Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Warren Kampf

Senator Dinniman to Hold Public Rally for Education – April 27th

Note that there has been a date change for the Education Rally — Senator Dinniman will hold rally on April 27, 7 PM on the Chester County courthouse steps. Although some of the readers on Community Matters have suggested that Sen. Dinniman public rally is nothing more than a politician seeking the limelight. Personally, I think it is refreshing to have an elected officials willing to get involved and represent those that elected him.

This past fall marked Sen. Dinniman’s retirement from teaching at West Chester University, having served as a professor for 30 years. Regardless of your personal political sway, it is obvious that Sen. Dinniman is someone who supports education, the students and their families. Doing nothing more than complaining about Corbett’s proposed public education cuts is not going to get Harrisburg to listen . . .but the voices of many cause them to listen! Write or call your state officials. I support making your voice count and plan to attend this rally! Below is the latest press release from Sen. Dinniman.

Dinniman to Hold Rally for Education on April 27th – Public Rally Set for 7 PM on the Steps of the Chester County Courthouse

WEST CHESTER (April 11) – State Senator Andy Dinniman announced today that he will hold a rally for residents opposed to Governor Corbett’s proposed budget cuts to education on Wednesday, April 27 at 7 p.m. on the steps of the Chester County Courthouse (corner of High and Market Streets) in West Chester.

“Governor Corbett’s significant and widespread cuts to education will be disastrous for students at all levels and even more devastating in the years to come,” Dinniman said. “We know that cuts to basic and early education mean increased local property taxes, larger class sizes and less individualized attention and specialized programs. We know that cuts to higher education mean significantly increased tuition and fees, greater student borrowing and debt and more people on the unemployment rolls.”

Governor Corbett recently proposed a $27.3 billion budget that calls for cutting education funding across the board, including the following:

  • A $550 million cut to funding for public elementary, middle and high schools, including an $8 million cut from the Coatesville Area School District, a $2.5 million cut from the West Chester Area School District, and a $2.9 million cut from the Downingtown Area School District.
  • A $260 million cut to funding for pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and early childhood education programs.
  • A 50 percent cut to funding for state colleges and universities, including a $26 million cut for West Chester University, a $182 million cut for Penn State and $100 million cut for Pitt.

“We know that by investing in education, we are investing in our future and that is precisely what is at stake here. These cuts will set Pennsylvania back decades and undermine all of our efforts for long-term economic growth and prosperity,” Dinniman said. “That is why I want everyone – current students and their families, teachers and school employees, college professors and university staff members, high school seniors and prospective students – to come out on April 27 and make their voices heard. We need to stand together and ensure that our message is loud and clear.”

T/E School District Finance Meeting Updates . . . 2011-12 School District Budget Problem is the ‘Tip of the Iceberg’

Last night was the Finance Committee meeting and continued the discussion from the Budget Workshop held last month. The administration and the school board members focused on the budget strategies available to fill the remaining $3.3 million shortfall.

If you recall, originally the remaining school district 2011-12 budget deficit was $2 million. However, because of Gov. Corbett’s proposed budget and cuts to public education, an additional $1.3 million in state funding was lost to the district and therefore was added back into the TESD budget shortfall.

How to fund the $3.3 million deficit was the focus of the Finance Committee meeting. Members of the Finance Committee support and encourage a pay waiver freeze for next year. Hoping for an understanding of shared sacrifice, the school board recently mailed letters to TEEA and TENIG unions seeking their support.

Outsourcing of custodial services remains an open issue for further discussion; it appears that the updated cost-savings on out-sourcing of those services is approximately $800K annually. There was discussion of pay-to-play or ‘activities fee’ to be charged to students playing sports. This would be a yearly fee for student athletics, regardless if they played 1 or more sports. If a $50 fee per student athlete is charged, the revenue generated is approximately $80K. In reviewing other area school districts, five districts in Chester County have some type of sports activities fee in place. How much is the school district budget for sports? $1.5 million annually; which breaks down to approximately $509 per student who plays sports (including club sports).

Here is an open question . . . does sports activities fee impact participation. The discussion of an activities fee for sports brought up an interesting discussion. Is it fair to only charge for sports, what about other extra-curricular activities, clubs, band, etc.? Some members of the Finance Committee suggested that the activities fee should be associated with those extra-curricular activities that required transportation.

