10 posts from Education


Corporate welfare still lives in the East Penn School District

The East Penn School Board, after a surprise motion to rescind, voted again to give corporate welfare to Hamilton Crossings developer thru the TIF (Tax Increment Financing) plan. I say surprise because the EPSB member and crusader for the TIF, Ken Bacher, brought up a motion to rescind his previous YEA vote on the TIF. Unfortunately,  the public didn't find out about this motion until two days before it was to take place. Another interesting point, school board member, Lynn Donches, had made this same motion just weeks before and it didn't even get seconded for discussion. Bacher's motion seemed so scripted as to be a joke. The developer and bond agent were both present at the school board meeting and well-rehearsed to address the one issue that Bacher seemed ready to kill the TIF over. It seems over the next twenty years the school district would come up short ~ $350,000.00 because of changes to the TIF plan, seemingly driving Bacher to deny the developer the gift of $11,000,000.00 in EPSD student education funds. Of course Bacher rescinded his rescind motion as soon as the bond agent told him that the developer would make good on the ~$350,000.00. Seems like the developer and bond agent have a very expedient work arrangement? Couldn't be that this was all worked out ahead of time??? Fortunately the taxpayer and EPSD students have a friend on their side in Lynn Donches. She revived the motion and new board member Rev. Wally Vinovskis seconded it allowing ~1 hour of discussion and even with a questionable stacked deck the vote was close 5/4. Bacher was the swing vote. Unfortunately in East Penn School District, corporate welfare still lives.
For more info check out "".

John Donches

Editor's Note:  The author is the husband of East Penn School Board member Lynn Donches.


Hamilton Crossings mall TIF

By John Donches - There's rumors that the Lehigh County Commissioners will reconsider their previous 6/3 NO vote on the "Hamilton Crossings mall" TIF (Tax Increment Financing), actually a NO vote for $7,000,000 in "Corporate Welfare" to an out of state developer. This developer, Mr. Tim Harrison, led several closed to the public meetings with select members of the East Penn School District Board, Lehigh County and Lower Macungie Commissioners to determine how much "Corporate Welfare" he would receive. The school district and Lower Mac voted YES to the tax handout.
Mr. Harrison has stated many times that if he doesn't get this corporate welfare he will not be able to build. Essentially he is saying property taxes in Lehigh County are too high and he can't afford them. Can you?

Would we actually rather give corporate welfare tax handouts to out of state developers, so we can shop at yet another mall? Or fully fund our schools, county and local government services?
Let the elected officials know what you think about a revote on corporate welfare; call or E-mail.

Phone: 610-782-3050       E-Mail -   

School District
Phone: 610-966-8333       E-mail -

Lower Mac.
Phone: 610-966-4343       E-mail --

CC me too

John Donches


Response to "District: Northampton mascot not a front for KKK"

To:  Editorial Staff

Channel 69 News

This editorial has been written to address the recent news headline that Northampton School District's Konkrete Kids logo is in some way connected to the infamous, horrific, clandestine and disgusting, cloaked segregationalists- The KKK.  As a retired teacher in the Northampton Area School District, I find this deeply offensive both personally and professionally.  This is not only preposterous; it is ludicrous, uneducated, immoral and unprofessional.  Putting us in the same category as the "KKK" is an insult to all of us who were and are dedicated to Northampton Area School District and the Konkrete Kids.  I was, am now, and always will be proud of serving the Konkrete Kids, and I will do everything in my power to stand behind them and continue to support the logo.

As deeply rooted Christian, I feel this intimation borders on a sin of the highest order and the person or persons who started this need to do some very deep self-examination and soul searching.  In my entire career, I never once heard anything referenced to the "KKK" and, or African-Americans.  I pray to God that these people never get to a position of authority or Washington D.C.  Let all of us pray that this dies on the vine before it destroys an excellent school district.

