October 2016

Public Education and Elections

Posted by Micheal O'Brien at 10/25/2016

Public Education and Elections

The November election results will have a profound impact on public education. Unfortunately, we can't trust what is being said by our political leaders because they have proven that their decisions are influenced by special interest groups. Money is the substitute for common sense. You may wonder why I would make such a bold statement, well, let me give you a few facts to ponder:

  1. The West Perry School District is currently owed 600,000 dollars for PlanCon reimbursement from the 2015-2016 school year. Yes, you are correct, that is last year's budget!!!
  2. The West Perry School District has not received our PlanCon money for the 2016-2017 school year. In plain terms, we have been shorted over 1.2 million dollars in "guaranteed" reimbursement funds for building maintenance and upgrades.
  3. School Choice Law allows students to leave our school and transfer to a cyber/charter school and our taxpayers foot the bill. Private brick and mortar and cyber schools continue to receive taxpayer dollars for transportation, nursing and guidance services, etc. Public cyber and charter schools are also taking tax dollars from local school districts at increasingly alarming rates. Local school districts are forced to pay tuition costs for students who chose to attend "school choice" options. This defies both common and economic sense because most of these alternative schools function below the performance levels of traditional schools. You can find the results on the Pennsylvania Department of Education's website by clicking on School Performance Profiles" that is commonly called SPP.
  4. Why doesn't the legislation change School Choice Law? There are many reasons, but two are alarming: Special interest groups continue to influence our elected officials by applying political pressure and making financial contributions to election campaigns. School Choice costs our district over 1 million dollars. Those funds are taken by the state and given directly to cyber/charter schools.
  5. Our legislators have miss handled pension funds for years, now they want to blame school districts. The West Perry School District paid 30.03 percent of our employee pension costs, in the current budget, up from approximately 8 percent just a few years ago. As we prepare our budget for 2016-2017, our costs will rise to over 33 percent.
  6. In the past three years, the state has changed the graduation requirements three times and are currently planning to change them once again. Seniors were once allowed to graduate by meeting local, board approved courses of study and mandated by the state to take 3 Keystone Exams (Algebra I, Biology and Literature) to evaluate their "readiness" to graduate. Then the state mandated, starting with the Class of 2017, that students had to pass all three Keystone Exams to graduate. Last year, after getting political pressure from parents, the state moved the mandatory Keystone Exam requirement to the Class of 2019 and have directed the Pennsylvania Department of Education to evaluate the current demands for graduation and come up with another plan. So in summary, public school districts across the state have been forced to adjust to 4 different directives impacting graduation requirements. I have often asked for and never received the research that proves these exams are indicators of future successes for students. Frankly, it doesn't exist!
  7. Our legislators have forgotten that all children are different. Whatever happened to the understanding that learning and mastering a trade is a good and noble course in life? Have we allowed our elected officials to forget that effort and commitment are important qualities that often lead to gainful employment?

Soon there will be new faces in Harrisburg and Washington DC. We need to make sure that our students and future generations are allowed to attend their local public schools. This can only happen if you advocate for West Perry by demanding that our tax dollars support our schools and not the special interests of the minority and by holding our legislators accountable to fund public education to an appropriate level, a level that meets our students' needs. Inform them that owing over 1.2 million dollars, PlanCon reimbursement, to West Perry School District is unacceptable. A reasonable approach would be for our political leaders to pay their bills and return public education back to local control.