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Government Watch teaches lessons that some in Valley choose to ignore

Published: Sun, May 15, 2011 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Todd Franko (Contact)

My Friday morning coffee stop came with a chance encounter with a Poland neighbor. He thanked us for our Government Watch effort and its focus on school spending.

My Friday day-ending Diet Pepsi came with a call from a Poland Seminary High School journalist interviewing me about The Vindicator’s role in the Poland levy defeat.

He wasn’t thankful.

In the past week or so since the May primaries, reaction has been consistent — our Government Watch has its lovers and haters.

Top officials at Canfield schools are in the same camp as the Poland high-schooler. They were exceptionally chilly to our Canfield reporter after their failed levy — citing The Vindicator’s lack of editorial endorsement as contributing to their levy defeat.

I shared with the high-schooler a lesson on the levy that I doubt they teach at either Poland or Canfield schools. He plans to write a column himself for the Poland paper on this topic that should be published next week.

Blame The Vindicator, I encouraged the student, but you will be ignoring the lessons that the numbers are screaming to teach you.

Both the Canfield and Poland levy votes on May 3 offered a great chance to show just how savvy voters can be in communities that local lore alleges are the Valley’s two suburban gems.

Voters in both towns had the opportunity to say “yes” twice or “no” twice to millions of taxpayer dollars. Add up the emotion with Senate Bill 5, consider the economy, and weigh in coverage of The Vindicator.

The two communities’ residents were almost identical in their voting — 60 percent or so approved the renewal levies, and 60 percent rejected the new spending.

The lesson to school leaders was:

v We like what you’re doing, or we would have rejected the renewal levies.

v But this is all we can afford, and you have to do better with your money. We don’t think that you have pressed your operations as the private sector has.

I told the Poland student that yes, you can blame The Vindy, and that is probably what school staff and his parents might want him to think.

But do you really want to allege that 2,544 voters — parents, neighbors, friends and peers in one of the more affluent Valley districts — do not know how to think for themselves?

The 2,544 votes is essentially the same number of votes that approved the renewal. So for two seconds, the citizens were lucid and capable when voting for the renewal, then — two seconds later — they were duped by the newspaper?

The student had a great second question that caused me to wonder about its origin:

“Do you think it was right to list teacher salaries at our school and not compare them to other Blue Ribbon schools to show ours are among the lowest paid?”

Wow ...

I discussed the comparison we looked at, and I encouraged him to consider:

How were the last three years of our lives economically as Poland and Canfield residents and as U.S citizens, and how did the local governments spend in that period?

The years 2008, 2009 and 2010, besides Lady Gaga, are best summed up as: $4 gas, real-estate crash, automotive crash, stock-market crash, bank crash, double-digit unemployment, sales-tax revenue that never eclipsed 2006 levels, loss of benefits and pensions and more.

But what did it mean for schools?

For Canfield schools, it meant: 2008 — a 3.1 percent wage hike; 2009 — a 3.5 percent wage hike; 2010 — a 3.0 percent wage hike.

This is not just teachers. Canfield schools boss Dante Zambrini — the top salary and not unionized and surely able to decline pay bumps if for no reason than just for token show — had salary growth of 1.9, 4.3 and 3.1 percent in those years.

Poland did the same. Staffers, in addition to the 3 percent norm, also got an additional 1 percent each year if they maintained national accreditation each year.

Poland staffers did sign off this spring on two years of wage freezes. That works to a degree, but also comes off as a bit of baiting for the levy. Sustain that prudence, and it will pay off in the future.

I’m thrilled at least that the student called. It was a first for me.

Gumption and assertiveness are skills you assume get lost in the pursuit of better standardized test scores. He’s learned well overall, despite learning a “blame-the-media” view.

With Government Watch and its inclusion of public-employee salaries, The Vindicator is not aiming to be anti-government or pro-SB 5.

It’s merely trying to offer a lesson in spending that most government leaders don’t want to face — or share with some students.

Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes emails about stories and our newspaper. Email him at tfranko@vindy.com. He blogs, too, on vindy.com.


