Monthly Archives: January 2010

TE Taxes relative to GV, Radnor and LM

The continued ire towards the BOS about funding the fire department is remarkable, and over on Pattye’s blog, the dreaded “EIT” is rearing its ugly head.  I’m going to comment on Community … Matters on that website about the fire department issue, but Mr. Clarke has just reminded those posters/readers that the TESD possible budget increase is half of the whole BOS budget.  He’s right.  And maybe only half right.  Because TESD spends less revenue (and gets less per student) than the four districts in my sample. While Mr. Clarke recently pointed out that comparing mills between districts is not “exact”, the information for each district can be reported to calculate relative funding by taxpayers based on property values and the percent of property in each township/district that is taxed for schools to create a  local revenue per student.  I think it’s important as we visit the issues associated with school taxes that we start to talk about what we pay for what we get….things like EIT come later when we discuss HOW we pay for what we get.  Right now, the TESD administration has been told to identify ways to reduce costs and presume no tax increases….consider that using this model, TESD gets considerably more bang for the buck then neighboring districts.   There are many ways to reframe these numbers, but here’s the start:

 Four districts – TE, Great Valley, Radnor and Lower Merion . Details are available on a companion website (where I can post links more easily) — check it out there and then return here.  There is a PDF file there with the calculations used to generate the summary.

 Thanks.  Please feel free to share your thoughts.

Foreign Language in the Elementary Schools

I include this information here to provide the background on the introduction of the FLES program.  The decision to cancel it has been tentatively made — though some would say that it was just the first shot fired over our collective bow to get attention — but considering the premise behind its introduction, I hesitate to accept its demise.  In my view, nothing that led to this program has changed — except perhaps the Administrative support may have retired or simply faded because of an abundance of expectations. 

Anyway, when now retired Dr. Folts and Dr. Slobojan were part of the strategic planning process, here’s what the District proclaimed:

From the TE District website:  http://tesd.net/fles/program.htm

We believe that learning a foreign language in the elementary school is an essential part of a child’s education and development.  

Making Foreign Language A Part of The Strategic Plan

  •  Tredyffrin/Easttown’s 1996 Strategic Plan emphasized the importance of student proficiency in a foreign language.  It stressed the need for graduates to be prepared to live and work in a global context.  This was the starting point for the FLES program.
  • On both the national and state levels (and the international front), there is an urgent call to improve the foreign language competency of Americans.  From the 1983 report A Nation at Risk to the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s expected learning outcomes, foreign language study is viewed as an essential component of education.  
  • Scientific studies indicate that there are sound physiological and psychological reasons to initiate foreign language study with children at an early age.  

Cognitive research shows that very young children learn language easily due to the elasticity of the brain.  

  • In fact, this research states that the learning window, when the peak acquisition of a foreign language occurs, is between birth and ten years of age.  Yet, for most students, foreign language is introduced and formally studied when they are twelve years of age or older.

Academic research also supports teaching of a foreign language at the elementary school level. 

  •  These studies indicate that the benefits of early foreign language programs go beyond language acquisition.  These benefits include the development of students’ creativity, memory, and listening skills.  There is specific research to suggest that the child who learns a foreign language at an early age makes greater progress in the acquisition of English language arts, specifically, in the areas of reading and writing, than the child who has not had experience with a foreign language.  Studies also show that students who have studied foreign languages attain higher scores on the Scholastic Achievement Tests (SAT) and the American College Test (ACT), especially in the verbal areas.

Learning a foreign language benefits all children, regardless of academic ability. 

  • Foreign language study in the elementary school incorporates all of Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences and uses a multi-sensory approach.  
  • It sharpens global awareness and exposes children to other cultures and thoughts.  The study of foreign language at the elementary level helps prepare students to interact in the global community of the future, thus helping to place our students in a more equitable position with students from other global countries.  
  • Research also indicates that children studying a foreign language have an improved self concepts and sense of achievement in school.
  • The FLES program at T/E strives to incorporate District initiative’s of Self-Directed Learning, Technology, and Differentiated Instruction to benefit students overall learning, cognitive, and personal development.

We believe that students who begin foreign language study throughout their education in the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District will develop a higher level of proficiency in both foreign language and English.  

  • We believe that along with strengthening skills in language acquisition, our students will learn about other cultures and broaden their global awareness.  
  • We believe that the study of foreign language, beginning at the elementary school level and continuing through high school, will enhance and strengthen our students’ career potential and help broaden their employment opportunities.  
  • We believe that foreign language instruction at the elementary level will add a significant academic dimension to our students’ educational program.  

 

 

Adding to the discussion

Encouraged to finally attend a finance committee meeting in this new budget year, I have decided it’s time to resurrect this blog.  School spending is a big deal — but this year it’s really more than a big deal.  Locally (TESD) we are in the process of deciding if we are getting what we pay for, and whether we are willing to pay for what we are getting.  I’m not going to write much now because I am putting together some information regarding our tax rates locally.  Pattye Benson has productively stepped into this arena to keep the discussion flowing, and I have no interest in debating topics originating there.  But after attending the January 4th finance meeting, and then reading Mr. Clark’s summary, I see many questions surfacing that don’t as much require debate  [read: heat] as light [read: understanding].  I made a comment at the meeting about TE millage rates being lower for education than neighboring districts (including some with earned income taxes) except for Upper Merion.  Mr. Clark suggested that we need to realize that their assessments are different.  Well — it turns out that we are both right (surprise!) but I believe this community needs to come to terms with the level of support we need to offer our educational programs.  Millage rates are apples and apples in that they represent the relative percentage of your property value that you contribute to education. 

But more on that in the next post.  I refer you to the website for the State Tax Equalization Board (www.steb.state.pa.us) to start to look at the relative values of communities and the contributions to education.  There are all kinds of factors to consider — total student population, total assessments, market values vs. assessed values….and I’m going to look at all of it and report to you here.

So — I don’t want to take readers from Community Matters — I want to add some  information on school spending here to be sure when we debate, we have answers, not just questions and ideas.  Plus, those supervisors in Tredyffrin are all posturing for political advantages.  Their tax effort may be about future election materials.   Think about it — the Tredyffrin township budget was held at 2.23 mills.  The school district budget starts at 17.47 mills.  During this past election, I got 1 mailing for the Republican candidate for school board.  I cannot begin to count the number of mailings I got for Supervisor.  Clearly we think that’s the most important position — at least the politicians do….

After serving on the school board for 11 years, I can assure you that no one decides to serve there for any amount of time with political aspirations.  People may go on to other political roles, but being on the board is simply an unpaid, vastly underappreciated task.   But it’s time to get serious folks.  TE Schools are remarkably successful.  Our property values are fueled by their reputation (then again, maybe folks move here because of our excellent park system).  The decision to take $9M out of the budget for next year will assure a dismantling of several programs.  Now, maybe we will decide to do that, but let’s not ignore the realities of getting what we pay for.  Union contracts aside (and that is another issue — truly — and moot for this time around), TE’s contribution to the value of homes in this area is not in dispute.  Sure, they cancel the FLES program – we cannot “afford” to teach elementary foreign languages.  No problem.  That’s a K-4 program and won’t be felt for years.  But what does it say about a district that abandons a program specifically designed to address  what may be one of the flaws of American education — and had a strategic plan specifically to answer the call (see the post here on FLES) 

Okay.  Time to publish this and get this started.  I encourage feedback and comments.  You have the topic.   Now, take the floor.