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How Sequestration Could Impact Marple Newtown Schools

School districts across Pennsylvania, including Marple Newtown, await state aid figures this week with uncertainty.

NEWTOWN SQUARE–The White House released on Sunday night data of what the budget cuts to funding will mean for each state, including school districts across the nation. In the Marple Newtown School District, Superintendent Merle Horowitz says it means losing critical dollars for Title I programs.

Unless Congress acts by March 1st, a sequence of automatic cuts—called the sequester—will take effect that will threaten federal funding to many public schools. Nearly $3 billion in cuts to education is expected in the sequestration.

Horowitz shared her preliminary thoughts on the impacts to the district, should Congress pass it. 

"If that is the case, it would reduce our Title 1 allocation, which impacts reading intervention for elementary youngsters," responded Horowitz in an email.

In addition, Horowitz said if federal dollars for students with disabilities are also cut, which has been noted in the sequestration, "it would reduce our supplemental supports for special needs students."

Pennsylvania will lose approximately $26.4 million in funding for primary and secondary education, putting around 360 teacher and aide jobs at risk, according to figures released by the White House. In addition, about 29,000 fewer students would be served and approximately 90 fewer schools would receive funding.

In regards to educating children with disabilities, Pennsylvania will lose approximately $21.4 million in funds for about 260 teachers, aides, and staff who help children with disabilities, according to the White House. 

According to the National Education Association, the state will see $21,808 funding cuts in special education grants, which affects 13,410 students and a potential 241 job losses.

In the 2013-14 preliminary budget, Marple Newtown School District had anticipated $545,000 in state funding for assistance in education for children with disabilities. 

Without action from Congress, the sequester would go into effect automatically on March 1, reducing spending by the state in a number of other areas, including education, the environment, health, military and law enforcement, the White House said.

Although the the deficit has already been reduced by $2.5 trillion, the Obama Administration plans to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion in total. President Barack Obama's plan asks for increased tax revenues to offset some of the trillion-dollar cuts. For details on the President’s plan, click here.

