Looks like Harrisburg Wants Local School Districts to solve their Own Budget Problems

Following-up on my post from yesterday concerning T/E School District’s financial outlook and the ongoing debate on how to close the $3.5 million+ budget gap, I don’t know how much help we can expect from Harrisburg.

Yesterday, at a Senate Appropriations Committee meeting, the Acting Education Secretary, Ronald Tomalis took a hard-line when it came to school district budgets, suggesting among other things, that they should have planned better with the federal stimulus money. He stood firm in his defense of Corbett’s proposed $1.2 billion buts to public and higher education.

Tomalis attitude towards successful public school education mirrored some of those that have commented on Community Matters.  He suggests that success is not measured by how much school districts spend but rather there are other significant factors . . . quality of teachers, class size, etc. that make a difference. More money spent does not necessarily correlate to better education.

In reviewing the state’s public education funding in prior years, Tomalis noted that the budget has more than doubled over the last 10 years but that enrollment has dropped by 50,000 students, which translates to a higher per student cost.  Interestingly, he suggests that the improvement in academic achievement has not increased as more money has been spent. Rather than looking at the money spent per child to educate as a tool to measure success, Tomalis’ theory is that graduation rates and test scores present a more accurate picture of individual school district success.

In looking at what has driven the upward spiral of spending in public education, Tomalis directed criticism at school district spending habits in recent years.  He noted that $1.1 billion has gone toward teacher and administration raises rather than educational programming since the recession began in 2008, citing labor costs are determined at the local level.   According to Tomalis, Corbett’s suggestion of a one-year salary freeze for public education employees was an attempt to help the school districts with their budget problems. In addition to saving school districts an estimated $400 million with this one-year freeze, Tomalis believes that as many as 4,000 public school jobs could be saved as a result of the salary freeze.

Many have commented on Community Matters that the fate of our local school district budget deficit needs to be addressed in Harrisburg but there seems an attitude from Tomalis that the problem rests squarely on the shoulders of local elected school board members.  “We hire these leaders at the local levels to make the tough decisions,” Tomalis said.  “And we don’t just hire them to lead in good budget times, but we hire them to lead in tough times, too”.  Strong words from Harrisburg that sound a bit like a ‘you deal with it’ attitude towards the school boards.  Interesting.  I am hopeful that Tomalis’ remarks also include an expectation that local state representatives are to help their respective school districts manage their budget problems.

In discussing how school districts could find savings, Tomalis suggested that districts could share superintendents or share contracts for business operations. Another cost-saving suggestion was merging of school districts.  There are currently 500 school districts in the state, and it is believed that state funding could be improved with fewer districts.

Much of the discussion at the committee meeting centered on what the state budget cuts will mean to the local school districts.  How are the districts going to meet the demands of their budget?  For many districts, the state funding cuts are going to force local property taxes to skyrocket.  When questioned about the dramatic property tax increases for some residents violates Corbett’s pledge ‘not’ to raise taxes, Tomalis vehemently disagreed.  I disagree with Tomalis disagreeing . . . if Pennsylvanians end up with a higher property tax bill because of state cuts in public education spending, that is a tax increase.  I do not believe by pushing the increase down to the local level, removes the responsibility of the tax increase from our elected officials shoulders in Harrisburg. Is it fair for the governor’s budget to force school districts to raise property taxes?

Sen. Andy Dinniman questioned that some groups are saying there is potential that the budget cuts could destroy public education. Tomalis denied that there would be an impact to the quality of education with the budget cuts; suggesting that the federal stimulus money was the cause for the cuts.  The stimulus money was an intended one-time use and now with that money gone, the state is left with a budget hole to fill. Accordingly,  Tomalis blamed the school districts for not better planning for the end of stimulus money.  “If you were told again and again that this is a funding cliff that is coming in two years, and you were advised not to make an expenditure that is going to lock in for five or 10 years down the road, it does matter,” said Tomalis.

In reading the transcript from the meeting, other education topics were discussed, including voucher program (Tomalis is a supporter), teacher furloughing, charter schools, etc. In addition there was discussion at the Senate Appropriations Committee meeting centered on higher education and the severe funding cuts to state universities and colleges.  For the purposes of this post, I decided to focus my comments on the local school district funding issue.

