Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Governor Candidates Meet with Teachers Union . . . Show Support for Education Funding & Teacher Pensions

In light of all the discussion yesterday with the TESD budget, I thought it would be appropriate to offer an update on Pennsylvania’s governor hopefuls and their meeting over the weekend. In Harrisburg, 6 governor candidates met with the state’s major teachers union, Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA). These governor candidates all support more state funds for public education and support the state’s commitment for teacher pensions, however only two offered specific ways to raise the billions of dollars that will be needed.

Joe Hoeffel (D) from Montgomery County thinks that the state should move to a graduated income tax, where wealthier people pay at a higher rate, while the middle and lower income residents pay at a lesser rate. The state currently uses a flat, 3.07% income tax rate for all taxpayers. Hoeffel said that 34 states now have a graduated income tax, which focuses a steep tax rate on the top 1% of the taxpayers. Hoeffel believes that this is fairer than the current flat income tax. As a Tredyffrin Easttown School District taxpayer, what do you think of Hoeffel’s proposal of a graduated income tax?

Tom Knox (D) Philadelphia businessman offered a severance tax on natural gas; taxing cigar and smokeless tobacco sales; and ending the loophole which allows companies to shield income by setting up offices in Delaware. I think some of these ideas have been bantered about by Governor Rendell. I don’t know about the other ideas but I sure think we should be taxing cigar and smokeless tobacco sales — why not? We tax cigarettes, why not cigars? I’m not sure why it’s not already being done.

Candidates Dan Onorato (D) from Allegheny County; Jack Wagner (D) state auditor general; and Chris Doherty (D) mayor of Scranton also attended the teacher’s union meeting along with Republican candidate Tom Corbett, state attorney general.

All 6 candidates agreed that school districts around the state need more options for raising money locally than just property tax (however, no one offered an specifics). Hoeffel did offer that nationally, states provide 47% of school funding vs. Pennsylvania only receiving 37% from the state. All candidates agreed that (1) state funding needed to increase beyond 37%; (2) increase funding for early childhood education programs; and (3) help find the $5 billion that starting in mid-2012 will be needed to fund teacher pensions. They all praised the teachers for the recent gains in student scores on standardized tests, saying Pennsylvania was the only state with uniform improvements regardless of grade level.

With all the TESD budget discussion on this site from residents, teachers and school board members, it is beginning to seem that the teacher union is coloring the picture to its members slightly different than reality. Or am I just reading the situation wrong? What is your opinion of the teacher unions . . . are they helping the case for the teachers or are they a contributing factor to the current budget crisis (and unrest) in the community? Anyone wish to weight in on the teacher unions?

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  1. No question. In TESD, they are hurting the budget, but the school board agreed to the contract, so they are just as guilty. It would be nice to see some goodwill on the part of the union by entertaining the idea of renegotiating the current contract.

  2. Calling this a crisis seems ridiculous to me. 86% of the TE budget is from LOCAL taxes. Last time I checked I have not seen a swath of foreclosed homes in dustbin neighborhoods. Sure, some businesses have closed, but if I hear anyone say that Circuit City closing caused a massive budget hit, I gotta laugh. This is simple BAAAD planning on the part of the board for negotiating a contract that was not supportable by the income. There may be a global financial crisis, but we do NOT have local financial crisis. For anyone to suggest we might (you did not) is crazy. I could be wrong, but no one seems to be talking clearly about the numbers – just using numbers to support their argument. We have some of the best schools in the country, I would hope that we would have had some good management, but I am not so sure.

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