I sent all state senators and Republican state representatives (I'll explain why only the GOP in a moment.) the letter shown in my blog (on March 30, 2011) on Sunday night, April 3rd. I was surprised, pleased, and relieved to hear from some of them THAT night! By Monday at noon I'd heard from 7 representatives. Of course, a couple of them wanted to help me find MY home rep. Two additional reps have emailed me back along with ONE senator and one US senator, not sure how HE got my letter. GOP representatives received emails because the Democratic Representatives did not have a single email address to send a message. A whole form had to be filled out to contact them. Maybe to discourage doing exactly what I did. BUT I really felt the whole bunch of legislators needed to know that their vote affects all Pennsylvanians. I asked those who wrote lengthy or informational missives if I could quote them. I promised- no permission, no publication. So I will not be able to name any legislators here except that none of them are Scott Hutchinson- my legislator from whom I have not heard.
The Good News: Most of these quotes are part of a longer email.
"We are very early in the budget process with hearings and testimony of the various departments being conducted as of this communication. I expect many changes and amendments prior to final passage."
I thought we were close to the budget being approved. So this brief email actually helped ease some tension.
"The changes that are proposed to the Basic Education Funding formula are a major topic of discussion right now and it is likely to change through the legislative process before a budget is enacted."
Again this is a B12 shot in the arm. Outside of the Harrisburg hub it's hard to know what is a "major topic" for those on public duty there.
"I also believe, however, that the Governor's recent budget proposal falls well short of its stated goal of "shared sacrifice" due to the economic recession and the state's weakened fiscal condition."
This also shows it's still early and there's time to rectify inequities.
Most responses show sincere dedication to all the people of Pennsylvania. Some were just the same political rhetoric used on the campaign trail. That's depressing. Thankfully that was only one or two responses- (Senators).
The Not-As-Good News
"We must keep in mind that dollars do not always equal quality when it comes to education." I do agree with that statement. I think what happens is those schools without budget issues get "new" technology, new programs, and just new stuff and the other districts think THEY need those things, too. Read Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson to understand how little IS necessary to learn if the desire TO learn is present.
"Based on your comments I don't believe you are a constituent of my legislative district."
I think this is amusing because that means this is a representative of an affluent district- exactly who I hoped to reach! Some research showed that one school district in this representative's area had 0% student poverty concentration! "...but this representative was my favorite respondent. Very courteous replies and complete honesty made that representative earn my respect.
The Bad News
"Governor Tom Corbett laid out his budget proposal on March 8, 2011, and he called for several reforms that will move our educational system from system-centered to student-centered."
That has me intrigued. Having taught elementary school for 11 years ('90-2001)I never had a DAY that was NOT student-centered. I wonder if that means a movement away from teaching just to score well on one test (PSSAs)? I don't mean to be disrespectful but who is working on these reforms??? What research are they basing it on??? Yikes!
"Your message doesn't indicate where you are from, so I'm having trouble understanding your points, because the districts I represent clearly are not among some of the high poverty areas of the state." Ooooo, this sentence just rankles me. Here is a passage from my letter:
It is my understanding that a certain formula was used to determine the
amount of money each school district would receive in 2011-2012 based on the
2010-2011 Basic Education Funding allocation of state dollars. During this
time, 2010-2011, federal stimulus monies were divvied among the PA districts
with the most poverty and highest property taxes, which includes us. The
state, in turn, then reduced their allocation of funding to these districts.
Therefore the federal stimulus money was not additional money. It was simply
replacing previously budgeted state money for these districts. Now that the
federal stimulus money is no longer available the stimulus amount should not
be considered as part of the state's 2010-2011 state education funding
total. It is a significant difference and should be considered when
determining state education budget cuts.
I tried to be as clear and specific as I could. And obviously OTHER representatives were able to understand my points! I think some remedial legislator training is necessary. So it didn't help when the closing to this brief email was, "Sent from my iPad" Then the legislator's name. Now, maybe iPad automatically does that before someone types their name. So I can't rush to judgment.
Overall, the time spent doing all this was worth it. Even though it was only a few responses I have a better sense of what is happening with the state budget. I added a paragraph about the Marcellus Shale issues but will do a separate blog about that.
Sent from my Dell Laptop
No, that closing definitely stinks. I'll stick with...