TESD Budget

Should T/E School District Offer the PSAT to 9th Graders? Radnor School District to Fund Student’s PSAT Tests

 I read the following update on the Radnor School District in the Main Line Suburban:

Assistant superintendent Kim Maguire outlined a plan to the Curriculum Committee that would have all Radnor ninth-, tenth- and eleventh-graders take the PSAT in October with school-district funding and with across-the-board scores allowing teachers to “check for trends [as well as] individual student trajectories.” The hope, Maguire said, “is that students will be more motivated.”

Asked if she meant more than for PSSAs, Maguire answered, “Yes.” Superintendent Linda Grobman said the school district would be able to “use the [test-score] information to help plan the instructional program.”

The Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT) is a standardized test administered by the College Board and National Merit Scholarship Corporation.  Other than practice for the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), a high score on the PSAT is the only way to qualify for a National Merit Scholarship.  The PSAT is great practice for the SAT as the results provide a sense of strengths and weaknesses. 

The PSAT is offered for Conestoga High School students in their Sophomore and Junior years as preparation for the SAT exam.  Radnor High School likewise offers the PSAT to their students in the tenth and eleventh grades.   According to the article, the Radnor School District is suggesting that the District will offer the PSAT to the ninth graders in addition to the tenth and eleventh-graders. 

Last month when there was discussion on Community Matters of Newsweek’s ‘best of high school’ lists, some commentors suggesting that T/E didn’t need to ‘keep up with the Joneses’  — that everyone knows that Conestoga High School is a great high school and the fact that it didn’t appear on Newsweek’s list was of little consequence.  The jury may still be out on the importance (or impact) of Newsweek’s high school rankings, but the PSAT is another issue.

The PSAT is viewed as great practice for the taking of the SAT — and we now read that Radnor School District is discussing adding another practice PSAT year.  Can we assume that if a student takes the practice exam three times before taking the SAT, that the student’s SAT scores will go up?

If a student takes the PSAT in both the ninth and tenth grades, is the student better prepared for taking the PSAT in the eleventh grade?

Why is the PSAT exam in the eleventh grade important . . . ?  Answer — qualifying for the National Merit Scholarship awards is based on the scores on the PSAT taken as a Junior.  Instead of only one practice exam, the Radnor School District students will have the opportunity to practice the PSAT twice before their Junior year.  I would suggest that the number of Merit Scholars in Radnor School District will probably increase as a result.

The number of National Merit scholars is a widely quoted indicator of a given high school’s quality.  To back up the high standard of T/E school district education, should the Curriculum Committee consider adding the option of PSAT testing for ninth graders? Should T/E fund PSAT testing for its students?  Or, does T/E ignore what other neighboring districts are doing?  Is there a risk that by increasing the number of practice PSAT exams, that teachers would teach to that exam rather than offering students a more traditional curriculum?

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America’s Best High Schools But Where is Conestoga High School?

Newsweek has released a list of the top 500 public high schools in America.  Here are high schools in our local area that made the list and their ranking:

  • Harriton High School:  #123
  • Radnor High School: #146
  • Lower Merion High School:  #224
  • Downingtown East High School; #279
  • Downingtown West High School: #339
  • Great Valley High School:  #346
  • Haverford High School: #466

But where is Conestoga High School . . . ?

To create the list of the top 500 public high schools in America, Newsweek used the criteria below, with its corresponding percentage of calculated weight:

  • Four-year, on-time graduation rate (25%)
  • Percent of 2010 graduates who enrolled immediately in college (25%)
  • AP tests per graduate (25%)
  • Average SAT score (10%)
  • Average AP test score (10%)
  • Number of AP courses offered per graduate (5%)

With all the discussion about the quality of TESD schools, does it not strike some of you odd that Conestoga High School is not on the list?  I have to believe that Conestoga High School would not fall short in any of the categories as based on Newsweek’s criteria (above).

