Agenda and Fact Sheet for January 25 TESD Meeting

Here is the Agenda for tonight’s TESD School Board Meeting. I warn you that it is 74 pages but it might be useful for your review before tonight’s meeting. Several residents have called or emailed to say that they will attend;  I hope that many of you will take meeting notes to share on Community Matters.  Continuing this important dialogue tomorrow will be important. 

I put together some basic information for myself about the budget that I thought I would share.  I am not quite sure about the difference in #2 and #3 approach, should the School Board decide tonight to apply for an Act 1 exception.  Perhaps one of our resident experts could explain.  If any of this information below is incorrect, also please let me know.

Fact Sheet for January 25 TESD Meeting:

Proposed Budget Revenues: $101.9 million
Proposed Budget Expenses: $111.5 million
Proposed Budget Deficit:           $9.2 million

Major contributing factor to $9.2 million budget deficit: $5 million increase in employee fringe benefits (example, Blue Cross health care benefits increased by 28%)

Additional contributing factors to budget deficit: decrease in real estate transfer tax, decrease of interest income

Preliminary budget will be discussed and voted on at January 25 TESD Board Meeting; final budget and tax rate will be voted on at June TESD Board Meeting

At January 25 TESD Board Meeting, School Board must vote to take one of these 3 options:
(1) Pass a resolution certifying tax rate will be at or below Act 1 index of 2.9%
(2) Apply for exceptions to Act 1 index (would allow district to raise taxes above the 2.9% without voter referendum)
(3) Authorize the administration to start process to seek voter referendum in May to increase taxes above the 2.9% Act 1 index

TESD tax increase with Act 1 exception can be has great as 6.7%.

TESD Student now Parent Offers His Perspective

This is an interesting perspective from a TESD parent who was also once a student in the district.  I don’t know that anyone has commented from this particular angle. 

TE Dad speaks directly to the quality of teachers in the district.  He makes a point of how the system will protect those teachers of seniority, and perhaps that may be viewed as the flaw by some.  On one hand, younger teachers with their enthusiasm (but lack of experience) could be the ones that are best able to engage and excite the students whereas the older, more senior teacher may not be able to reach those same students.  On the other hand, a seasoned teacher can offer experience and advice for students (as well as parents) that can be invaluable. 

Maybe we can get confirmation from TEEA members on this one . . . how will teacher seniority affect the process?  Will teacher seniority make any difference if there are program cuts? What about TE Dad’s suggestion of performance reviews for teachers? Comments anyone?

From TE Dad . . .

What a terrible email from Ms. Ciamacca . . . both of them. She isn’t helping ANYONE. It certainly doesn’t help the teacher’s position. Wow, potentially alienating the parents who are the teacher advocates . . . dumb plan. Maybe the 70 – 80% of TESD taxpayers who don’t have kids in the district will fight for higher taxes in order to save TESD teacher jobs? I hope her tone is much different tonight otherwise she will deepen the division she has already aggravated.

In my experience, as a TE student many years ago, and as a TE parent now, there are many, many, excellent teachers in the district. Some of these terrific teachers also lack meaningful seniority. In fact some teachers are truly a bargain with what they deliver to the kids daily and what they are paid relative to their more senior coworkers.

Conversely, there are teachers in the district now, some with significant seniority who are poor performers, some were poor performers from day 1. Not a lot of them, but not an insignificant number either. The other teachers know who these teachers are, most of the parents probably know them too, especially if they taught your children at any time… These are the teachers most protected and are the ones who most benefit from the misrepresentation of the union.

The union, by protecting poor performing teachers from performance review and reduction isn’t representing the interests of the many, many good teachers very well, and certainly isn’t representing the interests of a junior, high performing teacher AT ALL. Frankly, the union is more concerned with protecting the jobs of senior teachers than the quality of the educational program, and that is by design.

Which teachers out there reading this blog and worried about their jobs would not be willing to be subject to performance review if reductions become necessity?? The likely answer: the poor performers with seniority . . . they are hurting us all . . .

