Unsustainable

Delaware education funding is out of control. It is unsustainable!!!!  Something is going to have to give.  Kids can’t take any more hits, so it is going to have to come from the adults.  I hate to say this, and teachers, principals, administrators, and superintendents will want my head on a platter, but your pensions and benefits are skyrocketing through the roof.  Every time you get a step raise, your OEC (benefits and pensions) go up as well.  When these OEC amount to 44% of your pay, we are having serious issues keeping up with it.  I know you want raises, but you actually get raises every year because your benefits keep going up.  For those who aren’t state employees, our insurance rates keeps going up as well, but we pay for much more of it than you do.  It comes out of our take-home pay where yours are not like that.  I hate to ask this, but would you be willing to pay more for insurance if it meant the resources and lower-size classrooms could happen because of that?  Something to think about.

In the meantime, taxes keep going up.  Not at a state level.  They are adamant about not raising those taxes.  So who takes the hit?  Every single school district when they have to keep raising taxes every single year.  It makes the state look like heroes.  It is unsustainable!

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39 thoughts on “Unsustainable

  1. I am not sure I am reading this right… “but you actually get raises every year because your benefits keep going up.”
    Umm, the out of pocket cost of my benefits are rising every year, both what comes out of my take home pay and my co-pays. So I am not sure how you see it as a raise in I get more money. What about the rest of the state employees that got a raise this year, and teachers did not? Confused…

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      1. Not sure you are correct about this. I looked at the chart that is in the Delaware Code. Once you hit a certain number of years there are no more step raises. Well I am there, so no, not all teachers are getting a step raise. Unless of course, there is something else I am unaware of.

        It is not just education that is unsustainable in Delaware. It would seem most of our budget is unsustainable. I suspect that is one of the reasons why the DDOT is now looking at a road tax.

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  2. It is very hard to counter-point you on this without coming across as defensive because of the title of your post. However, I will give it a go. Teachers benefits have not increased, but the costs have, so that distinction is very necessary when making broad statements. Let me assure you, along with those increases have come employee contribution increases (larger payroll deductions) to help defray those costs. You’re correct, that something has to change, but you are way off on where those changes need to occur.

    I know teachers who are bringing home less money today than in 2009. How can that be? Program cuts that once allowed extra-pay opportunities to motivated teachers, expectations for volunteerism among teachers going up along with shaming if you didn’t, training incentive bonuses cut, etc. The state of Delaware caps increased at year 11 now. With this in mind, maybe no one should ever get a salary increase. However, at one time the belief was that teachers became more valuable as their experience increased. Additionally, acquiring a state job was at one time considered a professional accomplishment because of the pension and health benefits. If a job in the private sector is not measuring up, than I urge everyone to do whatever is necessary to acquire training or certification to secure a job with the State of Delaware and be of service to the residents of Delaware.

    You see, teachers are constantly in trainings or taking college courses to improve their skills, stay abreast of newly proven pedagogy methodologies, and maintaining their state licensing requirements; yes, even during the summer and usually, at their own expense. I guess the belief that your value or worth goes up with experience is now considered “old school”. The last data numbers I could find regarding teacher attrition was for 2012 and it was 17.3%. I would guess since that number is 7.3% higher than in 2009 it is, in reality even higher in 2015. So, it’s safe to round this to 1 in 5 teachers leave within years 1-3. Everyone knows costs go up when training new hires. Do you think the State of Delaware and local finance managers haven’t done cost analysis on this? Our current Governor would not give teachers one red cent if it didn’t prove cost-effective. So, for the miniscule amount of money awarded in these increases, perhaps the benefit outweighs the costs. Furthermore, who do you think pays for the bulletin board items, the board games for indoor recess, the extra decorations and organization furniture, the colorful printouts, party and special event items, movies, subscriptions to magazines for the class, books for the classroom library? The cost of these things go up with inflation as well. I’m absolutely sure those numbers weren’t included in the costs reported by ABC which only discusses school supplies; glue sticks, crayons, notebooks, binders, printer ink, etc.
    http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=95922

    At the least, step increases makes employees feel as though paying for college courses, taking training education classes, and “life-long learning” expectations of teachers, person sacrifice of their time/money, and work experience is of value in a world clamoring to fault with them for societal and cultural problems that are not under their control.

    Even if they’re wrong, the small pay increases help teachers believe they’re valued by somebody, somewhere. It helps to relieve the frustration of dealing with politicians and political appointees that do not listen to advice, turn up their noses to valid concerns and suggestions, and dismiss genuine suggestions for improvement. Could that be because it’s a profession made up of 85% women and the Delaware House and Senate is 85% male or does that just happen to be a coincidence? Or is it because the chairman of the House Education Committee has a BS in Business Management, a long and impressive work history with the National Guard, but no experience or understanding of the education profession? Or the chair of the Senate Education Committee who has a BS in Physical Education and his experience in education is that he briefly substituted as a P.E. teacher before leaving the professional all together and going to work for DuPont.