Sterling M. Ritter
Retired German Teacher


Reminder to government officials: elephants are in the room

Kraft_randyby Randy Kraft,

Elephants are in the room at many public local government meetings in the Lehigh Valley.
Just a few years ago, only one or two were present. But now there sometimes are as many as a half dozen.
Like all elephants in rooms, they remain silent and mostly are ignored, as perhaps they should be.
But they can be useful, powerful or even dangerous.
Those elephants, of course, are journalists.
Reporters, photographers and videographers at public meetings are in awesome positions of responsibility. Often within hours, we report to thousands of readers and/or viewers about the most important things that happened at those meetings... or at least what we think were the most important things that happened.
One of the more common frustrations of local journalism is when the folks at the front of the room conduct their business as if they don't know people -- including elephants -- are in the audience. Or as if they don't care. They vote on things with no discussion or explanation and don't share copies of whatever they are voting on with the public.
At a school board meeting not long ago, a member of the board said this about the district superintendent's report: "If the superintendent were providing information for the public in a form that the public would understand, I think it would take more context and more time and effort to make sure the message was crisp and communicating exactly what is intended."
So what? As long as one member of the public is sitting in the audience at a public meeting, don't educators especially have some ethical obligation not only to educate students, but the public as well?
And shouldn't they do that even if no one is in the room except a couple of elephants?
Don't all elected officials in a democratic society have the same obligation to clearly communicate what they are doing in a public meeting?
Too often, clear communication is lost in jargon at school board and other municipal meetings.  What those in the audience hear is fragmented and, at times, perhaps intentionally obscure.
 And no one is permitted to just shout out: "What's going on here?"
The amount of information shared with the public at public meetings varies widely right here in the Lehigh Valley. Some local governing bodies are far more open than others.
 Among the most transparent are Allentown City Council and Lehigh County Commissioners. They provide the public with copies of nearly every document they will be discussing and/or voting on that night. And they invite comments from the public on non-agenda items at the beginning of each meeting-- which sometimes can continue for an hour, even though each speaker has a time limit. They again invite the public to speak just before every vote on an issue.
Among the municipalities I regularly cover, Lower Macungie Township runs a close second when it comes to running open meetings. It does the same thing city council and the county commissioners do, except it does not provide hard copies of all documents to those attending its commissioners meetings.
Some may be surprised to learn Allentown City Council is among the most open, because it recently created a firestorm when its president refused to let people speak about the controversial water and sewer lease. By tradition, council does not permit public comment on bills and resolutions that are being introduced but not discussed -- a tradition that may have to be replaced by a rule, or discontinued.
Anyone who feels stifled at an Allentown Council meeting should go to certain school board meetings, where the public gets only one opportunity to speak. And people who do speak feel like they are talking to an empty room, because they usually get no response from their elected school board members. There is no dialogue.
Even in meetings where officials do invite public comment on each issue before it is put to a vote, by tradition most journalists never ask questions during meetings. Like I said: silent elephants.
Our job is to observe, not to participate. We're there to cover the news, not make the news. We too easily could influence the course of a discussion simply by asking a key question....although we sometimes have to bite our tongues because we wish someone would ask that question.
Those local officials have a captive audience of news people who are there to get a story and will be coming up to them with questions at the end of every meeting, often for clarification about things they said. And things they didn't say.
As soon as meetings adjourn, journalists scramble to the front to ask decision-makers questions before they leave their seats. It reminds me of a deli counter where we should take a number to be the next to be waited on.
I have encountered reporters who don't want other reporters to hear questions they ask, but that seems to be rare. More often, the decision-makers find themselves answering the same questions several times. 
Elected officials and their hired managers may be mentally exhausted by the end of a long meeting (and probably a long day). The last thing they may want to do is answer the same questions over and over.
But these days "call us tomorrow" just doesn't work any more, not when young reporters start writing stories on their laptops before a meeting even ends and others among us frequently are writing until the wee hours of the morning to keep up with the competition.
What's worst is when boards and councils immediately rush into private executive sessions of indeterminate length at the conclusion of their public meetings. Journalists have to wait until they return if we want our questions answered. We also have to trust officials when they say no action will be taken in public at the conclusion of their executive sessions or hang around for a long time just to make sure for ourselves.
After 37 years in journalism, I never have understood why an opportunity for media to ask questions is not more formally built right into the system, immediately after public meetings adjourn.
Why not routinely announce "a media briefing will be held immediately after the conclusion of this meeting"? After all, it is in officials' best interest to make sure information is being communicated accurately.
Such a crazy idea may be dismissed as totally unnecessary, and perhaps that is true if there are no problems with meeting coverage. To the credit of the East Penn School District, the superintendent and school board president usually remain planted in their seats long enough to field questions from the media. Others do the same. Whitehall Mayor Ed Hozza has even invited reporters with questions into a conference room just off the public meeting room to meet with him immediately after the township commissioners adjourn.
I was surprised when I recently covered a couple meetings of the Warren County Freeholders. The last thing on their agenda was a time for public and media questions. I never saw that on anyone's agenda before.
Distasteful as the thought might be to some journalists, a post-meeting media briefing also gives decision-makers an immediate opportunity to attempt some preemptive damage control. They can try to influence what we will report.
But more important, it helps ensure that what we write is correct. Our questions fill in the gaps regarding what really happened at the meeting.
It's a sad fact that most people don't go to municipal or school board meetings unless they are concerned about a specific issue. But journalists are there -- some of us quietly wishing residents would demand that their elected officials more consistently conduct the public's business in public.