Another way to generate revenue for the school district is advertising and members of the Finance Committee are investigating the concept of paid advertising on Teamer Field, as well as other locations. Two adverting companies that handle this type of school district advertising will make a presentation at the next school board meeting. Generated revenue from this type of advertising was estimated as $30K-95K. Advertising on the sports team shirts was also discussed, as well as school bus advertising. If the district decides to move forward with the adverting concept, there will need to be a policy change.

FLITE is working to raise $85K to fund the after-school homework club. The homework program is included in the 2011-12 budget but is on the list as a possible budget expense reduction. Another expense reduction item under consideration is transportation for some extra-curricular activities ($90K) and summer school ($40K).

Several parents spoke in support of maintaining the quality of education and programming in the district. Many suggested raising property taxes or instituting an EIT to cover the school district budget deficit. If instituted, an 1% EIT would generate approximately $17 million annually. With the township and school district equally sharing those funds, $8.5 million would go to each.

The argument by some in support of an EIT or property tax increase was that your property values are directly tied to the quality of the school district. Therefore, if you want to sustain your property values, you must support the quality of the school district.

What was clear from the Finance Committee meeting is that the administration and school board are running out of options! They encouraged those in the audience and watching from home to contact your state representatives and Harrisburg.

Corbett Calls for 4% Pay Cut for State Workers as Dark Shadow of Government Shutdown Hangs Over Capital Hill

Teachers in Pennsylvania may be the envy of the state’s public workers. Teachers unions were asked to consider a one-year pay freeze, but many state workers may not be so lucky. In fact, a pay freeze looks charitable when compared to the sacrifice asked of state workers in Pennsylvania’s largest union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

To help close the $4.2 billion budget deficit, Gov. Tom Corbett wants the 45,000 public employees to help by absorbing a 4 percent pay cut in the first year of a new three-year contract. Corbett’s administration suggests that the workers would be made ‘whole’ again within two years. AFSCME’s agreement usually provides the guidepost for pacts with other unions. Contracts with AFSCME and 16 other state employee unions will expire on June 30.

Some of the lowest-paid workers in the state, AFSCME workers are paid about $34,000 a year on average. The state custodians, nursing assistants, clerical workers and snowplow drivers would see their salary drop to $32,640 under Corbett’s plan. It is anticipated that the AMFSCME pay decrease would save the state more than $60 million. If my math is correct, the cost savings from the 4 percent pay cut would equate to approximately 1.5 percent of the state budget deficit or $6 million.

Many of the public workers are already living paycheck-to-paycheck. Question, is it fair to ask for this level of sacrifice from those already struggling to get by? AFSCME workers offered Corbett their willingness to take a salary freeze for one year but the Governor rejected their offer. After all, isn’t this what Corbett had proposed for the state’s teachers?

In Corbett’s budget address last month, he warned that he would be seeking concessions from public workers. His words spoke of the painful steps that would be required to close the budget gap but I don’t know that the state workers were prepared for the level of pain they may be forced to feel!

I certainly support the notion that these difficult economic times require all of us to sacrifice, but . . . . I also have to wonder if lawmakers and top-level state managers will be asked to share the same level of pain as the public workers. I have not heard mention of suggested pay cuts for our elected officials.

As I complete this post, there is a dark shadow hanging over Capital Hill as the federal government shutdown clock continues to tick down. Washington is scrambling as the clock counts down. Failure to reach a deal for the remaining six months of the fiscal year would trigger a government shutdown at midnight tonight, causing more than 800,000 nonessential employees to be furloughed without pay. It is interesting to note that our nations lawmakers would continue to receive their paycheck!

Here’s hoping for a last-minute agreement; a government shutdown is in no one’s best interest!

Tredyffrin Resident Christine Johnson Says NO to SB 1 . . . Making your Voice Count!

