Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Education Question In Pennsylvania


Last week I saw two completely separate items in my email arrive in my inbox almost at the same time. While unrelated, they played off of one another in a rather interesting way. The first email was one of many from WalletHub about their most recent national ranking. The subject this time was “The Best and Worst States for Teachers” which immediately had me wondering, based on much of the biased media coverage I have been reading for months, how low Pennsylvania would rank on this list.

To my surprise, they ranked Pennsylvania at #2 based on a variety of variables such as salary, employment opportunity, quality of schools, ratios, and spending per student. The facts supported what I have been saying all along that education in the Commonwealth is not in the sorry state that the Democratic Party would have you believe. This leads me to the other email that arrived just moments later.

The debate the previous night between Governor Corbett and Tom Wolf (in sheep’s clothing) was full of the faulty statistics that have been bandied about in many of the attack ads by the desperate challenger. No one can argue that the education system in the commonwealth needs to be fixed but funding is something that is not lacking and more money is not the solution to those problems. Four things are slowly crippling the education system especially in areas still considered to be economically depressed: unrealistic educational expectations, wasteful spending, an unsustainable pension system, and the financial black hole known as common core.

Also playing a supporting role in the current situation is the evaporating federal funding so heavily relied upon by the previous administration. Even if you only focus on the stimulus numbers, Wolf’s claims don’t hold up. Even the local media has picked up on this fact as was reported on philly.com, “If the federal stimulus money is not counted, it is true: Corbett has increased the state's annual funding for basic education - to $5.5 billion in 2013-14…”

As was reported in another article, “how you count pensions, charter reimbursement and federal stimulus money makes a big difference.” What it comes down to is that you can’t believe the BS that is floating through the radio of teachers complaining about no toilet paper in the schools and blaming the Governor for it. The money is there, more money than ever before, but little is left once the nearly billion and a half pension system takes a chunk, administrative and school inefficiencies chip away a few more dollars, common core requirements suck the marrow out of the funding, and dollars are wasted on thinking all students are the same and all students need to go into higher education.

Unfortunately, the billion dollar illusion still seems to work in the public and in the media despite the curtain having been pulled back and the mirrors broken. People and school districts these days pretty much have the same mentality in that they don’t want to take responsibility for their own shortcomings. So, instead of staying on course and slowly increasing spending at a reasonable rate while trying to make the changes necessary for educational growth and success in the commonwealth, we face the very real possibility of higher income, sales, and real estate taxes under a new administration that will piss away the money that we are forced to give them (regardless of your income). Of course, you can prevent that from happening come November.