Pattye Benson

Community Matters

How Will T/E School District Close the $5.3 Million 2011-12 Budget Gap?

The Finance Committee meeting is Monday, February 14, 7:30 PM at the T/E Administration Office, West Valley Business Center, 940 West Valley Road, Suite 1700, Wayne. Click here for the meeting agenda and 2011-12 Budget Development Plan.

At the onset of this 2011-12 budget discussion, I want to give tremendous credit to the school board members who serve on the Finance Committee – Chair Kevin Mahoney, Debbie Bookstaber, Jim Bruce and Kevin Buraks. Their task is overwhelming and the 148-page 2011-12 budget document attests to their hard work, especially given the challenging economic situation of school districts. As a taxpayer, I am grateful and thank them for their diligence on our behalf.

Increased pension costs are the biggest hurdle in the coming years to school districts across the state. The challenge is how to balance the defined benefit plan of the teachers with the rising costs to maintain. How will school districts fund the pension plans, provide the same quality of education and not place the burden on the taxpayer . . . ?

Although I took time to review the budget documents provided for Monday’s meeting, I admit that my eyes glazed over on some of the details. If any of my assumptions are incorrect or if I have misinterpreted the information, here is hoping that someone will provide clarification.

As presented, the 2011-12 budget has projected revenue of $107M, which includes $1.2M revenue from Act 1 tax increase (1.4%) and $2.4M revenue from Act 1 exceptions (2.8%). Projected expenses are $112M, which leaves an imbalance of (-$5.3M). Without the $1.2M revenue from Act 1 tax increase and the $2.4M in revenue from Act 1 exceptions, the imbalance would be (-$8.9M) versus the (-$5.3M).

Although the 2011-12 budget gap is narrowed with the Act 1 tax increase and the Act 1 exception; there remains a deficit in the 2011-12 budget of (-$5.3M). If all strategies of Level 1 are instituted (as outlined on pg. 107 of the budget development plan), the deficit is reduced by $1M and the imbalance drops to (-$4.3). Under this plan, the remaining $4.3M of the budget deficit is to come from the district’s fund balance. The school district has a Moody’s AAA bond rating . . . is that rating jeopardized by using $4.3M in fund balance dollars for the 2011-12 budget? Understanding that the fund balance is taxpayers money; how much reserve is required to maintain the district’s bond rating?

All Level 1 strategies suggested under this budget development plan appear straightforward and practical ways to cut expenses. I did note two secretarial positions to be eliminated at a combined cost savings of $135K are included on the Level 1 list.

The more interesting and/or surprising strategy suggestions are included in Level 2 and Level 3. Level 3 requires attrition for implementation. It is interesting to note that the Level 2 strategies, should they all be implemented, would provide a cost savings to the district of $6.7M +. I would expect the dollar amount savings from Level 2 strategies would be substantially greater than $6.7M, probably closer to $10M, maybe more. Why? Because Level 2 includes the selling of TESD property including (1) the 16 acres on Jefferson Lane in Chesterbrook (earlier discussion on Community Matters questioned the feasibility of selling that property); (2) 738 First Ave, Berwyn; this is a 10 acre parcel where the ECS building sits. (As an aside, it was my understanding that the ESC building was contracted for demolition but it is still standing) and (3) 945 Conestoga Road, 0.33 acre of residential property next to Teamer Field.

In further review of Level 2 strategies, a few suggestions caught my attention; such as outsourcing of custodial services . . . could result in a savings of $950K. I believe that the custodians (along with the bus drivers, lunchroom staff and possibly some secretarial employees) are unionized which could make the change to outsourcing more difficult. However, with nearly a million dollar savings involved in custodial outsourcing, it could be worth further exploration.

On the Level 2 list, is a suggested $2M savings to the school district with the elimination of all non-mandated student transportation. The remaining transportation would be what is required by the state. Combining the outsourcing of custodial services and the elimination of the non-mandated bus transport, would provide almost $3M in savings.

Another Level 2 strategy that has an associated savings tag of $1.5M, (but a suggestion that probably is not practical and should be removed from consideration) is to require athletic and extra-curricular activities to become completely self-supporting. Families would be required to underwrite the cost of student participation or if unable financially, seek help from FLITE.