TESD School Budget Marks a Milestone For Community Matters

I started Community Matters approximately 2 months ago in hopes of presenting important local issues that would engage the community. It was always my goal to deliver information in as balanced and honest a manner as possible, all the while understanding that some topics had the potential of creating a firestorm of debate.

As more and more people have found Community Matters, the daily average of visitors has continued to rise. Since late November, total visitors have now reached 25,000 people. Yesterday marked a milestone for viewership, I am reporting 1,350 visitors, the highest one-day total to date. The Tredyffrin Easttown School District (TESD) 2010-11 budget was the major ‘topic of interest’ with nearly 60 comments left by community visitors.

Reading the online comments, whether from concerned residents, school district teachers, T/E parents, you realize a collective theme; the severe economic downturn is affecting many in this community. Delivered with passion and commitment, visitors provided personal insight; many stakeholders feeling they cannot afford a  6-7% tax increase and suggesting the administration must come up with significant spending cuts. Teachers passionately responded that they fear the quality of the education in the district is in jeopardy unless the standard of programming is maintained. Some residents suggested that their personal financial issues should not be construed as caring less for the teachers, but rather they simply cannot afford aadditional taxes. Overwhelmingly this community supports their teachers and the school district, but there is no escaping the economic realities and the financial struggles facing many in this community.

Attend the School Board meeting tonight (Conestoga High School, 7:30 PM) – help to make a difference in the outcome by participating in the process.

Tredyffrin Easttown Teachers Email Campaign

Below is the email being distributed by Tredyffrin Easttown teachers in regards to Monday’s school board meeting.  Having made the decision to include this email on Community Matters, I offer my opinion.  Although I think it is extremely important for parents (taxpayers) to come to Monday night and offer opinion in the process, I do not support the tone of this email.  If I were a TESD parent, I would feel that I ‘better come out and support the teachers (programs) or else’ — what I mean is, I’d feel that my child’s school career (grades) could be resting on whether or not I supported the teachers. But we also should not lose sight of what this ‘exception’ could mean to the district stakeholders in the way of a tax increase.  I think we could be facing a tax increase of nearly 7% from TESD if the Act 1 exception is approved. 

A friend suggested that if the following letter had originated from a parent to other parents (rather than from the teachers) I probably would feel differently . . . I think she’s right. For me, I perceive this type of campaign as a ‘conflict of interest’ on the part of the teachers. I don’t want to see Monday night’s School Board meeting pitting T/E parents against  taxpayers without children in the district. 

_______________________________________________________ 

As a result of an email from Debra A. Ciamacca, I have removed the email campaign letter from my blog.  For the record, the email that was forwarded to me from a T/E parent, did not contain a signature of the writer nor was there any Confidentiality statement included on what I received.

_____________________________________________

First of all, let me say that you were not authorized to print an email from me to the teachers in this District. If you read the entire email, you will see that there is a Confidentiality agreement at the bottom.

I am asking you to remove this email from your blog immediately. . . .

Debra A. Ciamacca
President, Tredyffrin Easttown Education Association

TESD Teachers Organizing Email Campaign

In case you missed Ray Clarke’s comment on an earlier post,  he is reporting that an  email campaign is being organized by Tredyffrin Easttown teachers against any program reductions and in support of the Tredyffrin Easttown School District School Board’s Monday, January 25th vote on asking for exceptions. 

The deadline to receive an Act 1 exception is coming quickly.  An exception application must be filed by February if the TESD tax increase is to be higher than the 2.9% allowed by Act 1. I think that the exception can allow an increase as high as 6.9%.

Any school teachers want to weigh in?  Residents? School Board members?