There has been much discussion, including on Community Matters, in regards to the quality of our T/E school district.  Repeatedly, people have affirmed that the quality of our school district is helping to sustain our property values.  If that is correct, shouldn’t TESD taxpayers expect the same ‘bragging rights’ as the other school districts?

Unable to explain ‘why’ Conestoga High School is not on the list, I researched further.  Under Newsweek’s category, “Methodology: How we compiled the list” and I may have discovered the answer.  From the Newsweek website, I found the following:

To compile the 2011 list of the top high schools in America, NEWSWEEK reached out to administrators, principals, guidance counselors, and Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate coordinators at more than 10,000 public high schools across the country. In order to be considered for our list, each school had to complete a survey requesting specific data from the 2009-2010 academic year.

Based on Newsweek’s methodology, is the explanation to Conestoga’s MIA status on the list as simple as the administration dropped the ball and did not complete the survey?

Regardless of whether you give credence to school rankings, what does it say that every other public high school in the area is on the list except for Conestoga High School?

If you were moving into the Philadelphia suburbs and had high school age children, would it make a difference to you?  If all was equal, do you think that a family with high school age children would opt for one of our neighboring school districts because they were ranked by Newsweek and TESD was not?

Bottom line, as our property taxes continue to increase, I am guessing that most taxpayers in T/E would like to see their high school on the list.  If nothing more, it helps take some of the sting out of the tax bill.

I would be curious what explanation our school board members would have to say on the ranking and Conestoga’s MIA status on the list.

—————————————————————-

As a follow-up note, I have emailed school board president Karen Cruickshank and cc the T/E school board.  If I receive a response, I will be glad to post it.

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T/E Teachers Union President Helps Clarify Original Salary Freeze Offer

Struggling to understand the offer that was made by the teachers union, TEEA to the T/E School Board, I sent an email to Pete DePiano, asking for clarification. Below is my email and DePiano’s official response. I accept that because the offer was rejected by the school board, the original offer is now somewhat a moot point.

We understand that other school districts across Pennsylvania are struggling with similar budget shortfalls as the T/E School District and we read of other school boards accepting ‘salary freeze’ offers from their teachers.  The confusion over the definition of salary freeze and pay increase waiver has led many in the public to question why the T/E school board did not accept TEEA’s offer. If nothing else, the continued dialogue on Community Matters is helping us to better understand the nuances that exist in the discussion.

It certainly is not (nor has it ever been) my attempt to create any additional friction between the teachers and the school board.  I, like many in the community, am struggling to understand the school district budget, the strategies to fund the budget shortfall and what role the teacher’s contract may play in those discussions.  I want there to exist a good working relationship between TEEA and TESD . . .  feeling that if the communication between these two groups remains open and honest, the outcome will be all the better for the kids (and the taxpayers).

My email to Pete DePiano, TEEA president:

There continues to be misunderstanding of TEEA’s salary freeze offer. Although I asked you to clarify the salary freeze offer and I thought that I understood, maybe I’m the one who is confused. Here’s a very simple scenario and please tell me if my understanding is correct:

You have a 3-year contract with 3 steps:
Year 1: Step 1
Year 2: Step 2
Year 3: Step 3
Teachers accept a pay freeze for Year 3

As a result:
Year 1: Step 1
Year 2: Step 2
Year 3: Step 2
Year 4: Step 3

Under the ‘pay freeze’, teachers receive the pay raise that they were to receive in Year 3 in Year 4. The 3-year contract is extended to 4 years. The teachers receive 3 steps (raises) in 4 years. Is this correct interpretation – please comment. I want the public (and myself) to fully understand what TEEA offered to TESD.

Response from Pete DePiano, TEEA president:

“Thank you for the opportunity to clarify:

The offer [though a moot point now] was a step freeze for one year, then a continuation of the final year in 2012-13. There was NEVER any suggestion of a “double” step move.

Your example of step 1, step 2, step 2, step 3 is the correct interpretation.”

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Another School District With Salary Freeze & One-Year Extension . . . Is T/E the Only School District Expecting a Pay Increase Waiver?