Contained in the Level 3 list are several staff reductions, many of which would affect the elementary grades. Here are those specific strategies and associated savings:

  • Eliminate Literacy Intervention Program $111,000
  • Eliminate Elementary Math Support Positions $350,000
  • Eliminate Four Elementary Reading Specialist Positions $300,000
  • Eliminate Elementary Strings Specialist Position $75,000
  • Eliminate Middle School Reading Specialists $300,000
  • Eliminate Middle School Math Support Positions $125,000
  • Reduce each High School Department by One Teacher $375,000
  • Eliminate Elementary Applied Tech Program $300,000

If my math is correct, the above listed eight cost-savings equate to approximately $2M. However, I have to believe that some of these staff reductions could directly influence the quality of TESD education. Remember, these are Level 3 strategies not Level 1. However, just the fact that they appear on any list, makes them a possibility.

The last Level 3 strategy listed is interesting and apparently was discussed at Friday’s Facilities Committee meeting – the redistricting of the elementary schools. According to district enrollment patterns predicted for the next 5 years, there is a need to consider redistricting. Devon Elementary is at 100% capacity and has become the largest elementary school. The savings is ‘to be determined’ because it is possible that redistricting could keep eliminate the need for additional space at Devon Elementary. However, this would impact those families living on the redistricted streets.

Ray Clarke attended the Facilities Committee meeting on Friday and offered the following notes from the meeting. It would seem that storage and maintenance facilities continues to be discussed but with no clear solution. I know that the ECS building was slated for demolition but would it be possible (at a far lesser cost) that the ECS building could be retrofitted as a storage facility – not for use by staff or students which could be affected by the building’s environmental issues – but for use as storage. It is obviously too simplistic a solution so there must be a reason that it is not possible.

Ray Clarke’s Notes from Facilities Committee meeting, 2/11/11

Some interesting and worthwhile discussions at the TESD Facilities Committee meeting on Friday, with many financial implications that are likely to be further explored on Monday’s Finance Committee. It’s good to report that the tone is very cost conscious – almost as if all the money that the Committee is spending is its own!

The first hour or more was consumed with a couple of items relating to use of the district sports facilities. (Perhaps these could/should have actually been on the published Agenda?). An adult soccer league would like to use Teamer Field; that would require a change in district policy and reversal of an understanding given to neighbors when the field was built. The revenue being discussed is material, and I believe that this warrants thorough consideration on Monday in the context of revenue strategies. A travel softball team has offered to redo the barely used and poor condition baseball field at the ESC site (one of four fields there) at their own expense. They have already done this for a field at Devon Elementary, and there seems to be no downside. The Committee was just about able to make a decision on this one! (Subject to a final check with the school athletics people). Larger issues that arose: a) the amounts the district charges seem to be low (another revenue strategy) and b) maybe as use gets more widespread the district will need to improve the scheduling system to ensure fairness and utilization.

The Committee revisited the issue of facilities for storage and maintenance, starting with the question: what do we actually need? The discussion was a little disjointed and difficult to follow, but it seems to boil down to: we need warm storage for snow clearing equipment (so it works on cold mornings!) that doesn’t involve sharing space with the carpentry shop, plus we need at the least to fix maintenance issues with the current building. The architect had come back with new plans for spending $2 million, taking about $0.75 million out of the first draft from a month ago. However, Dr Motel did not let the Committee even get to those plans. The majority of the Committee seems very conscious of the need to rigorously question all spending, although Betsy Fadem spoke for this project being part of the original plan for the non-educational facilities (but not the budget??). There is a good opportunity here to consider the full cost of in-house functions: for example, loading the carpentry shop with an incremental facilities cost changes the out-sourcing equation considerably. The administration is to come back at the next meeting with a full costing out of the options, from Do Nothing (but essential maintenance), through Add Temporary Space, Build New Facilities, to Restructure (some?) Operations. (It would be great if at least one of the Committee could have an on site review of the facilities and issues). Another topic relating to budget strategies at the Finance Committee.

Perhaps a good time to make the point that Bond Money is still Taxpayer Money. Bondholders are just not giving their money to the district because they like to see us have nice facilities! Although there may be no short run impact on the millage rate or the operating budget, and we can perhaps keep on borrowing, that money has to be repaid in the long run. The latest bond has to be spent on capital within a certain period, but there seems to be no problem with that! Again, relevant to Monday’s discussion.