West Chester Area School District Superintendent is Suggesting 19 Staff Cuts to Help Budget Deficit

Tredyffrin Easttown School District taxpayers should not feel that they are alone with challenging school budget problems.  One of the purposes of looking at other districts (such as Great Valley and now West Chester) is to see if can learn anything new or examine other ways to handle similar problems. Dan Kristie is reporting in today’s Daily Local that West Chester Area School District Superintendent Jim Scanlon announced that he is recommending that the school board cut 19 district jobs.  The cuts will be carried out by attrition – when current staff members retire, their jobs will not be replaced.  Cutting of these 19 jobs (which include 3 assistant principal jobs) will save the district $1.4 million annually.  The suggested cuts were developed by the administration and the Community Budget Task Force, a group of more than 150 stakeholders who met last year to help the district identify cuts.  Here’s one West Chester Area taxpayer’s take on the announcement:

Attrition means forced retirement or risk termination for some folks. As a former Educator that is the one field that you never thought would be impacted by economic downturns but they are quietly finding that they have stood behind their union protection for far too long almost to the point of holding the very people whose children you educate are paying to keep you there hostage.

They are no more entitled to job security than anyone else. If you can do more with less people then by all means do more with less.

To those who will lose jobs in all of this…WELCOME TO THE REAL WORLD.

Mr. Scanlon . . . I know it’s tough to tell your people tough times call for tough decisions but then again that’s a part of your job too. “

Continuing to Discuss TSED Teacher Pension Plan

Following up on my last post about the Great Valley School District, I think that I am beginning to understand their resident involvement. One of the best parts of Community Matters is that readers bring new information to the discussion.  I received a comment from ‘Berwyn Reader’ that offered interesting insight on the Great Valley School District (GVSD) residents and their ability ‘to hold the line’ on school tax increases. A few years ago, Brian O’Neill of O’Neill Properties (Worthington project) asked GVSD to be a lender on his Worthington project.  In the end, GVSD choose not to lend money to O’Neill.  However, because of residents concerns, Great Valley Stakeholders was formed about 18 months ago and has become a sort of watchdog organization for the Great Valley residents.  The purpose of the Great Valley Stakeholders is to provide information to the public and School Board to ensure fiscal responsibility, transparency and better communication between school board and taxpayers. 

Here’s hoping that Community Matters will be able to provide similar information to taxpayers and Tredyffrin Easttown School District school board members.  Many of our residents who have provided commentary to this site on the school district topic have helped us better understand our own budgetary process.

Beyond the current 2010-11 school budget discussion, I remain concerned that many of our taxpayers do not understand the PSERS (Public School Employees Retirement System) teacher pension plan and how our taxes are going to be affected as a result.  I found an interesting statement from the Commonwealth Foundation on pensions. The Commonwealth Foundation is an independent, non-profit research and educational institute that develops and advances public policies based on the nation’s founding principles of limited government, economic freedom, and personal responsibility.

Public Pensions: Beginning in 2012-13, taxpayers will see a dramatic increase in their contributions to pension plans for state and school district employees. This scenario is due in large part to misguided policy decisions-including substantial increases in pension benefits in 2001 and 2002, and deferring increased payments following fund losses-as well as the recent downturn in the stock market. Pension contributions are estimated to rise by $1,360 per homeowner/household, resulting in higher property and state taxes. Additionally, local pension plans are facing major deficits. . .

 A few weeks ago a opinion article written by Thomas Gentzel, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer. This commentary titled, Change Pennsylvania Pension System or Prepare for Catastrophe should be a  must-read for all taxpayers!  Here’s the link:

http://www.philly.com/inquirer/opinion/80562927.html

Comments anyone?

Great Valley School Board Votes to Keep Tax Increase within Act 1 Index of 2.9% . . . But at What Price?

Great Valley School Board Votes to Keep Tax Increase within Act 1 Index of 2.9% . . . But at What Price?

 On January 13, I wrote about the ‘standing room only’ crowd at the Great Valley School District (GVSD) budget meeting. (Here’s the link for that post). This week the GVSD board held their regular business meeting with 300 residents in attendance; the major topic was the $3.2 million deficit in their proposed 2010-11 budget. With a projected budget of $78.3 million, the school board voted 6-2 to keep any increase in taxes within the state’s Act 1 index of 2.9%.