There has been much discussed about the proposed school voucher bill, SB 1. But Tredyffrin resident Christine Johnson is doing more than just talking . . . she’s taking her voice and saying NO to SB 1. Christine adopted her ‘Resolution Opposing Senate Bill 1’ (below) and sent it to Senator Andy Dinniman and State Rep Warren Kampf. According to Christine, ” . . . they need our support in order to say ‘NO’ . . . “

Creating change starts with one person –I am proud of Christine and applaud her effort to show all that your voice can count! If you are interested in following Christine’s example, here are email addresses:

State Rep Warren Kampf:
State Sen Andy Dinniman:


By Christine E. Johnson
986 Mt. Pleasant Avenue
Wayne, PA 19087

WHEREAS, school districts in the Commonwealth have continued to make steady gains in academic achievement and create innovative and effective
programs and curricula for all public school students and Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation to have increased academic achievement in every subject, at all tested grade levels and for all ethnic, racial and
economic subgroups of students from 2002 through 2008; and

WHEREAS, the implementation of a tuition voucher program, over-expansion of any existing tax credit program or incentivizing a student’s transfer out of the public education system in any way takes financial resources away from traditional public schools and diminishes the great strides that have been made in those schools and increases the burden on property taxpayers and their resident school districts working toward greater academic successes; and

WHEREAS, unlike nonpublic and private schools, public school districts in the Commonwealth accept and educate children regardless of race,
ethnicity, gender, religion or academic talents, as opposed to those institutions that are able to reject applicants based on low academic performance, discipline issues or any number of other factors; and

WHEREAS, unlike nonpublic and private schools, public schools in the Commonwealth are held to strict accountability standards in an effort to
measure student achievement and academic progress, unlike private and parochial schools which are not required to give state assessments or
publish student achievement data; and

WHEREAS, there is no consistent evidence to demonstrate that students who utilize vouchers make any better academic progress in nonpublic or private schools than they did prior to transferring; and

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that Christine E. Johnson opposes Senate Bill 1 and any other legislation or any effort by the General Assembly to implement a tuition voucher program in the Commonwealth or any other program that would have an effect similar to that of a tuition voucher program, and encourages its elected officials to oppose the same.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that Christine E. Johnson directs her legislators to take immediate action about the need to oppose Senate Bill 1 and the negative consequences on the school district and the public education system at large and to provide a copy of this resolution to them.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that Christine E. Johnson will encourage others, including parents, students and district taxpayers, to contact the
Pennsylvania General Assembly to convey the importance of supporting public education in the Commonwealth.

Adopted this 31st day of March 2011.


Christine E. Johnson

PA State Senatorial Candidate Tom Houghton has Questions for Pileggi and Corbett . . . Tredyffrin Needs to Ask the Same Questions of Kampf and Dinniman

Tom Houghton, former State Representative for Chester County’s 13th House District and a recently declared Democratic Pennsylvania State Senate candidate, released the following editorial, ‘Right to Know’ Stance on Budget’. In the 2012 senatorial race, Houghton will be opposing Senate majority leader, Senator Dominic Pileggi (R), who represents the 9th Senatorial District in Chester and Delaware counties.

Although Tredyffrin Township is not included in the 9th Senatorial District, Houghton’s remarks on issues are equally apropos for our community. As a resident from southern Chester County, Houghton is calling on his elected officials to answer questions regarding school budget deficits, Marcellus shale natural gas severance tax and Gov. Corbett’s proposed budget cuts to public education funding. I support Houghton’s ‘Right to Know’ request for those that serve his community.

Taxpayer accountability from all elected officials is a right that we should all expect, and that includes State Rep Warren Kampf and State Sen Andy Dinniman. Houghton’s concerns and questions to leadership, echo those that we need to ask here in Tredyffrin Township. I urge Kamp and Dinniman to provide answers to us, the taxpayers. In Houghton’s words, “. . . Constituents deserve nothing less. We deserve the ‘Right to Know’.”

‘Right To Know’ Stance on Budget

For a legislator who passed the ‘Right to Know’ law, Senator Pileggi certainly always seems to keep his constituents in the dark.

Last week I attended an Avon Grove School Board meeting along with a few hundred anxious parents. The school board was courageous in calling the meeting to break the news to the community that they not only were considering raising property taxes by 5.9 percent but were seriously weighing cutting the middle school athletics program, mostly due to the brutal state education funding cuts being proposed by Governor Tom Corbett. They even reached out to the newspapers in the area to inform the community of their budget situation.

The Board has already cut millions of dollars from their budget and are essentially informing the community that it would be nearly impossible to solely cut their way out of this shortfall in state funding.

Gov. Corbett announced a 200 million dollar corporate tax giveaway just days before proposing these draconian education cuts to K-12, state and state-related universities.

As a community, all of us deserve an explanation from our elected state officials as to their position on the proposed state budget.

Senator Dominic Pileggi should hold forums around his district to explain the budget process and where he stands on the proposed cuts. Reaching out to his constituents through the area newspapers would also be helpful.