Frank Videon February 26, 2013 at 07:35 PM
Sequester doesn't amount to the Federal gov't employees NOT getting a pay raise!!! Something the private sector has had to deal with for years. Maybe If teachers weren't retiring with 35 years of service with close to 700,000 or more in their pension I might be less critical
Boot Road Resident February 27, 2013 at 02:27 PM
I agree 100% with Frank. I don't see any of these teachers giving up their pensions so student programs don't need to be cut. Ms. Horowitz should focus on pension reforms and then maybe you would not need so many federal dollars. How much are our school district taxes going up - 3.75% with only about 1% covering actual school programs. Sounds like a sustainable model to me.
John Dragonetti February 27, 2013 at 02:52 PM
To Mr. Videon's comments: We are not talking about "pay raises" but actual loss of jobs (not very good for the economy-- or for education). And the cuts will affect the most vulnerable populations. As for the "pension" comment: Teacher pensions have nothing to do with the Federal deficit. If you want to get upset about pensions, maybe look at our Congressman -- fully vested after 5 years of service; salary $174K.. I would guess that a Special Ed teacher of 35 years has put in a great deal more work for far less money than the average MOC -- and I think she deserves her retirement, at least as much. And, it should be noted, that teacher would have been contributing 5% or more of her salary to that pension for 35 years. Teacher pensions and pay are in no way out of line with the private sector -- or even with the rest of the public sector (military, for example, can retire after 20 years). Oddly, folks say we need to pay Corporate CEO's, money managers, etc extravagant salaries so we can attract the "best" people; but, somehow, the logic fails when we talk about teachers and other public employees.
Boot Road Resident February 27, 2013 at 04:11 PM
John - Name me one employer who bankrolls their former employees for their entire retirement - salary and benefits. No one is questioning that teachers should have a retirement plan but why do the local townships have to manage them. Give the teachers money in their 403B and let them manage it. The liability is killing us and it is only going to get worse.
MerionManor February 27, 2013 at 06:29 PM
Jon I'll add a few if you can think of more for Boot Road Resident please do. . . Litton Industried purchased by Northrop Grumman, Westinghouse Nuclear, I'm p-ersonally acquainted with guaranteed pension plans from Bell Laboratories, and also know that even after having the option to cancel, some did not. So yes, Boot Road Resident, there are corporations that did/will manage and offer or once did offer and still honor guaranteed benefit plans.
John Dragonetti February 27, 2013 at 06:57 PM
Local townships do not "manage" the pensions. The pension is managed by the PA Public School Employees Retirement System. Retired teachers don't retain "benefits," although most Corporate Execs do. 338 of the Fortune 500 companies have defined-benefit pension plans. That used to be the norm: Railroad workers, Auto workers, most major industries, and virtually all Gov't employees and the military had these plans. Now, most employers, including gov'ts are moving away from these plans for new employees; but retirees from major companies (Verizon, GE, Chase, Colleges and Universities {private and public}, etc) are enjoying this type of plan. But that is not the point here. Teachers have made major concessions on the retirement front; but they rightly expect previous promises and obligations to be kept. More important: this has nothing to do with the Fed. deficit or the sequester argument. Teachers have not caused this problem.
MerionManor February 27, 2013 at 07:15 PM
John, I agree with you completely, esp. with the statement of giving them what they were promised. I personally think teachers are just as important as the most important employee at a fortune 500 company. That aside while, I realize you cannot compare the benefit plans offered by large conglomerates like I had done previously. I simply wanted to answer Boot Road Residents question, despite the fact it is not germane to the topic at hand.
John Dragonetti February 27, 2013 at 08:39 PM
Thanks MerionManor. I didn't see your response until after I posted mine.
Boot Road Resident February 27, 2013 at 11:22 PM
Both of you can say what you want - I don't care about the handful of corporations you reference. The fact is that 2.75% of our 3.75% tax increase this year is filed under the pension waiver. Post all the arguments you want but my taxes keep going up and people complain on these boards about programs being cut so where is all the money going.... Also, I well aware this has nothing to do with the federal deficit but our brilliant superintendent brought it up. Where does the PA Public School Employees Retirement System get its money to manage - oh wait from the taxpayers. John, you are part of the problem until people realize the true issue our school system will keep dipping its hand in our pocket to make up for its continuing deficits - how many Fortune 500 companies operate like that - none because they would be out of business. Maybe it is time to go to a voucher system or have one district managed per county.
Boot Road Resident February 27, 2013 at 11:38 PM
One last thing - this issue obviously gets me going. Let's look at the numbers if a person retires at 60, live to 85, and receives a yearly pension of $40,000 a year from Marple Newtown - that equates to $1,000,000 in liability just for that one individual not counting health care benefits. Giving the teacher contributions over his/her career to manage in a 403B would probably come in at $200,000 on the high side and once they retire they are no longer a liability to the township. That is an 80% savings.
John Dragonetti February 28, 2013 at 03:57 AM
The retirement system gets its money the way all such retirement systems get it: from employees (payroll deductions) and from employers. In the case of all gov't employees, the employer is the taxpayer. The pension benefit is part of the employment offer and the employer has a responsibility to honor the contract. You want to simply dismiss it. Yes, taxes are the method the public uses to raise income to pay its employees. Teachers are employed under a contract and, all things considered, their total compensation is less than workers in other industries with comparable skill levels, education and responsibilities. You asked for the name of one company and then are dismissive when a "handful" of the 338 are mentioned. The Super brought up the effect of Sequestration on important programs. You are suggesting that teachers cut their wages, benefits and pensions in order to provide vital services to the public -- without compensation. What company operates like that? . Consolidating districts by county would mean MN residents would have to bail out some very poorly funded (yet highly taxed -proportionally) districts. I don't think you would like that.
John Dragonetti February 28, 2013 at 04:09 AM
Retired teachers don't keep the HC benefit unless it is part of a deal to encourage early retirement (which saves the District money). As for the rest: one thing that traditionally draws folks to public sector jobs, like teaching, has always been some measure of job security and pensions. End that and you will certainly have to start paying significantly higher wages-- which will have to come from taxes..Are you this upset about all public employees? Do you want to end the State Police pension and cut their medical benefits? How about the military? Should we still let them retire after 20 years? Why do teachers alone deserve your ire? I don't believe that the District continues to pay for retired teachers. If the contributions and funding obligations are met as they go along,; the actuaries make proper predictions and adjustments; and the pension fund is well managed, the funds will be there. If the State and local Gov'ts under fund the system or make unreasonable assumptions then there is a problem. If you want to negotiate a change in the system going forward, fine. But don't violate the trust of current retirees and workers.And again, the teachers are not the source of the current problems : Federal, State or Local.
Boot Road Resident February 28, 2013 at 02:05 PM
About 70 percent of school districts can't raise their taxes enough to cover just their rising pension costs, said Jay Himes, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials.
John Dragonetti February 28, 2013 at 05:51 PM
That is because there is a state law limiting the percent raise to inflation. Districts can put higher raises up to a vote; or they can seek exceptions. Pension contributions are one of those allowed exceptions. Himes' comment didn't mean that it was impossible (or even an extraordinary burden) to raise sufficient revenue from taxes. It just meant that the raises are limited by law, unless they are put up for a vote or an exception is requested. If you read the entire article you may have noticed this: "School employee pensions are a serious fiscal problem, but the employees didn't cause it, said Wythe Keever, a spokesman with the Pennsylvania State Education Association, a union representing teachers and other school employees. “The problem was created by a 12-year period of politicians treating the pension system like a credit card where they didn't have to make minimum payments,” Keever said. “It was underfunded for more than a decade while all the while teachers and other school employees, paycheck after paycheck, they were making their contribution." “The payments are due,” he said. “It's a debt that has to be paid.” The State, by the way, reimburses Districts for a significant amount (50%+) of the employer pension contributions.
Joe Rufo March 03, 2013 at 03:23 PM
Our superintendent correctly brought up the fact that the effects of sequestering will have a negative impact on funding programs for children with disabilities. To then go into an attack on our teachers, and sarcastic shots at the superintendent, shows ignorance.

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