State Education Subsidy In Pennsylvania's Budget

Senator_Bob_Menschby Senator Bob Mensch, 24th Senatorial District

Within the next several days it is likely the Pennsylvania legislature will have finalized the operating budget for the fiscal year July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013. This will be the second year in a row, and only the second in the last decade, where the budget is on-time and only spends existing state revenues.

But to accomplish a balanced budget there has been some rearranging of the state's spending priorities - purposeful efforts to make our state spending and delivery of funds more efficient. One of the areas of continuing discussion in the budget is education funding, and specifically the state education subsidy for K-12. It is instructive for all of us to take a look at the facts, so let's look at the last decade of the state education subsidy for K-12 (all numbers are rounded).

  • 2002 --$4 billion
  • 2003 - $4.2 billion
  • 2004 - $4.36 billion
  • 2005 - $4.49 billion
  • 2006 - $4.78 billion
  • 2007 - $4.95 billion
  • 2008 - $5.2 billion
  • 2009 - $4.8 billion
  • 2010 - $4.75 billion
  • 2011 - $5.35 billion
  • And proposed for 2012 - $5.42 billion

A review of data shows the subsidy was actually reduced in the years 2009 and 2010, but the subsidy was fully restored and increased to its highest level ever in 2011, and the 2012 amount is fully expected to become the highest level of funding ever for the K-12 subsidy! Equally important, student enrollment has been decreasing across the state during this same ten year period, which means the funding per student has been increasing.

So then, why do some complain that the subsidy is being cut? The federally provided stimulus dollars have gone away, plain and simple. Actually, the stimulus funds were added to the subsidy in 2009 and 2010 to create an illusion that the subsidy had been increased to $5.5 billion in 2009 and to $5.77 billion in 2010. But everyone in our nation realized the stimulus was a two-year cash infusion. Yet there are those who argue that we have cut funding, simply because the federal stimulus dollars have disappeared.

You take a look at the data and you decide.

Remember, last year, with no new taxes, and with an inherited deficit of $4.5 billion, we were able to balance the budget and still deliver the highest K-12 subsidy in the state's history. So next time sometime tries to tell you the legislature cut school funding; just show them the data above, and ask them "what cut?"

It's important for all of us to be involved in this debate, but it is just as important that real, factual and credible data be the basis for that debate.


Funds for Industry Partnerships Would Help Sustain the Pennsylvania Dream

Michelle_griffin_youngby Michelle Griffin Young, Executive Vice President, Government & External Relations, The Chamber 

The PA Department of Labor & Industry and leading regional workforce boards have been encouraging employers in key industries to come together in each region of the state into training consortia now called Industry Partnerships. These partnerships allow engaged employers to identify skill gaps, provide them with clear information on industry skill needs, and work with educators to design training to help incumbent and new workers acquire the skills needed in each business and industry.

