Oh Look. Our “Cash-Strapped” School District Has a $25 Million Surplus.

I took my fourth grader to her annual well check visit this morning and out of the blue, she complained to the pediatrician about having a two-hour block of reading class each day. My kid is an avid reader and her personality is well-suited to school, so I was taken by surprise. I asked her why she never mentioned this to me before, and she said, “Mom, you think two hours of reading is not that big of a deal.” (Which is true. But I also get to choose my own reading material, for the most part.) But she said it’s hard to keep her attention for that long.

The reason she has a two-hour reading class each day is because like a lot of school districts around the country, our is obsessed with the testing associated with Common Core. And let me say this right now: I’m not a teacher, and I’m not averse to change. Something needs to happen to better prepare kids for college (if they choose to go) and the world in general. If my kids learn math and reading differently the way I did, I have no problem with that. 

We’ve had property tax increases nearly ever year we’ve lived in our school district. I have no problem paying taxes to help strengthen schools. But I learned on Sunday that taxes were being raised and programs like art, music, physical education and library science (which, surprise, aren’t evaluated in terms of Common Core) were being cut and budgets had dire deficits but the district was in fact sitting on a $25 million surplus.

But Online Offal, that money is earmarked for capital improvements and pension costs. You live right by a middle school that’s 40 years old.

I sure do. But that money hasn’t been touched in 10 years, and believe me, there have been capital improvements over the past 10 years. The district has built a new intermediate school, a new athletic complex and made significant changes to the high school. I’ve considered exchanging holiday cards with construction workers.

Budget forecasting is hard.

It’s an inexact science, I know. But to consistently cry deficit while simultaneously collecting a surplus year after year smacks of incompetence at the very least. Get someone who doesn’t think budgeting is hard. There are people like that in the world, and most likely in our own community.

We need a rainy day fund. 

I’m not making any claims to the contrary; my basement partially flooded last week and I needed to access funds I hadn’t budgeted for to pay the plumber and restoration folks. The state hardly released any funds to schools this year because of a protracted stalemate. But if this were other people’s money, I’d be damn certain to specifically outline how much goes into a rainy day fund and why. Pennsylvania school districts have great leeway in determining what money goes into specific accounts. I don’t think a little more itemizing and transparency hurt anyone. 

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Oh Look. Our “Cash-Strapped” School District Has a $25 Million Surplus.

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