MATC President Bettsey Barhorst Milking Taxpayers For $88,000

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This cozy deal stinks!

This story might be added to the very long list of reasons as to why we need newspapers to continue to be a daily part of our lives.  Thanks to the reporting work of the Wisconsin State Journal we now know of how some of the our tax dollars are being wasted.

When Jack E. Daniels starts as president of Madison Area Technical College on  Monday, he’ll not be the college’s highest-paid employee. That title will  continue to belong to the woman he’s replacing.

Outgoing president Bettsey Barhorst, who announced her retirement in January, will remain with the college  as an on-call consultant through the end of the year, paid at her current annual  salary of just under $240,000 a year. Daniels will earn a bit less at $238,000  annually.

Over the next 19 weeks, Barhorst’s contract addendum works out to a payout of  about $88,000. Her new emeritus role requires her to be available in  person or by phone for the first month if Daniels or a board member seeks  her counsel. Any travel expenses will be covered by the college. After that,  according to her contract, consultations “may be by phone.”

The arrangement, approved June 12 by the school’s District Board in a closed  session, has not been formally announced by the college, save for a line deep in  the press release announcing Daniels’ hire that Barhorst “has agreed to  remain through the transition.”

While it makes sense to have a transition for the new president, and it should be compensated, there is also a time when there is just pure greed and mismanagement.  Such is the case with allowing Bettsey Barhorst to milk the taxpayers in this fashion.

I very often disagree with State Representative Steve Nass and his chirpy mouthpiece Mike Mikalsen but in this case I very much agree with their position.

“If that’s true and she’s remaining at full salary, that would be stunning,” he  said. “It’s going to be very difficult to make the case that Jack Daniels, who  has a history of running schools, would need that transitional presence.”

This story will continue to be debated and considered in the days to come, as it should.  Barhorst made some very questionable decisions during her time with MATC that created a budget shortfall, and now wants to continue milking the taxpayers for being ‘on call’.

Good Lord!

Madison Area Technical College Will Ban Guns, Signs To Be Posted

There should be no surprise over the decision that was made known Tuesday regarding how Madison Area Technical College will deal with the concealed carry law.  The GOP-led legislature foolishly allowed this needless, and harmful measure to get to Governor Walker’s desk this year. 

The Governor signed it.

But not everyone is swallowing it.

In three weeks this law will go into effect.  But to prevent a senseless tragedy Madison Area Technical College is taking steps to keep its facilities free of firearms.  They are following in the same footsteps as the University of Wisconsin System outlined to maintain safety on their campuses.

Soon on buildings around the MATC campus signs will be posted to make sure that those who are packing heat will know they need to keep on walking–right off campus.  That is due to the correct policy by MATC that will restrict weapons of any kind from coming into the college facilities.

MATC along with the UW system are both following the letter of the law that allows for signs to be posted to secure buildings from guns. Higher education campuses are places for loftier ideals where people should not have to look around and wonder who is carrying a gun.  

Thanks to MATC for taking the only logical path available to them over this matter.

Wisconsin Taxpayers Need To Be Concerned In Light Of MATC’s Pre-College Camps

I am surely not the only one concerned about the front page story in Saturday’s Wisconsin State Journal.

This past week, as has been the case in previous years, a group of incoming Madison Area Technical College students spent time  learning basic study skills such as note-taking and time management, as well as information on decidedly squishier topics, such as how to stay motivated or take personal responsibility.

While I strongly applaud those who are seeking more studies, and coming to grips with the avenues required to be successful in the classroom, there is an 800-pound question that demands an answer.

How is it possible that after 12 years in the public school system, and after having graduated from high school, that any incoming student is not already well prepared for at least technical school classes? 

We all are aware that students learn at different paces, there are many societal issues that impact learning, and the constant political drumbeat against education does not improve anything.  But having said all that how can the  statistics be so lopsided in the wrong direction, given what we do pay for our education system in this state? 

(For the record I have no problem paying property taxes, and all other taxes.   I have no problem funding education.  That is my responsibility as a citizen. But like my other investments I want a proper return for the dollars I provide.)

Increasingly, students are not ready to do college-level coursework. At MATC, about 48 percent of new students aren’t prepared for college English and 72 percent aren’t prepared for college math, according to school data.

Those statistics not only alarm me, but they also frustrate me.

I grew up in a rural area of Wisconsin, and was provided an average sort of public education.  For the record, I graduated from high school in 1980.  In other words I understand that this is a different time.  Yet everything can not have landed up-side down in 30 years.

I can assure my readers that I never would have made it to high school if I had not already had a proficiency with note taking, good study habits, and an ability to write.  My fellow classmates were not just slid along to another level, some were held back and made to take a grade over.

By the 7th grade my history teacher, Mr. Appleyard,  was already demanding that we take copious notes.  His exams were always essay questions that kept students writing for the full 45 minutes.   He not only wanted the correct answers and points of view, but also full paragraphs and proper grammar.   His class was rigorous at the time, and the beginning of what one should expect when taking part in lectures and a more advanced style of learning.