What began as a concept focused on critical shortages in healthcare has become a national model program in a dozen states. Pennsylvania's industry partnerships have now engaged over 6,000 businesses and trained over 100,000 workers. This is what happens when the private sector works in partnership with the Commonwealth and takes a leadership role in area workforce boards.

As well as helping workers acquire skills-in-demand, Pennsylvania's Industry Partnerships have fostered 21st century career paths with portable and stackable credentials in industries such as: logistics and transportation, healthcare, construction, manufacturing, information technology and bio-medicine.

The Chamber of Commerce works hand-in-hand with the Lehigh Valley Workforce Investment Board, Inc. (LVWIB) and we have seen firsthand how this public/private partnership increases the Lehigh Valley's competitiveness. Based on extensive knowledge of employers and job opportunities in an industry sector, Industry Partnerships identify training and other services that have major positive impacts for businesses and workers--incumbent, low-income, and long-term unemployed--while also making the overall education and training system more effective. Since 2005, LVWIB has received over $5 million in IP funds from the PA Dept. of Labor and Industry, providing resources to train over 10,000 workers and involving more than 300 employers.

Revenue reports from the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue indicate that the Commonwealth is receiving revenue which exceeds previous projections. This additional state income will enable the Governor and the General Assembly to increase spending on some very important programs that have either been reduced or eliminated in the 2012-2013 General Fund Budget. As we discuss prioritizing programs that are deserving of additional funding, The Chamber's members strongly support restoration of Industry Partnership funding, which is currently in the proposed 2012-2013 budget at a 90% reduction to its 2008-09 level.

For fiscal year 2011-2012, the Lehigh Valley Workforce Investment Board, Inc. received two Industry Partnership grants: $95,000 for Healthcare and $95,000 for Diversified Manufacturing for incumbent worker training targeted towards high priority occupations. LVWIB had requested funding for Energy, Logistics and Transportation, and Food and Beverage, but, unfortunately, did not receive separate funding for these industries. However, since LVWIB always looks for solutions for employers, L&T and Food/Beverage employers were folded into the Diversified Manufacturing Industry Partnership. LVWIB staff also worked with neighboring Workforce Investment Boards to identify potential resources for energy-related employers.

In his Budget Overview, Governor Corbett described a comprehensive workforce strategy that includes "Employer-Driven Training Initiatives" and highlights the importance of the Industry Partnership program as key to achieving "Performance-Based Training." To accomplish the goal of a workforce strategy that integrates a comprehensive job-matching system, employer-driven training and economic development focused on Pennsylvania's greatest resource - our workers - Industry Partnerships must be a cornerstone of that process.

Our legislators have a great opportunity to help workers develop the skills that local companies need to create solid and stable employment opportunities. An injection of funds for Industry Partnerships will help Pennsylvania maintain its leadership and, more importantly, help sustain the Pennsylvania Dream for decades.


Allentown School District: Volunteers Wanted

By Allentown School District Superintendent Gerald L. Zahorchak, D.Ed.

Allentown School District is embarking on an historic initiative this school year: the implementation of a districtwide volunteer effort, organized to make a difference in the lives of our students and the improvement of their academic performance.

Why volunteer? There's abundant research on the benefits of volunteering but the majority of volunteers will tell you that it is the genuine satisfaction of helping someone improve his or her lot in life that makes it all worthwhile.

The Allentown School District, with almost 9,000 students in elementary school, offers a unique opportunity to engage the community, communicate the principles of healthy living and give academic support and enrichment to elementary school students through the "Start Your Day Right" Before-School Program.

In the Allentown School District, 81.0 percent of all of our students are designated as low-income. Of all elementary students, 76.5 percent qualify for free or reduced school lunch. Roughly 11.8 percent of all students receive English Language Learners (ESOL) assistance. Students from over 40 countries speaking more than 25 languages are seeking, here, the American education that will make a difference in their lives. Their challenges also show up in student health. The BMI (Body Mass) Index reveals that 40 percent of ASD students are obese or overweight and almost 18 percent of them are asthmatic.

But the real challenge, for the district, is academic performance. We believe that providing our students with the right supports will go a long way to improving health, homework, academic outcomes, hope and happiness. Volunteers can help us do that.

