March 14, 2023

The Hidden Ball Trick

By: Grant Van Eck

Baseball is back and spring training is in full swing. I love this time of year and as an avid fan seeing the prospects develop and pitchers competing for a spot in the rotation is a wonderful part of the great American pastime. 

It always makes me nostalgic for the baseball films of my childhood. One of the cool things about being a 90s kid was growing up with some really great baseball flicks; Angels in the Outfield, Mr. Baseball, The Scout, A League of Their Own, The Sandlot, The Babe, Little Big League just to name a few (Ed, the one with the chimp and Joey from Friends, did not make this list). 

My favorite of the baseball films of this era was Rookie of the Year where a kid named Henry, a little leaguer, has an accident which results in a miracle pitching arm good enough to play on the Chicago Cubs. 

Spoiler alert: there is this suspenseful yet funny scene at the end of the film where Henry’s special pitching superpower goes away at the end of the last game of the season due to an awkward fall on the mound similar to how he first injured his hand. Determined to get the final outs, he gathers his teammates for a plan, the hidden ball trick. This play is not fiction. The Hidden Ball Trick is a legal play in baseball that has been used only around 300 times in the century old sport. It is good fun, check it out here:

I draw a parallel with this shifty play and what the Bridgewater-Raritan School District, here in New Jersey, is attempting to do with their latest bond proposals. It is a classic trick up the sleeve by the government to confuse voters and taxpayers, and a good example for free market warriors everywhere. 

A bloated school administration is using sleight of hand to cover up the facts in order to receive a new deluge of other people’s money to spend for themselves. If their two bond proposals were to fail, property taxpayers like me, in these two communities would pay less taxes! 

A concept so frightening and so foreign to a bureaucrat. Simply reading those unsuccessful election results for those with a special interest in it passing would equate to seeing a ghost. That is an unfair insult to poltergeists, stopping an increase in a school budget is much rarer. 

Just like the first baseman has a ball hidden in his glove in that suspenseful yet comedic scene in Rookie of the Year, the school district holds a $155 million dollar bond in their gigantic first baseman’s mitt—district administrators and the unions. 

And let’s not kid ourselves, when has a school construction project ever stayed under budget? Unlike the movie, this is not a comedy, it is a Shakespearean tragedy. For those like myself who will be stuck paying for their fraud, waste and abuse it is quite suspenseful the final days before the election. 

If these bonds pass, it means every property tax payer takes another serious hit to their wallets. This isn’t a movie but the administration expects voters to use suspension of disbelief. What they are actually doing in Bond Proposal 1 is replacing maturing school debt. You could not make up something that ridiculous even for the silver screen. Audiences wouldn’t buy it.  

This cunning school district is just waiting until the low turnout off-cycle March election results trickle in just like the base runner for the Mets takes his lead of first in the scene. Then bam, tag, taxpayer is out! The School District smirks at the taxpayer just like Henry does at the Mets frustrated dugout. Gotcha, 25 years of increased taxes to fund unnecessary capital projects for less students than were previously enrolled. Oh by the way, Bond Proposal 2, throw in expanding to full day kindergarten, change around the grade alignment to the detriment of 4th and 6th graders, and let us come back again for another referendum question down the road to take even more money. 

When spring training is in full swing teams are not playing in their usual locations, they are at their spring training camps. It is many times the same situation for the school referendum election, quite similar to baseball but much more peculiar. 

It is not the ideal weather for games in the Bronx so it makes sense that the Yankees would spend winter months in Florida. What I can’t make sense of is why an election that determines nearly 70% of the property tax bill people pay would be held on an obscure Tuesday in March and your polling location would not be the typical polling location for many voters. 

A smaller crowd at the game is another element of spring training where school budget elections in New Jersey draw similarity. You could almost say it is by design, that an election which determines the lion’s share of a property tax bill is not only off cycle it is also offsite for many, lowering potential turnout even further. With suppressed election day voting engineered they then counter with a targeted get out to vote mail-in effort done by entrenched administrators, teachers unions, and the well connected. These three groups share one obvious thing in common, which is, they lavish in the spoils of unchecked government spending. 

With low attention on these spring elections historically you would think that every elected school board member in New Jersey would do what is best for the voters, in the name of democracy, and fight to move the school budget referendum elections to November. It is well known to conservative elected officials that their constituents vote in the highest percentages in-person on election day in November. It is also widely known to the unofficially GOP aligned school board officials that their political base does not support rising taxes and a government monopoly on the education of young minds. 

Making the switch to November for these referendums by no means solves the problem of defeating an increase in spending by government run schools. But the result of that inaction will absolutely continue to crush these elected officials’ constituents’ property tax bills for a generation and beyond. This only accelerates the exodus of center-right politically leaning voters to other states. 

There is no excuse for allowing the schools to keep playing their hidden ball trick on taxpayers in Bridgewater, Raritan, or any town that faces a similar financial threat from the school district/s. 

Some good news is that the legal power has existed for a decade to move school board elections to November. This is a good start and a sign of positive reform. Thanks to a law signed by former Governor Chris Christie. Here is a great fact sheet on that law available to everyone: 

School districts across New Jersey have been run into the ground by a cabal of self appointed elites that make our beautiful communities a financially ugly place to live. The failed policies pushed by them for decades have resulted in every single town becoming one of the most overtaxed places to live in America. As difficult as it is to make it under this unfortunate but succeeding agenda, there is still hope. 

More so today than at any time in modern history parents, grandparents, and concerned taxpayers are coalescing against these off-cycle elections and waking up to harmful things being done by public schools. Taxpayers all across this state and others are now following the dollars that were taken from them by government school districts. And they aren’t happy with what they have witnessed so far. It is risky and hard work showing up and pushing back against this insanity. Agencies of the Federal Government that these citizens also pay for, have been weaponized against them for exercising their inalienable rights. 

So, these school administrations are not intimidated. They are as brazen as ever, evidenced by the Bond Proposals in Bridgewater-Raritan, one of the nearly 700 school Districts in New Jersey. Please note that there are only 564 municipalities in the state. Which means, there are over 100 more school districts than there are municipalities! These entities have no shame, a thirst for your money, and an unhealthy obsession with their own power.  

It is a worthy challenge to take on the deceit and trickery of such a massive and powerful adversary like a New Jersey School District. Many brave individuals have stepped up and are winning. 

By implementing proven strategies from other successful states it is totally achievable that individuals can educate their communities about free market solutions such as school choice and vote down out-of -control government spending proposals by schools. 

It is imperative to get back on the right track, move to hold all budget referendum elections in November, and offer property tax relief to people who opt out of government schools and instead choose to send their children to private school, religious school, or home school.