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James Paul Interview

Aug 27, 2014|

WILK's L.A. Tarone talks to James Paul from the Commonwealth Foundation.

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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

I 735. Is Wednesday night Dan -- on the news breaker Lyon where it's side James Hall mr. Paul is a senior policy analyst. At the commonwealth foundation most of you know the commonwealth foundation. And mr. Paul good evening thank you very much for being here tonight. Well thank you -- May tell you are right I read this news release that that was released by the commonwealth foundation yesterday. We read written talked about it a -- here last night and before -- get in any of the individual findings. I read this I see the results 600 registered voters so it's a fairly sizable sample a lot of political polls are only down with 500 registered voters US 600 in this poll. Pennsylvania's had any idea what goes on in public school -- Well it certainly appears that there are some misperception. And -- broke it all the time and education spending is going to be odd issue. It's kind of easy to protect some voters that. You know education and acerbic state taxpayers are buying under and we delivered strong return on net investment. The commonwealth foundation we -- support education spending and achievement to see what registered likely voters that you mentioned. I don't really know about the state education and our state. And down and you know way. This. Yes. There's a good bit of confusion and then there's certainly some misperception about the basic facts. Which which -- A -- chipper to -- to good policy when there's confusion about basic things like achievement and spending them. -- -- OK for example one finding 73%. Of respondents. Under estimated. Per pupil spending Italian troops mr. Paulina I was off a little bit -- I -- I didn't seem to figure for about five years. And I Wednesday I thought I was about 121600. Dollars it is now up to. 141620. Dollars that's the previous school year 1213. And the average estimate was. -- -- about 7500. Dollars. Yes that's correct on the need to support them no eye popping and finding that the whole. Which is to keep you know he just stop it he talked to voters -- you ask well what do you think we're spending per student -- you really under shoot. -- the -- number that is that we're spending to educate each student got the state -- public school and you mentioned. It's not just fire you know. Under dollars a thousand dollars the average estimated almost 50% lower than the -- and spending which as you mentioned that in itself. Over 141000. And growing and now but that's an record so in some places it's a little lower but in many places it's it's our air significantly more than. Yeah as a matter of fact one at the end newspaper chains -- there -- times shamrock about three months -- hours so did expose say on schools around here and I found at some of our suburban school districts here like Abington high Samantha spends 161000. Dollars per student south. On the other -- popping finding. 82%. Eight out of ten people. Under estimate. The average public schools teachers salary there are a lot of people who are thinking that teachers are apparently getting I don't know a lot 40000 dollars a year. It's actually 63000. Dollars. Yeah that's correct that these -- came in about 25%. Of quarter below what the actual average teacher's salary is. I think more than just. I'm having a discussion about whether or not that should be looked membership below -- that -- be higher -- this the bigger issue here is that the current system that tenure and seniority. In the states doesn't allow districts. Schools to reward the best teachers -- -- at the content foundation certainly believe should be rewarded. Protected promoted generated given more responsibility act but it got it doesn't operate that way there's no system to reward the best. And there's no system to protect the best when. Are when when I district state playoff so and it's one in the unfortunate situation -- you have to look. Good decisions are made solely. By seniority. Teaching performance is not considered captain essence and this is another area where on it does things just seem out of whack with what you might think the common sense approach would be an intranet. And the best teachers talk turned to improve senate and the performance which also got into their academic part. That's exactly -- headed next as a matter of fact but to follow up with well what you said it's our last day in the door you're the first out the door. And that's just the way it is that's because about ten year which are -- is just talking about before can put you on here. I guess I thought was astounding. The job money per cent. -- respondents. Graded public schools very low ID or an -- Before. They were told the performance results when they got done that number jumps to. Fifty free. Per cent I mean that's that's a 180 if ever there were small fine. Yep that's that's a huge hit -- and that's one of the areas where I'm the team some foundation that wouldn't be surprised I mean you know we. We didn't know what to expect a lot of these questions but we certainly didn't expect the 180 that you just mentioned on that issue. And the and the media and expand a little bit on an -- -- on how that measure was what calculated. -- -- -- Performance metric that loose use it was performance on the and national spelling that's given eighth graders. And I know from this test. Approximately. 