He needs to answer questions like:

– Does he support the 200 million dollar corporate tax break, especially when college students and every resident paying property taxes is being asked to sacrifice?

– Will he fight for a Marcellus shale natural gas severance tax to gain revenue to help avoid or greatly reduce these education cuts?

– Why are we the only state in the nation that does not levy this severance tax (even Texas and West VA has a severance tax)?

– Why did the Senate, under his leadership, break the deal with us House Democrats, to pass a severance tax by October of 2010?

– Why does he not support finding alternative means of funding our schools other than property taxes, especially now when cutting state education funding only forces school boards to raise property taxes?

– Why does he not support legislation I introduced last term that calls for our casinos to surrender $250 million dollars they use for promotional giveaways – to the property tax relief fund?

These are just some of the questions that need to be answered. Why is Senator Pileggi refusing to face his constituents or inform us of what’s going on with the proposed state budget?

As your state senator, as I did as a state representative, I will be in constant communication with residents through the press and will hold forums to explain what is going on in Harrisburg and where I stand on important issues. Constituents deserve nothing less. We deserve the ‘Right to Know’.

Tom Houghton,
Former State Rep. and candidate for State Senate – 2012 Election
London Grove Township

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.

T/E School District Budget Options . . . Pay Waiver, Demotion & Furlough Discussion

I attended the T/E marathon ‘Budget Workshop’ last night. For nearly 3 hours, the school board members and district administration waded through 30+ slides which contained so many charts and graphs, it was hard to take it all in. The slides and their detailed explanation took up the vast majority of the evening with probably the last 30 min. devoted to audience questions. The workshop included three new cost-saving ideas that were ‘new’ to me – a ‘pay waiver’, demotion and furlough.

There was a pivotal slide labeled ‘Options to Close Remaining Shortfall’ that grabbed my attention. Slide #26 indicates the remaining budget shortfall (after taking budget strategies) at $3,570,509. Two options listed to close the shortfall – (1) Outsourcing of custodial services $950K and (2) ‘Pay Waiver for remaining staff (TEEA and TENIG) $3,000,000. We understand the outsourcing option; an RFP has gone out with a return date of early April. An announcement detailing the results of the RFP should be available early May.

What is a ‘pay waiver’? If I understood it correctly, the school district would ask the teachers union not to take their contract guaranteed pay increase for 2011-12. This would be a one-time pay waiver (a give-back of sorts). Unlike a salary freeze that could be retroactive (as in the 6-month salary freeze in Radnor’s recent contract) or a salary freeze the first year but larger increases in the second year of a contract, a pay waiver would not be made up in a future contract. There was no indication that TEEA has been approached with this proposal. Although several school board members praised the teachers, they also suggested the reality and the severity of the economic times, call for a ‘shared sacrifice’ by the taxpayers, teachers, etc. This is a bold proposal and it will be interesting to see if there is any comment or discussion from TEEA.

The other ‘get my attention’ moment of the evening was Dr. Waters suggesting that the district would explore ‘demotion’ and ‘furlough’ as possible ways to close the shortfall. He cited PA School Code 1151 in regards to demotion. I did a bit of research and determined that Section 1151 of the School Code provides for the demotion of professional employees. While this section does not make mention of demotions for economic reasons, case law has established that school districts are permitted to demote professional employees for economic reasons, so long as such demotions are not arbitrary and capricious under the law. Expanding the provisions of Section 1124 would similarly allow school districts to furlough employees for economic reasons.

What would this mean for the school district budget? Far less staff would be affected and programming would be maintained. It appears that by law, the school district superintendent would be empowered to review the entire school system as a whole to identify where reduction in staff could occur. Very interesting news. I sensed a real determination from Dr. Waters that he was doing everything in his power to help with this budget deficit. Although he certainly did not say that he would evoke demotion or furlough measures, there will be further discussion on the subject.

Although there was much other discussion in regards to cost-cutting measures, these particular suggestions were ‘new’ to me and caught my attention. I left the meeting last night with a real sense of the seriousness of the financial situation and of the battle to close the $3.5 million remaining shortfall.

I would strongly suggest that State Rep Warren Kampf and Sen Andy Dinniman need to play a role in our local school district issues – I’d like to see a public forum with their attendance. I believe that I recently read that Kampf attended a Phoenixville School Board meeting (or one of their subcommittee meetings?). If Kampf or one of his staff workers is reading Community Matters, I am making a public appeal that he attend a T/E School Board meeting. . . . aside from serving as our State Representative, Kampf lives in the T/E school district and I would like to see him personally involved in our school district’s budget issues.

