Let's go back to late 2004. School populations were declining -- but that didn't keep school board members from jockeying for as many construction projects in their district as possible.
It was like a $66 million competition, financed by the clueless taxpayers. That figure doesn't include new schools, just classroom additions, many of them which now sit veritably empty (among about 25,000 empty seats, a number that is expected to jump to 35,000 by 2012). They weren't thinking ahead at the time. The truth is the board knew damn good and well it didn't need those seats and thwarted state law to keep the frenzy alive. It was all about numbers, feeding campaign contributors with projects, and boasting about all the school growth at community meetings.
Apparently there was some project envy, though. At one point, the board wanted the projects broken down by school members' districts, complete with dollar amounts. The report, dated Sept. 29, 2004, shows the winner: None other than Marty Rubinstein, the former board member who came on this blog earlier this week using the name IPKidneystones to say that all that overbuilding was caused by the state Class Size Amendment. Of course the amendment was an excuse, not the real cause. Stephanie Kraft, the defender-in-chief of the school board's irresponsible construction boom, was second on the list. The list and some further discussion about what must be done can be seen after the jump.
1. Marty Rubinstein -- $23,370,520
2. Stephanie Kraft -- $16.024,380
3. Bob Parks -- $15.224.269
4. Bev Gallagher -- $7.673,332
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5. Ben Williams -- $3,677,784
The other four board members were left high and dry. But remember, this is only classroom additions. They had school projects. And the big kahuna -- Total Program Management -- was just beginning. The party had hardly begun. By 2007, when enrollment was steeply declining, the board's five-year construction had ballooned to $2.5 billion. It peaked at $3 billion -- most of it financed with debt.
Today, the school board is broke and facing a $2 billion debt. And they've responded to the crisis by praising one of the men most responsible for the disaster, Jim Notter, and offering to extend his $300,000 contract for three extra years.
Teachers, who are being laid off by the dozens, should fight this move. It's time to wake up. I'll be providing smelling salts on a regular basis on this blog.