Finally, interesting early data from just one week of kindergarten registration. Four of the five elementary schools are at an average of 75% of projected kindergarten enrollment, but Devon is already at 100% of the projection – and already enrolls over 100 students more than the average of the others (522 vs 420). The district as a whole has plenty of elementary capacity, but Devon is an exception. There is a facilities plan if an extra class is needed there next year, but the longer term may require other solutions.

Despite the Agenda, no discussion of the IT plan – the consultant had a sudden conflict.

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  1. We moved here and live in a smaller home had we looked further out in Chester county because of the outstanding school district. To a proposal to eliminate middle school reading specialist and foreign language in the elementary scoops in an outrage!

    No doubt teacher contracts need to be reviewed. This suggestion is beyond short cited. Institute an EIT, or put the budge to referendum.

    The funny thing is, many of the people complaining about school taxes used the system for their own kid, get the benefit of the economic draw for the community and now want walk away from the commitment.

    I am willing to pay for the excellence. I chose T/E over radnor. It is even more ironic since we have the lowest tax burden in the area.

    I hope the board does the right thing here. No cuts in educational quality. You get what you pay for!

    1. Dave – Thank you for your comment.

      I went back and looked at those items on Level 2 and Level 3 that I think could affect the quality of education. On Level 3, there is a strategy listed to ‘eliminate kindergarten specials’. It is suggested that this strategy would have a low impact on but I may have to disagree. Currently Kindergarten students attend 30-min. special area classes once each day, including Physical Education, Music, Art, Applied Technology and Library. The suggestion is to eliminate these special classes. Yes, that would add more time in the traditional ‘education’ component of the day, but . . . the realities of school come so quickly. I think these special classes are very important, especially for the introduction of ‘school’ to the youngest students. Many moons ago, I received an art/education teaching degree and the importance of introducing children to the world of art and music at an early age cannot be understated. I think we can all agree to the significance of physical activity in this age of child obesity. And I don’t want to leave out the importance of library and computer time for all students, regardless of their age.

      One further strategy listed on Level 2 that troubles me from a quality of education standpoint – the ‘elimination of the Summer Reading Camp’ – savings of $100K. The district operates a summer reading program for students who have received reading support during the school year. If a child is having difficulty with reading during the school year and has support, don’t we think that the program should continue during the summer for those students?

  2. Just a couple of points in addition to Pattye’s thorough analysis.

    The ESC is definitely history! Something like 85% demolished. One interesting fact: over 90% of the materials from the building will be recycled.

    What to do with that site and the Chesterbrook one has been extensively discussed here. My view is that the district should do its best to quantify values, costs, risks, etc. so that they can make an informed decision.

    The outsourcing discussion is another one that merits careful analysis. The situation with the capital needed for storage and maintenance facilities highlights the full cost of keeping capability in house. Again, that cost should be weighed against its benefits.

    In general, I’m sure that there are many items on the higher level lists that voters would chose to pay for. (By what means, is another issue!)

    One item on the Agenda that deserves a bigger highlight is the bond rating discussion. The materials contain just a snippet or two of information that suggests our Aaa rating can withstand a lower fund balance: compared to peers, the balance is a high percentage of revenue and existing debt is a low percentage of assessed value. Of course, we need Monday’s banker presentation to provide more color on this.

    It is interesting that the listing of factors that make up the rating judgment includes “Management and Governance” (20%). This reinforces the value of the Finance Committee work that Pattye rightly commends.

    And to the first commenter here, perhaps that fiscal discipline highlights why T/E is a preferred choice over Radnor for some. It might be tough to argue that one program is better than the other, but T/E does attract people that value the cost-effectiveness advantage that its scale and cost control provides, and it would be a shame to lose that. Note that, with no new contract, Radnor salaries are frozen at last year’s levels, while T/E’s are headed upwards this year and again by 7.3% or more next year.

    1. A short update from a long meeting, focused on the key issues mentioned above.

      The banker discussion was helpful. Bottom line: our bond rating is in no jeopardy if we draw down, say, $10 million from the fund balance, provided that it is done in the context of a plan to get the operating budget in balance in the out years. For example, in the context of phased implementation of budget strategies, restructured union contracts, taxing strategies.

      It is looking more likely that the current year will end with minimal draw down from the Fund Balance, a positive variance of ~$1.5 million.