Tomalis takes his education platform to the House Appropriations committee today.

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  1. “Interestingly, he suggests that the improvement in academic achievement has not increased as more money has been spent. Rather than looking at the money spent per child to educate as a tool to measure success, Tomalis’ theory is that graduation rates and test scores present a more accurate picture of individual school district success.”

    Just six months ago Governor Rendell’s office issued the following press release:

    Sept. 14, 2010
    Pennsylvania Students Post Record Gains in Reading, Math Scores;Eight of 10 Schools Meet ‘No Child Left Behind’ Targets for 2010PA Student Achievement Rises for 8th Consecutive Year
    Harrisburg – Eighty-two percent of Pennsylvania schools met the required academic goals for the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law for 2010, Governor Edward G. Rendell announced today, with record numbers of students performing at grade level in reading and math on the state’s PSSA tests.
    Overall, three quarters of Pennsylvania students are now achieving at grade level,and the smallest percentage of students ever, scored at the lowest level since theinception of the PSSAs.
    “The Center for Education Policy told us last year that Pennsylvania was the only state in the nation to make academic gains across the board from 2002 through 2008,” said Governor Rendell. “These terrific numbers show that we are continuing that trend and more. Student achievement has increased in every subject, at all tested grade levels and for all ethnic, racial and economic subgroups of students since 2002 — the eighth straight year of student performance gains. I congratulateour teachers, the entire education community, the General Assembly, and, especially, our students for these outstanding achievements.”

    Read the complete press release: http://www.pacast.com/press_releases/8471_Gov_Education_feed.pdf

    It would seem that the current reform agenda requires that we completely disregard the gains made by Pennsylvania students over the past eight years. At the Education Policy and Leadership Council breakfast last week Mike Masch noted that Philadelphia students had gone from 20% proficient to 50% proficient on the PSSA’s during that time.

    Increased funding through Accountability Block Grants paid for math coaches and reading coaches in districts throughout the state and were effective in providing remedial help to raise the test scores of students who needed it. These same programs are now being cut in response to the Governors’ proposed budget. The proficiency target scores under NCLB will continue to rise. With ABG funding eliminated it will be increasingly daunting to continue the progress noted above.

    However, I suppose that if the real agenda is to privatize education then cutting this funding will help to insure that more of our public school students and more of our schools can be labeled failing, to further justify giving tax dollars to private and parochial school that will have no accountability.

    Although there have been many education related bills introduced this session I have not seen even one provision in any of the proposed legislation that is directed towards improving student achievement and learning in our public schools. None.

  2. So Harrisburg has no responsibility for the $10.5 million cumulative net increase in T/E PSERS costs from 2010/11 to 2014/15? Give me a break!

    It’s about time people recognized that we are all in this together.

  3. I can understand why some posters might criticize Harrisburg for the impact of unfunded mandates. (I think the effect of unfunded mandates is overstated and the real budget problems are of locally grown)

    I can understand the concern that Harrisburg’s cuts fall disproportionately on poor districts. TE has it relatively easy.

    I can understand the concern that Corbett’s has pushed the problem down to the local level without much warning and past the time for initiating a referendum.

    What I don’t understand is why many posters are unhappy that more responsibility for taxing decisions has been given to our local officials. Is it more palatable for 300 legislators in Harrisburg to take money out of our left pocket with an income tax increase rather than to have 9 local officials take it out of our right pocket with a RE tax increase? Do we think Harrisburg has some magic pot of money that is replenished from someone else’s pocket; not ours? Are we piqued because Corbett gets to keep his no-tax pledge the “easy way”?

    The major spending decisions are being made at the local level. Let’s welcome having more of the taxing decisions made locally.

    1. Local taxation keeps the money here. State taxes take it to harrisburg to redistribute. The problem is Act 1 and local politics that want to mitigate taxes. I have posted here the taxes for Radnor, LM and TE. We are FIVE FULL MILLS below those two entities…and given the PDE 2028 for next year’s budgets for schools, we will lag even more. We cannot justify that. Regardless of the Bloomberg claim (that I can find NO support for) that Chester County is more expensive. It is NOT…and capitlized tax rates in the price of the house is still a buying decision. Being taxed on what you were willing to pay is what it is. An EIT is a local version of the state income tax…but it takes a referendum to do it, right? Not gonna happen. School board needs to prioritize and spend what it takes to provide the programs that this community supports. No second guessing.

