28 February 2011

Understanding school surpluses and budgets

York Dispatch reporter Andy Shaw offers some good reporting here on the issues school districts are facing as they deal with 2011-2012 budget planning.

The story takes a look at the surpluses that districts around the county maintain and asks two reasonable questions: Why have a multi-million dollar surplus? And how much is enough?

For those complaining that taxes are too high, several district business managers offer legitimate reasons for keeping healthy surpluses. Those reasons include wanting to maintain a strong credit rating, which keeps borrowing costs down for major capital projects, and softening the blow of off years to avoid big tax increases or major cuts.

Spring Grove Business Manager George Ioannidis offered a more detailed explanation in the story:
---Many districts have been saving for what was expected to be a major pension funding crisis in two years; the crisis now seems to be lessened, although not greatly.

---Business managers are usually of the belief it's better to have incremental tax increases, rather than no increase for a few years and then a major hike. That means a tax hike -- and excess revenue -- could happen in a year when it might not be fully necessary.

---That leads to Act 1. With a cap each year on taxes, some business managers believe a district should consider raising what it can through tax revenue in that budget year, within reason, in case the cap is below expectations the following year.

"What you're doing is front-loading," Ioannidis said. "It gives you room to make budget cuts in less of a reactive way. You can ease your way into those cuts."
That first reason, related to the pension funding crisis, was the one we were most interested in. That was the only mention of it in the story, which was a little surprising after what we heard in January during a school funding town hall in Lancaster. We'll have a vigorous discussion of that very issue during the countywide education summit we're hosting April 14.

What do you think? Are districts being prudent fiscal managers? Or could they reduce the surpluses and give taxpayers a little relief?

- Dan Fink

25 February 2011

Avoid early ed cuts at school budget time

Photo by Anissa Thompson
Pre-schoolers who participate in quality
early childhood programs nearly
always start kindergarten prepared
for school. Studies show that such
programs also help at-risk students
start school even with their peers and
avoid an array of later problems such as
school failure, remediation and truancy.
 By Christy Renjilian

There’s a lot of talk right now about education. What to do about unbalanced school district budgets, falling test scores and failing schools. The talk centers on education from kindergarten through 12th grade. But what happens to a child before they enter kindergarten? The best way to make certain no child gets left behind is to ensure an even start for all. That’s where high-quality early childhood education comes in.

York County has 13 National Association for the Education of Young Children accredited centers. The centers must meet more than 425 standards, conduct family surveys and self assessments, and have an on-site review. Nationally, only 7 percent of all child care programs are NAEYC accredited; in York County 14 percent are. Other high quality early childhood education programs include the Keystone STAR 3 or STAR 4 providers, Pre-K Counts grantees, EvenStart, Head Start and Early Head Start. So there are quality programs available, there just aren’t enough of them. Only 18 percent of York County children under age 5 have access to high-quality early childhood education programs.

This past year, 97 percent of the pre-kindergarten children enrolled in the seven NAEYC accredited programs administered by United Way of York County’s partner agencies met developmental goals and were on track for success in life. These benchmarks are set by the Pennsylvania Department of Education and measured through a standardized tool. Pennsylvania is one of a handful of states that have aligned their learning standards from infancy through high school. Each age and grade has specific standards in language, science, math, and so on. The goals in each subject area build on one another. The standards serve as a guide for the school districts to ensure success not only on standardized tests but on “life’s tests” of post-secondary education and success in the workplace.

Early childhood education programs are incorporating these standards and the results of child assessments into their curriculum. Teachers are developing lesson plans based on what the state indicates a 3 year-old should know and be able to do. Those children who are having trouble with a particular skill, as identified by teacher observations and screenings, receive extra support. All of this is done in a developmentally appropriate child friendly setting. Young children do not learn through worksheets and memorization. Young children learn best through active experiences with peers, caring adults and the world around them.