1paulparks(235 comments)posted 5 years ago

Teachers should be proud: of their salaries, raises (step and other), the fact that their average salary has gone up 40% in the last 10 years, that they have the absolute best medical coverage and pensions with tiny contributions, that they can retire after 30 years, that they have unbelievable job security and that they enjoy extremely high job satisfaction and the esteem of the community. If they are ashamed to have this information for the first time available to the general public, then something's rotten in Denmark. Taxpayers (teachers' employees) want great teachers - but not at insane costs. We want to get the most for our employee dollars. We want to know the kind of concessions given by teachers' unions in schools that are in fiscal emergency - so we have something to shoot for in keeping employee costs down to a reasonable level. We want less "smoke and mirrors" and more disclosure from the school boards. Finally, we want to stop feeling like the private sector has become " the servant" of the public sector. Thank you, Vindicator, for bringing vital information to light so that we can make more informed decisions!

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2redeye1(5535 comments)posted 5 years ago

Hey devildog, What spin? I read all the info on the levy and still voted it down. Why? You ask well the answer is simple its time the schools start having fiscal restraint instead of spending, spending all the time. My budget has been greatly reduced. I just can't afford anymore right now

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3nojimbo(286 comments)posted 5 years ago

Since the Vindicator is a defacto "public entity" in that it has no competition as a daily newspaper for Mahoning County shouldn't all the employee salaries be posted online ala "Government Watch"?

Furthermore, as the Vindicator's readership via paid subscriptions goes (either up or down), so should its salaries paid to employees go up or down to reflect the success (or lack therof) of the newspaper.

So, if subscriptions have gone down in the past 5 years (as I suspect), so should the salaries paid to employees like Mr. Franko, right?

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4badeepster(124 comments)posted 5 years ago

nojimbo--Frankfurter has been asked time and again by myself and others to publish his salary and the salaries of stiffs like Todor and has been "exceptionally chilly" with no response. Practice what you preach Frankfurter.

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5ytown1(398 comments)posted 5 years ago

@badpepster, Is the name calling reason enough to ignore your request?

Public Payroll is just that, Public, paid for by the taxpayers, we have a right to know where our money is being spent, does sunshine laws mean anything to you? There is a reason we need to know, and you know yourself why.

The Vindicator does not receive taxpayer property taxes to operate, enough on that subject.

@nojimbo, start your own paper then.

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6paulparks(235 comments)posted 5 years ago


You forgot a few things: (1) the Vindicator is not supported by local real estate tax levies, (2) the Vindicator doesn't promote itself with "free" publicity like local school districts do, (3) people can chose whether or not to to buy the paper - residents cannot chose to not pay a tax levy once it's been voted "in", (4) the Vindicator has to compete with other media - school districts have a near-monopoly on education, & (5) I never heard anyone complain when the Vindicator endorsed a school levy - now both the Canfield and Poland school systems are angry with the paper because the paper CHOSE NOT TO DECIDE YEA OR NAY ON NEW LEVY MONIES. Don't worry, this fall, the punishment of parents/students (limited busing and pay-to-play) will be in place, & the public relation campaigns will crank up again; with the publicity, student letters-to-the-editor, lists of laid-off employees and other "cry-baby" appeals begging for more taxpayer monies to fund THE ENORMOUS RAISES AND BONUSES OF THE LAST 3 YEARS. These two school districts have lived on "their own plane of reality" while the rest of us have suffered. It's not that I think teachers should not make a good living - it's just that their compensation packages have to come back to earth so we call ALL share the American Dream.

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7ytown1(398 comments)posted 5 years ago

I nominate Paul Parks president of Vindy.com.

How could you not vote for him after the last post, I could not agree more with you Paul.

A man with vision and only 34 posts? I will just sit back and wait for more enlightening thoughts.

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8candystriper(575 comments)posted 5 years ago

Yale Professor Robert Shiller predicts a 30 year decline in home values...think 1914-1944.