300 Volunteers Needed by September 6, 2011

With a population of 110,000, the City of Allentown should be able to produce .3 percent of its residents as volunteers. With the help of United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley, the City of Allentown, AARP, Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania, CareerLink, Volunteer Center of the Lehigh Valley, Workforce Investment Board, area business leaders and others, we are seeking to recruit 300 volunteers for our elementary program by September 6, 2011.

Key elements of the Start Your Day Right program are:

  • offered before the school day, 7:30 to 8:40 a.m. Monday through Friday
  • structured to include three activities, 20 minutes each in length: breakfast, fitness, and academic support.
  • staffed by a core team of one site manager and two support staff at each elementary school to manage the activities
  • evaluated to track the degree of community engagement and the impact of this program on the health and academic success of the students.

Community volunteers are essential to the success of this program. Costs for background clearances will be reimbursed to qualifying volunteers. TB checks will be conducted by the City of Allentown, free of charge.

We hope that intergenerational tutoring and mentoring will be a big part of this effort. For more information, contact: Katie Gill, Tutoring Project Manager, , 484-765-4192, Joyce Marin, Before & After School Project Manager,, 484-765-4095. Information and application forms can also be found at

Sign up now, it's an investment in our children well worth the effort. Thank you.


Smarter Systems, Funding & Technology Starting To Happen

ZahorchakBy Allentown School District Superintendent Gerald L. Zahorchak, D.Ed.

In preparing the 2011-2012 budget, Allentown School District took a deliberate and transparent approach in preparing and informing both the board of directors and the general public during perhaps the most challenging budget process in its history.  In October 2010, the administrative team began to meet with local legislators and officials to inform and raise awareness of ASD's financial situation heading into 2011-2012.  In doing so, we presented ASD as a special case in need of additional funding in order to reach adequacy and raise student achievement.  In December of that same year, we presented a comprehensive educational plan, utilizing available resources, knowing a new governor was taking office and that there would be a significant loss of $10 million in federal stimulus funding. We also predicted the new governor, having to overcome a $5 billion deficit, would reduce educational funding significantly.

In response to new projections, a number of new activities that focused on high leverage changes have been implemented this year to offset revenue losses.  The activities include development of:

  • A 5-year budgeting process that  reveals long-term implications based on funding scenarios;
  • New human resources systems that accurately capture for the first time every employee by name, building, job, salary and benefits;
  • Smarter ways of using state reimbursement funds, such as an analysis process to identify maximum percentage of reimbursement for transportation from the Pennsylvania Department of Education. We project to realize $300,000 in savings this year and approximately $2 million of funds to be used for district instruction, instead of transportation, for next year through the William Allen High School bell schedule adjustment, plus $985,000 in carryover savings, and $795,000 and $250,000 in Intermediate Unit transportation savings;
  • In 2009-10, Allentown School District billed qualified expenditures to the Access program ( for special education medical insurance reimbursement services of $16,000. This school year, ASD will bill $200,000 and next year will bill $500,000. As we provide these services, we must take the responsibility to seek reimbursement as we are expected to do so under the new Access plan;
  • ASD wisely used the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Act) "15% rule" and re-purposed $350,000 in early intervening services to ASD children;
  • Allentown will be paying the Carbon-Lehigh Intermediate Unit $950,000 less, opening up funding for 14 teachers by moving back to ASD: work-based special education services  ($370,000), occupational therapy services ($250,000), and MDS services ($300,000);
  • Multiple competitive grants, totaling $8,099,696, were awarded:

            High School Graduation Initiative                     $2,546,687     Year 1 of 5

            School Improvement Grant                                  $2,600,000    Year 1 of 3

            GEAR-UP Class of 2014                                         $   687,262       Year 3 of 6

            Allentown Principal Leadership Initiative      $   481,016      Year 1 of 5

            Math Science Partnership                                      $   490,663      Year 2 of 2

            Safe Schools/Healthy Students                           $1,242,667      Year 3 of 4

            Refugee School Impact Grant                              $    51,401         Year 1 of 2

            Without these grants, there would be $8 million less in the current year's operating             budget which would translate into a large negative impact on the local economy.

