State Democrats, teachers union betray the poorest students.
Dramatically rising expenditures are forcing Pennsylvania’s fiscally stressed urban school districts to balance their budgets with draconian cuts and higher taxes. In Allentown, the Lehigh Valley’s poorest municipality, the ASD’s 2013-14 preliminary budget calls for an 8% tax increase and the furloughing of 155 employees (132 teachers, 12 administrators, 10 custodial, and 1 clerical).Yet, these unprecedented measures leave the district short of a balanced budget, and projections indicate further tax increases and cuts will be necessary next year and possibly the year after that.
Even though the ASD is regarded as one of the state’s best run urban school districts, it is facing a very bleak future. The main culprit is the ballooning cost of mandatory PSERS (Public School Employee Retirement System) contributions that will increase by 37% next year (91% over the next three years). The rising cost of these PSERS is in effect transferring funding out of classrooms into this very generous and unsustainable retirement system. For now, wealthier suburban districts are able to weather these increases, but for already cash strapped urban districts there is no margin left to absorb these new costs.
It is interesting to note that these same urban areas constitute the base of Pennsylvania’s Democratic Party. Geographically, small areas like Allentown provide huge tallies of Democratic votes in state wide elections, that have the effect of swamping Republican turnout in the much larger Republican suburban and rural areas. One would think the state’s Democratic Party would appreciate the value of these voters and act to protect the better interests of this vital constituency.
Think again, right now Pennsylvania’s Democratic Party is putting its allegiance to labor unions ahead of the best interests ofurban voters by blocking urgently needed reform of the state’s unsustainable pension system. In other words, the basic educational needs of poor and minority Democratic urban voters are being effectively abandoned by Democratic leaders so that the lavish benefits of more affluent union workers can be preserved.
While the cost of their sky high benefits are bankrupting urban public schools, the teachers’ union tactic is to blame Harrisburg. Rather than enter into useful negotiations that could lead to necessary reform, they point the finger of blame away from themselves and their cohorts, the state’s Democratic Party and state employee unions.
Pennsylvania’s poorest children are now bearing the brunt of the rising cost of state employee luxury pensions. State employee unions and the state Democratic Party want the current administration to cover the pension shortfall with higher state taxes. In effect, they want those who have less to pay more to those who already have more. Pennsylvania’s urban poor would be wise to note the obvious duplicity and callousness of their Democratic elected officials.
Armstrong is an elected member of the Allentown School Board. The above editorial appears in today's Morning Call