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9meagain(85 comments)posted 5 years ago

I assume you all understand how schools are funded. You realize these two districts and Boardman do not over spend and have done with far less than local counterparts.
Mr. Franko: we realize as an editorial these are opinions, but as an editor of a city newspaper you must know other "things" are happening in our area as you continue to beat the same dead horse. I know something else you can work on - getting the rest of our local communities up on your precious government watch. It's not much of a watch if you only continue to berate the same communities.
Those of you bemoaning your taxes - you should have looked deeper into school funding before you bought in these districts. This is what the state expects of you. It may not be fair, you may be tapped out, but you signed on for it when you signed your mortgage. If you didn't know it, you didn't do your homework very well. My taxes are managable, but then again I didn't buy above my means and recognized that with the way schools are funded I would be expected to pay more down the road. Don't like it - get your government in Columbus to fix it and get them to stop funding charter schools with your money instead of funding your local public schools.

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10Stan(9923 comments)posted 5 years ago

The special ones supported by the sweat of the taxpayers are not appreciative . While most of those who pay taxes have taken a beating in todays economy and have far less money left after taxes the special ones supported by the taxpayers want the chump change that is left . The taxpayers have tired of all the demands and threats from the special ones and their supporters . The taxpayer backlash has happened .

It's getting harder everyday to support the weight of the fat cats . . ..


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11borylie(946 comments)posted 5 years ago

A news organization doing it's job,spearheaded by a courageous editor. Taking the heat from all quarters.

I'd prefer that The Vindy doesn't endorse anything or anyone. Stay independent,stay objective,stay fair and have great courage in reporting.

When people are exposed,it usually doesn't sit well. But,those that need scrutiny should get it from a reliable source. The Vindy is slowly getting it and Mr. Franko has it.

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12toddfranko(101 comments)posted 5 years ago

I think it's fair for meagain to cite concerns with the current scope of Government Watch.
We have a list of 10 entities whose dollars are being pursued. You will see 3 or 4 of those 10 added this week, we hope.
And we will keep adding to the list.
We had to start somewhere. I would have liked to have started with 40 agencies. But our staffing did not allow that.
But let's be honest here ...
Government Watch would not exist or would not be subject to meagain's concerns if public agencies just posted these numbers in the first place.
They want to post miles of roads paved.
They want to share test scores.
They want to list water quality measures.
But they don't want to show how your taxes are used in the areas of most concern to us.
There's been no shortage of debate on Government Watch in the last few weeks. Our web traffic on this feature is extremely strong.
That seems to indicate that there is strong citizen interest.
All these agency leaders claim to want to serve the citizens' interest.

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13VindyPost(436 comments)posted 5 years ago

Jessie, be fair and balanced??

More school in Ohio passed levies than failed. If I remember correctly the levy renewals were above 80% passing. And new levies were around 59% passing. Being fair and balanced means giving the whole picture not just other levies that failed.


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14Philo(99 comments)posted 5 years ago

Todd - Keep up the good work. You're doing the public a favor, unfortunately some of them don't seem to be smart enough to realize it. The vast majority of School Superintendents, School Business Managers and Treasurers should not be negotiating contracts with their employees for a variety of reasons; (1) they have little or no incentive to negotiate on behalf of the taxpayers because they generally end up getting the same benefits they provide to their teachers and other employees, (2) more often than not (check this out if you don’t believe me) school administrators marry other school employees whether in their district or not, and their children frequently end up working for schools and or marrying other school employees. That being the case, these administrators are reluctant to do the hard bargaining that needs to be done to protect the taxpayers and keep costs in line, and (3) if these administrators were promoted from within their districts, it’s really not fair to ask them to try to negotiate on behalf of the taxpayers with people they once worked with.

Responsible and progressive school boards need to make sure they have the proper individuals negotiating their contracts; preferably people with experience negotiating contracts in the private sector. No sane individual would pay a skilled auto mechanic $70,000 per year if they could hire that same individual for $55,000, right? Why is it that these Superintendents who supposedly have some fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers, don't seem to understand the law of supply and demand? They need to have someone negotiating who doesn't fall for the typical union rhetoric and have a school board who clearly understands the private sector taxpayers outnumber the teachers and there is a glut of highly qualified, unemployed teachers who are readily available to be hired.

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15AnotherAverageCitizen(1183 comments)posted 5 years ago

I would bet you can find a mechanic for $14,000.

So wha,t a teacher marries another teacher. I would bet lawyers marry other lawyers. Grocery store workers marry other grocery workers.