      1. Hmmm….

        You say we need to “spend what it takes to provide the programs that this community supports.”

        But you also realize community support for a referendum is, “Not gonna happen”.

        I think you have your answer about what the TE community is willing to support. Many residents understand that more spending does not necessarily result in a better education.

        Do you think Radnor’s and Lower Merion’s higher tax rates enable a better education for their students? Higher PSSA scores? Higher SAT scores? Higher graduation rate? Acceptance into more prestigious colleges?

        1. By and large, there was – and still is – a lot of support in this community for our schools and the programs we have. We’ve seen the backlash on rising property taxes as expressed through acts of Harrisburg. But the legislature did not listen. They only got half the message.

          By no means is it true that most people in this community want to see taxes reigned in at the expense of the quality of our schools. What people really want – and Harrisburg has only recently even begun to look at – is COST CONTROL. T/E residents want reasonable taxes AND quality schools. The only way for that to happen is to give the local school board the tools to cut costs – i.e., reform PSERS, eliminate unfunded mandates, and level the playing field with the union (instead of keeping all of the pro-union laws in place and capping the school district’s taxing authority).

          As for your question:

          “Do you think Radnor’s and Lower Merion’s higher tax rates enable a better education for their students? Higher PSSA scores? Higher SAT scores? Higher graduation rate? Acceptance into more prestigious colleges?”

          I would say no, but that misses the point. You have committed a logical fallacy. We’re talking about the impact of cuts, not current spending. Your example says nothing about what will happen to any of the school districts mentioned when they are forced to endure years of budget cuts.

          What I am concerned about is more and deeper cuts, year after year, this year, next year, on and on. The fact that higher current spending in other districts does not necessarily result in measurable increases in performance misses the point. There is still a limit to how much you can cut before you begin to negatively impact performance. Your assertion that cuts will not affect the performance of our schools because Radnor and Lower Merion currently spend more and have equal outcomes says NOTHING about what will happen when T/E (or Radnor and LM for that matter) have deep cuts each year for the next several years. It is illogical to conclude that the disparity in current spending levels says anything about the impact of cuts.

          You also said: “I think you have your answer about what the TE community is willing to support. Many residents understand that more spending does not necessarily result in a better education”.

          Again, we’re talking about cuts now. I believe the majority of citizens in our community will not be pleased when they see what is being done to our schools over the next few years. While they want to see costs contained, they do not want it done at the expense of the kids.

          Once more, they want quality – the same or better – at a reasonable cost. I disagree with your opinion on what the T/E community is willing to support.

          There will be a political reckoning for this too. The pendulum always reaches a limit and swings the other direction. We will soon see the zenith of the effort to cut taxes and privatize our public schools.

          It remains to be seen how much backlash there will be to further cuts to our eduational program. But I think it may well be considerable.

  4. Remember that NCLB was co-sponsored by Senator Kennedy and Senator Judd. It’s been with us since it became law in 2002.

    From the start, it appeared that the purpose was to privatize education, but that fell off the radar for the last 5 years while the emphasis on standards reappeared.

    No one cares about results anymore if they cannot figure out how to pay for them.

  5. Tomalis states, “He noted that $1.1 billion has gone toward teacher and administration raises rather than educational programming since the recession began in 2008, citing labor costs are determined at the local level.”

    This is just political spin of the worst kind. Unsustainable contracts are negotiated at the local level, but ridiculous state rules prevent school districts from having true negotiating power. PA permits teacher strikes and prohibits teacher furloughs for economic reasons. The combination of these two factors gives unions a significant amount of power in contract negotiations. State law limits tax increases (under Act 1) for education, but no law limits pay raises for teachers.

    Pattye writes, “According to Tomalis, Corbett’s suggestion of a one-year salary freeze for public education employees was an attempt to help the school districts with their budget problems. In addition to saving school districts an estimated $400 million with this one-year freeze, Tomalis believes that as many as 4,000 public school jobs could be saved as a result of the salary freeze.”