    There is more than enough money in the state till for funding education, PROPERLY, paying teachers well with plenty left over to give increases to all state employees. However, it is spent very unwisely on a DOE that is over-sized and who’s spending out of control and imprudent. Your question was, would teachers (and others) be willing to pay the deductible for the insurance to reduce class-sizes and increase resources?

    I would not even entertain the thought of asking teachers, principals or superintendents to pay for a benefit that was in place when they accepted the position (and may have been the deciding factor in making that decision). Until all other wasteful spending avenues have been cut, for example: Cut the Delaware Department of Education to 1/3 its current size (or at least the size it was prior to RTT grant money came and went, the State Board of Education or the Secretary of Education position is eliminated because Delaware doesn’t need both. If the standardized testing costs were drastically reduced if not eliminated, and if tax money were not being pumped into charter schools for private profit, re-structuring of school districts into county-run districts to eliminate administrative costs by all the current school district offices.

    I think you were posting this to see if I’m still reading and engaged in your blog. Either that, or I’m being punked.

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    1. There is a very legitimate reason I am asking this. I’ve been working on something involving EVERY single district and charter in the state. Through someone else’s FOIA, I can see how much is being paid for every single district and charter’s expenditure by code in the state system. While I’m not done yet, I can tell you, by far, the pensions the state is paying for (it doesn’t reflect what teachers pay), is off the hook and rising each year. If I may ask, without getting personal, how much is taken out of your paycheck for benefits? I can tell it is a quarter of my paycheck. It didn’t used to be that way. Believe it or not, compared to the money DOE spends, these costs, on top of salaries, are probably 80% or more of the funding for education. That doesn’t include anything else. Keep in mind, this is the first time I’ve REALLY been looking into district spending at this kind of scope, so I’m sure I’m experiencing sticker shock, but man oh man!

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      1. Perhaps you should ask prison guards, the police, Dept of Transportation, etc. If they would be willing to pay for their benefits if they could get more comfortable working conditions.  You know as well as I do that cutting teacher pay or benefits does not equal actual benefits for students. Don’t begrudge people who worked hard to attain a job with good benefits and future security the right to have them. Especially after the promise to give and receive them was offered in good faith when they were hired. You might have a great reason for asking, but your purpose for asking is way, way off.  The problem you suggest will be fixed by the loss of benefits is one that shouldn’t exist in the first place. 

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    1. $30 million in testing and the money DOE spends on consultants is certainly hefty. But I am not convinced all the money districts and charters are using is going toward what it is supposed to go to. Until we get that mess figured out, we shouldn’t be investing in anything.

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  3. This is really bad, man. The danger of looking at the bottom line like you are is it neglects all the other factors.

    First and foremost, you don’t cut your way to prosperity. If this “blue state” acts all “red” about raising taxes, then no shit we will need to keep cutting, because no new revenue plus increased costs equals a deficit. That’s just obvious.

    As for taking it out on the teachers, how dare you? We are the scapegoat for all of society’s ills. Poor people wouldn’t be poor if they just had an education. Black and brown kids wouldn’t be so far behind white kids if they just had good teachers. Donald Trump wouldn’t even be a candidate for President if we had done a better job and taught people not to vote against their own self interests.

    I’m a little tired of the refrain. You’re giving ammunition to districts and the state for defunding educator salaries and benefits. Maybe some of us glorified babysitters should rise up en masse and stage a sit in at Legislative Hall when the next session starts, and demand a better budget.

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    1. Woah! Easy there killer! You know I have a tremendous amount of respect for you and what you do. But with that being said, you didn’t even address issues of benefits and pensions. Appo spends $30 million on this alone. For those who complain about SBAC costing $35 million, think about all the districts total for this stuff. I’m not saying teachers aren’t entitled to benefits, and I’m not saying teachers are the bane of society. I am merely looking at this from a financial level. If those are the highest costs for our schools, it would stand to reason that should be the first place to look. God knows our districts don’t spend money the way they should (see my current Appo article), but in looking at the big, big picture, if you were assigned a task to get education funding in Delaware under control before a cent was added to it, where would you look?

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    2. And further more, I specifically mentioned “teachers, staff, administrators and superintendents”. Not everything is a teacher attack. I know the word “teacher” is a part of a conversation and many think it is an attack. It’s just a conversation. It’s not like I have the power to change anything otherwise SBAC would be gone because all the parents opted out.