Ray Clarke also attended the budget workshop and provided his editorial comments.. It is interesting to have both perspectives of the evening and I thank Ray for his notes below:

Tonight’s TESD “Budget Workshop” did not really live up to its title, but was nevertheless an informative, if a little selective, exposition of the underlying forces driving the district’s finances – and driving them to steep deficits.

  • The real estate-based gravy train has run off the rails – the tax base is declining and there’s no sign of recovery in transfer taxes
  • The state is exacerbating the problem – reduction in the social security reimbursement, flat special education funding despite increasing enrollment, and a tax increase formula that will limit property tax increases to around ~1% for at least the next couple of years. There’s even talk of eliminating “Exceptions” and reducing the PSERS match – but that last would just be insane.
  • As it is, PSERS will be the biggest expense increase – up $1 million each year for the next two years, $1.5 for each of the two years after that and $3.5 million in 2015/16
  • The district has reduced staff by 60 in the last two years, but the vagaries of grade and school specific demographics will require a staff increase next year despite likely flat enrollment.
  • New news: there are tools within the PA School Code that would allow for selective staff “demotions” to meet budget deficit situations. This may be a way to implement previously attrition-dependent changes such as the teaching period changes at the high school.
  • With all known realistic strategies and a 3.77% property tax increase including the now-approved exceptions, the 2011/12 deficit would still be $3.6 million
  • Other ideas continue to be studied: $400,000 of reasonably tangible and realistic notions, and maybe an equal amount of less tangible but possibly realistic ones. A few multi-million dollar ideas with profound impact on the culture and educational quality are further on the list, but seem likely only in extremis.
  • Which brings us to the big issues, laid out individually by the administration: outsource custodial services and obtain a “pay waiver” from both the TEEA and TENIG. There was no indication that the Board has received any proposal from the unions, much less one that would forgo (“until better times”) $3 million of pay increases. However, there was considerable emphasis on the need for shared sacrifice, and it is starkly apparent how such a move could bring the deficit somewhat back into range. There was no commentary from the TEEA – unlike from the TENIG representatives, who, as at previous meetings, appealed to emotion rather than the pocket book. As that process evolves, it would be great if TENIG could quantify the cost savings they claim they could bring to the district.

Bottom line: my view is that the district continues to make the best of the hand it has (including of course, the cards picked up from generous previous contracts and other decisions). The key question: what will the unions do to show that they can remain relevant, and be part of the solution, not part of the problem?

And even if the deficit can be reined back some, PSERS remains the issue.

There was an interesting chart that documented the Employer Contribution Rate from 1988 to now. The rate started out at 19%, declined for 13 or 14 years to 1% (thanks to a booming stock market), at which point the benefit multiplier was increased to 2.5, COLA rules changed and bubbles burst, whereupon the ECR started up again, to next year’s 8.65% and then 33.37% by 2015/16 and for the next decade, even after last year’s Harrisburg “fix”. Employee contributions have been consistently 7.5%.

So, how to fix this (and the related SERS for state employees)? Any solution will likely have to be approved by taxpayers. If the problem is dumped in the local lap, the increases are fundamentally unaffordable without a referendum: be it for, say, 10% property tax increases or an equivalent EIT. Even if Harrisburg rose to the occasion, that might also involve a courageous appeal to voters: for a change in the Constitution (“Any unilateral substantial change in public employee pension benefits that constitutes a “net detriment” to the employees is a constitutionally impermissable impairment of the employment contract”), or for issuing a Pension Bond to deal with the unfunded liability.

Now there’s something to write to Dinniman and Kampf about!

State Rep Kampf Supports Teacher Furloughing for Economic Reasons

In today’s Main Line Media News, Alan Thomas writes an article on our state representative, ‘Warren Kampf thinks he knows how to get the Pennsylvania Family back on track”. Thomas was able to get our state rep to offer some remarks on various topics.

On House Bill 855, teacher furloughing . . .

We learn that Kampf supports the bill that would permit the furloughing of teachers for economic reasons. Current legislation only permits school districts to lay off teachers only if enrollment declines, districts consolidate or if a program is eliminated.