The Pennsylvania School Boards Association is reporting that roughly 95 school districts out of Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts have some type of salary freeze in place.

School districts around the state are working on their 2011-12 budgets; further challenged by the additional public education funding cuts in Gov. Corbett’s proposed budget.  Looking around other school districts, the trend is for more and more teachers unions to accept a pay freeze.

This week, we learned that several local teachers unions (Norristown and Pottsgrove School Districts) are accepting salary freezes for 2011-12. In the Pottsgrove district, the teachers voted for a one-year contract extension that does not raise salaries. From the Pottsgrove School District website, www.pgsd.org , is the following statement:

The Pottsgrove Education Association voted on May 2 to accept a pay freeze by extending its contract for one year in a move that will save the school district $515,000.  The current three-year contract was set to expire August 31, 2011.  The Pottsgrove School Board of Education will approve the freeze and extension at its next meeting.  In exchange for the freeze, the administration and board have agreed not to furlough or demote any additional teachers for the duration of the one-year contract extension. During the term of the one-year contract extension and freeze, other terms of the contract will remain in place.

Isn’t this salary freeze offer from the Pottsgrove teachers union exactly the same offer that the T/E teachers union (TEEA) gave to the T/E School District? The Pottsgrove teachers are working under an existing contract (the same as T/E teachers) and the contract will be ‘frozen’ and extended an additional year.  Pottsgrove teachers will not somehow make up for the salary freeze in the extended year; their salaries remain ‘frozen’ at the same current level.  Seems simple enough, right?

As I read about teachers offering (and school districts accepting) salary freezes in other school districts, I keep asking myself why should the T/E School District be different.  News story after news story and I never see any mention made of the term ‘pay increase waiver’ as used by the T/E School Board. Obviously, there is something that I’m missing . . . why would TESD turn down the estimated $2.5 million salary freeze offer from TEEA? 

We see other school districts graciously accepting the teacher union offers of a salary freeze, why not T/E. In some districts, the teachers and the school administrators are accepting salary freezes voluntarily.  There seems to be a spirit of working together toward the common goal of helping to solve the public school funding crisis. I want the same for our school district; we are all in this together – the teachers, the school board and the taxpayers.

It is my understanding from the school board members at this week’s Finance Committee meeting that the TEEA offer will cost the district money.  How?  Is it possible that the T/E School Board knows more about our district teachers [and their motivation for a salary freeze] than these other Pennsylvania school boards do?  If a salary freeze and an extension of a teacher’s contract without a salary increase is such a ‘bad deal’, why are so many other school districts accepting these offers?

It doesn’t seem like the ‘salary freeze’ should be such a complicated issue – why can’t the TESD do exactly what the Pottsgrove School District is doing?  A one-year salary freeze, reap the financial benefit and then move on to negotiate the next contract? 

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Countdown to Primary Election May 17 – T/E School Board Candidates Resumes

The Pennsylvania Primary Election is 3 weeks from tomorrow — Tuesday, May 17, 2011. As I previously announced on April 11, I will provide all the candidates resumes on Community Matters. I hope that by providing in-depth information on local candidates will encourage increased voter turnout for the Pennsylvania Primary Election. Historically, voter turnout in Tredyffrin Township has been low for the Primary Election, (particularly in a non-presidential year) — here’s hoping that trend will change on May 17. 

Currently serving School Board members Karen Cruickshank, Jim Bruce and Pete Motel are seeking re-election. Two of the current school board members, Debbie Bookstaber and Kevin Mahoney have decided not to see re-election.

The School Board candidates for the Primary Election are listed below.  (Click on candidates names to read their resumes). It is my understanding that all school board candidates have cross-filed as both Republican and Democratic candidates. Easttown candidate Craig Lewis was contacted and invited to supply his resume but he failed to respond. If Mr. Lewis would like to have his resume included with the other candidate resumes, I would be happy to add it.