      Although not terribly clear from the data presented, the median and the average of the residential assessments in the district are close, clustered in a fairly narrow band, although of course with a long tail to the high side, so there was nothing significant to say about who bears the property tax burden. (The addition of commercial properties changes this picture a lot, of course – my estimate is that less than 20% of the properties make up over 50% of the assessed value).

      The Committee agreed to “book” $837K of the Level 1 strategies, with the remainder continuing to be quantified. There seem to be opportunities to achieve better results – eg facility rental revenue and the $25,000 cost saving estimate from restructuring $6.8 million of contracted services. 0.4%!! Shouldn’t we be targeting at least 5%??

      Only two of the Level 2 and 3 strategies were discussed in any depth, but they were illustrative of the opportunities that exist.

      First, the Administration is using the budget pressure to relook at programs that might have made sense a couple of decades ago, but now do not. For example, there’s an argument to eliminate Applied Tech in the Elementary Schools, which then allows the restructuring of the entire schedule in many favorable ways. (Such a move in 5th and 6th grades may also allow increased instructional time to address recent test score slippage.) This was given the green light for further analysis.

      Second, the Committee also voted to move forward to analyze in detail the outsourcing of janitorial and some maintenance capabilities. The $1 million savings guesstimate is based on district experience with outside contractors and their rates. The Committee was careful to require that options to minimize employee impact be fully explored. Other districts outsource these services, and of course TESD itself did so with transportation.

      It’s clear that there are some strategies that have no support, many that require varying degrees of study, some that can be agreed on now (like the $837K above), others that require a Committee mandate to proceed, some that can only be implemented after attrition, etc. And many fall into more than one of those buckets, or others. The Administration was charged with coming up with a revised classification to reflect all that, and to make it easier for the community to know what’s slated for discussion.

      Finally a verbatim from the banker, to the Board: “You have done a wonderful job at producing and holding on to a Fund Balance”. As Dr Brake said, too big a balance is arguably equally as imprudent as one that is too small.

      1. As always, thank you for attending the Finance Committee meeting. I always have the conflict of DuPortail House board of directors meeting. I am very pleased to see that one of the hand-picked strategies to look at by the TESD board is the outsourcing of the custodial services! And good to know other school districts already are outsourcing that service — not that TESD has to follow, but if it has worked other places, most likely can work here. But I did think that group of workers were unionized? If so, any concern about the contract?

        And glad to hear that there’s a buffer to use $10M in the fund balance w/o jeopardy to AAA bond rating. That was an open question for me.

        Thanks for the update Ray!

  3. I don’t think it’s fair to give our teachers a 7.3% raise.
    I believe they should all stand up and not take the increase to save jobs in the district. It is very selfish of them in times like these. It’s not to say some deserve an increase but some could also lose a job.

    I also believe when we go to reevaluate the contract we really look in to taking away tenure.
    Or allowing them only an increase based on evaluations (scheduled, not scheduled, feedback and test scores)

    You have a few miserable teachers employed as well as a few on PIP plans that should have lost a job long ago.
    It would be cost effective to fire them and rehire someone who is dying for a job, enthused and less pay.

    1. Agree 100%.

      Not to mention they cut classes like Latin, etc, but still have 100 different versions of old Home Ec. Fashion Design, baking, cooking, etc….. Really?!? We cut language classes, but keep this trash? That’s what college is for. It’s nice to offer them in highschool, but if you’re having to cut classes out of the curriculum….

  4. Thank you Pattye for your introducing this topic. There are more opinions than their are solutions….so it will take serious effort to reach consensus.
    I don’t believe the discussion about the fund balance and the bond rating are significant for this year, but it’s important to remember that whatever you fund with “one time solutions” (be it fund balance or a one-time savings like last year’s cafeteria contribution) is simply kicking the problem down the road, as next year the revenues won’t be in the tax base and will have to be generated somehow. Our district is fortunate that we have a fund balance to handle “unexpected” shortages, and to fund “one time” expenses such as retirements, a spike in PSERS contributions and more. But to use it to fund something that is recurring is a dangerous hedge.
    We are a public school, but if 6,000 students were assessed a $500 activity fee, that would generate $3M. I don’t think that’s a fair solution by any means, but it would generate more money than cutting busing for the whole district.
    Please don’t take shots at that suggestion — instead look at just how small per person this problem of budgeting really is, and examine just how much sacrifice it is to continue to support these schools and the programs that our community has come to depend on. Our taxes are VERY low compared to neighboring districts. Do we really want to gamble that money doesn’t make a difference?

