Pennsylvania is in serious trouble.
A hard fought effort by grassroots advocates across Pennsylvania is now under attack by an educational complex that has one clear message to communicate even when that message is veiled in Chicken Little rhetoric. That message is clear: “We don’t care what it costs and we intend to make homeowners pay for it!”
School Board officials love to talk about the unfunded mandates and there was a time that I felt they were truly concerned about the costs but the reality is that they do little to nothing to fight against the unfunded mandates, their argument is only about funding. It’s simple, it’s not about cost, it’s about funding.
The same is true with the pension problem. In spite of the fact that the pension system is unsustainable, it’s not the cost, schools just want more funding for it.
In a recent letter from West Chester School Superintendent, he talks about cost and puts it in context:
(HB/SB 76) would cap increases at that rate, except for cost of living. Cost of living increases simply do NOT cover the mandated expenses that our public school system faces.
This new funding system would leave public schools dramatically under-funded and would force them to cut programs and staff.
You see, they have every intent of continuing to spend above the inflationary rates. If their spending exceeds the cost of living so be it. What that means to the rest of us is that the cost of education will increase beyond our ability to keep up with it.
While their wages and benefits keep getting better, exceeding far above the rate of inflation, working families across the Commonwealth are expected to do without so they can do with more.
Like the school district, I have an issue with the unfunded mandates. Unlike the school districts, I despise the fact that our homes are expected to be the funding source to pay for them. The school districts know very well that as long as the school property tax remains in place, our legislators will not tackle the problems with the unfunded mandates. They have no incentive to do so. That’s always been the problem. An unfunded mandate, whether from the state or the federal level is another assault on homeownership. It’s a way for the legislature to appease the special interests of the educational complex without raising taxes at the state or federal level. Instead the taxes get increased locally.
The problem is actually much more complex. The education industry talks about unfunded mandates as though it’s the single driving reason for property tax increases and that’s simply not the case. Today’s school budgets see 70% to 80% of their funding going to wages and benefits. Every time the Unions fight for higher wages, the cost of the unfunded liability to Pensions goes up.
But it’s all about the children isn’t it?
National Education Association’s retiring top lawyer, Bob Chanin, speaking at the NEA’s annual meeting in July, 2009:
“Despite what some among us would like to believe it is not because of our creative ideas. It is not because of the merit of our positions. It is not because we care about children and it is not because we have a vision of a great public school for every child. NEA and its affiliates are effective advocates because we have power.”
“And we have power because there are more than 3.2 million people who are willing to pay us hundreds of millions of dollars in dues each year, because they believe that we are the unions that can most effectively represent them, the unions that can protect their rights and advance their interests as education employees.”
The Union believes that it is their right to tax people out of their homes. They believe it is their right because they have the power to do so. The belief in that right is not founded on any basic principle of rights. It is founded on one thing….POWER!
And it’s that power they are exerting right now to stop HB/SB 76. Once again, they are resorting to using tax-payer funded resources to make that happen. Your taxes are helping to pay for their meetings to stop HB/SB 76. Your taxes are being used as some of these school districts use their tax-payer funded web pages to fight against HB/SB 76. Your tax dollars are being used to send home prepared letters that include misleading information about HB/SB 76 to families across the commonwealth.
I say once again because our tax dollars are used to collect the dues of the Union members. While they claim that this costs us very little, it still costs us. It is an additional expense that we have to pay for through our homes. They tell us this amounts to very little money but if it’s so little why do they fight so hard every time a paycheck protection bill advances in the legislature.
It’s just another one of those things where they don’t care about the cost to us; they just care about maintaining their power.
The fact is that many of these superintendents and school board officials who are passing resolutions and sending these letters homes to our kids haven’t even read the bill. That’s just too inconvenient for them. They are told that it is a threat to their power and so they repeat what they are told, true or not.
It really makes me wonder how many other decisions are made because of the internal powers that be in the education complex that become repeated mantra when advancing the agenda’s being put forth by the educational complex.
We are told that school districts are being advised to increase their debt in case HB/SB 76 passes. We are told that school districts are being advised to increase property taxes in case HB/SB 76 passes. In both cases it’s not about addressing an educational need, it’s about spending and the lack of control to limit that spending on the schools. No matter how much they get, they always need more.
