A lthough I haven't spoken to Warren Bulette face to face in at least 20 years, I feel as though I've had a long and fruitful relationship with him.
If my memory serves me correctly, our first meeting was sometime in 1989. Maybe 1990. So it's been almost 25 years since we started exchanging ideas about education, the cost of education and the effect on taxpayers.
I think it's probably safe to say -- on the whole -- that Bulette and I are of a like mind when it comes to almost anything related to public education.
We've shared ideas over the years, mostly by mail or e-mail, but we managed to keep a physical distance that was probably healthy for us both.
For one thing, I didn't want anyone -- teachers, school board members, school administrators or taxpayers -- to think Bulette and I were two peas in a pod when it came to education. We might have been -- almost -- but it was important, I thought, that people not easily make that connection.
It was just as important -- since, in his early days of rabble-rousing, his wife was opposed to his being too much front and center -- that Bulette not appear connected in any way to a newspaper columnist that was going to ruffle some feathers.
So I did us both a favor -- I intentionally kept my distance.
That said, I tended to agree with Bulette much of the time. Yes, sometimes he might have gone a little off the deep end, but not by much. I very often found him right on target when it came to education matters in his home school district -- York Suburban -- and on education matters, in general.
But I recognized early on the intelligence of the man. And his determination, even in his retirement years, to right what he saw as a system gone wrong.
As time went on, what I liked most about him was his willingness to walk the plank -- often alone -- on issues about which a lot of people agreed, but silently so.
He was no shrinking violet. I admired that about him. He had his own voice, and he used it more and more with each passing day.
The result was that York Suburban School District administrators, board members and teachers often took their lumps from Bulette. I'm certain -- in fact, I know it's the case -- there were hard feelings.
And I'm betting there wasn't a single school official in the other 15 districts in York County who wasn't happy as a pig in slop that Bulette lived in the York Suburban district and not his/hers.
I was reminded of that Tuesday, when a Bulette letter to the editor in The York Dispatch made the point -- for about the 1,000th time in 25 years -- that "there must be more transparency in the cost per student, achievement and outstanding indebtedness."
Those are fighting words for Bulette, but they tend to give school officials the heebie-jeebies.
It all comes down to value for the amount of school property taxes a person pays.
Bulette has always said the "value" side of the equation comes up short in every public school district in York County, in the state.
That includes York Suburban, long held to be one of the finest districts in York County in terms of academic achievement, the district in which Bulette pays his school taxes. Not good enough, he has frequently said. Not nearly good enough.
One thing about Bulette -- he has done, and still does, his homework. He always has the numbers to back up his point of view.
For instance: In Tuesday's letter, Bulette once again hammered the notion that, for the last 22 years, York Suburban school boards kept throwing money at education and it resulted in higher test scores, more achievement.
No so, he says: "... reputable educators have proved little correlation between spending per student and achievement. The record shows that this strategy has failed -- resulting in unnecessary tax increases."
And, Bulette said, "given (various) advantages, Suburban's cost per student should be among the lowest in York County. Instead, it is among the highest at $16,000 (per student) for 2013-14."
At Suburban -- these are Bulette's numbers -- the cost per student from 1990 to 2013 "increased from $6,304 to $15,229, using 1990 dollars."
And here's his point: The increase in dollars spent on education at one of the best school districts in York County "did nothing to improve student achievement." To the contrary, SAT scores are actually down, and district indebtedness is off the charts.
Now I'm sure York Suburban officials don't like hearing any of this. They probably wish Bulette would just shut up and go away.
But here's the thing -- they rarely, if ever, dispute his numbers or his rationale.
And why is that?
Because he's right, of course.
His logic is right on target.
I wish we had about 15 or so more people just like him -- at least one in every school district would be about right.
Just to keep the school boards and education professionals honest.
And to liven the debate, of course.
Columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. E-mail: lhick firstname.lastname@example.org.