And all this effort to improve the quality of early childhood education is paying off. Children, even those deemed at-risk of school failure, are meeting the Pennsylvania standards for a typical 4 year-old. As a result, York County school districts are revamping their kindergarten curricula because the children enrolled in high-quality early childhood education programs are entering school with more knowledge and better social skills. It’s a good problem to have: children who exceed your expectations.

So why should people concerned with their school district’s budget care about early childhood education? Because pre-K and other early childhood programs are outside of what districts are required to provide, under their mandates from the state. Which means budget cuts could reduce spending on early ed. And that’s a bad idea, because research by top economists and educators prove that for every $1 we spend on high-quality early childhood education, we can save $7 in costs associated with special education, remediation programs, school failure and dropouts.

Pay a dollar now to prevent problems or pay $7 later to fix problems. I know which one I would choose.

Christy Renjilian is the Director of Community Initiatives for the United Way of York County. She has a Masters degree in Social Policy Analysis from the University of Chicago. Christy has more than 20 years of experience administering early childhood education programs and has been with the United Way of York County for more than five years. Christy also drafted the 2009 Stay in School report on dropout prevention for the United Way of York County and YorkCounts. She lives in Springettsbury Township with her husband and two children. Christy can be reached at renjilianc@unitedway-york.org or 717-771-3808.

22 February 2011

International Ed Tech Conference coming to Pa. in June

ISTE 2011, an international conference on technology
in education, will be in Philadelphia in June. Attendees
can learn more effective classroom uses of the Internet,
iPads, blogs and other technologies.
By Ben Smith

There is an international educational technology conference heading to Philadelphia this summer. The conference is called ISTE 2011 and expects to draw 13,000 participants from around the globe. Last year, the conference was held in Denver and included people from 63 countries. The sponsoring organization is the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). ISTE advances excellence in learning and teaching through innovative and effective uses of technology. It is a global organization representing 89 countries. However, the conversation at the conference is about more than just technology. ISTE has developed the National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) for Students, Teachers and Administrators. While most educational standards, including those in Pennsylvania, describe what students should know, these standards describe what students should be able to do in a global environment. Examining the student standards reveals that students need to be creative and innovative. They should be able to communicate and collaborate. They should work towards solving problems and making decisions and demonstrate information fluency.

There are also standards for teachers and administrators to explore.

The conference runs June 25–29 with a theme of “Unlocking Potential.” The conference is not just for teachers. Administrators, policymakers, business people, technology industry reps, vendors, professional developers and others interested in student learning and success are expected to attend. If you go, bring a laptop, smart phone, or iPad. And to walk through than 125,000 square feet of exhibits, you’ll want a pair of comfortable shoes. Although not required, there will be a number of opportunities to engage directly in sessions, and many people will do so from their mobile device. I have been going to the conference for a number of years, and I guarantee that if you go you will find it to be engaging, interesting and chock full of great learning opportunities for yourself.

There will be sessions on how to use specific technologies such as iPads or interactive white boards. Other sessions provide descriptions and uses for software such as Wikispaces, a collaborative online workspace, or tips for bringing blogs into the classroom. The vendor area contains hundreds of exhibitors demonstrating the latest technology tools available.

Perhaps more importantly, you can find educators from across the globe engaging in discussions about student learning. There are many informal playgrounds, workspaces, and lounges for like-minded educators to share ideas. Last year, I worked in a session lead by Karen Cator, the director of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology. The session examined student workspace and its affect on learning, and educators from Netherlands, New Zealand and Australia joined me in my group.

So mark you calendars: June 25-29 in Philadelphia, ISTE 2011.

Any York County educators planning to attend?

Ben Smith is a physics teacher and science chairman at Red Lion Area High School, where he has worked for the past 22 years. He is also a partner in an educational technology consulting practice called EdTechInnovators (www.edtechinnovators.com). His work with schools has taken him across the U.S. and overseas to work with the Singapore Ministry of Education. Ben serves on the Board of Directors for the International Society for Technology in Education, a nonprofit international organization. Ben lives with his wife Lottie in York Township with their two children – Caitlin, 14, and Ian, 10.