    Ok…this is great, but Corbett’s suggestion of a pay freeze is completely hollow. It’s a suggestion. There is nothing to force local unions to accept it. Does anyone really believe TE’s teachers are going to give up a pay raise this year? All non-contract employees in TE will have a pay freeze, but so far the TEEA and TENIG are both getting a substantial pay increase. And we’ve had no indication from the school board that either group is willing to give up their raises.

    Finally…the state is causing severe budget problems by refusing to address PSERS. The unsustainable benefit system is crippling school districts. PSERS increases are higher than the Act 1 index, which means districts are cutting educational programs even as they are taxing more.

    School district problems are not local, and the state must intervene to help school districts solve these problems by fixing PSERs and doing something to address collective bargaining problems (e.g. teacher furloughs and teacher strikes). Without this state intervention, our local districts will continue to cut programs while simultaneously raising our taxes to the legal maximum.

    Nobody in Harrisburg wants to touch hot potato issues like PSERS or collective bargaining. Democrats were too beholden to the unions, and Republicans are too beholden to the tea party.

    In trying to be fiscally conservative, Corbett is starving school districts of money. If he fixed the unfunded mandates and screwed up state laws that caused the problems, his cuts would seem reasonable. But he is cutting without offering true relief. “Asking” the unions to take a pay freeze is not true relief. It is an empty political gesture with no force behind it.

    Neither political party is showing good leadership. And that is shameful.

    1. AP — Please send this to the papers as a letter to the editor/editorial comment. It is SO well articulated and worthy of many, many readers.

    2. Additional Perspective said, “Unsustainable contracts are negotiated at the local level, but ridiculous state rules prevent school districts from having true negotiating power.”

      Local school boards have shown repeatedly that they are incapable saying NO even though the PSEA’s own study has shown no measurable effect of teacher strikes on academic achievement. When faced with angry parents, angry teachers and the threat of labor action, it was always easier to raise taxes by a few percent. The board can then retreat behind the excuse of “we’ll be better able to compete for the best and brightest teachers” even though the board has no way to measure how bright they are or remove them when they go dim.

      There are several ways to solve the problem.

      1. Revise the laws that govern labor relations (Acts 195 and Act 88) to shift the balance of power toward school boards ala Wisconsin and Indiana.

      2. Constrain the taxing power of school boards (Act 1 Index with no exceptions) so the “easy” choice of raising taxes by a few percent to appease the teachers is removed.

      3. Further constrain the taxing power of the board by requiring a two-thirds majority to raise taxes. SB537

      4. Remove taxing power from the board and place it in the hands of the voters via a referendum for ALL tax increases as in New Jersey.

      5. Make it easy to convert public schools to charter schools to bypass labor agreements. SB904
      http://articles.philly.com/2011-03-29/news/29362064_1_cyber-charter-schools-grant-charters-charter-applications

      1. Thanks for this. I’ll go with #1 and #5.
        If you elect people to do a job, you cannot look for a referendum to validate or negate their effort. Act 1 is silly and creates an artificial ceiling that’s not a ceiling anyway.

        I take exception with your premise that echoes the PSEA study that strikes do not hurt academic achievement. Strikes seriously damage communities — and change the working relationship between teacher and family for a long time. I’ll look for some articles and post them, but there are many stories about how the community divided and went to the mattresses — against each other. Two working parent families cannot prepare adequately for a 10 day work stoppage, with 24 hours notice. And the PSEA knows it. They look at test scores — which is what too many people rely on to judge the quality of an education. (I know that’s the ultimate measure….but it’s turning to those measures that is reducing our efforts — kids shy away from challenging courses because easier courses result in better grades….but that’s a talk for another time).
        Good information CO. Keep it coming. (And looking at NJ taxes, I don’t like that system either…)

        1. Hi Lurking,

          I like #1 and #5, too. However, #1 requires time and a big fight and #5 has implementation problems. Could TE abandon their public schools and turn them into charters? I see lots of legal hurdles.