The proposed legislation, House Bill 855 would permit ‘economic’ as a reason to furlough teachers. The Pennsylvania School Boards Association and the state’s largest teacher union, Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) are at odds over this proposed legislation. Among some, there is fear this proposed legislation could be open the door to teacher layoffs. House Bill 855 would allow furloughs to occur without regard for an employee’s seniority and experience.

According to Kamp, TESD is able to “reduce by 15 [the number of teachers] by going from five to six [teaching] periods a day. However, the law prevents furloughing.” Kampf supports the furlough legislation and thinks that it may pass before school budgets are due.

On the State’s pension problem . . .

Kampf’s solution is to “go to a defined-contribution plan for new hires, a percentage of payroll for employees, but that’s the end of it for the taxpayer . . . “

On taxing natural-gas production . . .

Kampf is OK with taxing natural gas production, as long as it is a low tax at the well-head, citing substantial revenue as the reason.

Kampf makes an interesting remark at the end of the article, referencing the taxing of the natural gas production — “The governor campaigned on no tax. My prediction – not going to happen.” Apparently, Kampf believes that Corbett is going to have to reverse his campaign promise and tax the companies conducting the drilling. Could taxing those companies involved in national gas production have an effect on job growth in those areas? I don’t have an answer, just asking the question . . .

Outsourcing of Custodial Services Would Save T/E School District Almost $1 Million . . . Should this Cost-Cutting Measure be Considered?

Last night was the T/E School District’s Finance Committee Meeting. One of the solutions offered to help close the looming deficit for the 2011-12 school district budget is the outsourcing of the custodial services. Outsourcing of the custodial service is expected to save the school district an estimated $950K in the budget. Last night, several members of the district’s custodial union (many of whom are township residents) attended the meeting to make the case to preserve the current custodial arrangement.

From Pete Bannan’s article in today’s Main Line Suburban newspaper on TESD Finance Committee Meeting, Pete reports:

” . . . All the school-board members were present for the meeting and the pleas during the public comments did not fall on deaf ears. Finance chair Kevin Mahoney said the school board wasn’t doing this to save money but is required by state law to balance the budget.
“The options are evaporating,” said Mahoney. “The governor’s budget turned a $2.2-million shortfall into a $3.6-million shortfall. It’s simply a matter of economics.”
Mahoney said no decisions had been made. The proposal is due April 4 and the board has 120 days to review it. Mahoney also said the school board is open to ideas and constructive ways to reach its goals. He suggested the public contact elected state officials, such as State Rep. Warren Kampf, State Sen. Andrew Dinniman and Gov. Tom Corbett, and ask for real pension reform. . . “

Ray Clarke attended the Finance Committee meeting and offers the following notes for Community Matters readers. As always, I am grateful for Ray’s attendance at school district meetings, his analysis and then for sharing them with us!

Monday’s Finance committee meeting vividly illustrated the problem TESD finds itself in.

Very many TENIG (Tredyffrin Easttown Non-Instructional Group) members and others spoke about the value of the current system with experienced, stable, professional and flexible staff, compared to the risks of a possibly cheaper, but high turnover, less trustworthy, and less committed external provider. There was also commentary about the impact on diversity. There was much talk about membership in the T/E Family, and a wise – but unfortunately innocent – CHS student suggested that a family would sit down and work out a fair solution for all its members, rather than focusing on one group. (No prizes for guessing the elephant in this particular family room!)

The out-sourcing analysis does offer a glimmer of hope, though. The district has issued an RFP, responses due May 4, which then must be given to TENIG by May 11. TENIG is allowed 120 days to respond. Let’s assume that out-sourcing would really save the $950,000 estimate. Now, the district has already identified overtime and substitute strategies that would save $150,000 with the existing staff. Is it wishful thinking that the staff could use their professional experience to identify further cost-saving practices, and offer compensation roll-backs and benefits adjustments that could move the impact over 50% towards the expected cost savings? Taxpayers might be very willing to pay a premium for service assurance.

After 90 minutes the committee got down to a review of budget projections. The $1.3 million impact of the PA budget was confirmed, with the $1.1 million reduction in Social Security reimbursement to the 15% “aid ratio” being the real surprise. Apparently it has been at 50% for as long as anyone in the room could remember. I would think that this might be subject to lobbying: where is Kampf on this one? It apparently squarely targets districts like TE that have a low aid ratio.