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  4. Whatever. Seriously. How does the private sector do it? Isn’t pension money invested? I mean, I pay into Social Security, right, but isn’t everyone saying that’s gonna run out before my generation even needs it?

    If the problem is how we spend our money, then yes, let’s look first at testing. I have no clue how much is spent on testing, in this state OR in my district. And I’ve asked. Why can’t the budgets be line item? I’m not too stupid to understand them, although I certainly lack your tenacity in digging through all the documents you have accessed.

    If I had to look, I would look first at testing. Cut that shit. Let teachers make their own damn tests. Or fricking get rid of this standardized testing altogether. It’s overused and ruining education.

    The second place I would look is this freaking school choice crap. I know everyone wants to live where they want to live but still send their kids to the perfect school, which is never located near where they want to live, but transportation costs are KILLING the traditional public schools. Probably charters, too.

    How much is spent annually on repairing buildings in a district? Wouldn’t it be better in about four billion ways to have a plan for upgrading buildings so you don’t have every building with a leaky roof that is poorly patched? Aren’t there grants available for upgrades that make buildings more energy efficient?

    Oh, and while we are at it, how about the asinine Delaware Way of allocating funding so certain types of money can only be spent in certain ways? And might I add that PLENTY of people in education have absolutely no idea that what I just said is even a thing?

    No. You don’t cut staff. You don’t cut salary. You don’t cut benefits. All that does is kick the can further down the road. Eventually the price will need to be paid. You’re too smart to not see that. C’mon, man.

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    1. Standardized testing, as much as you and I would love for it to go away, isn’t going anywhere. Teachers don’t have the gathering power to actually accomplish anything like that. Not meaning to offend or bash here, but teachers complain all the time, but when it comes to policy or laws being heard in committee or on the floor, I see the same set of people every single time. Teachers rely on this set group to do the talking for them. And it usually ends up in some compromise or a complete shut-down of what the teachers wanted in the first place. I learned this with opt out as well. Legislators and policy-makers know this well. The day I see even a hundred teachers gather from around the state for something that doesn’t give out eclairs or isn’t at Dover Downs is a day I can’t foresee.

      Why is the option for taking a look at benefits and pension off the table? My insurance changes every year and I pay more for it every year. I would love to know how much teachers have to pay for deductibles and co-pays, or any state employee for that matter. Any business in America, if they were looking at money, would always look at the biggest expense first. And let’s face it, you guys ARE the biggest expense in schools. I never said get rid of teachers. But if we can’t get costs under control, and nothing else is working, and the state can’t get its head out of its own ass, what do you suggest? All those things you mentioned are pipe dreams. You need a rally for that to happen and we both know that is not going to happen.

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  5. You’re damn right salary and benefits is the biggest cost, because the schools are starved out of everything else!!!! Compare the percentage of payroll stuff, human capital, whatever, in Red Clay to Christina. Last time I saw it, Red Clay has about 71% of its budget in staffing. Christina has like 83%. Why? Because Christina has to keep cutting elsewhere to pay for staff because without staff you cannot run a building.

    If this is truly going to be our Waterloo, then I say we need to get up, all of us, not just teachers but librarians and nurses and counselors and principals and assistant principals, district office staff, superintendents, transportation, food service, secretaries, paraprofessionals, custodial…. That is a hill on which I would die fighting. And those are the people I would go down for.

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  6. Oh wow. Let me spell it out for you.

    No teachers = bad for students
    Crappy schools = bad for students
    No resources = bad for students
    OVERTESTING = BAD FOR STUDENTS

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    1. Thank you for the spelling lesson. And good job, you spelled all the words right. I guess I learned my lesson. And yes, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that all four of your VERY BROAD categories are bad for students. I’m pretty sure I learned all that on Romper Room.

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      1. But the third part of your spelling equation is most likely the one that is most abused or neglected. If there is one thing I hear the most from teachers and advocated for public education it is that students don’t have enough resources. I can count on no finger ever hearing anything about having too many benefits or pension.

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      2. The “what about the kids” refrain is often used to divert attention for the task at hand. Yes, education is about the kids, but let’s face it, it is also a career. Criminal defense attorneys aren’t always hearing “but what about the victim”. They have a job, pure and simple, and they execute that job with fidelity. If they don’t, they lose it. Same goes for educators. When I write lesson plans, when I put together a budget for materials, when I create getting-to-know-you activities, when I open my classroom during lunch for the kids who don’t even have me to get a few minutes of happiness and comfort with our class pets…. That’s for the kids.

