Bond vs. Health Benefit.

An open letter to the BOUSD Board and our community from Brea resident and business owner Dwight Manley.

Bond

I am writing this to clarify my position regarding the BOUSD board member’s compensation. The following 12 points summarize my considered opinion:

1.   I view the privilege of being elected and serving on the board as a “volunteer” position.

2.  Our schools have been hit hard by rising pension costs, which has resulted in severe reductions in funding for basic class needs, sports programs, school events and teacher’s salaries.

3.  I deeply sympathize with the teachers that are having to dig into their own pockets for supplies, and parents that are repeatedly hit up with requests for funding.

I especially find the school district’s use of children to be the messengers for these pleas to be unacceptable. Making a child return to class with a signed form saying “No” and having to be involved in a parent’s inability or unwillingness to “give” is not healthy for a child.

4.  As a self-made person who has done well in my life, I feel a responsibility to give back. Consequently, I receive numerous requests weekly from BOUSD students, teachers and parents.

5.  I have extra joy in providing funds for those less fortunate. One example is funding the senior night which runs over $100 per student. I feel every student should be able to attend regardless of their parent’s financial situation. Every student should be able to attend.

6.  Every time I sign a check, I think of the thousands of dollars per month the BOUSD board is taking for their “volunteer” position. Over the last 20 years, this is over $1,000,000 and some years was over $120,000.

These dollars would have a real impact on hundreds of lives immediately. Imagine a free breakfast program with supervision at the Jr High for parents that go to work early and could drop their children off at 7am?

7.  I’ve challenged members of the Board to drop this “benefit” for several years now, and they’ve repeatedly refused.

8.  Again and again I have told the Board that I would support a bond measure if;

a.  They drop their health insurance and only receive their stipend.

b.  A bond be tightly regulated with a sub 4% interest rate; no refinancing to pull out more money as was done in the past; the projects be “front loaded” meaning we get as much as can be built in 36 months.

I don’t like the money sitting around for 20 years unused like Olinda School did; a specific list of projects that improve the school’s ability to teach kids and not have a “Cal K-12” taking 15% off the top to feed to do their work.

The overseer of any funds needs to be a publicly bid process with a sub 10% fee. I don’t want to see bond money spent on fencing etc.; the district already has plenty in reserves to do that if its truly that vital.

9.  Various terms have been thrown around to describe my stance; “political blackmail”, “extortion”, “threats.” Those are all being used to deflect and attack me, rather than staying focused on the only issue at hand.

Kids and teachers are woefully short of funds, and the board, some living in million + dollar homes, are taking those funds for themselves. I equate this to people working at a food bank for the needy, taking the food home for themselves.

10.  Having health insurance for “volunteers” creates a huge conflict of interest. If the board members can’t afford their own insurance – they become dependent on the benefit.

Those that can afford it, besides being greedy in my opinion, would have to change doctors if they lost it, and as we all know, that’s not desirable. Why would we have such a personal, emotional and important thing be injected into a position that requires 100% selfless actions?

11.  Our own City council does not have such a “perk”.

12.  Some say “The bond initiative and health insurance issues shouldn’t be linked.” As stated above, having this “perk” is too personal and too important to not play a role in decisions.

If we have $150,000,000 to spend from a bond, no matter how tight the controls are, we can’t have a repeat of the horrific sale to Hines of the old school farm for pennies on the dollar, by a board that thought nothing of taking over $120,000 personally per year, while supposedly so low on funds, they had to do that deal.

Imagine the district having the $71,000,000 that Hines received from Avalon Bay just for a piece of paper saying they can build 653 apartments on our old school farm. We would not be in this position if they hadn’t done that.

Final Thoughts.

So, there you have the gist of my thinking and why I’m taking this public stance. We can’t waste another dollar on a board member’s health insurance until each and every teacher doesn’t have to send one of those letters home asking for money. Until every coach doesn’t have to send out letters or have players canvas the town for money to buy basic items.

Brea is where my heart is. I’m from here, I went to school here and my mom is buried here. I will be buried here. I will always try to help our community and when needed, step up to defend it.

Thank you.