60%. And so they need eighth graders are meeting competition level of achievement for reading and -- 60%. And yes that's something that voters are polls certainly didn't noble sport and because once they were informed of this facts. Air raiding the public school system. I took -- sharp turn for the worse problem in the Stanley I mean this was seen across the state are cold as Democrats can't. So let's see where Bryant. You know different regions of the state if their opinions are different and the -- and -- -- throughout the state except it would notable exception that would -- Philadelphia area I don't know. I Philadelphia and at the Philadelphia. Out its new book or hand but that performance was not good they are already over 50%. I'm you know giving -- school would be here now how yeah I already knew. You have 51%. Before it told of results 55% after some Philadelphia knows it as a disaster on hand on its hand and I didn't make a big deal a difference after they saw the result. I mean I don't question as to whether or one single -- what you're talking about and the DS essays and replaced by the key Stalin's. This year. Our -- necessarily. Be out all the mid to -- determinant of -- weather radio school district is doing well are not but I try to kind of hard to believe. Well maybe not I don't know what newspapers do win now other parts of the -- around here when the DS SA is the result cannot they get very wide coverage. Sound. And anyway. 18018%. With a low grade before seeing results and then 60%. Afterwards. Com. No this but hold harmless agreement this isn't necessarily in your story but I saw kind of related. -- that we decide what is quote unquote education spending and put it like that. Because I think there's a lot of stuff that is supposedly. Educationally. Related. That really isn't. That hold harmless agreement of the 2% increase every year for every school district all 500 school districts in his state. Is apparently getting some. Scrutiny in Harrisburg. Argue that familiar with any of the discussion about that. Absolutely well when you're talking about it. -- speed appropriations. Speaks funding that goes to the local school districts. -- you you'd have to begin a conversation. With must provision which as you mentioned basically but you know as an agency gets. It ensures that district receives this state same amount of money. From the state that they received last year regardless. Of any changes in enrollment. Which is easy. Yes that's. Certainly group here is and there's no accounting for. Students main road going to you can imagine the district but -- also a lot of annulment and then this could happen in a variety of places for. Variety of reasons but -- districts. Are much more. Likely to claim to hold let's. As opposed to district where they are seeing grow where they're seeing people coming into the district and there are attracted to the school can now better scoring well. And they're not seen this same increase in terms of state appropriation. And the commission that it is an hour. Register -- some attention that. And -- as the yearlong. Basic education funding commission. Examined in this. -- mistake to -- out to taxpayer dollars. On the district's schools. Well that's that's -- so our point of contention. Despite all but talk from the tar balls campaign and the Democrats governor Corbett is increased. The off funding for balls basic education -- sound a five point five billion dollars in education as a whole including secondary education. -- ten point nine billion dollars in in this budget. Despite again what some critics say the question is how it's distributed and what it actually covers. This. -- in the group. That you mentioned the basic education funding commission. -- hasn't come out with a list of recommendations yet has it. Well now that the near east Asian this'll be our. I believe there passed with president king -- recommendation. -- our next summer so many immune. At which point -- admit they recommend and perhaps a bit sad to be approved -- I'm not a legislator drank another governor. -- but the center in the early stages. But bomb more you know some foundation believed to. Group policy. In this -- work. Is that although harmless to be eliminated and make a public more sensible. On share -- -- reasonable way. To distribute -- eight dollars when it comes to education. I wish it would seem to me that the fairest and most rational way to do it is a figure per student. So if you're in a school district in your enrollment drops -- 6000 dollar 6000 kids to. 4500. Kids is still don't get a funding increase you have less six speakers who have fewer students. Yes -- in the first student. Woods or even the most air. I think most intelligent and away the most intelligent -- one that we could see. And then an improved their number of factors. But you can also add that such a formula. -- crude bomb making it may get more. Potentially sport children that has special needs children that -- -- are pretty you could create certain adjustments and other states have done that. Other adjustments -- individual characteristics. Are students. That residing in a given district and that way you have funding that truly -- the -- Funding that is a much more stare -- the entire system all the taxpayers all the students. And we currently do with this this type of system goes by a couple of names one of them at a weighted student by the name. Another student base budgeting and a couple of different name -- the idea that you mention. On the student of the dollars followed the child. Don't have the dollars being distributed. -- stacks up based on buildings but -- the money truly followed the child's. Asked about a few specific things that I harp on a lot on this program -- -- the study listeners to this program probably tired of hearing me talk about this subject because I keep bringing him up and I point to a number of areas that I think are tremendous failures. And they are very expensive failures. This -- become an issue in several school districts in Pennsylvania. Here in northeastern Pennsylvania the hazel to an area school disagrees is a fifteen biggest of 500 school districts in this state as a 140 million dollar budget annually every year. And has the fourth largest ESL. Program in this state. What -- -- spends on DSL is bigger than a lot of other school district's entire operating budget. And yet to meet -- seems that