Philo, If your boss offered you a raise today, would you accept it? Or would say no, not in these economic times while others are struggling, I don't deserve a raise?

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16VINDYAK(1824 comments)posted 5 years ago

Great work Todd. The Vindy is on the correct path. Citizens today are overburdeoned with expenses and balancing a household budget that, in many cases cannot be balanced.

With today's economy, many of us have suffered through reduced incomes, but faced increases costs, such as food and fuel. Taxes and schools suffer from our personal belt-tightening.

As I have said before...When the wages of public servants become greater than the wages of those they serve and those public servants begin to talk down to citizens and taxpayers as if they are actually the servants, then it is time to reconsider the program.

The public has spoken.

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17AnotherAverageCitizen(1183 comments)posted 5 years ago


"The public has spoken", more levies passed then failed.

Lots of people talk about govt being in debt. Why don't folks run their home the same. Too many $27,000 car loans on $30,000 income. Too much credit card debt in America. Too many $125.00 unnecessary cell phone bills. Than folks claim they can't afford $12.00 in tax increase.

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18VindyPost(436 comments)posted 5 years ago

Jessie, many thanks for your contributions regarding this matter.

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19VindyPost(436 comments)posted 5 years ago


I do agree with what Another Average Citizen has said in post #24...

All Americans should re-structure their own budget and maintain their own debt...it's their responsibility. But they are in Denial and say it's everyone else's fault and point fingers for their own mistakes and negligience. They live "above" their means...ie jealousy, envious creates hardships!

P.S. And Jessie, that was nice of you to put out all the lengthy literature to assist the school teachers and students for lesson plans!

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20pshsparent(2 comments)posted 5 years ago

Hopefully, Franko himself will read this comment. As a professional journalist, I find the techinique used in writing this article to be very condescending. Shame on Franko for his demeaning tone towards a young student. It's PATHETIC. Also, to the person who told the student to get both sides: NO DUH. WHAT DO YOU THINK HE WAS DOING BY ASKING FRANKO HIS OPINIONS?

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21piak(508 comments)posted 5 years ago

Let's get back to basics. PUBLIC money supports the PUBLIC SCHOOLS. Much criticism (deserved or otherwise) is leveled at Charter Schools and at Parochial Schools (who teach religion along with their other subjects). Are public schools a good idea?

Old saying: "whoever eats my bread, sings my song". Interpretation: If WE fund you, you teach what WE tell you to.

If one political party dominates the government, not necessarily by holding all the elective offices, but by having imposed it's ruling, social and economic philosophy, it perpetuates that domination. The schools will teach the "approved" curriculum. And the brainwashing continues. Public Schools-a perfect and innocuous way to continue single-party dominance in our schools.

While we quibble about SB5 and taxes and such...no one looks into the curriculums of the various schools at all levels.

Interesting: In 2008, President Obama won the election in the Electoral College which is the Constitutional arbiter of elections. No challenges were made to this. But when Bush won in 2004, via the Electoral College, but not in the popular vote, the whole hanging Chads controversy arose.

Much of what is taught today in the schools ought to be checked out. Political correctness, diversity and global warming are a good place to start. Because opposing views to this trio are muffled/silenced.

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22anon9(2 comments)posted 5 years ago

I'm glad pshsparent was equally bothered by Franko's condescending tone throughout this article. How dare he diminish this student's efforts by questioning the origin of his thoughts. Perhaps this student is receiving a quality education or has people in his life who encourage him to question moral decisions, such as posting teacher's salaries. Sure, it's public information and anyone interested in them could look them up for themselves. Seems as if posting this information on vindy was "a bit of baiting for the levy"...or I suppose in this case, against the levy. There's nothing wrong with posing ethical questions to young minds. Don't we all remember the "Is it right for a man to steal medicine for his sick wife?" question? Franko admits that being confronted by a student was a first for him. Perhaps we should congratulate this student for trying to understand the other side before publishing an article. Or...maybe Franko should thank him and the Poland schools. I'm sure this means they subscribe to the Vindicator and, in turn, supplement Franko's salary.