Applying for an exception to Act 1, would have allowed the school district to raise taxes as high as 4.7%. Some of the school board members argued that by keeping the tax increase to the 2.9% rate may force the administration in to making some drastic cuts in programs and/or personnel. (However, in the end by a margin of 6-2, the school board votes in favor of using the Act 1 index).  There were many residents in the audience who wanted to hold the line on tax increases to the 2.9% or less; some expecting 0% tax increase.  There did not seem to be an explanation as to how the budget deficit would be handled; no clear cut answer as to what programs (or people) might find themselves on the cutting block. Because the school board decided not to seek exception to Act 1, a preliminary budget approval is not required until April.  The school board will continue the discussion at the finance committee meeting in early February.

Does this news from our neighbors have any effect on us taxpayers in the Tredyffrin Easttown School District?  The taxpayers of GVSD have taken a stand (and it appears that the new school board members agreed) to do whatever was necessary to balance the budget, just not raise taxes beyond the 2.9% threshold.  Do you agree with their decision?  Would you rather see TESD hold the line at all costs — rather than increase taxes above the 2.9% Act 1 index?  This decision is going to require GVSD to make major cuts in program/personnel . . . how are the school board members going to make that decision?  With the large program cuts required in the Great Valley School District, I certainly would not want to be the person making up the list of programs/personnel for the cutting block!

Does Your Teenager Text While Driving – Must Read Article by Conestoga Student Reporter

In the lastest edition of Conestoga High School’s The Spoke, I read a very scary article by student reporter Brittany Roker on text-messaging while driving.  Statistically, I’m fairly sure that teenage drivers have the highest percentage of traffic accidents.  Taking that in to consideration, can you imagine that 74% of the Conestoga High School interviewed admit that they always or occasionally text-message while they are behind the wheel! 

Parents, please talk to your children about this issue . . . their safety (and ours) is at risk.  Thank you Brittany for enlightening many of us on this topic.

CHS The Spoke
12 January 2010 Issue

By Brittany Roker, Staff Reporter

      Braking the habit: students text behind the wheel

That familiar sound and the constant vibrations can signal disaster for drivers. Although senior Holly Mainiero comes to a stop at a traffic light before feverishly snatching her cell phone, she does not put the brakes on texting. Mainiero is not alone in her habits.

According to a recent Spoke survey, 91 percent of licensed seniors think that texting behind the wheel is unsafe, yet 74 percent report that they always or occasionally text while driving. While only 19 percent of the seniors surveyed said that they know someone who has been in an accident due to texting on the roads, Eric Bolton, a public affairs officer with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said that new research conducted by the organization has shown that collisions frequently happen because of inattentive driving. “It was amazing to see people doing all kinds of distracting tasks while they were driving and what was happening—a lot of near misses and crashes, people driving up on sidewalks,” Bolton said.

This study, conducted about three years ago, occurred when the NHTSA partnered with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, Bolton said. The organizations found that, for every six seconds of drive time, a driver who sends or receives a text message has his eyes off of the road for 4.6 of the six seconds. Research by the NHTSA is one of many sources of information provided by the government about cell phone usage in the driver’s seat. According to the United States Department of Transportation, nearly 6,000 U.S. citizens died last year because they used a cellular device while driving. Statistics such as these influenced 19 states to ban texting while driving. Pennsylvania is one of the 31 remaining states that has not already made texting while driving illegal. Although a statewide ban is currently nonexistent, several cities, including Philadelphia, have succeeded in making the act illegal.

On Dec. 1, Philadelphia police began enforcing a ban on cell phone usage while driving. The ban prohibits drivers from talking or texting on mobile phones in the city, although drivers can use hands-free devices instead. A violation carries a $75 fine that can increase to as much as $300 if it is not paid.