  • Board president Jeff Glazier's suggestion to engage a community budget task force will realize significant savings of up to $2-3 million dollars for 2011-2012 and beyond.

All of the above administrative improvements are due to the acumen and experience of the Allentown School District administration.  This administrative team is working smart at seeking and implementing fundamental high leverage changes which are touchpoints for school finance.  Such precise measurement changes accompanied by systematic management of the touchpoints will lead to an impact-oriented performance improvement. 

As part of the mix, grants help us achieve new growth objectives -- establishing new ways to achieve our goals -- when general funds do not exist to do so. To put this in perspective, the School Improvement Grant earned by Allentown at the beginning of the school year, and the other grants approved so far this year -- Safe Schools Initiative, High School Graduation Initiative, Gear Up, just to name a few -- provide over $8 million dollars to assist Allentown in its steep climb out of Corrective Action. On a 2010-2011 budget of $233 million, this improves of our financial situation. 
We have attempted to keep the school board and public informed on a timely basis on these improvements, the effect the governor's proposed budget will have and how all of this is impacting our preliminary budget.  

Moving forward, there is a detailed schedule for the remainder of the 2011-2012 budgeting process on under Budget Watch 2011-2012. There is also under review a list of administrative restructuring recommendations based on those made by the community and by our own internal work.  Preparing the 2011-2012 budget has been an extremely challenging process thus far and rightfully has received much more attention than preparing the prior year's budget.

Finally, during good financial times (i.e. 2004-2010), the ASD Board of School Directors served as excellent stewards of taxpayers' money. Our intentions under these distressing times are to live up to and exceed expectations. 


State Must Continue Funding Of Early Childhood Education

Senator-Pat-Browne A column by Senator Pat Browne
16th Senatorial District

The financial struggles and challenges facing the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the upcoming budget process are well known. Governor Tom Corbett made it abundantly clear in his first budget address that he will not support a budget that increases taxes. He also was clear that each department and agency will have to make do with less as the state works to erase a $4 billion deficit.    

This will require examining every area of state funding to determine where cuts are necessary and which programs merit continued funding. 

One area that deserves continued funding and is critical to the future growth and prosperity of the Commonwealth is early childhood education. This funding is vital in giving at-risk young people the opportunity to succeed in school and later in life. 

As co-chair of the Early Childhood Education Caucus, I applaud Governor Corbett for protecting and preserving state support for these programs in his 2010-2011 budget proposal. He understands that these initiatives are not only essential to the education of these children, but also to our communities and the future fiscal success of our great commonwealth.

There is no denying that investing in early childhood education comes with an initial cost. However, in the long-run, these programs improve the lives of those who need help the most. They also provide long-term value to taxpayers in the form of more productivity and less dependence on government assistance.

Case studies have shown that children who participate in early education programs were more likely to graduate from high school, lead more productive lives afterward and were less likely to be arrested or reliant on social services. Additionally, at-risk children who participate in the early childhood education programs are significantly less likely to repeat a grade in school, and that alone results in thousands of tax dollars saved each year. 

A few weeks ago, America's Edge -- a group dedicated to strengthening businesses, the economy and communities through proven investments in children -- disclosed the results of a new study and report that detailed the clear and deep economic connections between early childhood education and business growth and development in Pennsylvania. The report showed that investment in quality early care and education will actually generate $1.06 in sales of local goods and services from Pennsylvania businesses for every $1 invested. 

As the state looks to find resources and ways to promote job growth, reduce unemployment rates and remove individuals' reliance on government, starting kids out on the right foot early in life by providing them with the proper educational tools will go a long way to doing just that. 

The state, however, cannot do this alone. It is imperative that families, educators, business leaders, legislators and, of course, the students themselves take an active role in the education process.  

Without question, this will be the toughest budget process that the state has faced in a long time. I hope and look for the Governor and my fellow legislators to join me to continue Pennsylvania's involvement in early childhood education. It is a must for the future of our children, our state and our country. 


Economic Development Needed For A Vibrant School District

ZahorchakBy Allentown School District Superintendent Gerald L. Zahorchak, D.Ed.