          I’ve heard the argument that we should leave the decision in the elected officials’ hands. I disagree. We elected school board directors to freely make taxing and spending decisions below the Act 1 limit. We didn’t give them unlimited taxing and spending power. The state legislators had ample evidence that most local school boards, however well intended, are unable to say NO to the union and have taken action (Act 1) to fix the problem.

          I understand that strikes (or any labor action) can fracture relationships for years. I understand the hardship that a strike with 48 hours notice can place on families. Given the current laws and the continuing outrageous demands if the teachers, I, unfortunately, don’t see an alternative.

          I’m enjoying the spirited conversation and appreciate everyone’s point of view.

    3. Thank you “Additional Perspective”. Could not have said it any better. This problem is Everyone problem, Corbett did everything he could not to get his hands dirty!!!! And now we at the local level are going to pay for it!!!

  6. In the words of Tammy Wynette, Tomalis allegiance to Corbett . . .

    Stand by your man
    And show the world you love him
    Keep giving all the love you can
    Stand by your man!

  7. I believe the problem between what CO says is a community that has said “enough” and what Kevin says about the community supporting programs lies in the demographics.

    In 1965, approximately 80% of the residents in homes in this country had children living in them — in schools. So what was good for kids was good for everyone. Now, about 25% have kids in them. NIMBY has gone viral. Don’t charge me to live here…I don’t need the services….but that’s short-sighted. The decision to move here is based on test scores and perception. The perception does includes “lower taxes than neighboring districts”….but not 18% lower (using that 5 mill thing). Petersen is right that people are in love with low costs, but unless the teachers take this waiver etc, we are going to see changes. I’m actually okay with some class size changes because I think before Kevin ran on that platform, the schools were performing at the same level we see now…there has been no major gains academically (Kevin — are there any that are measurable?) I haven’t read the most recent budget strategies, but I know there are some savings there. I also think a major change in the health care approach is in order — and I’d just put it on the table and not try to sell it — I’d tell the teachers this is what is coming. I’d find $5M in cuts to spread over these next two years and use reserve funds to fill the gap while we waited for the contract to expire.
    CO — maybe you can tell us if you can make any changes while to working conditions after the contract expires — or do you need to have a new contract in place with the changes in it?

    Anyway — I understand the concern that Act 1 was meant to give teeth — but I still do not believe the state is giving districts the tools to make the difficult changes that this new economy (Wal-Mart says inflation is going to blow us out of the water soon) require. People still buy homes here. They don’t pay $750,000 for a house that originally sold for $400,000 because of inflation. They buy tuition — and with local private schools running around $30,000 a year, taxes are a bargain. I’d seriously consider looking at a student activity fee — and ask the local foundations to work hard to raise the funds to help fill the gap of the kids who struggle to pay it.

    Thoughts? Nothing spiritual here …just some ideas to float.

    1. Lurking,

      Could you provide a source for the statement below? I know we’ve gone through some changes over the last 50 years, but the 1965 percentage is well above what I thought.

      In 1965, approximately 80% of the residents in homes in this country had children living in them — in schools. So what was good for kids was good for everyone. Now, about 25% have kids in them.

      You asked, “tell us if you can make any changes while to working conditions after the contract expires.

      No changes whatsoever are allowed when the contract expires (the status quo) – not to salary, not to healthcare, not to teaching assignment, not even to the brand of soda in the teacher’s lounge – unless it had previously been done under the terms of the expired contract or unless agreed to in writing by both parties. The courts don’t want to be in the business of arbitrating what changes are substantial and what changes are not substantial so they say NO changes at all. As you might guess, this put a floor under teacher compensation. It can’t be lowered; it can only be increased. In the meantime, district costs for health care and PSERS retirement continue to increase even without a contract.

    2. You may again apologize if you have time.
      I posted earlier with some data…not with this.

      Pattye — I have asked before if you would not allow John to speculate on who is posting when the person uses an alias. I would ask again that since John doesn’t seem to be able to restrain himself, and continues to attack me without provocation, that you consider some rule to apply.

      I’m sick of it.
      And for the record — when I was on the board, I believe some senior citizens worked with the AARP to determine that TESD had something more like 80/20 based on age, demographics and private schools. There were a group of activists who wore 80/20 shirts to meetings.

