October 11th, 2011

WATCH: Budget Cuts In Central PA

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Mifflin County, PA — like small rural districts across the nation — faced big budget cuts this year. A 12 percent cut in state funding, combined with a declining enrollment, drove the district to close 5 of its 13 schools, lay off 11 percent of its staff, and reduce course offerings across the district. Classes have increased by 7-10 students, teachers say they’re overwhelmed, and students are feeling under-prepared. Is this small rural district in central PA the tip of the iceberg?

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This program is made possible by the following funders:
Grade Level Reading Fund of the Tides Foundation, The Sergey Brin and Anne Wojcicki Foundation, The Wallace Foundation, and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.


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they dropped classes but still had room for pssa test classes. that is sad! and it is cheating, and i resent my grand children being taught to cheat

Whats really sad about this situation is that even though the five schools that were closed and consolidated with one another, the schools that they had joined with or were placed into now have to have major remodeling completed just to accommodate the students populating the schools.
Case in point, what was formerly Lewistown Middle School now has three to four modular classrooms sitting outside while remodeling is done inside the school to accommodate the 4th and 5th grade students that now attend it.
What was formally Indian Valley Middle School in Reedsville, PA was originally in 2005 considered the worst in the county for structural deficiencies and was going to be closed once the new High School was finished. As noted by Board Members in the past, this school sits within a well known area of sinkholes located throughout the valley. Since this school has been slated to be “let go” since 2005 not much upkeep has been done on the infrastructure as well which has led to even more costly remodeling to once again accommodate the new group of K-5 students.
East Derry Elementary which serves Decatur Twp and part of Derry Twp was expanded in 2002 for a “growing population”. While attending school board meetings last year I learned that many rooms within this school sat empty, meanwhile Highland Park Elementary which held in attendance many students from the Derry Twp area was filled almost to capacity with over 540 students that included students from Burnham, Yeagertown, Highland Park and Derry Twp.
Union Elementary on the other hand has a declining enrollment and is one of the smallest Elementary schools in the district but yet it seems to have escaped the looming threat of closure due to a handful of parents that successfully lobbied to the current school board. This school is still open and has under 100 students attending in K-3. The 4-5th students will go to attend Indian Valley Elementary.
I did not question the School Boards decision to conjoin the schools due to locations and population. What I really question is how can a District be so blindsided when back in 2005 Monies and Employees should have been reviewed every single year with what the District was trying to accomplish in the future? Is this not why we elect everyday people who have a passion to serve the District to School Boards?? To help keep the People THEY hired in check??

What makes this so incredibly sad is that the financial commitment to testing companies our federal and state governments have mandated in order to measure students’ performance on math & reading tests, strips funding from school districts, such as Mifflin. Under PARCC, companies like Pearson will be increasing their profits as testing moves from testing students in grades 3 through 8 once a year to testing 3 through grade 11 students 9 times a year. The payment will be taken from public schools.

As I write this, Jeb Bush is out in San Francisco getting ready for an ‘education’ conference. Nary a teacher among them. Represented among the elected officials who will be attending are those who will profit by reallocating ed dollars to companies.

The ‘public’ is being divorced from its schools.

Mary, your clarity of thought succinctly expresses the bigger picture. Power and money are so intrinsic in the nature of corporate ego that it will be very difficult to reverse the trend. Only an organic uprisal by teachers and parents will tip things toward rational reasoning for the future. I spoke with a leading psychologist in my city today about the chronic growth of depression, suicide risks and anxieties among school age children that she treats.
The deformers are fooling themselves into thinking that the feathers of success in our schools fits in their caps of control. As with any playground bully or power monger, the more they invest in their ploys to wield dominance and being the best, the more difficult it is to thwart their energies. Big bucks have been siphoned into improving our country’s status in the world on all levels. We must be the best, at any cost. Putting the burden of that harmful policy on the backs of educators, students and parents will only weaken us in the end. It may weaken our resolve, too. We must stand up, speak up and persevere, despite being pushed around. Eventually, the pendulum will begin swinging the opposite direction. Big risk in waiting for that to happen. Our children and the great American public schools deserve more.

This boils down to why we ever need huge Costco schools where students, faculty, and staff are shelved like so many products. I get that consolidating was seen as the only way things could be done in this part of Pennsylvania, but was it really? There will always be an ebb and flow with education finance. But expanding our vision beyond the next bond election is definitely the place to start. Out here in Utah, we are faced again with a bond election to build huge schools (last high school built was about $65 million). What happens to all of that when the population declines in an area, which it eventually will? No one in education seems to be learning from successful models that still provide the high school experience while providing smaller, more efficient and focused campuses? I just find it harder to swallow that we can’t get more bang for what bucks do exist. And all the blame-laying, finger-pointing, and scape-goating seems to accomplish are increased drop out rates, problematic graduation rates, and excruciatingly low proficiency rates. I dare school systems to take a real risk to do something meaningful and invest not just dollars, but time and research that exists on transforming their districts. It may mean 100 hour weeks for some time, but this also does not have to take years. Break things up and empower site leaders and train them to handle the empowerment. Invest in teacher leader training. Specialists need not sweat job loss, they simply need to job share and be leaders. There is a way to restructure even the largest and most sprawling districts. It simply takes the vision, work ethic, and stamina to put that vision on the map. And, yes, this is more than reform mushiness. It is doable if we really have the kids as the number one priority. (If we don’t have them as the number one issue, nothing will help us right this educational Titanic. The iceberg wins and we’ll mostly go down on a ship that is not equipped to handle the 21st century–not enough lifeboats, lifejackets and no one close enough to help out. Especially if we don’t call and certainly if we don’t respond once a call for help is issued.)

