Saturday, April 8, 2017

ASD Finds Itself In A Pickle.. AGAIN!

What has become a annual rite of passage the Allentown School District once again in 2017 finds itself in a financial bind. Or should I say we?

Allentown School District, $15 million in hole, looking at raising taxes by 4.8 percent
By Jacqueline Palochko Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call
"By raising taxes 4.8 percent, the district would still have a $15 million deficit. That would be covered by taking $14.9 million from the fund balance." From A Taxpayer's POV
Even it could be said my home's value has increased doesn't mean it generates one single dollar more revenue for me. Yet when it comes to school taxes on the property we get hit two ways. (1) When reappraisals go up. (2) When mileage increases. What a lousy way to fund schools. On top of that there's a huge number of us on fixed incomes who retirement sources never come close to rising at the same rate as these taxes.

Funding Considerations
I'm against funding schools through property values on primary residences. Another argument could be made for imposing a school value added tax at the time of sale. BUT NEVER for peoples primary homes that aren't generating increased revenue. If a point could be stretched maybe for business properties that increase in value it might make some sense.

Perhaps rentals should be included considering they are a business and for two other reasons. (1) Responsible home ownership should be encouraged. (2) Rentals tend to put our neighborhood school populations in a expensive constant state of flux ss you see in the following story.

"Jennifer Ramos, the executive director of elementary education, said... the elementary program is experiencing space constraints with little space remaining in many of the grade schools to accommodate increased enrollments in special education and English as a second language... The district's plan is to move all 212 Lincoln Elementary, and nearly 100 Ramos students, to Jackson which currently contains 35 alternative education students in grades six through eight destined for the William Penn Building, which has room for 130 more children." If Allentown had a large population of homeowners instead of renters with kids constantly moving around all the time this would be less necessary. Kids do better academically when they aren't moved school to school. These special programs could be consolidated to where they are most needed on a long term basis. More importantly it makes better financial sense not to constantly be closing down one school then paying to expand another. Then in a few years regret selling off a school that might be needed a few years down the pike when the student population shifts back again.

A Few Ideas For Funding Schools
* A value added school tax at the time of sale on privately owned primary residences. A higher value added tax on non primary residential properties.

* Lessen the deductions for dependent children both on federal and state income taxes. The way it works now childless couples are paying more on their earnings while couples (who's children actually use schools) are burdening the budgets for educations. These deductions came about when we encouraged larger populations. This should no longer be the case. Despite less deductions be allowed for children this would be offset by reducing or eliminating property taxes. Thus making it possible for more young couples with children to own homes. Course the state and federal government would have to pass these increased revenues along.

There's a few more advantages. People being able to hold on to their homes longer after retirement. Greater tax fairness in not financially punishing someone for not having children. Schools would see their budgets rise with incomes. This is better then having to face angry home owners year after year when they price them out of their homes.

* Federal and states laws have to change. It's unfair public schools are saddled with different requirements then charter schools due to unfair lobbying of our law makers. At the current time public schools have to provide the same pupil costs to charter schools without the same restraints public school programs are required to provide. While I don't see that as happening--it still remains a fact.

A Few Ideas For Allentown's Schools
* Consolidation. Currently the Allentown School District has 25 schools. One of the advantages some suburban schools take advantage of is having almost all their schools on one campus. In Allentown we have almost 25 principles along with the associated staffing at each. This includes separate cafeterias, janitorial services, etc By consolidation much of these could be eliminated. In some districts (who have main campuses) when the elementary buildings becomes overcrowded they move some classes over the middle school next door (and vice versa).

While transportation cost may be a factor--I'm certain moving pupils around would be more cost effective then opening, closing and expanding buildings year after year. Instead of dozens of music rooms, gyms, crossing guards/security staff, auditoriums, heating plants and so forth they all could be reduced to just 3 or 4 in large buildings. I don't see how this wouldn't make sense.

* Currently According to the ASD website the poverty rate is 38.64% (89.1% denoted as low income). Students come from 51 different countries (speaking 26 languages). One of problems I see here is students are geographically assigned to one of our 25 schools. The quickest and most effect way to integrate separate languages, cultures and financial background differences isn't by isolating them from one another. Hence the need for what I spoke about above regarding consolidation. It's one thing for educators to try and assimilate students, but the most efficient and cost effective method is to actually assimilate them among their peers.

* Finally let's talk about the whacky way we go about hiring administrators. The school board itself needs a wake up call when it comes to hiring. The current way we do business has got to go. The first step is to pay recruiters or advertise nationwide for some drifter who is double dipping their retirement or wants a guaranteed contract. Folks this isn't some wall street corporate CEO we should be looking for. How many times do we need to get burned before we figure this out?

I'm positive we can find qualified people within our district or outside of it who would be willing to take the job without a contract that rivals that of an NFL player. It's sheer lunacy the way we've paid for folks who taken advantage of this idiocracy. Someone performs the job or they're let go just like anyone else. There--is that so hard to understand?

* Free lunches: There's nobody who will ever convince me some kid can't afford a packed lunch. Be realistic how much could a baloney sandwich already bought with taxpayer supported food stamps for impoverished kids cost. Great if ASD get' federal funds, but really--it's shouldn't be ASD's taxpayers' responsibility for something they already paid for.

* Free daycare for underage student's offspring: There's nothing wrong with it but shouldn't come out of schools educational budgets for other students.

* Pre-kindergarten: Taxpayers are already on the hook for 13 years of education. In reality it is nothing more then free daycare. Most parents are more then qualified to prepare their kids. No one needs a degree to help their kids play with crayons, turn on the TV or access the internet if they are so inclined. There are a great deal of others who can afford to send their kids off to nursery school but instead choose to cheap out making the rest of us pay for it. Let em be kids for one more year. There's nothing wrong with it.

Education has become big business, a lot more complicated and expensive then it need be. We'd do far better for our kids by allowing them to commingle rather then separating them by neighborhoods, culture and financial upbringings in small neighborhood school buildings.

There's plenty of other ways to provide school funding. Instead of punishing someone because either they are childless or happen to own a home there are alternatives we haven't explored.

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