Pennsylvania Public Schools Doomed, Doomed, Doomed Say Dems — A sparse crowd of about 200 heard a panel of Democrat state legislators from Delaware County, Oct. 13, at the Upper Darby Center For Performing Arts describe how public schools in Pennsylvania are doomed unless they get back in charge.
The event was sponsored by PA PASS, a public education advocacy group.
The initials stand for Parent Advocates for Public Education To Achieve Student Success.
On the panel were Sen. Daylin Leach (D-17), Rep. Greg Vitali (D-166), Rep. Margo L. Davidson (D-164), Rep. Maria P. Donatucci (D-185), and Rep. Ronald G. Waters (D-191) along with Michael Stoll, who is communications coordinator for State Rep. Bill Adolph (R-165) and Jeffrey S. Miller who is the Republican budget analyst for the Appropriations Committee for the State House, which Adolph chairs.
Leach started things off by saying that there was a “severe and existential threat to public education”.
He cited state budget cuts, proposed voucher and charter school bills, and Act 25‘s removal of exemptions in which school boards can hike budgets without a referendum.
He said the referendums always lose since only 10 or 15 percent of voters have children in public schools.
Ms. Davidson, who had to leave early, said she agreed with Leach’s points.
“Ed Rendell would never have proposed such a thing,” she said.
Vitali echoed the despair.
“I truly believe it is a dire situation,” he said. He said the budget cuts were driven by “ideology not necessity.
“(Gov. Tom) Corbett put the interest of oil drillers over children,” he said referring to the reluctance of the governor to levy additional taxes on drilling in Marcellus Shale.
He also pined for the days of Gov. Rendell.
“Rendell was an aggressive fighter for public education,” he said.
He compared public schools to public libraries and said the 9.1 unemployment rate comes from layoffs in the public sector. Whatever it was he was smoking it would probably have been polite if he offered to share it.
Ms. Donatucci clearly feared for the children.
“It’s raining on our school children,” she said. “. . .Our children aren’t going to get any money and they need to. . . An educational train wreck is going to happen and our children our tied to the tracks.”
Besides blaming Republicans she also blamed newspaper editors.
Waters was more philosophical.
“Elections have consequences,” he said. He noted Corbett said he was going to do the things he’s doing.
He claimed the state had a budget surplus and that money could have been used to keep education spending at the rates it had been the previous year.
Stoll pointed out, however, that there is no surplus and what Waters thought was a surplus is actually budgeted. He noted that 40 percent of state spending is for education. He explained that the reasons for the budget cuts were because federal stimulus money ran out.
After the comments by the panelists, parent representatives for the Radnor, Wallingford-Swarthmore, Interboro, Ridley, Southeast Delco, Haverford, Chichester, Springfield, Penn Delco, William Penn and Upper Darby school districts made presentations describing how excellent their districts were and how much harm the new changes in state policy are causing them.
A PA PASS moderator said that 173 teaching professionals, 148 para professionals, 11 security guards, 11 office support workers, nine maintenance workers, eight administrators and five social workers lost jobs in school districts in Delaware County due to budget cuts.
After parent presentations, PA PASS read to the panel questions submitted by the audience. The questions chosen by the moderator were generally along the lines of how can the vile Republicans be stopped.
The unseen presence of the Tea Party was felt in the room most strongly it seems by Leach who made a Freudian slip of referring to legislative behavior as not being a “tea party” instead of a “garden party”.
He corrected himself.
Haverford School Director Larry Feinberg, who was one of the event’s organizers, ended things with some strange comments about the proposals for charter schools and vouchers being part of some conspiracy by “Main Line” millionaires looking to make money at the expense of innocent children.
Stoll several times during the night had to emphasize that 40 percent of the state money goes to public education and that there are no plans to end public schools.
The organizers of the event, the parents, and even the legislators all struck one as being sincere and even caring.
Leach and Ms. Donatucci both spoke out passionately against using the cruel residential property tax to fund schools as we now do.
The problem, however, was none of the Democrats or their supporters were able to face the big, fat grinning gorilla in the room, namely the 3 and 4 percent annual raises — which remember are on top of automatic step raises — that the teachers always seem to get during contract negotiations because they have the right to strike and/or perform unsatisfactory work during their “work to rule” job actions.
The always growing salaries, of course, get the icing of very sweet pension and health plans.
And this is the reason why services are being cut, not because some greedy Republican hates children, as some implied.
Milk does not flow forever.