Troy school board president writes letter to governor
TROY - As school districts struggle with the uncertainty of state funding, one board president has decided to speak out.
During the last school board meeting, Troy Area School Board President Todd Curren read a letter he wrote to Gov. Tom Corbett.
Curren said the letter was regarding remarks that he said Corbett made on Talk Radio 1210 WPHT on the "Dom Giordano Program."
District superintendent W. Charles Young said he believes Curren intends to send it to the governor.
According to the recent edition of "Troy School Board News," the district, even with its "tight budgeting efforts," is still facing a $900,000 shortfall in balancing the 2012-13 budget.
"This school board, and I would submit most school boards in this state, have been financially responsible both when negotiating staff contracts as well as our annual budgeting," Curren wrote in letter, adding that he wished the public would show up at meetings and work sessions to voice opinions and show support for their boards and schools.
"I think that you have overlooked the obvious when you point to local school boards to assign blame for the current state of financial affairs in this Commonwealth," he wrote.
"If groups of nine volunteers, giving freely of their time and energies, are solely to blame for tax increases in this state, then kindly explain how we, as board members are responsible for the state pension fund mess. State leaders have had years to prepare for these huge cost increases but have kicked the can down the road hoping they might magically fix themselves."
He continued, "State leaders have ignored the staggering costs placed upon local communities with prevailing wage laws and current bidding rules. Prevailing wage laws require a district like Troy, to pay a union labor rate for any construction project above $25,000."
"First, the $25,000 threshold was established more that 40 years ago. To allow for inflation, the amount should be increased to at least $250,000."
"Second, there are few, if any union construction companies located in the Troy Area School District. The electrical wage rate, as an example, for a project in our district, would be determined by the union electrical wage rates in Scranton or Williamsport. (the closest union local). These rates do not reflect true costs of labor in our district. Why are taxpayers in our district, that earn a modest wage, forced to pay such a high labor rate every time public construction work is done?"
"These are just two examples of state mandates that are causing excessive financial stress on local governments and school districts. You, Gov. Corbett, as the highest elected official in this state, have shown a complete lack of leadership on any of these issues that directly impact education in Pennsylvania."
"While blaming school boards for tax increases, you have ignored the plight of board members when it comes to negotiations with unions. Again, nine unpaid, untrained, yet totally committed members of their community are pitted against negotiators from the teachers' unions that are highly trained and well compensated. Often, our local teachers want nothing more than to get a contract in place so that they may continue to educate our students. Seldom do the members of the union even know what is being asked of the taxpayers in their name. While union negotiators often speak publicly of the process, in order to get public sentiment on their side, boards are cautioned that anything said publicly about the process, from their point of view, could be seen as unfair labor practices. Again, most of the teachers in our district just want a fair wage and benefit package so they can concentrate on educating our students."
"In one and a half years as the Governor of this state, you have done little to advance the financial state of this commonwealth. While railing against teacher contracts, and school boards in general, you have increased the salaries of your staff and many of your closest colleagues."
"If your intent is to financially starve school districts in order to force consolidations and reduce the number of public educators, keep in mind, you are also risking an entire generation of students."
"I realize that cuts have to be made in order to get our fiscal house in order. Many local districts have taken drastic steps to survive. The Troy Area School District has been at the forefront of these innovations. I, for one, am proud of the way our district has risen to the challenges we've faced. I just don't know what more we can do to cut costs. Our staff, administration and board, have demonstrated leadership and teamwork. At some point, you have to demonstrate some leadership too."
Eric Hrin can be reached at (570) 297-5251; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.