18 February 2011

Plenty to love in York - and Pittsburgh - right now

By Eric Menzer

The historic Capitol Theater serves as a gathering place for
CapLive events, film screenings and community meetings.
It's an important part of what makes York special. 
Sitting in the audience for the screening of “My Tale of Two Cities” on Wednesday night, I watched and listened as Carl Kurlander explored what made Pittsburgh special to him. Despite municipal bankruptcy and despite being in the heart of one of the only metro areas its size that is actually declining in population, Carl presented many of the wonderful attributes that led Pittsburgh to be named one of America’s Most Liveable Cities by Forbes magazine in 2009. And, if you were there at the Capitol Theater on Wednesday night, you heard Carl marvel at what he had seen in York in a short time that afternoon.

Then, I read the coverage of the Building York Summit and the thread of “reader feedback” comments in response to the online version of the Daily Record’s story.

What a contrast in perspectives!

In both the article and online, the writers reflected a sense that the City of York was some sort of basket case that had miles to go to reach simple respectability. Nothing could be further from the truth.

And ironically, many of the warts that people cite as almost insurmountable obstacles are present in spades in Pittsburgh. Whether it’s crumbling infrastructure, dilapidated housing, crime, financial challenges or ornery public-employee unions, Pittsburgh’s got ‘em all! And guess what? Forbes is right anyway!

Because Pittsburgh also has the other things Pittsburgh has are marvelous performing arts, world-class medical centers, cool historic buildings, rivers and bike paths, classic neighborhoods, interesting shops, championship sports teams, committed foundations, and museums ranging from the sciences to the avant-garde arts. And the city is full of researchers, university students, artists, environmentalists, and entrepreneurs – and also of bureaucrats, desk clerks, convenience-store clerks, prison guards, bus drivers – all the people who actually make a city work day-in and day-out.

See, this imagined perfect – perhaps almost pristine – physical, social or fiscal environment people seem to want in York is not only unnecessary for success, it’s not even desirable.

If you want a sanitized environment, go live at the York Galleria.

If you want a real environment, move into Newton Square, the Avenues, Fireside, South York, or downtown. Put your company downtown, and shop at Central Market with your neighbors. Come to ball games at Sovereign Bank Stadium and concerts at the Strand. And yes, encounter the occasional panhandler, trip over the occasional broken curb, grit your teeth while you bounce through the ruts of South George Street, and mutter in occasional frustration over the latest city financial issue.

And while you’re doing it, remind yourself that notwithstanding any of those things, in the last four years, through the worst recession any of us have ever encountered, downtown York has added businesses, apartments, concerts, restaurants, ball games, and jobs. Remind yourself that perhaps the very last building in downtown that has gone untouched since Hurricane Agnes – at 22 South George – is being renovated right now. Remind yourself that Central Market has an energized Board of Directors and is adding cool, new stands for the first time in years. While you’re at it, remind yourself that our Central Market now has a student-run bakery, a grass-fed beef stand, and soon a microbrewery.

Still feeling sorry for yourself?

Remind yourself that York College is bringing fine arts students downtown. Remind yourself that our Mayor and City Council debate issues civilly and reach compromises for the good of our city, that our crime rate is going down, and that 250 people care enough about our town to respond so enthusiastically to the Building York summit that they created a waiting list!

You see, “My Tale of Two Cities” was not about Pittsburgh as a piece of geography. Rather, it was about Pittsburgh as an attitude. It was about why Carl was drawn back to it warts and all. It was about the paradox – that a place can be beset by all sorts of afflictions, and still be wonderful. Look at this recent opinion piece in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: The city is grabbing a higher percentage of college grads. All of which should prove to us that we need not – in fact should not – use any of our own so-called “warts” as an excuse. A city need not be perfect to be great.