There was agreement to move ahead to crystallize a number of strategies listed with low or moderate impact on the education program. The biggest ones:

– Change the prescription provider: Impact $250,000
– Eliminate raises for all non-union staff: $395,000
– Integrate Applied Technology into Elementary Core: $300,000
– Plan for a 5% increase in medical costs (vs previous 10%): $412,500
– Fees for extra-curricular activities: $80,000

The result of all of this is $2.3 million of fairly solid strategies (including all the above except the last) and $0.45 million of more speculative ones (including the last). The current scenario assumes $0.15 million of the specualtive ones, for a total of $2.4 million of strategies. Add in Act 1 and Exception tax increases of $3.2 million (3.8%), subtract the $1.3 million state cuts, the $8.9 million deficit comes down to – a mere – $4.6 million.

Board policy does place some limits on use of the Fund Balance, but one obvious use is to pre-fund approved programs implementation-limited by contractual attrition rules. There was an example presented of how $1.1 million could be designated in this way in 2011/12. (I worry that there might be a little double counting with the above $300,000 AT elimination – does that need attrition?).

It’s fairly clear that the $29 million Fund Balance could absorb the $4.6 million draw down, but beyond that the picture is bleak. Annual deficit projections of $10 million or more (after Act 1 tax increases, driven by benefits) show that the district can not afford even flat TEEA salaries without the fund balance being wiped out in 2 years.

Here’s where the State House Bill to allow teacher furloughs to balance the budget comes into play. According to Dr Waters, that would allow action even with a CBA in place. However, Dr Brake reported that although the bill was up for Committee hearings, those hearings were abruptly cancelled (!). But the legislative process does continue, apparently.

We know that there are some actions involving furloughs that are already approved as having minimal educational impact. Others, like modest increases in class sizes, might be similarly low impact. Getting to $10 million can hardly be done without real impact, though. When it comes down to students and jobs versus union compensation, we might find out who is really part of the TE Family.

On School Voucher Question, State Rep Kampf offers a ‘Wait and See Approach’

On Thursday, March 3, I emailed State Rep. Warren Kampf in regards to the proposed school voucher legislation. I followed up my email with a telephone call to his Paoli office on March 7. At that time, his chief of staff, Sean Dempsy spoke with Rep. Kampf re my email and offered that Rep. Kampf would have a response to me by the end of the week. Here is an excerpt from my email to our State Representative, which I posted on Community Matters last week:

“ . . . There has been much discussion about the proposed school voucher bill S.B.1. which would help the state’s poorest children from the lowest-performing schools by providing options of attending public, private or parochial school. This week the Senate Education Committee voted 8-2 in favor of the bill and the proposed legislation will move forward in the process.

It is important for constituents to know where our elected officials stand on all important issues, including the school voucher program. State Senator Andy Dinniman (D-Chester) serves on the Senate Education Committee and voted in favor of the proposed school voucher legislation. As our State Representative, could you please offer your thoughts on the proposed ‘opportunity scholarship’ legislation? In your response, please address specific issues including the plan’s estimated price tag of $860 million, the constitutionality of the proposed legislation and the issue of funding parochial schools with taxpayer money.”

Rep. Kampf did not respond to my email. At 5 PM today, I received an email from Dempsey referring me to the State Rep’s website to read his position on school choice . . . Rep. Kampf’s “wait and see approach” (see below).

Kampf Praises Creative Solutions, Cautious on ‘School Choice’

By Rep. Warren Kampf, 157th District

Competition is critical to the efficiency of any enterprise, whether it is businesses competing for consumers by becoming more cost-effective or schools improving their teaching methods to lure students. There is a place for competition in our education system.

But before we adopt any so-called “school choice” proposal, we must examine whether the new system costs the state and school districts more money or subsidizes inefficient private schools.

At this stage, I am taking a wait and see approach. As for Senate Bill 1, it is difficult to comment on a bill that will be significantly transformed by the time it reaches the House. As is the case with another “school choice” bill, House Bill 240, I expect the legislature to pass numerous amendments to alter its rules and scope, though in what way I cannot yet predict.

I will just restate my position that whatever new system is tried, it should be done in a way that improves the overall quality of our state education system, and does not drive up costs for taxpayers and already cash-strapped schools without some very clear, tangible benefits to all of our children.

I remain open to creative ideas for improving Pennsylvania’s public school system. I am aware that the system works well in some districts, and is more troubled in others. It is my goal to embrace what works and fix what needs improvement.

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