    1. John etal —
      I said specifically that I did not advocate that — it’s just an example of a fairly straightforward way to generate revenue during these “spike” PSERS years without making the cuts you have referenced here and are incorporated in the Level 2 and 3 discussions.
      The fact that I don’t advocate an EIT is moot — as Gio’s comments in another post are emblematic of the tax study conclusions that are reached in this community. Remember — I looked at EIT/PIT way back when, thinking that since a seriously higher percentage of income earners than property owners had kids in the school, it was a no brainer. Nothing is no brainer around here except KEEP MY TAXES LOW. An old phrase I confess I used from the chair — “those with all the answers rarely have all the information.” My gripe with this board is that they do not share all the information, nor do they pay much attention to feedback. The discussion and deliberation is supposed to take place in public, but they show up at meeting after meeting with a new decision model in place….I’ve been there and do not fault them for searching for the answers, but I believe the entire teacher contract falls squarely on those that negotiated the last contract. This nickel and diming of the benefits has got to end. We stopped providing benefits to administrators when I was on the board. They get a defined contribution. This board has changed that as well, but at least it’s still based on numbers, not costs. The TEEA should be offered a flat amount per employee for beneifts. The personnel office can and should be creative to put together lots of health care alternatives, but the employee should choose their plan based on what they want to spend. It’s insurance — NOT FREE HEALTH CARE. Until teachers and those in the system understand the costs, they will never bend on the issue. And they don’t care what the costs are — just what it costs them. Until this past contract, that hard and fast cost to the individual was zero. (Not so in the contracts I was involved in, but the rank and file didn’t know how their health care was funded. It was lumped in with the cost of compensation.)
      In the early years of the union, teachers were underpaid. The offset to that was that they had a pension and good benefits. Teachers in today’s economy are not anywhere close to underpaid, and yet they still have a pension and good benefits. They got plenty and gave up nothing. The state constitution does not allow you to reduce their compensation, so it’s time to put paying for health care on the employee, where it is for most of the population. A fixed contribution to the cost of insurance for each employee is all that this district can afford or should offer. But the community has to be ready to take a strike. I don’t think our local teachers want to do that, but the PSEA at the state level will simply not budge….and they have nothing invested in TESD except fair share dues collection.

  5. The” orginal plan” for the former bus garage was a tennis complex ..In August 2008 draft plans were presented for a transportation,maintenance & storage facility with an approximate cost of 4.8 million ( Phase 1 & 2)
    I still wonder how they can expect to build this for 2 million ( half the orginal estimate)

  6. I am a little bias when it comes to raising our school taxes.My wife and I have no children and so we will never have one in the school system. So, we are not over the moon when those that do have children in the school’s call for an EIT or tax increase. I am sorry to see school programs cut but when you weigh that against those that are on the verge of losing their homes it kind of puts things in perspective
    Things are very difficult for all government agency’s, private business and personal finances due to the financial climate we find ourselves in. Consider also the elderly and retired living on fixed incomes that also find themselves barely hanging on financially. There are many sides to this, but adding more financial burden on residents that are already struggling is not going to help anything. If times were good we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Everyone has to sacrifice a little until we get through this, that’s just how it is.
    No silver bullet or single action will fix this, tough compromise’s unfortunately are the answer.
    Giovanni D’Amato

    1. Mr. Petersen says, “Bottom line, keep cutting and the TESD will cease to be what it was.”

      This is a great myth – that spending has a major effect on academic achievement. It has a bit of truth to it and that’s why it makes any myth believable. Look at any major study of academic achievement and you’ll find that spending per student, class size, teacher compensation, teacher experience and teacher years of service are not major factors.

      What does matter is parental education, family income and [dare I say it] race. Read the NY Times today.

      Raising taxes is not the answer.

      1. Citizenone,
        I couldn’t agree more. I recently read some where that the united States is ranked I believe third in the world in spending on education and something like 27th in academic ranking. I am going by memory here so if anyone knows the article I am talking about feel free to correct me. I can’t see making the tough cuts somehow ruining our School districts allure. Property values dropping over this, not reality.
        Giovanni D’Amato

      2. Gio — do you have any dog in this fight? Are your kids going to lose services that a generation have gotten? Will you reduce your house price for the next family that buys your house knowing that they are getting less product?