When I think back to his classroom in light of the news article about learning to take notes before starting MATC,  I can only ask why there are so many unprepared for college studies when leaving high schools?

Something is not being done correctly, somewhere.

While discussing this topic with friends this weekend one person summed it up with three words.  Parenting, parenting, parenting.   I happen to agree with this assessment.   While teachers far too often get the brunt of the blame for what goes wrong in the classroom it needs to be remembered that back in the home, where the kids are to be raised properly, is the place where education first starts and needs to be nourished.  Far too often it does not.

What troubles me with the story of the  pre-college camps is that the money taxpayers provided for public schools to deliver a final product that could read, write, reason, and function often does not happen.  That means more tax money needs to be used by another system to try again, as is the case with MATC and the pre-college camps.

Even a liberal has to blink twice, and swallow hard as we too want and expect money that is paid for a program to be used in a most effective manner.  Public schools are not cheap, and while they have their share of difficulties, it is not too much to ask for readers, writers, and note-takers to graduate after 12 years. 

I understand that pre-college camps are still cheaper than to have people fall through the cracks for the rest of their lives, and I applaud those who wish to learn more and strive for a better life.  Yet that thinking does not satisfy my initial question.

What is happening in our schools, within our families, in our communities that allows for a  segment of the student population to graduate without the basics?  Lets be honest about this whole matter.  The problem does not start in the senior year of high school, but starts festering in the elementary years and somehow never gets corrected.  

As such the public has a right to be frustrated.

Mind you, I am only talking in this post about the basics of how to study and perform at a level that keeps one on par for future educational goals.   I could write another post regarding the inability of high school graduates to locate Germany on a map, or place the Civil War within a 40-year-range on a time map. That type of topic drives me to drink….strong coffee!

The larger reason this topic should concern all of us is the race to the top by other nations around the world who seem to be working harder and out-performing us in the classroom.  There is not the time or the resources in this country to duplicate the foundation of learning in the way the pre-college camps are trying to do.

Wisconsin  needs to buckle down and seriously address the education problems in a way that will not lead to more front page stories about teaching incoming college students about note taking!

Temporary Restraining Order Against MATC

Good news.

Dane County Circuit Court Judge Juan Colas issued a temporary restraining order against Madison Area Technical College, prohibiting the school from implementing a change to its course assignment system.

Colas issued the order in response to a lawsuit filed by the MATC part-time teachers union. The union’s attorney, Lester Pines, argued that the new system constituted an unfair labor practice because it was designed without part-time teacher input.

The union’s leaders are worried that the new system will prevent part-time teachers from getting work.

In the new system, full-time faculty are allowed to take up to 40 percent overtime before some part-time faculty are assigned courses.

In November, the court will consider a temporary injunction against the college. Then, the case will be moved to the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission.

Should MATC Tax Increase Be Linked To Money Wasted On Fast Food?

A comment today on my blog made me a bit concerned that some are taking too lightly the referendum request from MATC that will appear on the ballot this November.   Before I get to the main point about the comment, and why I think it ‘rich’, I need to make something very clear.

Some of the needs as expressed in the Master Facilities plan for MATC should be applauded and supported.  I have read it, and think some ideas most worthy.  But it was those items such as tearing down the Mitby Theater, in order to build another, but smaller one which leaves a lot of taxpayers wondering all sorts of important questions.    Though this item has been removed from the budget request for Phase One of the project, there is no doubt these matters will be up for taxpayers to deal with down the road.  This piece-meal approach is designed to get everything MATC wants at some point.

Education is vital to our country, and supporting it with taxes is the correct thing to do.  But being smart in how we support education is equally important.

This tax increase request by MATC  is not politically well-timed.  I have argued that these are days when too many folks are trying to pay the mortgage and struggle with part-time jobs and therefore is not the time to ask for a tax increase.  

The part of the comment that really made me a bit angry was this paragraph.

At the same time, what you failed to convey in your write up is that the total tax burden–for the year–would be an average of about $27.62 for a home owner with a home valued at roughly $200k. Twenty-seven dollars and some change. How much money does that average home owner waste on junk food in a year? The tax increase would be money invested–not simply “spent”–on real returns and employment opportunities in our communities.

Well…..

What is the average property tax bill for a $200,000 home in Oregon? Waunakee? Madison? What is the rate increase from last year? What is the average over-all tax bill for the residents of these places from all taxing bodies? Pick three places from any of the counties that are impacted with this referendum. What was the average increase in wages for the taxpayers in the last year in these places?

Consider that Madison schools was forced to cut deep into their budget this past year, and more cuts will be needed down the road.  Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk’s 2011 budget is hard pressed not to make cuts in social service programs.  We also know that Madison’s budgeted borrowing is more than three times as much as it was 10 years ago, and that will have an impact on taxpayers if something isn’t done.

