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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Monday, February 24, 2014

Why Not Draw and Quarter the Allentown School District?

According to The Morning Call, Allentown School District Superintendent Russ Mayo, is asking local business leaders to review their anemic finances and come up with answers. This sounds a lot like King Edwin's "blue ribbon" committee that was going to solve all of the Queen City's financial problems. That went nowhere. That's because, despite all the claims about government running like a business, they are different animals. But there's a solution for Allentown's School District. Draw and quarter it! Not like the good ol' days, with William Wallace crying "Freedom!" But it's time to split this failing school district into four quarters.

ASD has two issues that are almost impossible to resolve at the local level.

First, the pension contributions needed to sustain the unsustainable defined benefit public education pensions can only be changed at the state level. The benefits are defined in Harrisburg, not in Allentown. The salaries of teachers and administrators may or may not be beyond reasonable, but the pensions and benefits that accompany them are ridiculous.

Second, the Allentown model, like the Reading or Lancaster model of purely urban districts, is unsustainable. It is basically impossible to generate real estate taxes to cover expenses.

No suburban school district is willing to consolidate with Allentown, unless mandated by the state and that isn't going to happen. Instead of forcing Allentown to marry Parkland, Whitehall, Catasauqua, or Salisbury School District (the four adjacent districts to Allentown), why not marry Allentown to them all?

Break Allentown up into four pieces and mandate that the surrounding school districts each absorb a piece. It's better than trying to compel one of them to partner with Allentown to save it. Parkland could get West Allentown; Whitehall would sleep with North Allentown; Salisbury could cuddle with South Allentown, and Catasauqua could spoon with East Allentown.

The current state subsidies provided to Allentown could be split among the four school districts with those getting the smallest amount of tax ratable real estate getting more of the subsidy.

Just looking at the budget and seeing where to "make cuts" is a waste of time. That's already happened.

83 comments:

Anonymous said...

"the pension contributions needed to sustain the unsustainable defined benefit public education pensions"

So says you and the crazy teabaggers. You and your corporate handlers won't be happy until there are only the rich and the poor. I guess you think all people should be forced into the defined 'glorified saving account' so-called pension.

Anonymous said...

Whose idea is this ? It is interesting and creative.

Bernie O'Hare said...

This is the idea of a friend who would rather not be identified. I cannot take credit for it, much as I would like.

Bernie O'Hare said...

12:11, Easton Mayor Sal Panto has been saying the same thing. He's no crazy extremist. It is time to drop the polarizing rhetoric putting one side against the other. It is tiresome. The person who proposed this idea to me is a Dem.

Anonymous said...

Did Panto voluntarily give up his generous teachers pension? Or did he just propose it for "other" employees and retiree's. He is a real hypocrite if that is his stance!

Bill Coker said...

Rather than treat the symptoms, how about treating the disease? Make a push to end the ridiculous retirement and benefits our "poor, underpaid" teachers get. Only government, public service unions, and teachers get pensions and benefits now days. Put them in the same boat as the rest of us with IRA'a or whatever we can scrape together.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Your anonymous personal attack has nothing to do with the issue - dividing ASD into 4. Stick to the subject.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Bill you can only change pensions for future hires, and that requires state legislation.

Bill Coker said...

Bernie,

I understand that. But at least it fixes costs and they will go down each year eventually running out. Change is difficult but sometime you have to bite the bullet and pay the piper. It's better than going further in the hole. Sort of like Gracedale.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I'm all for it, but it has to come from the state.

Anonymous said...

This is the first idea for school district reform I've liked in a long while.

Rich Fegley said...

I've been watching the School District issues from the sidelines for a while now. The health of Allentown's schools is very important for the health of the City of Allentown.

I think Bernie's idea sounds like a great starting point for saving the schools.

If everyone wants to regionalize the Lehigh Valley and the LCA controls everyone's water and sewer in these municipalities, let's take care of the schools together.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Folks, the topic here is splitting up the ASD. It is not the tea party or overpaid teachers or underpaid teachers. Stick to the subject.

Anonymous said...

I've supported this idea for years, its inexcusable that the state legislature has allowed Lehigh County's public schools to become racially segregated. I would even consider sending 1/5 to East Penn. The teacher's union should support this move since it would provide fair access to a good education for all students. The suburban districts might even make out financially. Best of all, the white middle class would no longer have to flee from the City. I can't think of a single negative aspect of this arrangement. My less dramatic idea would be a County wide school tax that would be the same rate for all property owners then allocated on a per student basis to each district. That could help a little.