A statewide ban on texting while driving was sent to the House on Nov. 10. In addition to prohibiting texting while driving, the bill also forbids 16 to 18-year-old drivers from using cell phones in any way while driving. If the bill, officially titled House Bill 2070, is passed, violators will have to pay a fine ranging from $50 to $100. Currently, the bill is being reviewed by committees in the House and will eventually be voted on by state representatives. If accepted by the House, the bill will go to the state Senate and then to Gov. Ed Rendell for approval.

Eric Bolton, of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said that the administration is supportive of states cracking down on the dangerous habit. “I think that the administration would like to see the states take a strong stance on all kinds of distracted driving, including texting while driving,” Bolton said. Bolton said that the administration, which conducts research about vehicle safety and reports its results to the public, found that texting while driving causes cognitive impairment because the act uses the driver’s mind, taking his attention off of the road.

Conestoga highway safety teacher Michael Cangi finds the laws that state representatives are considering impractical. He said that he believes the connection between Americans and their cell phones is too strong for a law regulating driver behavior to be passed. “The phone is connected to them as much as your glasses are to your face. You simply can’t go without them,” Cangi said. Cangi said that the solution to teen texting while driving is through education. He said he thinks that law enforcement officers and educators must inform young drivers so that they may better understand the risks and make smarter choices.

Junior Callie Clifton said that she never texts while she drives. She said that families are the key to stopping teens from texting behind the wheel. “I believe that, in order to prevent texting while driving, parents need to raise their kids in an environment where it is not encouraged,” Clifton said. “Parents should teach their kids about the dangers of texting while driving and explain to them that texting can wait until you get out of the car.” Clifton may be a young driver, but her opinions are similar to those of adult lawmakers and researchers. She said she thinks that many of her peers are unaware of the consequences of their actions. “I think the problem with today’s teens is that they think they’re too good at texting and at driving, so they assume nothing bad will happen if they mix the two,” Clifton said. “I think teens don’t realize how easy it is to look away from the road for one second and lose control of their car.”

Brittany Roker can be reached at broker@stoganews.com. Printed originally on p. 3 of The Spoke’s Jan. 12, 2010 issue.

A Community Matters Reader with Specific TESD Budget Questions . . . Can We Help with Answers?

One of our Community Matters readers, ‘Full of Questions’ sent in a comment which contained specific questions that we may be able to answer for him/her.  As I often do, if there is a comment that I think needs frontpage attention, I post it here so that everyone sees it. Read through the questions and respond if you think you can help — please label your responses to match the numbered questions.

Full of Questions writes . . .

I have enjoyed reading the posts on this site.  Unfortunately I still have so many questions that are unanswered and I have no idea where to get the answers.  Maybe someone out there can help me to understand this whole situation better…

1.  Why – when we are in a budget crisis – are we buying office space and renovating new buildings?  How much have these new acquisitions cost us, the taxpayers, in the past two years?  Has this contributed to the $9 mil we now need to find somewhere?

2. Someone mentioned that administrators get a stipend to pay for the healthcare plan of their choice.  If an admin does not use this do they get to pocket this money?  I am asking since I know of at least 3 administrators that have teachers that work in the district.  Do they just get to get a free ride on their spouses plan and then still get to pocket their stipend?  In essence we would be paying them twice for their healthplan.

3.  Why have the number of administrators at the educational offices increased over the past 4 years?  It appears that there used to be ~10 admin at the ESC but now there are ~15.  Why do we need this additional staffing?  It seems that as prinicpals have been promoted new positions have been created at the educational offices for them (ie. Donavan, Dinkins, Gusick)

4.  Looking at the posted link for teacher salaries I can also see admin salaries.  Building on the previous point – the admin salaries make up ~$3.5 mil of the budget.  That number does not include whatever stipend they get for healthcare.  That number does not include the money we are paying for them to go back to school and earn their doctorates.  Again – why do we need to have this many admin each costing us well over ~100,000-$200,000/year?

