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Adams 12 Doesn’t Need to Remain the Misreported Media Punching Bag

Let the head-scratching commence. If you read this article by Yesenia Robles in today’s Denver Post, you’d think that Adams 12 school district had been hoarding money and just started to fix the problem, thanks to the watchful eye of the teachers union:

After a year of deflecting accusations of questionable and unethical budget practices, Adams 12 Five Star Schools officials say they are changing the way they develop district budgets.

Unfortunately, the story just doesn’t add up. First of all, it was only a week ago we learned about the Colorado Department of Education’s latest school district fiscal health report. The auditors gave Adams 12 and four other districts a risk indicator for “spending down fund balances.” So how can it be hoarding and overspending at the same time?

Second, the Post story insinuates its case by stating that the district had nearly $50 million in its reserve fund to start the 2012-13 fiscal year (as compared to a $374 million overall budget). Unexplained is the way the school district is funded. Local property tax payments come in from the county during the months of March to June, but have to be doled out over the course of 12 months. Hence, a July 1 snapshot can be misleading.

Third, the new school board detected the problem with the financial books back in early 2012, and alerted the union and others to the problem that needed to be fixed before resources could be allocated effectively. A new chief financial officer has been working on the case for a year or more, including getting assistance from expert school finance consultants. A key will be to see where Adams 12 falls on the CDE fiscal health analysis next year. But no one in the article asks why the union is attacking the solution.

Those who have been paying attention know there is more to the story. Though the Post article takes a softer approach, it basically rehashes the trumped up phony non-scandal from a Fox 31 so-called investigative report a few months ago. (By the way, the investigative reporter Josh Bernstein as of last month is now employed by Al Jazeera.)

As Robles writes:

When the district’s teachers union made allegations of budget mismanagement, district officials insisted the dispute was really a result of troubled district-union negotiations that ended up in court.

Well, sort of. You may recall the trouble that ensued for parents who spoke up in disagreement with the union’s position at a board meeting last September. Well, the negotiated settlement the union protested about — which asked them to join all other district employees in putting a little more of their take-home pay to help cover pension contributions — didn’t end up in court. The fact-finding and mediation process are different from a potential union lawsuit, which has not materialized in Adams 12.

Meanwhile, this year’s negotiations were settled more quickly. After the teachers union rejected the proposal to hold sessions in the clear eye of public view, they were able to secure their top priority of preserving power with an extended contract. And so the wheel keeps turning, as the struggle for fiscal responsibility grinds forward slowly with a long-term power structure essentially unchanged.

Today’s Post story is unfortunate, but did it have to be that way? Adams 12 certainly is not helping itself on the Public Relations front, even as so many unreported facts remain on their side. How can the story get so far out of line, and how come it’s up to little old me to share the corrections with you? I’m going to need a little help here.