Anonymous said...

How is this good for the surrounding districts? You are basically pushing Allentown's tax burden on people who had nothing to do with it.

Anonymous said...

How would those schools 'absorb' these kids? Like magically Catty could absorb 3000 kids? Or even Parkland for that matter.

Really if you do it, you would need to keep the ASD buildings, and have those kids continue in their schools, just managed by the suburban districts. Little is solved even in this setup except changing the tax burden as mentioned above.

Anonymous said...

Now why couldn't Lee Butz, JB Reilly, the Browne's & King Edwin come up with THIS innovative idea? Too politically risky or no big bucks to be made? Also to Mr. Insecure Educator: You give a bad impression coming on here crying and whining like an un-educated rank and file factory worker. Most LVR readers respect school teachers and the challenges they face. You need to face up to the reality though, the pensions are unsustainable and its not the "tea party" its regular working class people that feel this way. Have a great day in class!

Anonymous said...

If only ASD had a 'Turnaround Officer' , pay her $715,000, problem solved

monkey momma said...

6:46 is right - the surrounding school districts have no magic to absorb a large portion of the ASD. As a matter of fact, Parkland and East Penn are both having budget problems of their own. I know Parkland is over crowded, too.

The problem is not the schools. The problem is the student population and their families. No amount of public education can overcome the collective challenges of this group of impoverished students. When a child moves every 6 months (OR MORE) and doesn't have access to 3 quality meals a day and DOES have access to drugs and violence…well, that child is not going to do well in school, no matter what school they attend.

Also, as a Parkland parent myself, I can tell you that my family chose this school district precisely because it was NOT the ASD. If your "draw and quarter" plan were to happen, I think it would destroy the school districts that are performing well.

The solution is probably more along the lines of what was suggested a while ago and then abandoned: separate the kids based on performance and willingness to learn. The kids who have a shot at college should attend a different school, in a different building, at a different address, than the children who are predicted to be drop-outs or failures.

(PS - 6:02 has it wrong. This issue really isn't about race. It's about poverty and social breakdown. If you think Parkland is all white, you are wrong.)

Anonymous said...

The following words I posted on Facebook in December 2013 but in conversation I have advocated the same thoughts for many years.

Indeed many of my creative ideas do not get general public consumption because as a backbencher in public affairs the printed and electronic media don't often put me in public spotlight.

Politically, the Republicans consider me mostly to their left and the Democrats consider me mostly to their right. I indeed hold religious and political principles I do not violate. But I do not automatically reject an idea simply by whom it was presented but neither do I accept it due to the same reason.

Some years ago there was a call to reduce the number of school districts in Pennsylvania.

Considering the fiscal shape the Allentown School District is in we do need to make changes.

First of all, the mission of the schools is to prepare each and every student for the future that they must live in. We must prepare them to make a living; and making a living means employment in some capacity whether it is for someone else or a job venture by yourself.

Search within your heart: "Are we doing that?"

Certainly the mission of the schools is not to teach people how to live on the public dole.

In regard to PA school districts maybe it is time to readjust boundaries of existing school districts and if this leads to less school districts so be it.

Starting with Allentown I would do this ... 1) Downtown Allentown From Ott street to Front Street I would I would merge with Fullerton , West Catasauqua and communities just outside Allentown to route 22 .... 2) Allentown's South Side and South West would go in with Salisbury 3) The East Side of Allentown, Catasauqua School District, Hanover Lehigh and West Bethlehem would be one district and 4) Allentown West of Ott Street would go into Parkland. 5) Coplay, Hokendauqua, Cementon, and Egypt would go in with the Northampton School District.

What I said here is not absolute , but a item for thought and revision if improvements could be made.

But the fact is, something must be done to create an atmosphere in the schools where students who want to learn can learn; and the School district which is in charge of this learning would have the adequate finances to create the proper atmosphere to learn.

Dennis Pearson


Anonymous said...

the trick is to regionalize. A Lehigh County school district w magnet type high schools to encourage student integration by socio-economic class. W proper funding it can succeed operationally. The political question is whether the suburban parents will allow their youngsters to go to school w "those kids".

Anonymous said...

The pension is neither "unsustainable" (it was perfectly fine until 2001 when the state made district and state contributions "optional") nor ridiculous. It's a sorry state of affairs when pensions and effective health benefits are called ridiculous. Ridiculous based on what?

