Q & A with Steve Edlund
Candidate for school board Steve Edlund is a siamese twin to controversy. After years of activism in the city and countless open records requests, Edlund is running for office himself. If he wins, there will be a race to see who can hit him with a legitimate open records request first. Because (unlike his opponents) Edlund does not actually have a record in office, I thought I would post (with his permission) this Q&A via e-mail from March 5th.
1) Are you or are you not in favor of charter schools?
In favor of. However, any charter school, any traditional school, needs to evaluated for performance on a continuing basis.
2) Are you or are you not in favor of continuing the IQ academy?
I support a removal of the current enrollment caps for virtual schools and a take-over of the system by the state to operate it as a virtual central system of public instruction independent of local control and financing. This would eliminate the need to provide a replication of local taxpayer educational costs for local children who can take part-time classes such as gym class online rather than at the current local high school. I would add that the recent release of the state Fiscal Audit Bureau report on virtual schoolsignored part-time enrollment statistical reporting of local students. The report evaluation of the 2007/2008 school year focused on the 841 full time students, of which 49 were local, but failed to report the 309 part time enrollments in one or more classes per semester. The report appears to be focused entirely on state revenue and local expenditure but fails to include any reference to part time students and ignors financial responsibility from local taxpayers. That is the state’s M.O.
3) Do you support the plans for the Waukesha school system as outlined by Superintendent Gray?
Superintendent Gray has done a superb job with his staff considering that the financial problems facing our district are like putting lipstick on a financal pig. Our district is in the survival mode right now and he is doing what he can to make change happen given that the teachers’ union, by contract, is driving the majority of the financial expenditures. I do not support all of Superintendent Gray’s plans and have voiced that opinion atrecent school board meetings. If elected to the school board, I will represent the taxpayers and the parents, that’s one of the reasons I rejected the screening procees for candidate endorsement from both the EAW and AFSCME.
4) Do you think Waukesha made a good choice to hire Gray, and would you vote to renew his contract?
Yes to both. If elected to the school board, I intend to lobby legislators into a requirement that all school districts by law, require the administrator of business to have CPA certification. Superintendent Gray came from that backround and currently holds a CPA license in Wisconsin and Arizona. The current self preservation system from DPI requires a teacher with a masters degree in administration to oversee a school district budget. At an area college, that means 1 class in school district finance is all the business training you need. Would any business with a $160 million dollar annual budget hire somebody with these qualifications?
5) Do you have any changes in mind for the curriculum? Science curriculum? Math curriculum?
The school board’s curriculum and instruction committee reviews recommendations from staff for discussion and possible action. Although I have no specific recommendation, I’m very impressed with the talent that Superintendent Gray has incorporated into his staff.
6) Do you support continuing the lawsuit over the failed pension investment plan? How do you think it should be resolved?
Perhaps you meant the OPEB related CDO investment lawsuit? If so, as someone who’s observed this and looked under the hood, I would like the school board to ask the State Department of Justice to be involved. There seems to be unconfirmed evidence that might suggest that 2005 Wisconsin Act 99 (which allowed school districts to change their investment policy from investing only in insured investments to borrow money and invest in CDO’s to augment unfunded liability associated with teachers legacy benefit packages) might not have been complied with. The act requires the trust to be in compliance with the Wisconsin Prudent Investors Act and as fuduciary, avoid conflicts of interest. The civil suit by the 5 districts is costing millions of dollars to defend, a drop in our bond rating, and the very real possibility of total loss. Even after the lawsuit, we’re still facing the 2007 projected OPEB liability of 195 million dollars over the next 20 years for staff early retirement benefits. It’s clear that the defendants will continue to drag this on and continue to raise local property taxes, meanwhile we look at cutting more programs to pay for lawyer fees.
Two things are crystal clear to me if we lose the civil suit: 1. The teachers union will be the major component part of this solution. Or, 2. The board begins to discuss something that benefits nobody, bankruptcy. I am 100% against a state bailout (if proposed) unless it directly addresses issues of expenditures by employee contracts (80% of the budget which had a levy increase of 8.8% this year). Thank you James for the opportunity to answer your questions. Although I’ve never run for public office, I am not entirely up to date on every subject associated with public education and do face a learning curve. If elected, I will be only 1 of 9 board members. I’m looking forward to reading the response to your questions from the other candidates.Waukesha is blessed to have a community of great public diversity and support of education, but with the continuation of forcing people out of our community with out of control expenditures and the dismantling of our public education system to pay for those expenditures, we’re going backward away from progress.