Tredyffrin-Easttown School Board Candidates:

  • Easttown, Region 3: Peter Motel (R) **
  • Easttown, Region 3: Craig Lewis (D) No Response from Candidate

**  Incumbent

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National Tea Party Review Magazine Hit the Newsstands in February – T/E School Board Member Dr. Richard Brake, a Featured Contributor

Whether you lean to the left, to the right, or somewhere in between, there are periodicals dedicated to your political point of view . . . The New Republic, Harper’s, New Yorker plus countless others.

However, did you know that there is a magazine dedicated to the Tea Party movement, the Tea Party Review?  Billing itself as the “first national magazine for, by and about the Tea Party Movement”, the new magazine had its debut in February of this year.

According to their website, the Tea Party Review provides a place “for Tea Parties to come together, to trade ideas, to resolve disputes . . . a place to develop plans for taking our country back from the elitist, arrogant, obnoxious, corrupt members of the Washington establishment and their friends in Hollywood, the news media, faculty lounges, and on Wall Street.” Those are some strong words from the Tea Party Review!

Although this new periodical hit the newsstands in February, I only discovered it today. Beyond my initial surprise that there was a magazine dedicated to Tea Partiers, I was further surprised to find that one of our T/E school board members, Dr. Richard Brake, was a featured contributor in the magazine, recently writing Negative Learning – Why Obama Needs the Youth Vote.  http://www.teapartyreview.com/negative-learning-why-obama-needs-youth-vote

Further online research indicated that Brake has written extensively on the tea party movement.  Here is a sampling of Brake’s prolific writing:

Militant Libertarian contains an article, Elected Officials Flunk Constitution Test written by Brake.  The Militant Libertarian website claims to contain articles and information on “fighting back against the New World Order, the Banksters, the Police State, the System, or whatever label you’d like to give the screw job that is happening to our liberties.”
http://militantlibertarian.org/2011/01/16/elected-officials-flunk-constitution-quiz/

Listed as a featured columnist for the conservative news magazine, Townhall Conservative, a recent edition contains Brake’s article, George Washington and the Need for Enlightened Citizenship.
http://townhall.com/columnists/drrichardbrake/2011/02/22/george_washington_and_the_need_for_enlightened_citizenship

On the Capital News website, there is a post by Brake, which contains ” . . .  I think it’s a great thing that Tea Party members are making it a priority to educate themselves. You can’t read the Constitution with all its ‘Congress shall nots…’ without coming to the conclusion that the Constitution limits government.”  http://capoliticalnews.com/blog_post/show/7913

I discovered Brake was featured on Liberty Line Radio, which is hosted by Andrew Langer, an experienced DC politico and Tea Party Activist.  Brake’s radio podcast featured his recent survey from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI), his employer.
http://libertylineradio.blogspot.com/2011/03/liberty-line-32211-rich-brake.html

Grant County Tea Party in Indiana hosted a conference a couple of weeks ago, Whose Capitalism, Which Free Market?  The conference description was billed to ” . . .  include remedies to today’s crony capitalism by exploring the moral dimensions of a truly free and prosperous market order”. This Tea Party conference at Taylor University in Indiana featured Brake as the guest speaker. http://www.wewantamericaback.net/site/?p=1719

There were many more links for Brake but I suspended my research after I was directed to the Chester County Patriots Tea Party website. Listed as a member of this tea party organization, Brake also appears to host an online blog for the Tea Partiers.  The mission statement for the Tea Party organization states, “Chester County Patriots is a grassroots organization that promotes a return to limited government, personal responsibility, and upholding the U.S. Constitution. Our goal is to educate and motivate the public to embrace these founding conservative principles in order to maximize prosperity and freedoms for future generations. The Chester County Patriots will also encourage and support individuals with conservative principles to become more involved in local and federal government.”

ISI and Tea Party Patriots
Posted by Richard Brake
View Richard Brake’s blog

I’d like to introduce your group to my organization: the Intercollegiate Studies Institute www.isi.org Our mission is to educate for liberty – by transmitting to the next generation of Americans the political, economic, and moral principles that founded and continue to sustain our constitutional republic.