Anonymous said...


Rather than treat the symptoms, how about treating the disease? Make a push to end the ridiculous retirement and benefits our "poor, underpaid" teachers get. Only government, public service unions, and teachers get pensions and benefits now days. Put them in the same boat as the rest of us with IRA'a or whatever we can scrape together.


Wait, because you allowed your companies to screw you over the last 4 decades, you want everyone else to get screwed too? Screw you, it's not just teachers either.

Anonymous said...

How is this good for the surrounding districts? You are basically pushing Allentown's tax burden on people who had nothing to do with it.

This is problem, people.

"Nothing to do with it" dictated by an invisible boundary line that surely you never cross. I'm sure you never hire or deal with anyone who attended school in Allentown either.

Anonymous said...

If your "draw and quarter" plan were to happen, I think it would destroy the school districts that are performing well.

Ding ding ding. Yes, ever wonder why Parkland does "well" and Allentown and Bethlehem not so well? Is that fair that the two large districts get the "failing" albatross around their neck while Parkland gets to happily claim superiority? I'd venture to guess the top students in ASD and BASD outnumber and outperform Parkland students.

Anonymous said...

In regard to local education the Allentown School Board struggles in finding enough money to pay for the local infrastructure and salary structure of the district. As a reform I suggest that the local tax base only pay for: 1) the maintenance of buildings and athletic fields, 2) the cost of educational supplies, books, media and resources used in the classroom, books and media used for library circulation 3) Cafeteria Services 4) Transportation 5) Extra Curricula Activities and 6) Security.

I suspect that if a School District via its own resources pay only for the above services then the Property Tax levy would be vastly reduced. And nothing in this provision precludes income from federal sources, foundations or business sources.

The State would be responsible for paying salary and benefits of certified professionals engaged in Administration, Classroom teaching, and classroom support as well.

Please note --- Health and Pension costs would normally be borne entirely by the State.

Important note --- The local School District in this system will determine the Course of study of its students in order to graduate based on general guideline from the State. The curriculums being College Prep, Business, Technical and General Ed which includes Special needs students. If a school district stays within these guidelines all the salaries and benefits such as health care and pensions for Administration, Classroom teaching, and classroom support will be handled by the State with no local school district financial support. But if a local school district decides to do more the extra cost for Administration, Classroom teaching, and classroom support would be borne by the local school district; and this includes health care and pension costs.

For all practical purposes the number of school districts should be reduced statewide. Whether this could be established through the establishment of a County Wide school district as is done in Maryland or through the merger of school districts or redistricting of school districts remains to be decided. The aim of all this reduction would be to guarantee some form of financial equality for every school district to accomplishment its mission without handicap to its students ... The aim here is to educate all those who are willing to learn ... For those who won't learn no matter what is done. no amount of money will cause them to learn.

Dennis Pearson

Anonymous said...

Indeed Charter schools too are a problem ... By law Charter schools are considered public schools and as a consequence School Boards are obligated to fund these schools from their available revenues... In some cases school subsidies from the State are based on average attendance and I do not believe that School District can include the number of district kids attending Charter schools in their attendance totals...Thus lower attendance in the public schools means lower subsidies ... But the School district must still provide funds to the Charter schools.

Thus the complaint is that the School District has less money to fund its own needs ... Thus teachers get laid off and there is less support available for the most vulnerable student and less courses are offered...And at the same time others charge that the Charter schools in some cases are not as innovative and not producing better results as predicted.

I ask, are we heading toward the complete closure of all public schools in favor of Charter schools? In that way School Boards may be able to offer a more stable year to year budget. But the problem here is that Charter Schools can not charge tuition and depend on public support through the School Board and other private donations.

Dennis Pearson

Anonymous said...

Obviously, ASD's issues interest me, being a retiree from there. I never really gave consideration to 'breaking-up' the district so more taxing bodies can share in ASDs challenges.

ASD is NOT unique. Quite a few other urban districts face many of the same challenges. For example, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Erie, Reading, Scranton, Bethlehem, Easton, Hazleton, Lancaster, and the list goes on and on. Considering this, why not go all the way and 'spread the joy' across all Pennsylvania citizens by creating a single, statewide entity?

Allow me to add, the pension issue has ALREADY been addressed with ACT 120 of late 2011. Current forms of pensions have already been eliminated for those entering the system. Few seem to ever mention this.

