Blogs > Daily Local Dan

A blog that takes a look at West Chester area government, politics, and community events.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

How much should public school teachers earn?

My Feb. 24 article on the West Chester Area School Board's recent reaction to the PSERS crisis led a number of online commentors to debate how much public school teachers ought to be paid. This is not surprising - the teacher pay debate arises nearly every time we write an article that touches on school district budgets.

Since the article appeared, I've also gotten a number emails about teachers pay - one person, who was unhappy with how high teachers' pensions are, told me: "I hope that you live and own in one of the districts that your property and earned income taxes make you realize that owners are now renters."

I, too, wish I earned enough to be able to buy a house.

Anyway, there is a vocal collection of commentors who think public school teachers should be earning far less than they are now earning. And the tenor of their comments hints that that they don't think teaching public school is a very respectable profession.

So, how much should public school teachers earn? And, is teaching public school a respectable profession? These are not rhetorical questions. I invite you to answer them by leaving comments under this blog post.

Below is a sampling of the teacher pay related comments that my Feb. 24 article generated.

wcnative wrote on Feb 24, 2010 11:09 AM: "Pay for public employees whose jobs are rarely at risk for layoffs used to be somewhat lower than equivalent private-sector jobs, because of that job security. That is no longer true for many, many public employees, especially teachers, who enjoy great pay, great benefits, and generous paid time off. Teachers should think how this looks to continue to demand pay and benefits that are out of line with those of the taxpayers."

realnews wrote on Feb 24, 2010 2:31 PM: "wcnative: What teacher gets generous paid time off? As I know it teachers are contracted to work a set number of days. You might be confused of their time off when they are not under contract and are not being paid. The only reason many teachers receive pay checks in the summer is because they have allowed the districts to withhold money during the year instead of receiving their fully earned compensation."

MisterWoo wrote on Feb 24, 2010 3:30 PM: "Withhold salary or not, the fact remains that the typical middle/high school teacher in PA is grossly overpaid. If the system were fair, they'd all be required to start paying money back to the state upon retirement."

nomorecville wrote on Feb 25, 2010 12:28 PM: "right out of college and you can make $40K per year, who is complaining that that is not enough money for a 22 year old."

[Side note: If public schools were funded solely by a personal income tax, much of this bitterness might go away. Even better - for the purposes of my argument - if local school districts lost the power to tax. If the state collected school taxes at an even rate from all Pennsylvania residents, and then gave local districts a flat amount of money for each pupil they taught, the debate over school taxes would change completely. No one would complain about being "taxed out" of expensive districts, public schools in Philadelphia and Lower Merion would have the same amount of money to spend per pupil, and all Pennsylvanians would be in this together. That would be my comment, if I left comments.]

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Pour tax

First, I apologize for neglecting this blog for the last few weeks. Also, I apologize for going a week without approving comments. I've been busy playing around with the new flip cams JRC gave us. And, I've been even busier trying to figure out how to edit the videos we shoot with the cams.

Anyway, the hot issue in West Chester this past week has been the so-called "pour tax." Borough council has asked State Sen. Andy Dinniman to craft legislation that would allow the borough to assess a 5 percent tax on all alcoholic drinks sold in the borough. The tax would raise revenue to help fight alcohol-related crimes and nuisances.

As expected, residents like this idea, and restaurants don't.

The question is, will the pour tax chase away drinkers and restaurant owners? (Borough council has recommended a tax of 5 percent, or a quarter on a $5 beer.)

Some argue that West Chester is a "destination town." People come to West Chester to dine and drink because it has a unique atmosphere - going out in West Chester is different from going out in, say, West Whiteland Township.

Others argue that diners, drinkers and restaurant owners care about price, not location. If the the beer is cheaper on Route 100, that's where the customers will go. West Chester is not enough of a "destination town" to trump price.

Now, only restaurant owners, and a certain prominent landlord, have said that WC is not enough a destination town to overcome a slight increase in drink prices. And I'm not sure they're being sincere. I have no convictions regarding the "pour tax," but I know I'd rather drink a beer in West Chester than in West Whiteland.