Clearly, your mission and ISI’s mission overlap – so we are now reaching out to grass-roots organizations like you to offer a helping hand of partnership.

And, as a resident of Chester County and local school board member, I am deeply interested in the same issues that motivate you and your membership.

I look forward to meeting you at an upcoming meeting.

Sincerely,
Rich Brake, Ph.D.

Besides discovering that Dr. Richard Brake, a political scientist, is also a prolific writer, it is fascinating to learn of Brake’s Tea Party connections.

Tea Partiers claim that they are a community committed to standing together, shoulder to shoulder, to protect our country and the Constitution. Recently, the country witnessed the battleground in Wisconsin as thousands of Tea Party activists rallied together in support of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker against organized labor.

The TESD School Board will begin teacher contract negotiations next year.  Based on other school district – teacher union contract negotiation experiences; I suspect the process in T/E will also prove challenging. Considering Dr. Brake’s tea party membership and claim of support to the local Chester County Patriot tea party organization, can we assume that as a School Board member, he will not be directly involved in the teacher contract negotiations?  Or . . . maybe there is no conflict for this Tea Party member.

I will reach out to Dr. Brake and see if he would like to offer a comment for Community Matters.

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Kudos to Unionville-Chadds Ford School District . . . For Openness & Transparency on Teacher Contract Negotiations

I have previously written about Unionville-Chadds Ford School District (UCFSD) and the ongoing contract negotiations between their school board and the teachers’ union, Unionville-Chadds Ford Education Association (UCFEA).  Although there has not been a definite agreement, both sides continue to meet and discuss.

A wide economic gap exists between what the UCFSD School Board is willing to offer and what the teachers union is willing to accept.  The last round of discussion centered on an independent Fact-Finders Report from early February, which the UCFSD voted to accept, and the union rejected. The union’s rejection of the report ultimately derailed the proposed settlement and the three-year contract remained ‘up in the air’.  The school district has spent thousands of dollars in legal fees and administrators time in the contract negotiation process.

However, post-Fact Finders Report, Gov. Corbett’s proposed budget cuts to public education has now forced UCFSD to reconsider and take their original offer “off the table” and replace it with a more affordable contract.  However, since UCFEA had already rejected the Fact-Finders Report and UCFSD’s offer, it would seem highly unlikely that the teachers will accept the reduced contract offer from the district.

In my opinion, UCFSD School Board receives high marks on their openness and transparency in their contract negotiations with the teachers union and their willingness to share the process with the taxpayers. The UCFSD School Board has provided an updated contract negotiation statement, which presents an easy-to-understand 5-page document that includes a ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ section.  An interesting fact – the entry-level salary for a teacher in UCFSD is $47,743; average teacher’s salary is $75,798 and maximum teacher’s salary is $101,427.  Approximately 70 of the 330 teachers earn the maximum salary.  If you add in the compensation package, the average teacher’s salary jumps to $97,092 and the highest paid teacher’s salary rises to $125K a year.

The UCFSD School Board believes that they have to protect the taxpayer’s money and object to the union’s contract requests for the following reasons:

1) The request is out-of-line due to the economic conditions – the teachers union is requesting a compensation increase of 4% -7%.

2) The requested contract is not economically sustainable due to Act 1 restrictions.

3) The district does not believe that they have to increase the contract to the level requested to attract excellent teachers.

The school board has determined that they cannot ignore these three objections because taxes will not sufficiently cover the contract.  They do not think that given the economic climate, a special voter referendum would pass with voter support.

Interesting, that the UCFSD update includes TESD in their budget and teacher union contract discussion:

“One only need look a few miles north to Tredyffrin / Easttown School District (TESD) to see what happens when an economically unsustainable teacher contract is signed. The preliminary budget submitted by TESD reflects a 4.2% tax increase, which is the maximum they are allowed by law, and will result in drastic educational program cuts and still leave a budget shortfall of more that $8 million. The UCFSD School Board will not put our district in that predicament with an unaffordable contract.”