I would also like to point out, the Morning Call article lists pension funding increase as the FOURTH highest financial growth demand. It also makes no mention that for about a decade, employer contributions were actually eliminated or cut way back. That move had a negative effect on today's situation, too.

Attack me if you need to. My name is Fred Windish.

Anonymous said...

I'll echo what others have said - does anyone think this move would benefit the students and residents of the surrounding districts? Why should they suddenly be responsible for "fixing" Allentown schools and assuming the enormous financial burden of doing so?

In response to some other comments - the sole purpose of a school district should be to educate ALL of its students (no matter their background). Those who try to impose some sort of greater responsibility on it, such as leveling social, racial, or economic disadvantages in surrounding communities are misguided, and projecting their ideology into the wrong place.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"How is this good for the surrounding districts? You are basically pushing Allentown's tax burden on people who had nothing to do with it"

They pretty much had everything to do with it.

Anonymous said...

How do you figure that Bernie?

By them leaving and taking their tax dollars to fund their own school districts, they somehow have to also pay for the ASD?

Bernie O'Hare said...

They helped make AASD a failing school district. let them pay to fix it.

monkey momma said...

I think blaming the suburbs for urban woes is a little too easy. Expenditure per student is not that different in the ASD vs. Parkland or East Penn.

What is the difference? The difference is the family at home supporting the student. You cannot litigate or tax society into providing an adequate family base. I do not know what the answer is, but I do know that destroying what IS successful is not the answer we need.

Anonymous said...

"They helped make AASD a failing school district. let them pay to fix it."

Bernie, I feel like I'm having a discussion with one of my kids - who exactly is "they"? The current state of ASD is the fault of so many individuals and entities. You can blame Allentown itself, you can blame the state, you can blame the federal government if you wish, but there is no way you can blame the four surrounding school districts and make them totally (or even partially) responsible for fixing the mess in Allentown.

Allentown has it's inherent challenges, and I'm not trying to minimize them, but there are more than enough examples of quality schools in towns of Allentown's size. It's a copout to blame the suburbs for all the problems of the City, and it's far too easy to always look to someone else to fix their problems for them, instead of fixing them themselves. This has been the strategy King Ed has followed from the city government side, and you are advocating it be extended to the schools.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Monkey Momma, Your data is flawed. Check out opepagov.org, and you'll see that Parkland spends $2,000 more per student than ASD, and East Penn is nearly $3,000 more. Some years, it is as much as $3,000-$4,000 more. A large part of the answer is, in fact, money. That's why I think this failing district should be split in four.

I agree that the urban core tends to be more transitional and has children with rougher family lives than you see in the 'burbs. But I think it is a mistake to jam all these kids together, where misery feeds on misery.

It could be that the extra money and good students will improve these kids and their chances at a good education. Our lousy educational system. Also, your children will benefit educationally from being less isolated. Will it make them less safe? I don't think so, but would agree that should be studied. I know you are a "momma" first and a "monkey" second. You have every right to want the best for your own children.

I am not suggesting this to dilute your high standards.

Anonymous said...

Why can't the state raise the sales tax .05% to help fund the school districts? Also, all of these so called non profits need to start contributing

Bernie O'Hare said...

11:38, I think the answer to your question should be clear if you read all the comments instead of taking one out of isolation.

ASD began failing as people left the urban core for better lives in the 'burbs. An unintended consequence of that move was to concentrate poverty. I'm not suggesting that you move back to the city (many of us never lived in the cities) or that you have to eat at Allentown restaurants or go to their hockey games. I'm saying that dividing a failing school district among four that are not would give those students more money for their education and might actually give them a fighting chance.

There are lots of problems with this proposal. I freely admit it. And I am no expert. I am throwing out the idea to see what everyone thinks.

Anonymous said...

http://www.taxexemptworld.com/organizations/pennsylvania-counties.asp

Anonymous said...

It's a dumb and unnecessary idea. Hockey is already bringing lots of big companies to Pawlowski's Allentown. The tax base is already roaring back. Other districts will soon be begging to be absorbed by wealthy Allentown. We should have made him governor.

monkey momma said...

I'll have whatever 12:30 is having!

Bernie, I looked at the numbers and saw a $896 difference on per-student spending between Parkland and Allentown, which is a 9% difference. And the difference is smaller between East Penn and Allentown - $549 or 5%. So, it's definitely a significant amount, but not totally absurd.

