Dynasty, at the turn of the first millenium, there was a man highly skilled in martial arts called Lin Chong. He trained imperial troops under the command of Commander Gao. The commander's son took fancy on Lin Chong's wife and was found out by Lin Chong. He was framed for attempted murder of the commander's son and sent into exile. While escorted into exile, attempts were made on his life but he escaped. Later, two officers were sent by the commander's son to get rid of Lin Chong once and for all. Without any recourse, he was forced to join the budding rebellion movement in the area of Liangshang mountain and assisted in the overthrow of the corrupted regime.