Public school administrators voice concerns at legislative forum in Homestead
Public school administrators said on Thursday in Homestead that “adequate, consistent, fair and equitable” state funding is a top priority.
“We need funding that is reliable,” Pennsylvania School Boards Association interim executive director Stuart Knade told a legislative forum at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit's offices.
The second annual AIU forum brought together a panel of 13 that included state senators and representatives and legislative staffers.
It came two days after Gov. Tom Corbett proposed a 1.7 percent or $90 million increase in a 2013-14 basic education subsidy that otherwise remains at the $5.5 billion level approved for 2012-13.
“It still doesn't put us where we were several years ago,” McKeesport Area Superintendent Timothy Gabauer said.
“From here there will be compromise,” Rep. Harry Readshaw, D-Carrick, said. “There will be issues. This is a process that will go well into June.”
The governor proposed pension reform. He said he opposes cutting the benefits of retirees or changing the accounts of current employees, but wants future hires to sign on to a 401(a) defined contribution plan similar to 401(k) private sector plans.
“Through meaningful pension reform, this budget will provide another $140 million dollars in pension savings for school districts across the state,” Corbett said Tuesday.
Knade agreed that meaningful pension reform is needed.
“It is killing us, the steady hike in the employer compensation rates,” Knade said about schedules set by the state Public School Employees Retirement System.
The rate in 2012-13 is 42 percent higher than in 2011-12 and is scheduled to continue rising over the next two decades.
Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa Jr., D-Forest Hills, whose district includes Homestead, said Senate Democrats are “very much concerned” about the pension proposal.
“Changing the multipliers is probably going to be the most difficult to achieve,” Costa said.
That's a proposed reduction of the multiplier in the formula used to determine future pension benefits.
PSBA also wants measures that reduce or eliminate the financial burden of charter school costs on local districts.
“Our schools are really strapped for cash,” said Jamie Baxter, director of legislative policy and advocacy for AIU, which serves 42 suburban Allegheny County school districts. “We hope that any new mandates that come out of the General Assembly are adequately funded.”
Costa said “there is movement by (the Corbett) administration to go further” in favor of charter schools.
Not every member of the Senate majority goes along with the Republican governor.
“I'm not going to vote for a charter school piece of legislation unless there is a level playing field across the board,” said Sen. Randy Vulakovich, R-Shaler Township, whose daughter is a first-grade teacher in Shaler Area.
AIU executive director Linda Hippert applauded Vulakovich's understanding.
“He met with us for about 2½ hours,” Hippert said. “He is a listener.”
“My district has funds,” said West Jefferson Hills school director Shauna D'Alessandro, who also represents Allegheny County on the PSBA board. “But (charter schools have) cost my district $1,360,000 as of two months ago.”
Meanwhile, Clairton spends $100,000 to bus students to Propel schools in McKeesport and Homestead because it is required to do so by law.
“The school district doesn't bus its own students,” said Clairton school director Roger Tachoir, a member of the AIU board. “To bus our whole school district it would cost us $500,000.”
Others at the AIU forum included Jennifer Halaszynski, chief of staff for Rep. Bill Kortz, D-Dravosburg, and aides to House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, and Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Oakmont.
“It is encouraging that the (lawmakers and legislative staffers) appear genuinely concerned about the welfare and the future of public education,” Steel Valley Superintendent Edward Wehrer said.
Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Driver escapes serious injury in McKeesport heavy-equipment accident
- EPA brings Clean Power Plan hearings to Pittsburgh
- Elizabeth prepares for annual Riverfest
- North Versailles Township receives fully loaded street sweeper
- Lincoln council passes ordinances to help ‘protect residents’
- Jefferson Hospital doctor serves as panelist for mental health legislation
- White Oak no-kill shelter attorney appeals civil decision
- W.D. Mansfield Memorial Bridge rehab project remains on schedule
- Elizabeth hires new officer-in-charge
- Munhall mayor seeks to remedy flyover bridge hazards
- McKeesport, neighboring school districts to receive more overall funding from state