The current offer from UCFSD to the UCFEA for a three-year contract includes a salary freeze for Year 1, 1% increase, full step movement mid-year for Year 2 plus a 10% employee contribution for health care, 1% increase, full step movement mid-year  for Year 3 plus a 15% employee contribution for health care.  The gap between USCFSD and USFEA is obvious.

What impresses me about the USFSD School Board is their willingness to keep the community involved in the contract negotiation process.  Because taxpayers are updated on the contract negotiations, there appears to be greater public dialogue during the process.  I know in the past, contract negotiations have always occurred behind closed doors; I am hopeful that TESD School Board will similarly keep our community informed as the calendar moves ever closer to contract negotiation season.

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Community Matters in Pittsburgh . . . Concerns about Pennsylvania’s budget and the fate of our teachers

I received the following email from Patricia Connelly of Pittsburgh.  Rather than offering a personal response to Patricia, I thought it would be interesting for Community Matters readers to respond.  Any thoughts or words of encouragement to offer . . . it is apparent that the budget and concern for public education spending cuts is not isolated to our part of the state.

Hello,

I just came across your site and want to ask a question about our State Legislators. Does Pennsylvania have what Wisconsin has and that is the right to repeal an elected official? If the Governor’s budget gets passed, and it will, as someone who has lived a lifetime (66 yrs) in Pa, I believe that budget will ruin our state.

Education, please, what education? No new taxes, except for voters who will pay higher property taxes and not be able to sell their homes because the taxes will go through the roof and their local schools will be overcrowded. Today’s teachers are treated horrible and get blamed for their state’s deficit.  My son is a teacher.

Anyway, is there an answer to this or do we not live in a democracy any longer?

Sincerely,
Patricia Connelly
Patricia Connelly from the Pittsburgh Area

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Looking at Local School Districts, Does the Buck Stop with Taxpayers?

As Tredyffrin-Easttown School District works through the 2011-12 budget, it is interesting to watch how other school districts are handling their budget shortfalls, particularly in light of the public education cuts in Gov. Corbett’s proposed budget.

This week the Radnor School District and the Radnor Township Education Association reached a tentative agreement for a new teacher contract. The collective bargaining negotiations between the school district and the teacher union have been going on for over a year. Details of the contract will not be released until after the teachers union presents the contract to its members for ratification early next week.  As our school district neighbor, I wonder if their contract will have any influence on TESD teacher contract discussions.

Another neighbor to TESD, the Phoenixville Area School District (PASD) has major budget issues. As the dust settles from the cuts contained in Gov. Corbett’s proposed budget, a tax hike of 8.75% is needed to close the gap – twice as much as the district had anticipated.  Previously, the school district budget included a 4.43% tax increase but with the loss of state funding, they will require an additional 4.32% . . . a tax hike of 8.75%!

At the Pottstown School District meeting this week, their school board took a stand with three interesting votes:

  1. The school board rejected the idea of “forward borrowing” of $23 million without voter approval.  (The district has authorization for $28 million for work on the district’s elementary schools and the vote would have increased that borrowing amount by $23 million).
  2. The school board approved the extension of a contract for mid-level administrators and principals that freeze their salary for one-year. (Cost savings: $30K)
  3. The school board accepted an offer by the district’s three top administrators to freeze their salaries for one-year.  (Cost savings: $15K)

Prior to the vote, the school district was considering a 4-year contract for administrators and principals to include a minimum 1.5% salary increase plus potential merit pay increases. According to the district superintendent, following the announced funding loss from the state was announced, these employees volunteered to take pay freezes for one-year. Gov. Corbett’s proposed budget will provide $3.1 million less state funding to the Pottstown School District.

For comparison sake, I checked on the salaries of administrators in the Pottstown School District.  The top 10 highest paid administrators in the Pottstown School District earn in the range of $102K – $119K per year; their superintendent has a base salary of $152K.

