By Vanessa Gambone
(May 3, 2012) As a taxpayer and parent in the Central Dauphin School District, I am upset with the funding crisis facing our public schools. Now, the Central Dauphin School Board plans to furlough many of our teachers and educational support staff in response to budget cuts made by Gov. Tom Corbett.
Interestingly, despite cutting teachers and staff, the district intends to maintain athletic programs at current levels, presumably out of fear of backlash from parents.
Meanwhile, programs related to general education, language, special needs and cultural programs (that encourage such vital fundamentals as leadership and team building) will be forced to bear the burden with financial cutbacks and decreased staffing.
The Central Dauphin School Board should be ashamed to assume parents are any less supportive of educational and cultural programs than athletic programs.
Additionally, I am offended and insulted that the governor and his administration as well as elected school board members feel that I, as a taxpayer and parent, should sacrifice my children’s education to solve a problem created by my elected officials. It is, after all, their job to responsibly oversee such matters.
Obviously, the financial climate, district census and countless other factors play a significant role in this dilemma. But as a taxpayer, I find it troublesome that while cutting nearly $1 billion from public schools, Gov. Corbett’s new idea is to hide these cuts by collapsing four state-funding programs that have been proven to work into one that is not proven to work.
To justify this shell game, the governor makes the fallacious claim that a school district and the individuals who are providing instruction to students would have “flexibility” to structure programs.
But the only flexibility being offered is in how to further cut more of our children’s educational programs, eliminate more extracurricular activities, increase individual class sizes and lay off more teachers.
After almost all the teachers have been furloughed, how will we (parents and taxpayers) solve the problem of nobody left to educate our children? I find it’s a concern that my children face class sizes of 25-plus students per one instructor for grammar school.
For this new “improved” block grant funding, the governor would lump together funding for pupil transportation and employees’ Social Security taxes. School districts are required as employers to pay Social Security taxes.
Pennsylvania law does not require districts to provide student transportation. Nonetheless, busing is necessary for many families to keep students safe and get them to school as is required by Pennsylvania law. I have had several conversations with the district transportation office regarding my concerns involving the transporting of my minor children.
The response I receive is all too often, “You do not understand the financial burden to meet the need.” I can assure everyone that with gas at near $4 a gallon, I, along with most others, all too well appreciate the financial burdens facing families and school districts. But I encourage any of my elected officials who rejoice at the block fund proposition to show me the savings that I, as a taxpayer, should expect to see.
I further encourage my elected school board to demonstrate the improvements that I, as a parent, will see for my children by the district further reducing academic opportunities.
These Band-Aid solutions in response to the budget cuts do nothing to improve education in Pennsylvania. Gov. Corbett and school boards statewide need to focus on finding real solutions that will improve the education of all our children.
The ongoing blame game shift of telling parents, students, educators and my want-to-be-re-elected school board members that the school funding crisis is their problem is just an excuse.
The truth is, it’s already our problem. If we, as parents, and taxpayers choose to do nothing, the problems will only multiply.
Vanessa Gambone is a resident/taxpayer and proud parent of three inquisitive children in the Central Dauphin School District.
Published in The Patriot News, May 3, 2012