Last week the news hit the City of York like a ton of bricks – Governor Corbett’s proposed education cuts could add another $10 million on top of the $15 million deficit that the York City School District was already facing. And while every school district in York County faces financial challenges to one degree or another, there is no question that the city district is in the deepest hole. Whether your perspective is one of taxpayer, parent or simply concerned citizen, it is hard to fathom what we do next when it seemed the situation was already so dire both financially and in terms of outcomes for city kids.
We also heard news recently that only three candidates had filed for five city school board seats. These used to be hotly-contested races – campaigns got almost bitter at times. Do three candidates for five seats mean that city residents are so dispirited when it comes to our school district that they can’t even fight anymore? There’s an old saying – “the night is always darkest just before the dawn.” Let’s hope that dawn is around the corner on this one, because it’s hard to imagine a darker night.
In my last few posts I have been hopeful. I have written about the cultural and demographic forces that are creating the best market and most positive outlook for cities in 50 years. So how do we square that hopefulness with the grim outlook for our school district?
In the short run, it seems hard. But there are a couple things we need to keep in mind that are more subtle than a simple “gloom versus optimism” formula.
First, there are enormous numbers of potential city residents at any given time who are not consumers of our school system – both singles and couples without kids, and those whose children are done with their primary school years. At any given time, something along the lines of 75 percent of the U.S. population does not have kids in school.
Second, the charter school movement – regardless of your political philosophy or issues of funding or achievement – has matured enough in our city to offer real alternatives for those who do have kids in school. And while many of the charter schools we’ve seen open to this point draw most of their population from their local service area, a new one will open next fall that could be a real game-changer for the city in the long run.
The York Academy Regional Charter School will offer the International Baccalaureate curriculum not only to city residents, but to those of York Suburban and Central York school districts and possibly other suburban districts. Enough has been written about how remarkable it is that these three districts came together to create this school. Less has been written about how this school can take the experience of “walkable urbanity” to a whole new level.
Imagine that you are already attracted to the lifestyle provided by downtown or city neighborhood living. Now imagine from that home, you can walk or ride a bicycle to the most unique school in all of York County – one that offers not only the social, economic and racial diversity that many of us value in our city, but a world-class education, as well. Game on for competitiveness for the city of York as a viable residential option for parents with choices about where to live.
Eric Menzer is president of the York Revolution professional baseball team and manages the Codo Development Group, a real estate development company working in downtown York. Eric is active in community affairs and civic leadership at both the local and state level. He chairs the York County Community Foundation and serves on the boards of Downtown Inc, Better York, YorkCounts and the Crispus Attucks Association. He just concluded several years as Chairman of 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania, a statewide policy-research and advocacy organization that promotes smart growth and urban revitalization, and he remains active on that board. Eric was previously the senior vice president of Wagman Construction in York. Prior to that, he served for eight years as York’s director of economic development and previously as the executive director of the York County Transportation Authority. He is a passionate baseball fan and lives in York with his wife and daughter.
REGISTER FOR THE COUNTYWIDE EDUCATION SUMMIT
Part of the program for the YorkCounts 2011 countywide education summit will include an update on the York Academy Regional Charter School. Here's more information on the summit.
What: "State of the Schools: A Countywide Education Summit"
When: 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. April 14
Where: Pullo Center at Penn State York, 1031 Edgecomb Ave., York
How much: Admission is free, but advance registration is requested and box lunches will be available for $5. With your registration, please indicate your preference from the lunch wrap choices: turkey, ham, chicken salad, tuna salad or veggie.
The morning session: Elaine Weiss, the national coordinator for Broader, Bolder Approach to Education, will provide the national context, and Brian Jensen from the Pennsylvania Economy League will discuss the state’s looming pension crisis. Other morning speakers include Dennis Baughman, who will provide an update on the York Academy Regional Charter School; and Dayna Laur, an award-winning and nationally recognized Central York teacher, who will talk about new ways districts can collaborate and share resources.
The afternoon session: A panel discussion will focus on school district budgets and the looming pension crisis. Panelists include:
- Thomas Gentzel, executive director for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association
- James Testerman, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association
- Republican State Sen. Lloyd Smucker, who represents parts of York and Lancaster counties and serves on the Senate Education and Appropriations committees
- Republican State Rep. Ron Miller, who represents southwestern York County, including York, Springfield, Shrewsbury, Codorus, Manheim and West Manheim townships
- Democratic State Rep. Eugene DePasquale, who represents York and parts of Spring Garden and West Manchester townships
- Robert Krantz, superintendent from Dover Area School District
- George Ioannidis, business manager from Spring Grove Area School District
- Judith Higgins, school board member from Eastern York School District and board president of Lincoln Intermediate Unit 12
- Joel Sears, president of the York County Taxpayers Council
- Stephen Herzenberg, executive director of the Keystone Research Center
To register: Send an e-mail with your name, school district and phone number to firstname.lastname@example.org, and if you plan to purchase one of the $5 box lunches, please indicate your lunch preference from these wrap choices: turkey, ham, chicken salad, tuna salad or veggie.
For details: Contact Dan Fink at YorkCounts at 717-650-1460 or at email@example.com.