38 thoughts on “Bond vs. Health Benefit.

  1. Dwight nails this here. The idea of part-time volunteer elected positions like school board is that they are designed for people who lead their own lives to “give back” with some of the time, perspective and expertise.

    The whole idea that school board trustees are pulling down benefits that traditionally are reserved for full time employees is awful. Not only does it send the wrong message — but it also has the likelihood of attracting candidates for office who are looking for the perks and benefits.

    When you add up all of the generous benefits taken by part-time politicians up and down the state (gold-plated healthcare, over-the-top stipends, in some cases retirement system benefits, and sometimes more) it is estimated to cost taxpayers north of $400 million annually.

    Very uncool — and very much counter the whole intent of part-time citizen oversight.

    • Jon… Thanks for taking the time to join the discussion. As a reader of Flash Report I appreciate your not pulling punches. Thanks also for your service as Executive Director of the Republican Party of California.

    • Amen Jon. It’s really hard at the local level to gather public support for what’s the right thing to do for the simple reason the board is elected more based on being a “nice person” and exchanging niceties rather than having any expertise in what is needed.

      Adding in your point of those that actually run to have the perks, you end up with a mess. And low and behold, schools are hurting worse than any other unionized group in California. Why ? Their pensions are the most underfunded, and they have the highest administrative costs compared to city hall.

      This should be a state wide law and 100% of that money needs to give teachers raises and end the schools from using children to hit up parents for basic needs and sports equipment.

  2. Dwight/Rick… I read Dwight Manley’s letter Concerning Bond vs. Health Benefit.

    Responses:

    My wife Leslie and I have volunteered in this community for more than 20 years. As a 12 year planning commissioner received very few perks.

    We have volunteered at the high school in two booster clubs (Gymnastics & 3 years on the Pep Squad 2 years as President). Being a cheer parent at the time cost $1,400 annually.

    We volunteered on the gradnight committee 2 years when our children were in high school. We saw the gratitude of the graduates. Also another two years after, seeing how appreciative they were. Gradnight committee occupied every Saturday for six months. Several other parents were there

    We Worked for years at the Brea Museum. Volunteering to rehab the museum building (with many others). Me on the board 8 years, 5 years as President. In that capacity I witnessed Manley’s generosity to this project in hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    I would not consider the city owes us anything as absurd as health care or salary. We did out of pride for Brea and self satisfaction.

    In recent years even more of Dwight’s generosity in many areas: senior apartment tenants, senior center etc. He cares about our community and comes to the party when necessary. Yes, Dwight has done well and understands where it comes from.

    As far as teachers paying for supplies in the classroom. It is completely wrong for the entire system to allow this. We at times will support our neighborhood students with fundraisers. Questionable when it funds school programs.

    One would think once a person accepts any volunteer position they should have their house in order. This means their own health care.

    I have had 3 past boardmembers come to my home and solicit support for an earlier bond measure. In that all replied they would discuss it with me. Never happened but a fourth boardmember showed up with a yard sign. It would be very hard for me to support future measures.

    • Jim… thanks to you and Leslie for all your done over the years. You epitomize the many Brean’s who consistently give and expect nothing in return.

  3. A well articulated open letter to the BOUSD pointing out the need of funds to prevent teachers and coaches from asking children going home and asking parents for money to cover these costs.

    Also pointing out the BOUSD members granting themselves perks at the expense of the children.

  4. I was a teacher for over 15 years of my life. I loved every moment of it. I went pay check to pay check always dipping into my pocket making sure my childrens needs were met. I never asked for a dime back.

    It makes me sick hearing about these volunteer positions being paid for while teachers and children go without essential needs being met. It’s time to eliminate these paid volunteer positions and go back to putting the children’s needs first. Followed by our teachers who are providing the best education possible for our children.

    The children are our future not these money hungry volunteer positions. I support Dwight 100% it’s time to leave our kids alone and eliminate these bureaucratic volunteer paid positions and put the money back where it belongs in the school for the kids.

    • Michelle… It’s never been more appropriate that at this moment to say, “Thank a teacher.”

      What I find very refreshing is how you understand Dwight’s heart is with the kids and the teachers and coaches… and the parents who make up the preponderance of the voting public.