As for suggesting that this student was, in any way, alleging that the community can't think for themselves is just unfair. Franko is simply putting words into the mouths of others. There is no denying the influence of media. I wonder how many persuasive writing classes Franko took? Are we really to assume that his articles are not in any way meant to persuade the reader? If his efforts are truly to educate the readers...why am I still sitting here waiting for the "other side of the argument"? If this wasn't an attack on Poland and Canfield schools, where is the article about those other 10 entities whose dollars are being pursued? If my memory serves me correctly, Poland made headlines before the Vindy got the info they wanted and then again after requests were met. So why the patient wait for the others? Seems awfully biased to me.

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23NoWorries(7 comments)posted 5 years ago

geromajor, if this was a "News Story" I would agree with you. There is way too much bias in our daily news. But this was not a "News Story", it was an Editorial. The definition of an Editorial is:

"An article giving opinions or perspectives".

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24AnotherAverageCitizen(1183 comments)posted 5 years ago

Jessie wrote

""We tax payers, are the CEOs for all public employees, and therefore we have the right to know how much ALL public employees are being paid both in regular pay, and in benefits. ""

If you are a CEO(give me a break) of public employees, that in turn makes you a public employee also. We, the citizens, deserve to know your income also.

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25borylie(946 comments)posted 5 years ago

Jessie's income as a CEO/taxpayer or as a private citizen?

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26kelso1(2 comments)posted 5 years ago

And you wonder why so many of our young people are apethetic towards government and social issues? Your condescending remarks could make a person of less stronger convictions give up and roll over... I'm proud of the way this student questioned your remarks and that of the Vindicator

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27AnotherAverageCitizen(1183 comments)posted 5 years ago


Both incomes. That is the only way public employees know that all their CEO's are paying correct taxes.

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28AnotherAverageCitizen(1183 comments)posted 5 years ago

Vindy is a NEWS paper. The NEWS is suppose to report the news, not take stands for one side or the other. If the Vindy supports or opposes one side, they are not doing their job.

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29AnotherAverageCitizen(1183 comments)posted 5 years ago

I just read all that a couple of posts ago 41 and 44 seem very similiar

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30VindyPost(436 comments)posted 5 years ago

I feel it will be quite interesting to see what the student believes and/or perceives. Take regard to his/her individual maturity, intelligence level, and the many creative & inspiring thoughts that may come out of this. Let's give respect---considering curiosity, trouble-shooting and feedback. Appreciate his/her willingness, interests, and courage. Let's face it, the students today is our future tomorrow. In due time, this student will vote for the first time, pay taxes for the first time, obtain a job, pursue college, own a home, own a car...etc. Hats off to the student and enjoy the journey to adulthood with your eyes wide open to evaluate and observe and your ears to hear and listen!

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31AnotherAverageCitizen(1183 comments)posted 5 years ago


Are you a school teacher, if not you should be, you grade many posts on here.

Maybe the nonunion workers need to take good notes. They will learn that unions stand up and fights for the worker and the middle class. Instead of nonunion workers wanting to get ahead they want to pull down the union workers.

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32AnotherAverageCitizen(1183 comments)posted 5 years ago

To the Poland student...

Listen to many people, read a lot, do your own research, then come to your own conclusion. Be fair, not one sided. Folks on these comment section are very one sided. Including myself, sometimes.

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33AnotherAverageCitizen(1183 comments)posted 5 years ago

Taken from 33 news

We are still months away from the November election, but new polls suggest that if the election was held today, Senate Bill 5 would be in trouble.

A Quinnipiac University Polling Institute poll says a majority of Democrats and independents, along with a majority of men, women and Evangelical voters all support the repeal of SB 5.

The independent vote is always critical in Ohio, and right now, independents support a repeal by more than 19 points, the poll shows.

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34AnotherAverageCitizen(1183 comments)posted 5 years ago

This is why we need unions to stand up for the workers. I am not saying CEOs desreve great pay, but workers also need to pay their bills also.

CEOs got a whopping 24% pay hike last year as corporate profits soared with the recession's end, more than making up for two years of declining pay.

The average worker? Not so much. Those lucky enough to still have jobs saw their pay inch up a meager 3.3%, which might have been enough to cover the rising prices of gas and food.