ESL. English as a second language. Does not work that it's inexpensive failure it seems the -- it would make a lot more sense. To do what is called Immersion to take those kids would limited English ability or no English your ability at all. The regular curriculum teach them English before -- try to integrate them with the what do you what do you think about. So let's hope that that's an issue that I know quite enough about speak openly about and I will say -- along those lines. Com is awesome I wouldn't hero than any talk about. You know what exactly are we spending money on -- -- and education what is certain things and it seems we're spending money on and it's not truly getting into the classrooms so to speak yeah. And then you tension tension can follow up with a discussion of pension or construction and debt obligations. And need to. Did the -- it really is a pension crisis in Pennsylvania there's no two ways about it at some of your local stats. Regarding the pension issue that we -- abuse -- stabilized stats aren't that aren't on the teacher pension system PSC that's right. Since 20082009. In 20082009. The total contributions. Tidbit to this then what about a little over 500000 dollars. In the coming school year projected will be. Two point fire you make those 500 million and in 201415. Or go to 2.5. Alien with a beat by 2.5 billion not a -- and fold increase gap in here five years. And the problem that is gonna keep growing and people legally mandated contribution rates. Continue to. Then money disagrees that making it into the concert. So school districts. And may feel as though they're not getting enough money at city used to argue in appeal even more pressure they're going to be even more him open to keep the money in the car. Certain ones are growing percentage of these costs -- going to change it like tension construction in that process and took another thing the that you may mention. Construction and debt costs there are another thing and his pension and this pension time bomb is it is pending catastrophe and haven't ever saying have a governor saying. Sixty cents of every new dollar -- -- pension. But construction. And now building our the EU announced he was significant debt. In many school districts in this stage and a lot of -- I mean I covered the building on a very large high school in this area when it happened back in the early 1990s and that change orders were just unbelievable. -- at. Added almost a million dollars. To that cost them the of the building had -- fact they broke the at plaza mall limits. Is that big of a problem is there anything that can be done about that on the state level to at least keep the construction and building cost somewhere within reason. Good and it comes to mind could be prevailing wage at all -- an interstate. I'm David this is the measure of course it wouldn't do anything about already incurred costs around. And then you know that this sit there also solutions to the pension issue. Moving new employees -- 0401 K plan like that that wouldn't do anything about it already and obligations but it limits. Be serious step. Just stopping the bleeding. And and that it's been an issue we can let you know pretty perfect the enemy of the good so I'm telling wager or which who would be states. -- -- these storms they worked out well -- significantly cut down on the construction costs which are artificially. Inflated in canceled just not go. You know like. It's -- The perfect solution to the debt that we -- these states which unfortunately it's gonna have to be paid off but it would. Get serious follow these steps and in my mind that no brainer. That couldn't run reduced some sort forward. And another thing that -- and it's along these same lines -- it matters if you're building a new school or if you're trying to convert an existing school. For use today we've seen several examples of that hearing not northeastern Pennsylvania. The requirement it's called a planned car on. That dot students have 3.5 square feet of space. To themselves set means. Classless have to be larger than they otherwise would be. Buildings have to be larger than they otherwise would be to try to reuse an old building up -- -- walls down and move them around. Is this and so that's. Yeah I. -- I don't have an answer that one I would say it's -- but but as we've mentioned tonight it's it's another way to these local districts are going to be. There really get out -- and -- I'm and then they're not going to be able to address these challenges. The new concerns in the classroom and so many cost. Already earmarked from already earmarked for other items. And add to return to your the original story here and I'm running out of time very quickly but you or your poll. It was astounding to me see how -- how little people know all about the operations is school districts outside Abbas in the media. Doing a better job of reporting and talking about it anything else again -- dogs. I have yeah. -- -- You know helped and I. Is that the best thing people can do is -- It's really trying to get involved at the local level and even be involved in your school founded the media definitely plays a role. I mean in. Increased convicted there the fact the truth. And the world foundation that. We we think we have an important role to play inheritance I'm releasing -- -- before releasing the facts stats we didn't we just some questions. And that's -- answers to many of publications at duke we present the facts which were important debates. And down and the voters and ultimately the legislature can decide and you know what this means when it comes to policy -- -- Visitor you're sad because there is a tremendous amount of information on here and now a couple of the Iraq composite raise that may Banfield and I -- -- had been on this program several times -- I'm out of time mr. Paul thank you very much for being with us tonight. It was my pleasure to take care -- and that's James -- is senior analyst and a commonwealth foundation.