        Citizen one — to suggest that tax revenue is not important, while concluding that parental education and income are — is sort of ignoring complimentary realities. Educated parents with good incomes buy homes in areas where the resources are there for education. It’s not an accident that 1)our community demographics are upwardly mobile and 2)our performance is tied to parental expectations. The expectations are examples of why they bought here,

        So stop …. these are programs in place. John P is right — go ahead and cut them. My kids are done and I just got a contract on my house, so what do I care if the young family moving here made a decision based on reputation which may no longer be valid in 3 years….(one ERB or PSSA cycle). THe kids will be fine. My house is probably overpriced, but I have no money on the table anymore. In other words, nothing is at stake for me. As to the rest of you, a diminished TE is still better than Philadelphia….or other districts where your house would cost about 25% LESS.

    2. John,
      All good points. You know as well as I, when you give government a new way to tax you your over all tax burden goes up, it never goes down. An EIT would lower property tax? In theory, I agree with your point, the reality is, it won’t and we will all just pay more. If you want to control spending, then you must slow the flow of money, not increase it. As I said there is no easy fix and there has to be hard compromise’s. EIT and tax increase’s will lead to an increase in spending and give relief to no one. Its a tough situation, but this is not the financial climate to throw more money around. It all comes out of our pocket and they never put any back.
      Giovanni D’Amato

      1. John — THIS is the conclusion that every tax study in this community reaches. When you are in elected office, just how do you discount that?

  7. Andrea said, “instead look at just how small per person this problem of budgeting really is……”

    I think we should do that. I’ve seen estimates of the shortfall somewhere between $4M and $8M. For argument sake let’s say we have to raise taxes by 5%.

    How much is that per person? On the average tax bill of $4,000 it’s only $200. Supporters of this line of think would say, “a sacrifice of only $200 is manageable!”

    Here’s the fallacy in this line of thinking. It’s $200 this year, and next year, and the year after that forever and ever. What’s the price of an annuity that pays out $200 yearly for 25 years? About $4,000.

    Our board members are not making a $200 decision; they are making a $4,000 decision.

  8. at it can go up yearly or when the next contract is up. so 200 this year can be another 200 or more on top of that in a year or so.

  9. I’ve been trying to just lurk and learn on this topic, but I don’t see any progress here. The pro-EIT crowd already pay it according to most of them, so certainly it’s what they want. The anti-EIT crowd dont’ pay it and see no reason to impose it. Then there is a suggestion of levying a fee on the users of the system, and sparing the balance of taxpayers who specifically say they have no kids in the school. The tax increase is limited by law, so the suggestion that $200 a year is a $4,000 annuity is kind of moot.
    You own a house. You pay about 1% of its market value as a school tax. Failure to do that may or may not influence the house value in conjunction with the (perceived?) value of living in this district.
    A fee is not adeductible because it is not a tax, but it also is not assessed on taxpayers — just system users. I don’t think that is a fair idea, by the way, because this is a public school, but parents are crying out not to cut programs, so to quote an old school board member “cost causers pay”…. Maybe charge for bussing so you could also collect from the private/parochial school users of that service (someone said it is not state mandated, so I’m assuming you could do that).

    So to review — just how do you intend to pay for contractual obligations? If you don’t plan to generate revenue to support programs, then you have to cut programs. I see the equity in a taxpayer’s home as being an investment, and believe that is sort of worth protecting. So the $4,000” annuity you reference may well be a drop in the bucket — and you will cash out that annuity at full price when you sell your house if it is still associated with a top school district.

    1. Good thoughts, but busing to private schools is state mandated. You could not charge a fee for that. Busing for our own kids is not mandated, but once you do it, you are required to provide it to all private school kids in your district – get your kids to and from all private schools within a ten mile radius of your borders. T/E runs 8 schools but the list of private schools which the district is obligated to provide transportation for is well over 100 schools. While T/E may not actually have a kid in each of those 100 plus schools at the present time, the district does bus to a substantial portion of them each and every year at a substantial cost.

      1. I believe the state mandate is to provide the same service to non-public as you provide to public, so if you didn’t provide, or you charged for public, you could do the same for non-public. Am I wrong?

        1. I frankly doubt it, but that would be something to run by the school district’s solicitor. As a practical matter, I don’t see anything like that ever happeneing. It is just not politically feasible.