The Pottstown school board hopes that the administration’s one-year pay freeze sends a message to the teacher union, Pottstown Federation of Teachers.  According to Pottstown Mercury, www.pottstownmercury.com , Pottstown School District president thanked the administrators for the one-year salary freeze,  “I want to thank you for pulling your belts a little tighter for us, I hope some of the other school districts around here see what you’re doing for us, how you lead by example.” There is an unresolved contract between the district and the teachers union. The teachers are currently without contract and last month rejected the independent fact-finders report that the school board accepted unanimously.  Sound familiar . . . Unionville-Chadds Ford School District currently have a similar situation with their teachers union.

I guess TESD can take solace in knowing that we are not alone.  With school districts facing looming deficits in their budgets and increasing expenses, Corbett’s proposed budget does not offer much hope for help from the state. 

Corbett’s campaign promises included no tax increase but it seems to me that he has just pushed that job down to the local school districts.  School districts are expected to balance their school budgets, but how? Not much in the way of choices . . .  school boards are forced to make education cuts or they raise taxes. Does no responsibility lie in the shoulders of our elected officials in Harrisburg? How can they expect citizens to pay more in property taxes than they can afford? 

 Or . . .  does the buck just stop with the taxpayers?

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Some Pennsylvania School Districts Look at Early Retirement Incentive Plans to Help Budget Deficits . . . Could this be a less-painful option?

It is interesting to note how other school districts are exploring different options internally to reduce expenses. 

Apparently, Tredyffrin Easttown School District joins the ranks of Bucks County’s Morrisville School District to consider outsourcing custodial services in addition to an early retirement plan to its teachers.

According to a recent article in www.phillyBurbs.com  Morrisville School District’s school board suggests that these measures are required due to “out of control spending due to increases in salaries, benefits and pensions.”

Although Morrisville School District is ‘only’ facing a $2.5 million deficit, they are facing some of the same problems as TESD.  This district is offering a special ‘early retirement incentive plan’ to teachers as a way to reduce costs.  Teachers have until March 31 to decide whether to take this option.

Has TESD considered some form of an early retirement incentive plan for teachers?  It is possible that I missed this discussion in school district.  For those that have followed the school district closely, any information on this topic is appreciated. As school districts across the state are struggling to balance their budget deficits, I find it of interest to look at options that other school districts have explored.

Looking beyond Morrisville School District, I wondered if other school districts were exploring an early retirement incentive option as a cost-saving measure.  Middletown Area School District (MASD) in Dauphine County, www.raiderweb.org  (10 miles from Harrisburg) is also offering a retirement incentive plan to teachers in an effort to reduce their gaping deficit. For those teachers that qualify, they have until March 21 to decide on this option.

The MASD early retirement incentive is available to full-time employees covered by the teacher union collective bargaining agreement who have at least 30 years of district service by June 30, 2011 and incur no more than one additional year of service under the state employees retirement system (PSER) after retiring from the district. Employees 55 or older with 20 years of service by June 30 also can retire under the same conditions.

Benefits of MASD’s retirement incentive include a $20K one-time contribution into employees’ 403(b) accounts that won’t be included when computing their annual salaries for retirement benefits.  Health care benefits under terms of their current teacher union contract which expires June 30, 2012 will also be made available if a “sufficient number” of eligible employees retire under the incentive.

Could an early retirement incentive plan be a ‘less-painful’ way of reductions of costs for school districts in budget crisis?  In Morrisville School District and Middletown Area School District, their 2011-12 budgets will be ‘tweeked’ based on how many teachers take advantage of the retirement incentive. These kind of early retirement incentive plans  are similar to models often seen in private industry for employees.  Understandably, it is too late to enact an early retirement incentive plan for the 2011-12 school district budget in TESD, but what about for the following year’s budget? 

 Any discussion of an early retirement incentive plan would take cooperation between school districts and teacher unions.  However, with talk swirling in Harrisburg of teacher furlough legislation, I would think the conversation of early retirement incentive plans would be a conversation that teacher union leaders might welcome.

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