      The 80 % does seem high. I thought the records we had were about 65%. But regardless Mr. petersen, stop personalizing this. And I can assure you — “folks like me” serving on the board served you far better than you personally seem to deserve. You paid ZERO attention to anything except what came through your door…it’s your political activism (and failures I guess) that has embittered you. I’m bitter because of all the 2nd guessing 10 years after I left the board.

      1. Andrea, I have asked that people not speculate on the identity of people who choose to use an alias. I have also asked that people not use multiple alias avatars to comment — it makes it very difficult to follow the commentary. I welcome comments but please, please can everyone just use one avatar. Doesn’t make a difference to me if people choose to use their own name or comment anonymously but I do not want people to use multiple identities when making comments. From the start, I had decided not to require people to sign-up to comment & here’s hoping that I don’t have to change the policy. Thank you.

  8. One other question / comment? I noted previously that LM has a 1% transfer tax that goes to the schools. Does that mean that the township doesn’t take any, or does LM just have a higher fee. TESD gets 1/2% of all sales in both townships– Tredyffrin gets 1% and Easttown gets 1/2%. Maybe kevin can explain how these rates are set? I know that T has the right to a higher percentage because of their HRC / first class township or whatever, that Eastttown cannot do…but how would LMSD have a 1% transfer tax.

    1. I’m not sure exactly how the law works, but my understanding is that the transfer tax distribution between the school district and township is not something the school board can do anything about. Maybe a state law could change that? Unlikley, since that would just leave strapped townships looking for more revenue in the form of property tax increase, and they are not capped in their ability to raise property taxes like school districts are under Act 1. I doubt the legislature would take responsibility for that.

      Class size has always been controversial. I believe there have been some gains in our performance over the years since we lowered class size, but you are correct that T/E was already a good performer.

      The kind of dramatic changes seen in poorly performing school districts when they reduce class size (as seen in the research such as Tennessee’s Project STAR) were never the point in T/E. I believe the effort made an already good district even better. But it would be difficult to tease out exaclty what is due to class size alone because there are many other factors.

      There are, however, other benefits to lower class sizes, not everything is about just test scores. I am not going to get into a discussion of all of the issues relating to class size here. That would be a very long blog and I think it is best to save it for another time.

  9. Lurking on CM – Tredyffrin is NOT a first class township but is a second class township – check the Home Rule Charter

  10. I think I made it clear that Tredyffrin gets 1% because of some technical issue (that easttown doesn’t qualify for)…I don’t know what the criteria is. Which is why I vaguely referenced it. sorry.
    This is discussion, not deposition.

  11. CO — I have the data somewhere on my computer and will try to find it. I’ll apologize in advance if I exaggerated…as the census data is 1950, 1960 and 1970…but for example: in 1960 census in PA: Median age was 32. Total state population was 11.3M. Kids under 18 numbered over 4M. 5.5M married out of a population of 8.2M over age 14. It’s those statistics that created the documents I have read analyzing percentage of residents who had school age children.

      1. Lurking said, “In 1965, approximately 80% of the residents in homes in this country had children living in them — in schools. So what was good for kids was good for everyone. Now, about 25% have kids in them.”

        I’m looking at Andrea’s data.

        I’ll make the following two assumptions:

        1. All residents of TE are in the upper quintile of earners (> $68,000)
        2. The fraction of families with children in public schools is 50% of the families claiming children on their tax returns (some families have pre-school children; some families have children in college, some families send their children to private schools)

        If so, in 1960 the fraction of TE households with public school children is 35.5% and in 2002 the fraction of households with public school children is 24%. This is quite different from Lurking’s estimates of 80% to 25%.

  12. JP says: “I do this for sport..with the end game of honest and open debate.”

    I’ll accept your admission of motive, but I do not for one minute believe your goal is about honesty or openness. It’s about boredom and bitterness.