    2. Mr. Petersen asked about the importance of certain positions:

      Eliminate Literacy Intervention Program $111,000
      Eliminate Elementary Math Support Positions $350,000
      Eliminate Four Elementary Reading Specialist Positions $300,000
      Eliminate Elementary Strings Specialist Position $75,000
      Eliminate Middle School Reading Specialists $300,000
      Eliminate Middle School Math Support Positions $125,000
      Reduce each High School Department by One Teacher $375,000
      Eliminate Elementary Applied Tech Program $300,000

      Teachers love to have support and specialist positions. These positions have reduced responsibilities. What time these specialists do spend before students relieves the standard classroom teacher of duties. Remember, the time the student spends in school is fixed. When specialist and support positions are added the district has added more teachers, expense and inefficiency to do the same task.

      1. It is not “doing the same task” but providing specific and extra support for kids who need it in areas such as reading and math. These are core subjects, necessary subjects, not frills.

        Much of this has been driven by improvements in education – better understanding and diagnosis of special needs – as well as by the need to meet stringent standards imposed by federal laws such as No Child Left Behind. The district has to meet those standards or serious consequences are imposed. So while the specific positions in question here may not be mandatory they exist at least partly as a result of the need to comply with federal law. (administered by the state, which sets the standards for AYP (“Adequate Yearly Progress”).

        Furthermore, there are limits to how much you can cut in these areas, as many such support services are mandated by IEP’s (Individual Education Programs) under IDEA, the “Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act” (also a federal law).

        I am assuming the proposed cuts are for those support teachers that are not mandatory under IDEA. (otherwise you could not cut them) But while these positions are not mandated, they do enhance the educational quality and experience for ALL of the kids, not just the ones who need extra support. Why? Because the classrooom teacher is free to focus on the remaining class, and not spend all of his or her time on the kids with special needs.

        However, your argument assumes that these services were never necessary and were provided appropos of nothing. To parents and professional educators, these support positions represent great imporvents in the childrens’ education. To you, they only represent inefficinecy. It is not true that the main teacher can simply absorb all of this without any adverse impact to the education of the kids – and I mean ALL of the kids.

        These cuts may be inevitable, but let’s all reconize that they will adversely impact education.

  10. Wow Citizen One. You are just a kid advocate through and through.
    Specialists exist for the purpose of the OTHER kids in the program. It’s the 90/10 rule — 90% of the teacher time goes to 10% of the kids. WHen you have the specialist who can help remediate and motivate, you have a classroom teacher that can teach the lesson.

    If you think otherwise, there is no sense going forward with this. Apparently your children never needed help. Must be the demographic thing again….only with smart, wealthy (but cheap) parents, ethnically cleansed kids need apply.

      1. Unintentional. I thought I had responded to the facts…I was just a bit upset that you were suggesting that the services provided to kids were redundant when in fact the 90/10 rule really does apply, and the special service providers allow for regular classroom instruction.

        In reading, I see your point about me ranting, but I meant it to challenge the idea that demographics are aligned with student performance, but likewise they are aligned with economic support and expectations.
        Sorry for the rant. Keep it coming. You make excellent points.

  11. John, “Republicans are an interesting lot”. Now that is interesting.

    Andrea.. bravo.. we are dealing with health insurance, not free health care. I bet if the teachers were more “involved” with their insurance decisions, that in and of itself would drive the cost of insurance down.

    1. John -You are too rude to apologize, but you have no idea what you are talking about. Then again, you spend zero effort to learn and listen. The big giveaways…..grow a brain and shrink your ego. Thank goodness you are the idiot that didn’t get elected.

    2. Indeed FlyersFan. The composition of the negotiating team always influences what you can accomplish….PSEA should be negotiating with blue cross on how to best spend their defined contribution — but instead they put all their effort behind the “no copay” mantra. If John had ever been party to anything like it, maybe he would stop pontificating himself. And I will stand by the achievements made during my time on the board and would happily endure any scrutiny of the facts, but certainly not the bluster that substitutes for information.
      Remember what I have said here and elsewhere — you cannot understand the teacher contract and its costs without knowing where the people are on the matrix. I added steps and took starting salaries off the schedule….subsequent contracts undid that approach.
      But I’m tired of JP’s peanut gallery commentary, so I’m done posting. It’s like a playground with no teachers…just the bullies.