That difference in raises for CEOs and working stiffs is the latest turn in a trend that's been nagging CEO pay critics for years. That's the ever-widening gap between those at the top and their underlings, which is creating a superelite in the U.S. -- and not helping investors or the economy.

Giving investors a say on pay
Consider these gaps between some of the highest-paid CEOs of 2010 and workers in their industries:

•At Viacom (VIA.B, news), CEO Philippe Dauman got an impressive $84.5 million last year, or 1,990 times what the typical Viacom worker got. This assumes his workers make the $42,500 a year, on average, reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as the typical pay for employees in arts, design, entertainment, sports and media.
•Larry Ellison, the CEO of Oracle (ORCL, news), got similarly regal pay of $70 million last year. That was 750 times the $93,470 earned in 2010, on average, by computer software engineers, according to the BLS. Ellison, unlike a lot of CEOs, actually took a pay cut last year, but he still pulled down $1.35 million per week -- a sum it would take the typical computer software engineer more than 14 years to earn.
•John Hammergren, the CEO of drug company McKesson (MCK, news), was paid $54.4 million last year. That works out to $210,000 a day, assuming a normal workweek. That's almost three times the $74,590 that a medical scientist earns in a full year, according to the BLS. Hammergren's 2010 pay was 732 times the average pay for those workers.

Michael Brush
.Overall, CEOs at S&P 500 companies were paid $11.4 million on average last year, up from $9.2 million the year before, according to the AFL-CIO. In contrast, average workers saw their annual pay go up to $33,121, from $32,049 in 2009, according to the Institute for Policy Studies, a think tank. So the pay gap of CEOs over workers shot up 20% last year, to 344 times an average worker's pay from 287 times.

Back in the 1980s, this pay gap was just 40.

The problem with all this? It's bad for business and bad for shareholders, a lot of business experts say.

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35Shot_In_Youngstown(139 comments)posted 5 years ago

One question has not been answered. Why did Jamie vandalize his own building? Can someone answer this?

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36fedupwithcrap(317 comments)posted 5 years ago

@shot_in_youngstown, in reference to your comment # 57, you said, " Why did Jamie vandalize his own building?"

Here is hint: you can't vandalize the property that you own!!!!

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37borylie(946 comments)posted 5 years ago

If there was only one democrat and one republican left on earth,which one would depend on the other to survive?

Well here in the real world the democrats depend on the republicans to start businesses,invest time,money and work hard,so that they can confisticate their earnings and give it to people who won't get off the couch.

Then people like you complain that's not enough.

By the way,FOX NEWS was just chosen most reliable news source by a wide margin,with more democrats and independents than republicans polled.

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38meagain(85 comments)posted 5 years ago

Still waiting for the other communities to be posted under the Government watch as promised. Time’s running out on your attempt to make your choices appear random versus timely coincidences. Hurry, the witch hunters are running out of fuel for their fodder!

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39streetsmartt(127 comments)posted 5 years ago

I'm so sick of hearing about the problems teachers have. We all have problems. We all know about the starting pay, the ending pay, the 9 months of work, the % contributions to health benefits and pensions, the master's degrees, the 30 years to retirement, etc. Teachers just don't like to have "their cage rattled" by everyone knowing their business. Yes, it's invasive. Yes, it's a shock to some people. Yes, it opens up a secret world that you would prefer remain closed. But I say "too bad, deal with it." The rest of us have taken it on the chin during this recession and you have gotten generous raises. The rest of us work a job while you put yourselves on a pedestal and complain that we don't do enough as parents to make your job easier. For "crien out loud," how much easier could it get? Sure, you "negotiate" for your compensation, but NO ONE represents us - the taxpayers! It's just one cozy club; the boards of education, the administrators and the teachers - all playing games with our money like it's Monopoly money. Well, those days are over. We are in a new age of disclosure. Finally, teachers are accountable to their REAL employers - THE TAXPAYERS.

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40AnotherAverageCitizen(1183 comments)posted 5 years ago

So do teachers work for themselves? Your logic tells me so. Teachers pay taxes too.

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41charms(228 comments)posted 4 years, 11 months ago


Yes, teachers pay taxes... but not on their glorious hospitalization premiums picked up by the school system. Uncle Sam loves teachers!

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