Anonymous said...

Legalize marijuanna and use the tax proceeds to educate

Bernie O'Hare said...

Ok, Towely. Wanna' get high?

Anonymous said...

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/02/21/us/colorado-expects-to-reap-tax-bonanza-from-legal-marijuana-sales.html?_r=0&referrer=

Anonymous said...

Plus all of the money saved not prosecuting pot users. Less cops, judges, jails = more money for education. Plus, legalize hemp farming. One acre can produce 32 gallons of oil and enough fiber to clothe the asd.

Anonymous said...

Our founding fathers all grew hemp and the declaration of independace was written on hemp paper. The world would be a nicer place to live if they would legalize

Anonymous said...

That's why I think this failing district should be split in four.

You are thinking too small. There are 501 school districts in PA. That is ridiculous. We should regionalize districts just for the purpose of reducing administrative overlap. We have a Superintendent in Allentown overseeing ~18,000 students and ~2000 staff and then we have Superintendents overseeing districts of less than 1000 students. And they make relatively the same amount of money.

Anonymous said...

Legalize marijuanna and use the tax proceeds to educate

Nominate John Hanger for the Democratic ticket for Governor then!

Anonymous said...

Legalizing pot will increase unemployment in Allentown unless dealer retaining is included in the legislation. Allentown is about to experience the boom that arena baskets promised. Be patient. Allentown is about to enter its fiscal renaissance. Right arena backers? No need to do anything but plan to spend the windfall. The school district plan is unnecessary.

Anonymous said...

And what exactly is the upside for the 4 districts to absorb the ASD?

More kids, many of whom will demand more financial/educational effort.

It seems this is a great deal for the ASD at the expense of the other 4 districts

Bernie O'Hare said...

It's not a "great deal" for ASD, which would be disbanded. As for the expense of educating kids, isn't this something we should want? The more education, the less likely he will go to jail.

Anonymous said...

Yes, John Hanger gets my voye

Anonymous said...

Dude...STFU!

Anonymous said...

Listen, there is plenty of upside in marijuanna biz. Problem solved..no debates..no nothing but green ...seee

Anonymous said...

Go to sleep on some train tracks

Anonymous said...

Sam adams signed this and he makes good beer! You might evwn fight a oerson or two and fat girls look like models! Who can argue the facts
http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html

Anonymous said...

I trust sam adams always.

Anonymous said...

Yes...girls always look better with sam adams. I'm on board

Anonymous said...

A six pack of winyer ale and tm looks doable

Anonymous said...

Thats some gooood beeer

AM dial said...

Pensions are fair compensation for those tasked with teaching our youth, O'Hare you're a bitter man child.

Anonymous said...

Nobody wants to take pensions away or cut teachers. We need smart people to recognize that weed is the answer. Stop spending millions incarcerating none violent offenders and tax the kind bud. Amen

Anonymous said...

The mexican cartels bring billions back to mexico every year from marijuanna sales alone. Imagine investing. 06% percent back into our schools. The government created prohibition and the likes of Al Capone, we can take it away also

Matt M. said...

b-b-b-b-b-b- but Bernie, what about the sports rivalries??!! What will Troy Hein ever get to report about on the news?

Actually, I'd love to see administration get consolidated to the county level as a start to save costs. Most every other state is set up this way already.

Anonymous said...

And i dont smoke weed. I just see the benefits of keeping the money here instead of mexico. I haven't smoked in 25+ years and I'm a person who works and pays taxes.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Matt M, consolidation of school districts would have no impact on sports rivalries. Some of the biggest rivalries, like Freedom v. Liberty, are between schools on the same district.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I think the marihuana point had Benadryl and is getting repetitive.

Anonymous said...

Sorry

Bernie O'Hare said...

Wanna' get high?

Anonymous said...

Legalizing pot will increase unemployment in Allentown unless dealer retaining is included in the legislation. Allentown is about to experience the boom that arena baskets promised. Be patient. Allentown is about to enter its fiscal renaissance. Right arena backers? No need to do anything but plan to spend the windfall. The school district plan is unnecessary.

Excited for the puck to drop!

Anonymous said...

"It's not a "great deal" for ASD, which would be disbanded. As for the expense of educating kids, isn't this something we should want? The more education, the less likely he will go to jail."