5.  What are these on-line classes they are talking about offering at the high school?  I would have liked more information about this instead of reading about it in a blog…  How much are these going to cost us?  Or are they using it as a way to outsource teaching for a cheaper cost?

It has been several times that everything is out in the open – but I truly find that hard to believe when it seems something new pops up each time I read this blog or minutes to one of the committee or board meetings.   If anyone can answer any of these questions I would really appreciate it.  I am trying not to place blame, although it is hard not to given the circumstances.  I just feel that I do not have all of the facts.  Is the teachers union to blame for trying to get a good contract for their teachers?  Is the board to blame for accepting a contract that they could not support financially given the other financial obligations (ie. new buildings, admin, etc.)?  Are the administrators to blame for not giving the board all of the information they need to make an educated decision?

Should TESD Follow Downingtown School Board ‘s Lead and Urge Teacher Pension Reform?

One of our neighbors, the Downingtown School Board recently approved a resolution that calls for the state to change Pennsylvania Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS). Driving their decision is the predicted dramatic increase in PSERS contribution from school districts. Looking ahead to the upcoming years, the teacher’s pension increase will greatly affect the school district’s budget and then the taxpayers.

According to one of the Downingtown School Board members, their PSERS contribution is going from a little over 4% to about 31% in 2012! School Board member Robert Yorcyk, who introduced the resolution to the other board members explained, “Considering that salary and benefits make up about 70 percent of the budget, the increase to 31 percent would represent about 15 percent of the budget or half of what we have left to support education.”  The Downingtown School District pays about $4 million in teacher pension contributions – that number will rise to $7 million in 2011 and by 2014-15 retirement contributions are expected to hit $36 million! The school district estimates that in just 5 years, PSERS contributions will increase nine-fold.

If I understand the PSERS plan correctly, employees and employers alike contribute and that money is then invested, . . . the pension payout is guaranteed (regardless of the market economics). The real problem is that due to the volatility of the market, school districts are being forced to pay larger pension contributions because the pension investments have not kept pace with what is guaranteed in the payouts of the pensions.

The state House of Representatives is reviewing changes in the PSER bill. The new plan would actually put a cap on the school district contributions. If the pension payout required additional funds, the bill would require the state to be responsible for the difference. The Downingtown School Board signed their recent resolution to urge the state to lessen the burden on taxpayers and the school district (understanding that the teacher benefits will remain the same).

Should the Tredyffrin Easttown School District take a similar stand? Should our school board members be encouraged to follow Downingtown’s lead?

Is the Teachers Union Aiding in the Fact vs. Fiction Component of the TESD Budget Crisis

Reading comments from teachers, school board members and taxpayers, it would seem that the teachers union, Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) is adding to the element of confusion and misunderstanding.  I am struggling to figure out if the misinformation is ‘by design’ from the PSEA to confuse the teachers (and therefore confuse the taxpayers).  It is well understood that this school district like so many in this country is facing a financial crisis.  It would appear that this is the time for all of us to work together instead of against each other.  As a good first step, I would propose that the information disseminated be supported.  Unfortunately when situations reach a crisis level within an organization (whether it is the school district, local government, corporations, etc) rumor mills explode and before you know it, things are out of control. 

I certainly do not claim to be an expert on the school district or its budget by any stretch.  Our daughter was not in the public school system so I admit to not being as involved as I should have been as a taxpayer.  So I am coming at this subject at a distinct disadvantage with minimal background of experience.  However, I am beginning to think that the teachers union is coloring the picture to its membership slightly different from reality.  Or am I just reading the situation wrong?  What is your opinion of the teacher unions . . . are they helping the case for the teachers or are they a contributing factor to the current budget crisis (and unrest) in the community?  Is it unthinkable that teachers unions may re-open their teacher contracts for additional negotiations in light of the economic crisis?  Or is that simply pie in the sky thinking?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

View from Someone who is Both Taxpayer and Teacher in the Tredyffrin Easttown School District

There have been 2 comments that I have been aware of from Tredyffrin Easttown School District teachers – however, there was no indication whether they were also local taxpayers.  However, I just received the following comment from an individual who is both teacher and taxpayer in our district.  I thank him (or her) for weighing in from the perspective of both teacher and taxpayer.  I thought the comment deserved front page attention.  Do you agree/disagree with the teacher/taxpayer assessment of TESD’s current economic situation?