What is not mentioned is the lack of cuts to the administration and construction costs as stated by Rick. While the state did cut funds to the schools, the schools have not made wise decisions in handling the cuts to funding.
The best thing to happen to our schools will be a voucher program, so that parents have a choice. That way the schools will have to act like every other business and provide good quality services or not receive customers. To date, the school has not had to make quality decisions regarding our children’s education because they receive funding based on the number of children. If parents had the choice to go to better quality schools, the schools would be forced to raise their standards or receive no funding.

Mifflin County builds a $65 Million school and has all these renovations to do that we cannot afford. Now they just posted on their website that the JR/SR Prom will be held at a fairground in a building that stinks, has very little running water and a toilet not fit for this kind of event. I am glad my child will not attend the prom for another couple of years. This is a TOTAL disgrace to the students of Mifflin County. This is a TOTAL disgrace to the residents of Mifflin County. We are paying for the school and our children CANNOT even hold the prom there? The new school has three gyms. We can pay thousands of dollars to have a football team come play us, but cannot provide a decent place for the prom. This is the first Prom of MCHS and it is being held at a dumpy fairground. I thought this was all about the students, well the students are losing out the most in this whole combination of the two schools. I hope something is changed about the Prom. The students are doing what they are forced to do, at least provide somewhere decent for the prom. Wonder where graduation will be held????

I find myself wondering why the district is using the extra money they got from the state to fund more into sports. A very troubling decision which exemplifies one way things have gone wrong in public education.

What I yet to understand is the fact that the new High Schools orginal intent was to house the Indian Valley kids until the whole combining idea came alive, while the building is still being used when it is already in terrible shape for the junoir high to be using now, when the intent was to get the kids into a new building.

education should come first . k-3rd grade still does not have a librarian . our superentendent sais that its not nessessary … but it is important for the new High to have new esxcercise equipment that previously ; never had and that high school students need a librarian now u cant tell me that the high school students dont know how to look things up . what is wrong with this pic.

education should come first . k-3rd grade still does not have a librarian . our superentendent sais that its not nessessary … but it is important for the new High to have new esxcercise equipment that previously ; never had and that high school students need a librarian now u cant tell me that the high school students dont know how to look things up . what is wrong with this pic.

It is very sad that the students are the ones suffering through all of this.They knew they were closing schools and which ones but yet the main focus was on the new high school.These kids that are in The old Indian Valley Middle school and the old Lewistown Middle School don’t even have play ground equipment to play on for recess.But yet all they worry about is the staff they had to let go really.When I was in school recess was the best part of school. It’s just sad that they think of themselves.

dont even for a moment think that mifflin county combined for the budget !
when the vote was taken to build the new school , the one board member slipped it out that they were going to combine schools then ?
also as for the lack of maintenance in the schools , they did the same thing the year the new school vote was up the did no apparent repairs to the i.v. high school making it look “dumpy” to further the case .
i was appalled to see it during the orientation that year !
the funny thing of the whole merger is one of the empty buildings is the newest in the district and that the “possible stadium site ”
how can you justify not utilizing the newest , possibly the most efficient building !
p.s i.v was formed in 1988 from chief logan school and the kish school to be a 2 year merger so they could revamp the kish building , which is now the i.v elementary building in garden view, reedsville
,so dont let the budget “excuse”fool you

Part of the original proposal at the public school hearings was that the school board budgeted for a “sports complex” that would attract news media from Harrisburg for our sporting events. Meanwhile, our students are being bussed halfway across the county to schools that are teetering on the edge of a sinkhole and too small to accomidate the numbers! My son has been diagnosed with Asperger’s. In Strodes Elementary/Middle Schools, there was a low student to teacher ratio and familier surroundings for him that minimized his stress and allowed him to learn with little incidents. Next year, he will be on a bus for 45 minutes and herded into a classroom with 20 other students. He’s now going to have to be in special classes because the county wants to “save money”! His “handler” and special classes have to be provided by the public school system- how is that going to “save money”!
Also, the parents and students of Mifflin County are all victims of a grand conspiracy, perpetrated by lies after lies in a plan to get us to approve a new school that wasn’t needed, just to serve the wants of the members of the school board, not the needs of our children!

As you can see from previous comments, this scheme has been in the works for a long time! Now that the plan is obvious, what are we going to do about it? We had to buy portable basketball hoops and soccer balls just so the kids could play at recess! Enough’s enough! I moved here from Baltimore 6 years ago so that my children wouldn’t have to go to filthy, over-crowded schools with over-worked teachers who were just too tired to care! We parents are the only ones with the power to fix this now! I’m a member of the Lewistown Intermediate Home and School Association.

If they hadnt built the new school in the first place money wouldnt be such a problem. We didnt need it they just wanted to spend money. A lot of people were happier the way it was in the first place.

Why do they cut things that should go to the kids, but they give themselves raises every year. I was told they got an 18,000.00 dollar raise this year alone. This SCHOOL DISTRICT IS RIDICULOUS!!!!

we are now using schools we were told were unrepairable and needed to be replaced, so we spend 64m on a new school and keep the old ones in need of repair. We freeze the salaries of the lowest paid in the school district, get rid of a super and hire a guy for the same job plus an extra $18,500 based on “state averages” when surrounding counties average $103,152. What about the kids? they are not suffering, its all the adults complaining. Baloney!!! If my kid rode the bus he would get on at 640am and get home at 450pm. that is just crazy.

Please sign this petition to eliminate educational budget cuts: http://www.change.org/petitions/the-governor-of-pa-stop-cutting-public-school-funding#share

The pension plan for these so called educator’s are killing the TAX payers




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