        But when it comes to policy, evaluations, testing, pay… That’s not about the kids. Nor, frankly, should it be. That’s about me as an employee. There are safeguards in place for dismissing educators who aren’t fulfilling the expectations of their jobs. Don’t make MY salary, which is how I support my family, about the students. I don’t do this job for the money, so don’t make it about that.

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        1. Policy isn’t about kids? It should ALWAYS be about kids and what is in their best interests. If there were no kids you wouldn’t have a job. If you look at schools like a store, the kids are the customer. If you don’t treat your customer right, you will lose them. Or they can’t afford the other store so they continue to go to your store. Teachers, staff, admins, etc. are the people who run the business. I agree evaluations should be about the teachers. No argument there. Testing should be about the kids and what tests will help them to understand the material they have been taught. Period. But where we are going to disagree is the last point. If the kids can’t get milk at the store because the store is out of it but they are paying their employees too much, how does that help the kid who went into your store to get milk?

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  7. I have started half a dozen responses, even got close to finishing a couple. but I have the sense that only one opinion matters here, that honest, open discussion is not the objective, and once again, teachers are the villians.
    JAX has covered most all that needs to be said.

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  8. Ok yes definitely there is some overlap. Policy is sometimes about the kids and sometimes not so much. Evaluations are about making sure you have the best employees working for you. As one of my all-time favorite administrators once told me, sometimes you just have to do a little tweaking to get your staff in the right positions to be really amazing. We all have our strengths, and that’s what I believe an evaluation system should ferret out. What needs to be improved, is this person better suited for that grade, how can we lift this practice up for others to see and learn from? Those are important questions.

    But, um, kids are not a backpack full of cash. Why would we treat our kids like a commodity?

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  9. i’m just gonna say been following this blog since the beginning. never commented til now. i think both sides have a say. but del is corrupt as hell. if our leaders are that way so are leaders in our schools. not all but too many. follow the money

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  10. Benefits and Pensions…..

    Ok let us look at them… Why are they so high?

    In the 1960s there used to be (roughly) one dollar of contribution to Social Security/Medicare for every dollar and a half dollars of corporate profits, whereas today there’s (roughly) one dollar of contribution to Social Security/Medicare for every four dollars of corporate profits.

    Kevin’s argument just got collapsed into this: we have to cut employee benefits in order to justify the continence of today’s high profits.

    Here is where the real argument lies: IF we accept his premise that we can do nothing about the corporate profits, then he is correct. There will continue to be less money coming in and therefore as inflation rises, if benefits are to continue, employees will have to pay more while working for less.

    Now as hardworking employees it is easy to separate benefits in our mind from in-hand compensation. But from the employers visual reference both are just part of the same… Right now the average cost per employee is around $33 dollars per hour worked. That is average so half of you cost more, and half of you cost them less…

    Across many past articles, my colleagues and I have examined how, from 1995 to 2005, the top 30 of the very largest companies in the world (ranked by market capitalization) have seen their profit per employee rise to $83,000, from $35,000. On average, the number of people these companies employ has grown to 198,000, from 92,000, and their ROIC (return on invested capital) has increased to 23 percent, from 17 percent. As a result, the median market cap of this group of companies rose to $168 billion, from $34 billion, with total returns to shareholders (TRS) at 17 percent a year. The driver of this dramatic rise in market cap was a fivefold increase in average profits—an increase brought on in turn by a more than 100 percent jump in profit per employee and a doubling in the number of employees. By comparison, these companies’ ROIC increased, over this same period, by only a third.

    So the real issue, Kevin, is that average profits have grown more than 100% per employee, because the cost per employee has been kept down….

    (For reference, at an average $83,000 profits per employee (divided by 52 weeks/40 hours per week), come to $39.90 per hour.) So we cost $33 per hour, they get $40 per hour…

    This is because we accept it… It could just as readily be split evenly at $36.50 per hour for both. Or the same figures could be split the opposite, $33/$40 with corporate being at $33 profit, and wage cost being at $40 per hour of employee work. It could be any number, there is no set law because labor is based on negotiation. Even the following are possible: (profit/cost per hour) $30/$43; $25/$48; $20/$53; $15/$58…

    Essentially as a society we choose where the cost of employee and the profit per employee should lie. Right now, since Corporatist have controlled almost all messaging, we are pushing it the wrong way… hurting the employee in order to benefit the profits of a business.