      This gilded perks thing must be permanently put to bed before a word of discussion about any sort of bond initiative can occur.

  5. Dwight & Rick,

    I recall joining the Brea Planning Commission many years ago and discovering that a $150 stipend came with appointment which I immediately sensed was a conflict of interest.

    I voted many times in a different direction than the city planning staff and the councilman that appointed me. Soon after the stipend was ended for financial reasons as the city was cutting expenses.

    I remember when we discovered that city council members were given free movie passes from Edwards… no conflict there… that “perk” soon ended as public disclosure became embarrassing.

    If my company required employees to bring pens, paper & calculators to work – we would be visited by the CA Dept of Labor. This practice of requiring teachers to purchase school supplies is totally corrupt.

    I don’t have a position on the bond at this point but would never support a bond to fund current expenses like iPads, etc…long term borrowing is for funding long term assets.

    • Hey Ralph… good to hear from you again. While we’ve not always seen eye to eye, yours has always been a voice of reason. I’m glad to know you’re on board with eliminating the health plan subsidy and, when that’s done, hope to hear your thoughts on what makes a smart school bond.

  6. Dwight your last paragraph speaks volumes of your dedication to our city and schools. Thank for bringing this matter forward as it reminds us how hard we worked to pass Measure T to take away pension and health benefits from the City Council and the same should be true for the school board.

  7. Let’s remember that this issue is not about how “hard” the “volunteers” work. It is not about how many hours they spend “volunteering”. It is about teachers and children that are in desperate need of more funds, and 100% of the annual budget should be spent on them.

    Could you imagine a “food bank” run by well fed people telling an undernourished child that they need to “eat less”, and then giving them a form to take home and ask for more money so the “food bank” can keep going?

    And then finding out those administrators are taking home the best food for themselves?

    Should a board member have Cadillac health insurance paid for from the money that a student or teacher needs? Should they have 100% coverage for their family while the children they are supposed to look after have no insurance?

    No, No, No. This needs to stop, and the simple fact we are even having to explain this in painstaking detail is showing how out of touch the school board is.

    Thank you

    • Dwight… I’m in awe of the courage demonstrated by those who have spoken out here. Challenging situations like this, with their obvious moral and ethical conflicts, is risky business… especially in a small, close knit community. Thanks to the brave ones raising their voices.

  8. To hear the board explain how offended they are, how much time they spend, how their efforts are paid less than minimum wage, how they treat their responsibilities as a job and how they earn their benefits, some of the 9/9/2019 school board meeting pertaining to the topic is available on you tube via the link below:

    https://youtu.be/N-Ak2g7dpCs

  9. Thank you, Dwight For shining light on such an important topic. I agree with your assessment 100%.

    These foolish school fundraisers hurt the children who don’t sell a lot of the overly expensive items! If the child didn’t sell a minimum of 9 items, they don’t get to go to the DJ party. What? Does that child have to sit out while others go and have fun?

    I know a women who is a grandmother raising her eight year old granddaughter and the grandmother is on disability. This is ridiculous. Paying for health insurance for part-time volunteers while others go without is ludicrous. What is wrong with people?

    The money needs to go to the schools and children won’t have to go out and beg strangers to buy useless items. I stand with you, Dwight.

    • Judy, thank you for that post and sharing those facts. You quite honestly made me have tears in my eyes thinking what a child must feel to be excluded from a school event for not “delivering “ enough money for a “fundraiser”.

      You give me strength by being brave enough to stand up to the board. As I have reflected upon this, and seen the unprecedented attention Ricks blog has gotten (over 10,000 views in the first 24 hours, over 4,000 more than his highest ever) I realized how this is such a “taboo” issue for parents and teachers.

      They dare not ever speak up against the board for they may have a child flunked, punished, a teacher may not get a raise, or what ever else the perceived threats may be.

      It’s similar to the issue of opposing a police or fire department or city hall, as they have real power over all of us. But when it involves your own child, there really is no more valuable thing than protecting them.

      So parents and teachers end up going along with the Board’s greed and not voicing anything. Well Judy, it’s time to stop that cycle. We need to all say NO MORE!