And right there is the bottom line point. The proposal you are throwing out is based solely upon the theory that ASD's problems are totally (or largely) caused by factors outside its control, and that it can't survive without outside money. This is somewhat debatable - I personally feel the problems of ASD are at least 75% due to factors totally based on Allentown (including family stability and district management and policies), and no more than 25% due to factors outside the city's control (pensions, federal/state funding mechanisms, etc).

What's ridiculous about the proposal is the idea to throw responsibility to fix the problem at the expense of the surrounding four school districts. Leaving the obvious fairness issues aside, the idea won't fix the root cause of the problems, and the idea would cause a "race to the bottom" in the school districts as their funds and efforts would be poured into Allentown to try to fix problems that these School Districts have no responsibility for. I suspect the result would be much more detrimental to the surrounding districts than they would be beneficial for Allentown. You'd wind up with a much wider area of distressed schools.

The only way to justify this would be an ultra-liberal "spread the wealth/pain" philosophy, based on social guilt. History has shown repeatedly that this philosophy is doomed to fail.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Look, we have an obligation to educate our children. Some generals actually consider this a matter of national security. The idea of liking into who should be paying or it is ridiculous. We all pay for it. Some of us even pay that and pay for Catholic education. You want kids to suffer bc ASD sucks. I don't look at things that way. Sorry.

monkey momma said...

10:19 is exactly 100% correct.

On the other hand, the current school district/property tax arrangement has allowed big walls to go up around cities like Allentown. It's a pretty harsh reality for the kids on the wrong side of the wall.

My parents and my husband and I work so hard to stay on the good side of that wall. That is, the Parkland side, as opposed to the Allentown side. I don't feel guilty - I feel like we've all worked our butts off to be here.

But obviously the issues of urban school districts like Allentown need to be discussed and acted upon, as much as possible. I very much believe that the answer to Allentown's problems are not going to be found anywhere in the ASD. It's going to be found at home, in the family unit itself. Until parents demand more from their children, children will not perform well. It is possible to receive an outstanding education in the ASD - the kid just has to want it. And that's what's lacking. Not necessarily just money, although more money would help if it were used to hire back teachers.

Families need to stop the poverty cycle by having less children, too. You can't mandate that. It's not fashionable to discuss, but the truth is, women need to stop having so many babies, and fathers need to marry their baby-mamas. Poverty is the root of this town's problems, and large families headed by single, poor mothers are the nemesis of improvements.

Anonymous said...

Insightful discussions like these can be very helpful. Any time typical 'teacher bashing' is left at the door we can all learn something.

I also find much to like in 10:19's statements. Making surrounding districts absorb Allentown's student body is a bit like 'forced integration' but this time, it's not so much white vs. color, but prepared-to-learn vs. unprepared.

I would much rather the state and federal government stay OUT of each local district's decisions about mandates and expectations. No Child Left behind was a colossal failure because kids and districts are NOT all the same, and never will be.

I also appreciate monkey momma's wisdom here, and places before. Poverty is VERY MUCH the issue. Momma is also correct, one of the most effective ways to counterbalance that negative influence and broken family support systems that accompany, is through class size control.

Class size really DOES matter! Ask any teacher. That's kinda the appeal of sending one's child to Swain or Princeton isn't it?

Unfortunately, Allentown has been steadily increasing its class sizes over the past 6-7 years. Exactly opposite of what could help so many unprepared learners! Remember, if a kid doesn't have the benefit of a supportive Mom & Dad, he/she MIGHT get more of that necessary attention in a smaller class.

P.S.

The additional adults required in the schools don't all have to be certified teachers. (hint)

Fred Windish

Anonymous said...

Bernie, I respect your opinion, but it's far too simplistic to say that someone against this proposal "wants kids to fail". The most likely outcome of this idea would be to spread the area of failure as the outlying school districts get pulled down to Allentown's level as they get overwhelmed trying to address issues they have not created. I could throw the same argument back at you and argue that your proposal is condemning the kids in the outlying school districts to fail. All your doing is a bit of social engineering, and deciding one group of kids is more important than another.

Also, in all this discussion, we haven't even touched the issue of control over the school districts. Even with your four way split, Allentown may wind up with a controlling voting interest in a small district such as Salisbury (as well as some of the others that I'm not as familiar with). Why would it make any sense to allow Allentown, with its failing results, to essentially take over a relatively successful district, against the will of its residents?

Bernie O'Hare said...