It is not difficult to see why I think the MATC proposed tax increase could not take place at a worse time.

These are all factors that the voters who are being asked for more money will consider when casting a ballot.  After all MATC is not the only one asking for taxes!

I mention all this as I think it ‘rich’ to label another tax increase as somehow easy to pay for. There are lots of elderly people, and others who work two or three jobs, that think another tax increase right now is just not the best thing for their personal budget. There is an elitist tone of making it sound so easy to pay for.   As such I want you to consider the following.

Why don’t you ask the elderly person who wonders if they should pay the heating bill or get the needed meds that may now be all their responsibility with the ‘donut hole’?   How much does another $27.00 mean to them on top of the other taxes they already pay?   If memory serves me right those on Social Security did not get an increase last year…just to add frosting to the junk food idea.

It is one thing to be pro-education.  I hope we all are.  But to make the tax increase issue seem a mere drop in the bucket only makes voters see red.

MATC’s Political Tin-Ear

After Election Day the MATC District Board’s request for a $133.8 million referendum will be called one of the top ‘tin ear’ events of the year.  At a time of great economic distress this was not a time to raise the issue.  While I think there is validity for some of the requests made in the master plan for expansion of the tech school, this is just not the time to ask the taxpayers to suck it up and pay more.  After reading the Wisconsin State Journal, and sensing the tone of the article, I know I am not alone in my feelings.

In order for the referendum to pass, supporters will have to push aside complaints about rising taxes to make the argument that this is a long-term investment, said Barry Burden, a UW-Madison political science professor, and that could be difficult.

The November election also features competitive races for Wisconsin governor and the U.S. Senate, which will bring people to the polls. Burden predicts about a 50 percent statewide turnout.

Local school referendums are statutorily required to be held in the spring so that they are not swayed by the political tides. But this referendum will be part of an election that, according to conventional wisdom, will favor Republicans.

“On average, the typical Republican voter is probably less supportive of increasing taxes,” Burden said. “Probably the winds at the back of Republicans will make it more difficult for this pass.”

While MATC officials argue that this expansion is needed to help put people back to work, the economic downturn could be the very thing that keeps people from voting for it.

“I’m not opposed to education, don’t get me wrong,” said Jeff Berres, a Watertown resident who spoke at a public hearing on the referendum last week. “I just believe now is not the time for this kind of spending and not the time to put the burden on taxpayers who are overburdened.”

MATC District Board Should Consider Stressed Taxpayers Before Asking For $134 Million

UPDATED

During a severe economic turn-down this is perhaps one of the more gutsy things that anyone has asked the voters to ponder. 

MATC President Bettsey Barhorst has called this “an historic week” as the MATC District Board will vote Wednesday on sending a referendum for up to $134 million this November to the voters. 

While there are points of merit in the large building request, there are other parts that speak more to wants than needs.    For instance, MATC does not need residence halls!  One has to question also the wisdom of tearing down the Mitby Theater, in order to build another, but smaller one.  MATC is NOT the UW-Madison, and should perhaps be reminded of its mission.  Though these items have been removed from the budget requests for Phase One of the project, there is no doubt these matters will be up for taxpayers to deal with down the road.  This piece-meal approach is designed to get everything MATC wants at some point.

I hope also that the MATC Board and administration under the auspices of President Barhorst’s office explains in the upcoming campaign that this $134 million is but the tip of the iceberg of proposed changes to the physical plant of MATC.  Page 14 of the Master Facilities plan, linked to earlier, shows that the price tag is actually much much higher.  They are rolling out “phase one” of the plan so as not to terrify the voting public, but what they will eventually be asking for is more than double this current amount.

As the days go along voters will have a chance to see what MATC has in mind to do with the money for phase one if taxpayers allow it.  But at a time of high unemployment and great uncertainty about the economic health of families in the area this is just not the time to make such a request, and tap family budgets that are already stressed.

The District Board at the meeting Wednesday needs to consider that taxpayers are not in a position to make the grand schemes of some a reality.  After all, these are days when too many folks are trying to pay the mortgage and struggle with part-time jobs. 

That is the reality of election season 2010.

The MATC District Board needs to be mindful of that fact.

Wisconsin State Journal Looking At Salaries Of MATC Instructors

In light of the Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau looking into the  technical schools comes this nugget from Charles McDowell,  Executive Director of Human Resources at MATC.  He mailed the following notice to all instructors at MATC.  This shows the press intends to pursue the many elements that spin-off of the audit.

I write to let you know that we received a request pursuant to the state open records act from the Wisconsin State Journal for an electronic database of salary information for full-time and part-time faculty members and administrators for the 2009-2010 academic year. The request included access to overtime and other salary source information.  The request included access to overtime and other salary source information. Additionally the request asked for hire dates, years of service and seniority for each faculty member. A follow-up request asked for the names of the employees to match the information, as opposed to other identifying information such as an employee ID number.  

We have complied with these legal requests.