      Kids and teachers first. Period. No more putting kids in the middle of funding anything. No more making them “mules” begging for basic classroom funding. For sports equipment. Make the board ask themselves.

      And before they ask for a cent from a parent, make sure they are a “volunteer” and not a “taker.”

      Thank you!

      • Again, Dwight I totally agree with you 100%! I will do whatever it takes to help out teachers, parents and others who have their backs against a wall. You’re right, NO MORE!

  10. After sharing, with the public, for many years that school board members receive expensive medical benefits that take money directly out of the student’s and teacher’s classrooms I am happy to hear people are supporting the children and teachers.

    Board positions are voluntary and should be treated as such not a paid position that carries medical insurance. What a conflict of interest!

    I can’t be more delighted that their selfishness has been revealed and reviled.

    • Connie… you’ve been a world class whistleblower for many years. I’m glad to see this come full circle and be exposed for what it is.

  11. Many people are just greedy by nature. Kind of like getting up to a cup of coffee each morning and driving to work.

    The idea of service and community are just words used during elections. Rhetoric. I’ve lived here for over 55 years and have not seen much with town leadership protecting the interests of the people.

    Been through the sale of the H.S. Had one of our Boeing Contracts Managers sit in and tried to help direct the sale in an amicable manner. In the end we are still feeling the wrath of that historical matter.

    I’m glad to see people like Dwight and Rick kicking the stones around. I’m kind of Old School and would prefer the Tar and Feathers myself.

    • Don… I’m old school as well. I was thinking more “run ‘em out of town on a rail.” Would love to hear you share your thoughts at a board meeting one day.

    • Edward… the most important thing you can do is attend school board meetings and share your opinions during Matters From The Audience. Short of that, write an email to the board and superintendent letting them know how you feel.

      Glad to have you getting involved!

  12. It was brought up today that the board could forego their benefits, get the bond passed, and then vote them back later.

    To assure that never happens, any ballot measure would have to stipulate that reinstatement was not permitted… that the Board stipend shall be the only compensation for serving as long as any bond debt is owed.

    We can’t have this ever happen again. And the stipend needs to be capped at what it is today.

  13. I could be mistaken, but when my friend Roy Moore (may he rest in peace) was on the Brea City Council, he said they received a stipend and health insurance.

    I asked him, why do “volunteers” who wish to run for office get health benefits. Most of the City Council are either business owners, full-time employees or retired, in which case they are typically already getting health insurance from their employer or as part of their retirement.

    He said that was just something that came with the position. Dwight, do you know if the City Council gave up this “perk?”

  14. Hello George. I can tell you that I was deeply involved in opposing a past council that had Garcia and Murdock on it, and the past city manager, in them trying to “grant” themselves the same health benefits of the executive city employees.

    At the time, this “perk” was worth about $1300 per month. Marty Simonoff was opposed to this, but it was looking like it would pass until I received a call from the past city manager asking me to “not” go to the microphone and make a very public spectacle of this attempted wrongdoing. It was then shelved.

    George, I look at this “perk” and “volunteer” discussion in a way that separates it into two distinct eras; There was a time that there was zero pension debt and 100% of every tax dollar was used for the Brea citizens, and for the teachers and schools.

    And now there is a time when 79% at city hall and 77% at BOUSD is all we have left to spend after the defined benefit pension debt sucks away desperately needed funds for the citizens.

    In the “old” days, volunteer benefits really was a philosophical question. But in the current times, it is pure ignorance at best or selfish greed at worst that would possess a “volunteer” to TAKE $22,000+ annually away from those they supposedly are looking out for.

    Let’s hope they correct this once and for all, or we can all do what what we did before, and have a Clean Sweep!!

  15. My mother was a K-8 (before “middle” school) school board member for 8 years. While she was a stay-at-home mother, her health insurance was through my father. I don’t remember if she had a stipend (was 195x into 196x). That was a much different time.

    NOTE: I watched Dwight Manley’s comments on 09/17/19 – bravo!

    • Boadicea… welcome back, missed you.

