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|Allegheny County, PA||November 3, 2009 Election|
Testimony I recently Gave to the State Senate
By Edward J. Maritz, Jr.Candidate for School Director; Sto-Rox School District; Region 1
This information is provided by the candidate
This is a narrative of Testimony I presented to the State Senate to advocate for Increased State Funding for Sto-Rox. I regularly provide testimony to advocate for our children.March 23, 2009
Honorable Members of the Senate Education Committee
The Sto-Rox School District is a small, poor school district wrestling with various societal challenges that are germane to inner-city urban areas. Our District struggles began with the collapse of the steel mill industry in Pittsburgh in the early 1980's. Like many former rust-belt communities with declining industrial tax bases, many of our families and students are deeply impacted by poverty.
We have great concern for our students and worry about their nutrition, basic health care, non-functional families, teenage pregnancy and dropout rates, dependency on drugs and alcohol, as well as suicide and depression. Our student population is about 1500 students and we realize high incidence rates of special education students, nearly double the statewide average and representing nearly 25% of our entire student population. Sto-Rox is a victim of an outrageously flawed special education funding system. Toward this end, nearly 20% of our entire district budget is devoted toward special education programming. Given the socio-economic status of our communities, we place a heavy emphasis on our ability to programmatically meet the needs of all learners.
At Sto-Rox, we encounter a substantial number of parents (or single parent families) who have low levels of education or little time to spend with their children due to employment considerations. This increases the need for our school district to offer a high quality education, as this is crucial to our student's intellectual development. Within the Sto-Rox School District, many of our students come from broken family structures where the parent's educational level is low and the family income is lower yet. This leads to an oft-cited criticism that (additional) school funding does not lead to improved achievement. However, 25% of Sto-Rox students are identified for special education services, over twice the state average. This creates unique complexities in that these realities produce a student population that is expensive and difficult to educate.
Sto-Rox received $516,317 in PA Pact-Part B: ABG Funding, $180,657 in PA Pact-Part C: EAP Funding and $238,147 in PA Pact-Part D: ACT Funding. These dollars came to our District thanks to the new state funding through the newly enacted formula. This money was targeted for purposes affecting student achievement as outlined in Act 61 of 2008 and a plan was filed through PDE called PA-ACT plan, Accountability to Commonwealth Taxpayers. Given the challenges presented by our student population, we use these funds to support a District Wide Home and School Visitor (HSV) who works collaboratively with Principals, Counselors, Support Staff, Teachers and parents to intervene with social and educational problems. Our HSV is often called upon in situations where peer mediation is necessary. By addressing these areas of concern, which are barriers to academic success, the HSV is able to assist the District in improving test scores, student grades, and helping at-risk students who are most likely to score below basic on the PSSA Assessment.
Our District has also utilized these additional monies to administer Intensive Tutoring and Ongoing Support through Reading and Math Coaches. As identified in our PA Academic Achievement Report for grades 3-5, we experience significant achievement challenges with our students who are Economically Disadvantaged, those with IEP's and our black student population. In grades 6-8 reading, achievement challenges are significant for student subgroups. These dollars allow our district to offer our kids the opportunity for additional instruction, remediation and acceleration to enhance their academic performance. These funds allow us to acquire research-based materials so that our teachers may be the architects of standards based learning. These additional dollars allow us to utilize tutoring in small group instruction settings so that the needs of students may be met based on assessment data that is correlated to the assessment anchors and state standards.
When it comes to utilizing and depending upon State Subsidy dollars, it is noteworthy to stress that we at Sto-Rox are not unwilling to tax our citizens. The reality is we are unable to tax any further for fear that people must choose between their homes and their taxes. The Sto-Rox School District currently ranks AS THE FOURTH HIGHEST TAXES SCHOOL DISTRICT STATEWIDE OUT OF 501 SCHOOL DISTRICTS for overall Tax effort when considering 2006-2007 PDE statewide-equalized millage rates. Without these additional dollars, many of these current programs we offer such as tutoring will need to be eliminated due to our districts inability to generate additional local revenue through property tax levies.
On behalf of the constituents who elected me, the Sto-Rox School District community strongly supports sustaining the Subsidy for Basic Education formula put into place in July, 2008. This includes Governor Rendell's proposal for using State Stabilization Fund dollars to fund the subsidy for the next two years. Without sustaining the formula put into place, the Commonwealth will "shift" the funding burden to local property tax payers, many who are already unable to assume [what is largely the State's responsibility] to assure that ALL CHILDREN receive adequate, equitable and predictable resources to enhance and foster their learning opportunities.
In closing, I believe our School District has acted in Good Faith and has demonstrated the strict accountability provisions connected to these new dollars. Likewise, on behalf of the citizens of the Sto-Rox School District which already shoulder the fourth-highest tax burden Statewide, I urge all members of the General Assembly to unite in a bi-partisan fashion and also act in Good Faith to ensure all Pennsylvania children continue to make the great strides in achievement that are being realized in large part due to the school finance reforms that have been enacted over the last school year. Please continue the progress in the face of tough economic times so that today's students, who embody the promise of tomorrow, can have every opportunity before them in the future, long after the current national recession ends. Let us not extend into tomorrow the current challenges and consequences of today's tough economic times.
Dr. Edward J. Maritz Elected Sto-Rox School Director, 1993-Present
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