    I should interject at this point that everyone seems to think high profits are necessary for investment to take place. Absolutely not… In recent memory investment was often done to drop the profit levels artificially lower in order to pay less federal and state taxes. In the past you purposely invested in research, hired more people, expanded your plant, IN ORDER to keep your “profits” down. Of course, anyone can see that such corporate investment directly into the economy also makes everyone richer…

    So, Kevin. Saying that educators need to take the cuts, is playing right into Markell’s and Sokola’s hands. You are buying into the watered down message whose one aim is to drive down costs so profits can soar.

    Everyone should have no problem with soaring profits. We’d all like to be part of that… But what moral right do you have to have your profits rise only by your ability to keep my profits down? There is no right in that…..

    Bottom line, no one needs to take these cuts because economically the money is there.. In fact there is no reason other than political (and that can change) why we can’t lock down benefits as a percent and peg it to inflation, and keep our budget balanced by legislating that we MUST raise taxes on our top 1% in order to have a balanced budget every year… (Instead of the opposite we currently do by requiring cuts in order to balance the budget……_)

    And anticipating your upcoming response, that my take is pie in the sky because raising taxes is politically infeasible so until that happens we have no choice but to cut benefits and pensions, the flat out answer is no….

    For look at it this way. If we all said… Ok then , we won’t work until you tax the 1% sufficiently to give us everything we want…..

    And we can do that…. sooner or later the top one percent will fine it will be much easier to pay workers what they want and have them show up and generate that $36 profit per hour, than make 0 dollars profit every hour they sit out…

    Bottom line is NO; we don’t have to take cuts…

    WE say … Ok, not working…. And the writing on the wall is becoming clearer every day…. that is where we are going to have to go with this…

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  11. Public employee pensions only look high since private pensions have vanished and private wages have stagnated or shrunk, because the unions that used to protect workers have lost influence or disappeared. Fix private incomes and pensions, and public pensions will look a lot more sustainable.

    The deal for state employees used to be that yeah, your salary will suck, but you will get great benefits and job security. Now the public salaries are looking pretty good, and the benefits also look good by comparison as the private sector benefits have fallen away.

    If you really want to compare public employee pay and benefits with private workers, give the teachers a break and look at cops.

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  12. Great point Mike O… The cops have never ever, ever been shy about saying they’ll stop working if they don’t get what they want… If every American does the same, we will all be treated as well as our cops…

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  13. I am utterly disgusted- both with your suggestion, and with the joke of our governor’s pretense of seeking to attract and retain good teachers.

    here’s a little info from a colleague in PA- less than an hour from my NCC home:
    LM HS salaries
    Principal $160,111
    Asst princ $142,645
    Asst princ $135,399
    Athletic director $133,020
    Communications Director (aka boys basketball team fundraiser and apartment finder) $101,096
    LMSD Grade 5 teacher w 20 years experience: $120,000.

    You are beating the underdogs, Kevin. I have a great idea for a survey. send it to teachers in MD, PA, & NJ, asking how much they’d like to be teaching in DE.

    you, and all DE citizens don’t just shortchange teachers, you shortchange every public school student in the state.

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  14. 4Eq – does your PA colleagegue say how many students he/she is responsible for in their districts? Delaware has some darn small districts – each with its own hierarchy of staff – and is overdue for consolidation.

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    1. student enrollment: 8,344

      Delaware’s Referendum system is proof that public school students were never a priority in the state. It’s a means of limiting their cost. pure and simple.
      The powers that designed and enacted this system likely had their children safely secured in one of the state’s many private schools.
      Delaware has never been much about the good of the general public, but more about its control.

      We get what we give.

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  15. look at u kids. tearin inta one another. if kevin askin bout pensions and benefits its gotta be for a reason. didnt the tubthumper already say somethin crazy was goin on? u all need to start askin the right questions. way i see it he needs your help. u been doubtin him too long now. theres somethin special bout that boy. u dont wanna see it cause if u did u would force yourself to start talkin too. no one wants to do that cuz they worry bout themselves. im not sayin he always right but from where i stand hes the only one tryin to fight the good fight. jack an evil man. stands to reason he got many followers. been followin that one a long time. somethin evil done rise up out o that man. kevin sees it. dont know how dont know why. reckon i dont want to. but he sees it and sees it in others. an johnny aint much better. puttin him on the same plate as jack is plain stupid. kevin onta somethin big here and they know it. they scared he gonna expose them. they need exposin. only way them kids ever gonna know what up and what down.jack havin hisself a party and u all worried bout the party favors. but once u walk thru his door he got u. him and alla his other demon buddies. this is a war and u can be on a side but u cant sit on the sidelines and bash him alla the time. u pick a side and u help him. he your leader. but he cant lead no one no way no how if u all lookin at the carnage an doin nothin. these your kids. fight for them an each other an help the boy. these kids sittin there sayin please save us. this be the word.

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