Here's the video I did on the pour tax. As you can see, the going is still a little rough. The day I edited this video, I couldn't figure out how to put transitions between the cuts.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Oh, no! My streets are covered in ice!

For the last week, all I've heard is West Chester borough residents kvetching about the icy, snowy matter that still covers some of their streets.

I sympathize, to an extent.

But what bothers me is this - it seems that some readers believe it is my job to assure the entire West Chester Public Works department gets fired.

These readers believe the following: West Chester's roads should be completely clear; there should be no snow in site; residual snow is evidence of the public works department's absolute incompetence.

Meanwhile borough officials tell me that, in West Chester, there is nowhere to plow snow to. Unless you haul it out of the borough, it remains on the side of - or in the middle of - the road, they tell me.

Philadelphia has these nifty "melt trucks." The trucks lift snow into a boiler, which is on the back of the truck. The boiler melts the snow. Problem solved, or greatly reduced.

Except that boiler trucks are really expensive. Philadelphia only uses them on Center City's most vital roads, I believe.

Do West Chester residents want to pay for a bunch of melt trucks?

[OK, OK, I know, y'all feel like you're paying so much in taxes that the borough should already have used your money to buy, like, ten of them. Whatever. It's not my job to make sure your public works officials get fired.]

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Friday, February 5, 2010

Short Form Video

Our parent company's new initiative is to provide you, the readers, with loads of short videos about what is going on in your communities.

To make this happen, they've given all the reporters tiny digital video cameras.

I think this is a great idea. We sorely need a way to get new - and younger - readers. Multimedia journalism is the future, and unlike the typewriter-pecking, whiskey-slugging fogies of newsroom days of yore, I embrace this future.

There are more ways to tell a story than "WEST CHESTER -- Borough council voted yesterday to..."

The video work is rough right now - we're still learning how to use these tiny little cameras. Here's today's attempt by yours truly (in it, West Chester Borough administrators talk about the coming snow):

Note - these cameras don't come with tripods. I'm working on a way to cut down on the shaking.

If you're curious, here's yesterday's ultra classy effort (again by yours truly ... things can only get better from here. I'm composing the voiceover on the spot, as I'm holding the camera. The voiceover microphones have not yet come in):


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Oh, Chester County ACTION!

Yesterday, I visited the Chester County ACTION website. I hadn't been to it in a while, and I noticed some pretty significant changes. Gone is all of the we're fighting to bring God back into government rhetoric. But there's a new quotes section.

Here's who's quoted:

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Locke, William Penn, John Jay, Edmund Burke, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Dr. D. James Kennedy, and Ronald Regan.


I suppose Rush Limbaugh is kind of like a modern day founding father?

I wonder how many members of Chester County Action have read Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France. It's a much more difficult read, of course, than Beck's Arguing with Idiots.

But here's what really gets me: guess which Sean Hannity quote Chester County ACTION included on its quotes page?

"It doesn't say anywhere in the Constitution this idea of the separation of church and state.”

Whew! That's a relief. And all this time, liberals and those insidious RINOs have been telling us that we need to have separation of church and state!

Hannity is correct, if you want to consider the Constitution and the Bill of Rights two separate documents. But, you know, they're not, and Hannity is an idiot.

Let's remember what ACTION stands for: "Americans for Christian Traditions in Our Nation."

Why this rant? Why now?

A) I, for countless reasons, value the First Amendment. Without it, I'd likely be in a different line of work.

B) Gwenne Alexander, the president of Chester County ACTION, plans to run for the 156th District State House seat.

You can read a draft of her letter of interest (which is now circulating on the internet - this draft might not be the final one) here.

Note this sentence: "I have served as the CFO for a large non-profit Foundation in Chester County."

Oh? Which one is that?

All mention of Alexander has disappeared from ACTION's homepage. (OK, not entirely true. All of the pictures in the photo gallery were posted by "Gwenne." Click on the "Gwenne" link and you get a stub of Gwenne Alexander's Facebook Page.) ....

CORRECTION - On the contact page, she is listed as the president of Chester County Action. When writing this post yesterday, I didn't see the tiny red text in which her name is listed.