      Yes, that was a very different time. We don’t get 100% of every dollar funding, 24% automatically goes to pay for pensions. Perks like the health benefits are no longer feasible.

      Glad you saw Dwight’s comments to Council last Tuesday. For those who missed them, they’re on YouTube. Click this: DWIGHT MANLEY

      • Funny aside – at 8 months pregnant with sis, she represented the SD at the LA County Fair – Black suit (heavy fabric) and heels –

        I’ll keep following even after I move to the deep South.

  16. While attending the school board meeting on September 9th there were two questions that I had to answer in order to make an opinion about board member benefits. After doing a little online research these are the facts as I understand them:

    Are board member employees?

    No statute in the Education Code defines board members as employees.

    Although board members are responsible to the school district, they do not report to anyone and do not have a supervisor.

    School board members, as elected officials, are also not considered employees under the Brown Act. (Government Code section 54957).

    Are board members entitled to employee benefits?

    While the school district is not required to provide benefits, the board itself can elect to give itself coverage.

    Board members are empowered to set their own stipend (Ed. Code 35120). In addition, health, dental, vision and life insurance benefits can be offered, per each district’s bylaws, at the board’s discretion. Meaning boards members may wish to reduce or eliminate district paid benefits on their behalf.

    Each school district (and therefore each community) should decide if they want to offer health benefits to its board members.

    As a compromise, I suggest that current board members keep the benefits they have and eliminate benefits to future board members.

    • Joan… thank you. This definitively puts to bed any continued speculations based upon “employee” status of any sort. Clearly, board members are not employees and have no legal claim to any benefits or subsidy, even partial, of same.

      The board’s health benefits are a very expensive “perk” that takes money that could otherwise benefit students with serious unmet needs and redirects the funds to pay for Cadillac health plans for affluent board members.

      • Great post Joan. Very useful.

        My HUGE opposition to them taking these funds is this; the funds don’t come from the tax payers pockets or the state or feds. No, they come right from the children’s and teachers pockets / mouths/ classrooms.

        That money would otherwise be used on them. How on gods green earth can any sane person say the millionaire volunteer should get those dollars over a child in need? A teacher who has been pinched for a decade? I can’t ever pick anything but the child and teacher.

  17. I see the benefits like this……..We the taxpayers are subsidizing these benefits out of OUR pockets. So we not only pay for our own health insurance premiums, we have to pay for their health insurance premiums too!

    We might as well write a check to them for their insurance. Wait, we already do by paying our taxes.

    The biggest insult is that the board is courting a $151 million school bond so we can pay more for their insurance. Many families are struggling to pay for their own health care premiums so why in the world should we pay for volunteers who wanted this volunteer position, campaigned for the volunteer position, and spent money trying to obtain the volunteer position. Now all of of sudden they consider themselves employees of the district deserving of our tax dollars.

    Selfish people taking limited resources from the very children they pledge to support.

    Another example of redistribution of wealth.

  18. Rick, If by chance anyone is still following these comments, I need to make a couple of comments in regards to this weeks school board meeting. After I spoke against the boards selfishness in taking the funds for insurance, board member Kropke told the audience (after I left) “don’t give in to this demand, because next he will want to take away the teacher’s health insurance.”

    This is patently false, and would be illegal. The simple fact this half baked board member tries to “pair up” board members with teachers is disgusting. There is no comparison, and she knows it. Teachers are modern day saints that work for less than they deserve for the betterment of children’s lives. Board members are “volunteers” that are supposed to be “donating” their time to help the teachers and students achieve the highest levels possible. They are not entitled to, whether we have the money or not, the funds that teachers can use for children. Period.

    The second issue is board member Colon accusing me of “blackmail”. Again, she is supposed to be an intelligent leader. Instead, she is using buzzwords to elicit help, and playing the classic “victim” when all the while SHE is the one that is “victimizing” all the taxpayers and the teachers and children by taking THEIR desperately needed money for her own personal use. Disgusting. Thank you

    • Dwight… Yes, this blog continues to get new and returning readers daily. Since it was originally posted on 9/15 readership now approaches 35,000+. This “evergreen” blog will live long and prosper. Thanks.

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