It is simplistic to say you want kids to fail. And I would not want this if it just means that Allentown's failure will be divided by four other districts. I want all kids to succeed and have a good edicational foundation. This is not a matter of social engineering. It is actually a matter of national security. We need to visit the way educational services are delivered and maximize the chances for every child, poor or rich, to succeed academically. Perhaps this idea won't work. Maybe it should be countywide or even statewide. But I think you'd agree that the current system is a failure.

Lighthouse said...

I hesitated to comment yesterday, so this may be little read. However, I tend to agree with Monkey Momma. Facts to reinforce her argument, 1-4 per 2012 M.Call account of the US Census Bureau’s 2011 American Community Survey.

1.) “The median income for Allentown families has fallen from an estimated $38,760 in 2007 to $30,784 in 2011.” (compare to $49,120/$45,019 for Bethlehem)

2.) “24.6 percent of families had incomes below poverty in 2011, up from 14.6 percent four years ago.”

3.) “2008, 19.5 had no health insurance; in 2011 the number rose to 26.9 percent.”

4.) The article notes: “Alan Jennings, executive director of the (CACLV), said part of the reason for local hard times lies outside of the area. Lower-income people are moving into Allentown for its relatively cheap housing.”

5.) According to City-Data.com, in 2009 43.8% of Allentown children lived below the poverty line, compared to 16.8% statewide.

The problems of the Allentown School District are heavily a by-product of the reality of Allentown demographics, not the other way around. I agree with the posters that the solution is not to simply divide the district and assimilate them into surrounding districts. That does not erase the reality. Going to “better” Parkland, etc, is not going to erase the fact that the bus still drops you back off in poverty.

Besides academics, one could even look at sports. A district with the student population of Allentown, should be able to produce strong teams. Go to any football game this fall at school playing Dieruff or Allen. You will see small teams and bands, and hardly community support in the stands.

Unfortunately, I do not have a counter-solution to offer. While I have not been in favor of the corporate welfare of the NIZ, if in time some gentrification of Allentown brings money into Allentown instead of the vicious cycle of poverty/cheap housing attracting yet more poverty/cheap housing, perhaps it will have a silver lining. Unfortunately, that will take a generation to play out, if ever.

Anonymous said...

Good info, Lighthouse.

Your stats don't even list another key component that sets ASD apart. That is, the language barrier.

MANY ASD kids come to school with little to no ability to speak, read or write English. In addition, no one at home is of any help! They are even LESS capable. I've seen it many times over many years.

Some test-takers, huh?

To make matters worse some of the kids come to ASD with NO prior school records. It is not at all unusual for the administration to look at a child and determine "He looks like a sixth grader" and there he goes!

Allentown is forced to be an 'educational triage center.' There is a state of confusion many times greater than surrounding districts. Add in families moving from one apartment to another, in what seems to be every other month, there is a total lack of instructional continuity. It is not unusual for a September class of 30 kids to have a 60-75% turnover rate.

ASD teachers and administrators should be given medals!

Fred Windish

Bernie O'Hare said...

Fred is a former ASD teacher, and I defer to him on the problems there.

monkey momma said...

Great details, Lighthouse. Very interesting!

Mr. Windish, when I say "hire back teachers," I don't necessarily mean decreased class size. I mean, get back the teachers who brought joy to school - the art, gym, music and library teachers. The so-called "specials." These classes can make many children love school. The specials have been absolutely decimated by recent budget cuts in ASD. (Parkland continues to have these specials at their schools, but not without great difficulty.) There is a positive spill-over effect onto core academics when artistic and physical elements are incorporated into a child's school day. Those are the teachers that need to return!

But I would agree a smaller class size is certainly preferable.

I wonder what the business leaders of Allentown had to say about the educational system here?

monkey momma said...

Oh, and I absolutely agree that the ASD teachers and staff deserve medals. They do a great job every day, and they deserve our collective thanks!

Anonymous said...

Momma,

What an amazing reply! I started out teaching Industrial Arts (shop). In later years, we developed into Technology Education. I WAS one of those 'specials.'

By the way, thanks to the Trexler Trust, and others back then, we created a uniquely designed Technology Education program geared specially for urban schools. It garnered statewide acclaim. We were doing some things BEFORE Parkland did them!

And now, POOF! (in ASD)

There is no question, the loss of the specialist areas is very sad.

Anonymous said...

Catty will jump at this opportunity!

Anonymous said...

It is just best to keep the ASD the way it is. Sometimes it is better to just leave things alone.