    I’ll state again — when I post to this site, I stand by what I say. My comments about your evolving bitterness are because when things were difficult in the 90s (and yes, they were — we had 9 board members with vastly different opinions about how to deal with aging buildings ), I never heard of you. I never read your blog. And you never came to my meetings. Lower Merion was routinely referenced as a lighthouse district — an ugly campaign was run suggesting we needed to vastly reconfigure our schools. My background was in construction management and expense control — and with the invaluable support of the late Phil Hooper, we renovated and expanded all our schools and our debt service is under $50M and LMSD is over $300M. They have about 500 more students. I cannot address your building envy, nor your need to flaunt your expertise in technology. I watched my kids go through TESD and take advantage of what the district had to offer. I sent one to an independent school for reasons unrelated to the educational program. So I have seen the varying sides of schools. After leaving our board, I had several meetings with LMSD and RTSD members as they struggled with changing political majorities that delayed and altered their capital improvement programs.

    I don’t have all the answers, but I don’t believe people who are offering opinions or asking questions deserve the nasty responses you insist on offering. You have attempted to name many posters on this board — and I will say again when I am posting my experience or my opinions, I sign it.

    I’m not seeking kudos, nor am I accepting the blame you launch in my direction. You haven’t the first clue what my legacy, or anyone else during my time represents. And I don’t have “friends in the GOP” — I interviewed with them ias a possible candidate in 1990. Once. Don MacBeth was a lifelong church friend and neighbor. He encouraged me.

    So please dump any criticism anywhere you choose — but you have been very right about one thing — the voters need to pay attention to who they elect. And we need to make this community a tolerable place for someone to volunteer for a thankless job that has absolutely no pay off except perhaps 20 years later taking crap from a wannabe.

    And I keep hoping that this blog will educate and inspire people to consider taking their opinions to the public domain and sharing them at meetings. I’m sorry if that’s not clever enough for you.

    1. As a former elected official….
      It is because everything I say is tied to the elected position I ran for in 1991 that I do not like to post under my name. When I have information, I use my name. But my contributions here are not as a board member, but rather as someone who had an inside view of how the process functioned. I do not post in that capacity, but you continually assault my “contributions” here and in the past without any regard to what they actually are/were. Ignoring your need to get the last word., I will say that I very much respect a first amendment right to free speech, but you launch attacks, not policy comments. I always listen……so yes, let’s move on….

  13. Andrea
    Years ago I attended most of your meetings and will agree that the Facilites committee was VERY conservative.. Phil Hooper gave 100% to this district and always went out of his way to discuss things if there was an issue. Now I feel that the leadership of this committee is out to spend every last cent of the bond money .
    .SAVE it for education NOT multimillion $$$ parking lots or storage buildings.

  14. Good question. And it will surprise you to know it wasn’t last year….the one adjacent to the football stadium ($6M I believe) was many, many years ago…as part of a plan I did not understand when it was started. I know it was mentioned before, but I believe that TESD should have acquired land big enough to replace TEMS and relocated the admins to TEMS….but that wasn’t my decision to make, nor was the community consulted.

  15. suggesting among other things, that they should have planned better with the federal stimulus money.

    **********************

    Sorry, but if nothing else, the above suggestion by the Education Secretary is 100% true. EVERYONE — Gov. Rendell, the legislature, school boards — were made aware these monies were coming from a source (the fed stimulus) that was going to end. For anyone, especially school boards, to act “surprised” or now claim that this money not being provided is “a cut” is ludicrous.

    There are lots of challenges out there that school districts are having a hard time with and, possibly, couldn’t plan for. The loss of federal stimulus money isn’t one of them. The fact is the school boards used the money to plug holes or increase services and now they want to play politics by blaming others.

    1. The loss of the federal stimulus money was hardly news to any school board or anyone who had been even half paying attention. The TESD preliminary budget had the reduction in basic and special education subsidies just about exactly right.

      What seems to be just malevolent is the reduction in T/E’s social security state reimbursement from 50%, where it has been for more decades than anyone can remember, to 15% – a net impact of $1.1 million.

      What’s that about? Why are not our representatives up in arms about this? Levying a charge on T/E so that gas extraction companies can get off scot free? We have seen the new Republican order and it’s horrifying

  16. Another point with TESD is that they include “contributions from food service”as a budget strategy…last year and again this year. Food service is supposed to be ‘stand alone, self-supporting,’ and the price of lunch is not meant to produce a profit. If the board gets used to these “contributions FROM food service”, they are relying on a pricing mechanism that ultimately does influence demand.

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