It doesn’t matter if that additional spending actually produces results in the classroom because if it did they would have done some serious reanalysis of what they are doing. It all seems to keep coming back to the same thing: maintaining their power!
That power includes being able to use the tax-payer funded collection of dues to fund re-election campaigns of legislators and then using that funding to help to convince legislators that they can’t win or keep their seats if they lose the Educational Complex Union Funding and support.
The powerful unions built that power by tipping the scales. They grow their member numbers to increase their power even when student population doesn’t warrant such growth. They do so through legislative measures that protect these jobs even when a teacher in the classroom may be underperforming.
Now I know that teachers will get offended by that but I’m offended by the fact that more teachers, administrators and school board officials are unwilling to stand up to the unions in dealing with bad teachers and bad policy. That’s not to say that all teachers are bad…they aren’t but quality education needs good teachers who aren’t hiding behind excuses when the children in their classroom continually under-perform.
No matter how uncomfortable the truth, we must face the facts if we really want to fix the problem and this is a fact that the educational complex will do everything in their power to ignore. They will constantly frame debates away from this hard hitting issue because it simply doesn’t fit into their narrative.
We are sold a narrative that smaller classrooms and more teachers results in better education. The actual results tells us something very different. After 40 years of pursuing this rhetoric, we see no official results demonstrating that the rhetoric is true.
The public educational complex has done everything in their power to remove competition. They do so because it’s about the power, not because it’s in the best interest of the children. The despise school choice almost as much as they despise losing their power over our homes
The latest attack by the public educational complex against alternate funding sources for education is about one thing…Power. It is a power they will cling to and if they have to use misinformation to hold on to that power; if they have to misdirect tax-payer resources away from the children to spread that misinformation, they will. They will do all that they can to hold on to their power in the protection of a system of taxation that is regressive and uniformly unfair. It’s like a very bad game of king of the hill and they will use any means possible to make sure that when it comes to controlling our lives through our homes to advance that agenda of power.
Evidence of the misinformation can be found in the rhetoric from the West Chester School Superintendent when he states:
The new plan would allow school districts to go to voter referendum for capital improvements but not for operating expenses. Within a few short years, we will simply not be able to operate at our current levels, and the quality of our educational system will dramatically suffer.
The statement is completely untrue. HB/SB 76 allows for local referendum for normal operating costs. Section 306 of the bill explains the referendum but this school superintendent has apparently chosen to disregard the actual facts in the language of the bill to assist in spreading the misinformation about the legislation.
We’ve seen a great deal of this type of misinformation. The problem here is that this misinformation is coming from people who have a position of trust in their community who will take the superintendent at his word without checking the facts. Why would he misrepresent the truth?
We’re told that about $14 billion a year is collected through the property tax. Another $15 billion is collected through state taxes to further provide for education. That’s almost equivalent to the entire budget to run the entire state and yet our school districts are telling us that isn’t enough.
At the current rate of growth, school funding will soon exceed the budget for the entire state and the number of people at risk of losing their homes through sheriff auctions, bankruptcy and foreclosure will only continue to grow. Apparently our school districts are fine with that. If it helps them maintain their power, why wouldn’t they if all you really care about is holding on to that power.
After all it’s not the school board who shows up at your house to through you out, it’s not the Administrators. No, they have the local sheriff to do their dirty work. They can just look the other way and pretend it’s not their fault or, even worse, that’s it’s not happening.
In the public education complex’s rhetoric, they talk about losing their ability to collect previous delinquent taxes if this passes. Those delinquent taxes will still fall due. They will still have to be paid. It’s just more misinformation and misdirection to try a kill a bill that will benefit many in the Commonwealth. Again, it’s about power. It’s about their mistaken belief in a right to take away our homes.
While the public educational complex may be responsible for education maybe they should go back and look at the founding principles of our nation which included a strong protection of our individual right to property. At every step, the property tax remains the greatest violator of those inherent rights and as our Declaration of Independence explains, such violations are how we determine the difference between a just and an unjust government. As it stands now, the public school system is supporting a system of tyranny in the advocacy of an unjust form of government.
Note: A second article on this topic will follow tomorrow. As angry as I am at the educational complex for their misinformation and their continual assaults on home-ownership in the protections of their power over us and our homes, the ultimate blame rests on the shoulders of legislators who fear the power of the educational complex more than they are concerned about doing what is right!