      1. Andrea, first dollar coverage for “insurance” is an oxymoron.
        We have been sold a bill of goods by employers and unions alike about “great coverage” and “it’s free”. The whole thing is nuts. Has to be changed.

        Don’t be run off by John Petersen. We all know about him. Once every two weeks he makes sense, but there is always a dark side to his responses.

        Your imput is informative. Maybe some moderation here would help with decorum on this blog.

        1. ” . . . Maybe some moderation here would help with decorum on this blog.”

          Am I to assume that this remark is intended for me. If so, there’s a fine line between moderating and censorship. I have made my feelings known many times on CM how I feel.

          I am spending more time & energy on CM than you can possibly appreciate. People should be free to offer opinions on a wide variety of topics. I believe if there was more discourse & engagement from residents (in the past and going forward) perhaps we can avoid some of the past mistakes and not create new ones for future generations.

          Andrea has her own school board site, and has stated that she will be writing on her site. FF, perhaps you would be interested in the dialogue that is created on that site.

          As for Community Matters, any ‘moderation and/or censorship will remain my decision.

        2. Exactly, Peterson occasionally has something useful to provide. The rest of the time is spent by him just instigating and smokescreening with insults and opinions presented as fact.

          Pattye– it’s not censorship to request that contributors act as adults. It’s nit like you would be censoring him from presenting info, just preventing him from his occasional petulant outbursts and slinging of insults with his holier than thou attitude.

      2. Andrea,

        Your presence on this board will be missed. Would you reconsider and just ignore JP? I’m growing tired of his sniping, too. Sometimes he has something of substance to offer. Many times, though, his posts are designed to agitate rather than inform or further the discussion.

        The 2/8/10 youtube of John helped me understand his mode of operation.

    3. I’m not the one who caved into the union…. I never lied to the electorate. …

      Neither did I. Use SOME facts in your rebuttal….or is that too cumbersome a burden for you?

      I did raise taxes, but then we renovated all 8 schools and expanded them all as well. The tax increase was never as high as the population increase during the time. We added four steps to the teacher schedule.

  12. PSEA Collective Bargaining Goals See
    PSEA recommends that each local association…

    1. Fully utilize available PSEA resources for negotiations, including the UniServ Representative, Coordinated Bargaining participation, and PSEA Statewide initiatives.

    2. Negotiate salaries consistent with PSEA’s Best Practices for Salary Schedule Development (EA).

    3. Negotiate wages consistent with PSEA’s Best Practices for Compensation (ESP).

    4. Negotiate language to guarantee class size/work load maximums.

    5. Negotiate language which insures a safe, nonviolent,

    clean and healthy working environment.

    6. Negotiate to maintain the highest possible level of health care benefits.

    7. Reject any attempts to create multi-tier salaries and/or benefits.

    8. Negotiate a severance and benefit package for retiring employees.

    9. Negotiate language insuring job security, particularly just cause.

    10. Negotiate provisions for Association rights, with fair share as the priority

    PSEA Mission, Vision & Core Values

    Adopted by PSEA House of Delegates (May 17, 2008)


    To advocate for quality public education and our members through collective action.


    To be the preeminent voice for education and the leading force for labor in Pennsylvania.


    •Being a member-driven organization
    •Collective action based on core union principles
    •Dignity and equity for all students and members
    •Integrity in words, actions, and data
    •Quality professional services by and for members

    1. Thanks. I wonder if there are any other studies that show what percentage of eligible kids take these tests nationally and internationally. Other countries absolutely do “weed” kids out intentionally — though the US uses economics to do the same thing.

  13. To those of you on CM who want to have a dialogue. I will plan to resurrect my use of school spending (link is on Pattye’s blog) when I hvae something to say. John Petersen is defaming me, libeling me, and while I’m sure there is some legal term that I am abusing when I say that, I have no further interest commenting here. He has accomplished nothing so there is no useful nyah nyah nyah to respond with.

    I left the board of school directors because what mattered to me was our educational system. The politics of elections were no longer something I wanted to commit to. During my time I didn’t give anything away, and would go into details of what we accomplished but they are moot in today’s terms. I believe those that are familiar with my terms on the board know where my efforts were focused .

    I cannot get into a contest with Mr. Petersen over who can yell louder in print. Political rhetoric is dangerous, whichever side you are on. Information is far more useful and that’s not what Mr. Petersen is about.

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