Albert Barger for Franklin County Indiana School Board 2012

Dear Franklin County, Indiana Friends and Neighbors-

Hello. I’m Albert Barger, and I’m running for Franklin County School Board in District 1, which includes Posey, Laurel, Salt Creek and Metamora townships. I hope to give you a little idea of my background and what I might bring to the school board.

I went to kindergarten in the basement of the Methodist church in Laurel and graduated from Laurel High School in 1981 before eventually getting a BS from Ball State. My most important schooling, though, was when I learned writing and math and reading skills in first grade at Andersonville with Miss Jesse.

First grade was in a little shed building, but they kept it reasonably warm and we had chalkboards, desks and books. We didn’t have any kind of cafeteria, but they managed to keep a cooler with milk to go with our lunches from home. Neither building had indoor plumbing though, so we had an outhouse with a corrugated tin roof. Yet somehow we learned writing and math. Why, none of us kids even had a social worker! How did we do it?

Of course, the secret weapon was Miss Jesse. She was patient and attentive and she loved us. She loved me – and never more than the couple of times she had to whip my young butt. She took the bother and the responsibility of discipline. She passed suddenly in 1969, may God bless and protect her soul.

According to the annual financial report, it appears that the least paid first year teacher with a BS degree now makes about $35K in basic salary, which isn’t half bad for Franklin County – especially with a third of the staff making $60K+. So it’s good to see that our teachers are reasonably compensated.

But we spend something like $24 million in Franklin County on schools, which is near to $10,000 per year per pupil. That’s a lot of danged money. Taxpayers aren’t made out of money. Unlike the federal government, the local school board can’t just print money. It would be illegal and immoral for us to do that.

I say this noting that Franklin County schools are in debt for about $9.6 million. I’d sure like to see what I could find to cut in $24 million towards paying that off. The whole world is drowning in a sea of debt, and it would be good to get at least this little corner out of the red – and quit wasting money on the constant financing of debt. We’d end up having more money to spend on students with the same money coming in if we weren’t continually financing debt.

Thus, Al the Knife would be a hawk looking for what we need to put students in front of teachers in well equipped classrooms – and little else. On the school board, just starting with the biggest vendor budget item, I’ll be wanting to bore down into the $2.9 million a year paid to Anthem Insurance. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with that, because there are obviously major legitimate insurance requirements. But that’s over $1000 per student. What’s all that for, exactly, and are we getting the best deal we can get? I’d just like a courtesy policy review. Where can we squeeze out a dime towards getting out of debt?

I won’t promise you the moon. It’ll take at least a year to figure out the processes, prerogatives and exact authorities of the school board. But I will be a fresh set of eyes, eager to show stewardship for the school system that taught me the three R’s and brought me Miss Jesse.

We can’t let a school bus carry all the burdens of our society when there are problems at home, but I’ll do my best to ensure that the students get what they need at school, that our Miss Jesses gets taken care of, and that we do this as frugally as possible so that we can live within our means.

Albert Barger October 1, 2012 gadfly@morethings.com

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