T/E Teacher and T/E Taxpayer:

As both a teacher and taxpayer in T/E, I am very concerned with the future of the quality of our school district and hence, the values of our property. We enjoy one of the finest school districts in the country which makes the values of our homes exponentially more than neighboring districts. We must remember, we enjoy the 2nd lowest school tax rate in the state. NO district is making the agressive cuts that are proposed. Internally, we have heard from the union that 30-35 teaching jobs in addition to all of the teachers hired this year as long term subs will be gone!!! Why??? The reality is that neighbor districts DO PAY THEIR teachers more, offer retirement healthcare and bonus, have much more technology, newer facilities (schools) and personal laptops for each student and teacher!!!

UNDERSTAND PLEASE…I am not complaining as a teacher! This past contract closed the gap between T/E teacher’s pay and other districts. For example, before this contract, Upper Darby teachers were making more than me as a T/E teacher. We do pay into our benefits which is also forgotten. This whole debate and situation raises the question of why is our district in so much trouble and laying off teachers when other districts have more and are not??? The answer is that we as taxpayers have been undertaxed in comparison to the districts around us (yes, I said it and mean it) and therefore, the district relied to heavily on transfer taxes. Now no transfer tax, we are sitting hear screaming about taxes!!!

As a T/E taxpayer, I want to know why we are not tapping our reserves-the piggy bank of nearly $30 million???? The proposed budget is adding another 1million into the piggy bank, why??? Why does no one hear ask about the reserves? What about the 2.9% tax and then tap the reserve?

A View From a Tredyffrin Easttown School District Teacher

I received a comment from a ‘concerned teacher’ in the Tredyffrin Easttown School District.  Rather than seeing this comment buried on an old post, I thought it deserved front page attention. I urge the TESD teachers to present their views on the budget crisis in the school district; it’s important that we hear all sides.

It is easy for us to get caught up in this looming school district tax increase and possibly overlook the staff  and how they will be impacted by the loss and/or decrease of programs, services, etc. Does the ‘concerned teacher’ make fair statements; does he or she represent how the majority of the TESD teachers are feeling? Should the value of our school district teachers outweigh the cost to the taxpayers?  How does the teacher’s contract work — does that mean their jobs are safe from 2010-11 budget cuts?   Does a real possibility exist that the school district budget crisis will require staff reduction in TESD?  It would be great if some of our school board members could help us understand – their comments would be greatly appreciated.  Remember, you can submit comments anonymously, and without email addresses.

Concerned Teacher writes . . .

I hope that when you post and talk about the delusional tax increase of 7.2% in a township ranked 499 out of 501 in millage rates in the entire state of PA, you realize you may be costing me my job as an extremely dedicated teacher in the district. And I also hope that you realize that our lack of passion in demanding health care reform (yes, a public option) enabled Blue Cross to increase the rates on our teacher benefits 28% which has incurred 5 million of the 9.25 million dollar deficit that is about to cause me to lose my job.

But you can continue to rant about your minimal tax increase possibilities to fund the educational system that is consistently one of the top 5 in the state and nation while teachers like myself fall by the wayside and desperately look for ways to support our families come June of 2010. Your quest to stay way more comfortable than you really need to be will cost you the quality of education for your children, and casting teachers, unions, and pensions as the villains of your community is reprehensible. Take a breath, step back, and be thankful for what you have…and realize that you may need one less SUV to pay for it rather than putting teachers out of work.