Blogging — Don’t let Vitriol substitute for opinion

I’ve been posting on Community….Matters in an effort to share school board information with the multitudes who are seeking it.  Pattye Benson is doing a fabulous job moderating discussions — but I occasionally will continue here because much of what I share is rather tedious.  I think the discussion in the community is well served there.

If you want to comment here,   I’ll say up front that I won’t approve any post from anyone who wants to spend energy talking about who should be fired and who doesn’t deserve to be elected.  I had a particularly difficult time early in my first term on the school board. A resident stayed after a meeting and approached me one night and told me he didn’t agree with me and would make it his personal mission to see that I wasn’t re-elected.  I asked him for his card, as I told him I was sure my family would join his group — since volunteering and enduring a campaign  to be on  a school board is one of the more thankless jobs one can imagine holding.  Even the Supervisors earn $3,000 a year.  School board members earn the longing for anonymity — as it’s so easy to take shots at them — much easier than actually taking the time to understand the issues.

The job of school board director is VERY HARD and the answers are absolutely NEVER black and white.  Everyone went to school during a portion of their life.  Everyone is a stakeholder in property values and educational programs.  So everyone cares.  And money is PERSONAL . Earning it and Spending it.   People moving into TESD  come with great expectations and pay top dollar.  People who have lived here forever are done with the school system and in many cases could not afford to buy the house they live in today. (the odd reality to the finances  is that it takes about 30 years of paying taxes here per child to pay for a K-12 education in TE — in today’s dollars – so you are never done paying if you were ever a user.) So — how do you fund the schools?  Multiple tax study commissions have ruled against any tax based on income, so property taxes are it.  In a time when foreclosures are a real issue, taking more from the homeowner is hard to justify, but deciding to put an artificial ceiling on expenditures in a contract-based environment will take a huge effort.  Anonymous posting to blogs certainly makes taking shots easy — (though attribution doesn’t seem to clean it up either). 

I think blogs offer a genuine opportunity to  make a strong contribution if they encourage and promote an honest and productive dialogue.  Pattye Benson has worked very hard to encourage dialogue and I commend her on her regular updates and comment approvals.  I believe questions and opinions are worthy of sharing, whatever they are. 

I stand by the headline here though –when viotriol substitutes as opinion, the context and the value of the exchange only alienates open conversation.   I don’t deny anyone’s right to express an opinion, but I don’t want to open a forum for vitriol.  Hence “Mean Spirits. 

This blog was not meant to be JUST about TESD school spending. This is such a crazy budget time in Pennsylvania that it’s a very large question everywhere.  I started the blog as a former school board member who knows a great deal more about the process than is typically discussed/revealed during the budget process.  It’s tedious.   I will comment on TESD when it’s germane to the topic, but please visit Community…Matters (link in blog roll) if you want to continue the discussion on the TE 2010 budget.  You can come here for an explanation of  facts (that I often introduce there — and try to give background here) — and my companion website for numbers .

  I’m not around every day to approve comments, so this cannot be the “back and forth” that goes on in Community…Matters.  It is a valuable site — and I encourage you to stick with it and enjoy the exchange.  If you have any questions, please ask me.  I believe we are all better served when we not only have information and opinions, but when we understand the issues.


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