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Is Pennsylvania the Future of Public Education? Too Many Legislators Hope So!

February 27, 2016

Among Diane Ravitch’s posts yesterday was one including a link to a Pittsburg Post Gazette article describing the PA Department of Education’s latest memorandum to school districts which offers them guidance on how to close schools when they run out of money. This guidance is needed because of an ongoing budget deadlock between the Governor and the legislature: the Governor was elected by taxpayers who were distressed over the fiscal mismanagement of his predecessor who left behind a operating deficit that can only be closed with higher taxes… which was NOT the solution the voters or the legislature had in mind. The result?

…many districts are facing difficult decisions about how to pay their bills. A survey earlier this month by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association found that 63 percent of the 195 responding districts will not make it through the year without borrowing funds.

And what kind of guidance is the State Department offering to beleaguered school administrators and school boards?

The memo advises officials to develop plans to educate students in grades K-12, to review collective bargaining agreements and to plan how to pay debt service, among other recommendations.

There’s the solution! Go after those fat contracts that result in greedy teachers getting middle class wages, health benefits, and (gasp) pensions! And whatever you do, make sure you pay your debt service to the banks and pay the interest on the money you are borrowing to keep your schools afloat during this crisis.

As yesterday’s blog post indicates, PA is likely a canary in the coal mine when it comes to funding as states trim school funding and turn to for profit charters who pay at-will employees ever decreasing wages. The fix for our economy is not strangling wages, for that strangles demand and, in turn, pushes down wages and eliminates jobs. Maybe someone will make this clear to voters in the coming election cycle… but it is a tough message to deliver because no one wants to hear it.

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