As Allentown School District faces the worst loss of revenues it has ever known, it is important that we allcontinue to engage the people and propose the ideas we think will make a long-term difference in not only oursurvival but also our ability to thrive and reach the academic goals set for our children. We will not retreat fromour mission to provide highest quality education for the students who are here seeking the education they deserve.The increased investment in our students over the past few years produced remarkable results, so we cannot retreat.

I have been working in the City of Allentown for eight months. It is a city that is beginning to see a Renaissance.There are new corporate buildings in key anchor spots. There are new restaurants. The arts are flourishing. The Allentown School District has done its part, with phase one of the district's comprehensive facilities programcompleted and totaling over $155 million in capital investment. It includes two new school buildings and fourother expansions located throughout the city's neighborhoods. Phase two is beginning and we hope to have theold school building at 4th & Allen Streets in operation this fall, among many other exciting ideas we will sharewith you as the time is right.

The loss of federal stimulus funding, and the cuts in basic education funding from the Pennsylvania Departmentof Education, totaling more than $27 million, place even more emphases on the city finding new economicdevelopment strategies to offset the loss of these funds with increased revenue from new taxing sources.

This does not mean more home construction that sends more students to our schools is warranted. Think about it:an average homeowner in Allentown pays $1,183 in school taxes, but the cost of educating a student averages$8,528, many times the tax. Large developments, multi-family housing and high-density apartments actuallyhinder academic progress by flooding schools with students and increasing the size of classrooms, and addingunrecoverable costs. We do support the conversion of apartment dwellings to home ownership in the city, whichprovides a stabilizing influence on neighborhoods and the schools that serve them.

Right now, the district must find a minimum of $27 million to recover from reduced local tax revenue and stateand federal funding losses. Additionally, the district is about $130 million in underfunded, inadequate support.Anywhere between these figures would vastly improve the quality of student performance here with bettereducatedstudents while easing the burden for local taxpayers.

I have a vision for Allentown and it includes these many utopian ideas so necessary for this city to reallytransform itself into a world-class industrial power:

  • Attract regional, national or foreign industrial investment in energy and environment, the health caresciences and heavy industry to retrofit such empty spaces as the old Western Electric Building, GE plant,the Mack plants, old sewing mills and the Neuweiler Brewery to name a few.
  • Sell the Queen City Airport to a Fortune 1000 company, such as an innovative technical concern lookingfor a northeast location. By not selling it for non-residential development, we are pitting the interests of afew who use the airport against the financial well-being of 20,000 plus homeowners in the city whoshoulder the local school tax burden. With so little land available to develop within the city's limits, thereis surely a way to work out a solution.
  • Gentrify Hamilton Street -- all that beautiful architecture -- with small businesses and retail outlets notunlike Manayunk, Harlem or any other city core that we have seen populate itself with highlysophisticated shops, artisans, small businesses, restaurants.
  • Attract the likes of Bill Strickland, president of Manchester Bidwell, who can bring successfulindependent training programs for the poor and outcast.

Allen-Streets-School-Restor Allentown needs to increase the effort to market the city. There are plenty of incentives to be a part of our city,including the beautiful park system, a strong pro-business Lehigh Valley environment, tax incentives, manycolleges and universities, and of course, our proximity to major markets and major east coast roadways. Thisshould take priority now that the economy is returning to robust for much of the for-profit marketplace.

Allentown School District continues to do its part. The next capital investment will happen when we renovate theold school at 4th & Allen Streets, at a restoration cost of $11 million. We have some exciting plans coming up forthis facility in fall 2011. We are implementing many integrated college and career services -- and proposing asizable scholarship program -- in order to retain the value of our product, our students, so that this is a city that isnot only stabilized but thriving.

So, despite the difficulties ahead, I am very optimistic that Allentown indeed is ready to court some bigpropositions related to economic growth. I am hopeful such economic ideas will help soon to offset the schooldistrict's possible restriction of significant education services -- adding optimism for our students and less relianceon government funding. We can and must chart our own destiny together in the coming decade.

We can be stagnant no more, but must dream of skyscrapers and beautiful architecture again. Thank you.