And anyone who is still sitting around waiting for some imagined better day for York should recognize that our day is here right now.

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.

17 February 2011

YorIT submissions - the full list

Jane Conover, the York County Community Foundation's vice president of community investment and an advisor for the group organizing the YorIT Social Venture Challenge, noticed I had mentioned two of the challenge's video submissions earlier this week. She thought it would only be fair to mention all of them, and she provided me with the links, so here you go, all seven submissions:

Business Owners Trade Alliance: An idea that would connect businesses in York and provide pooled resources in the form of a barter exchange program.

Healthy World Cafe: A proposal to develop a new downtown restaurant based on a "pay what you can afford" model that emphasizes locally grown ingredients.

Children's Museum of  York: A proposal to bring a children's museum to the city that would emphasize hands-on, interactive displays, with an emphasis on developing an interest in science and creativity.

Y-Fi: An idea to expand an existing effort to bring free Wi-Fi access points to more businesses and gathering places in the city.

A music studio: A proposal to establish a music facility where people could come to play, learn and share music.

Downtown delivery service using bicycles: An idea to offer delivery services for downtown businesses and residents that would use delivery people riding bikes.

Housing: A call to create a nonprofit dedicated to converting blighted properties and neighborhoods into new, mixed-income communities.

YorIT is in the process of narrowing this list down to a few finalists, and the winner will be selected April 8 following group presentations by the finalists the same day. To read more about the challenge, go to http://yorit.org/.

Note: The original version of this post contained the incorrect date for the finalists presentations. The correct dates is April 8.
- Dan Fink

14 February 2011

Another entry in YorIT: the Children's Museum of York

Here's the YorIt submission for the Children's Museum of York, from the group working on developing a children's museum.

Their idea involves bringing a hands-on kids museum to the city to help inspire creativity and an interest in science, and to give families a destination in downtown York. It's modeled after museums such as the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts in Harrisburg, the Hands-On House in Lancaster and Port Discovery in Baltimore.

Full disclosure: My wife came up with the idea and is one of the leaders of the effort.

More on Healthy World Cafe

Last week, Deron Schriver wrote about the status of The Healthy World Cafe. A group is working to bring the restaurant to downtown York, with a pay-what-you-can-afford business model.

Organizers submitted a video proposal to YorIT's Social Venture Challenge, an attempt by the York County Community Foundation to generate philanthropic support for an idea intended to enhance revitalization efforts in downtown York. You can watch Healthy World's video below.

In March, YorIT Challenge organizers will announce the finalists from all the entries. Finalists will make their presentations to YorIT and other potential funders in April, with a winner to be selected the night of the presentations.

13 February 2011

York Co.'s housing market: The good, the bad, and the unknown

Home sales data offered mixed news for 2010, and most
economists believe it will be a buyers market in 2011.
by Shanna Wiest

Anyone who pays attention to news about the housing market hears a lot of gloom and doom. As we look ahead to 2011, let’s take a look at the good, the bad and the unknown in the housing recovery.

The Realtors Association of York and Adams Counties recently released its annual market report, which looks in detail at home sale activity and new construction by school district. According to the report, 3,771 homes were sold in York County, a 7 percent decrease from 2009. The bad news is this was a 10-year low in the number of homes sold.

The median home sale price was $153,000 in 2010. This reflects a 4 percent decrease from 2009, a 10 percent decrease from 2006, and an increase of 39 percent from 2001. According to the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors, homebuyers stay in their home an average of 10 years. The good news is, in spite of the recent declines, real estate continues to be a stable long-term investment.

During the first half of 2010, the home buyer tax credit encouraged sales and led to moderate increases in home sale prices. However, when the tax credit expired in April, home sales and prices dropped during the latter half of the year.

Distressed sales such as foreclosures and short sales also hurt the market throughout 2010. According to the York County Prothonotary’s office, there were 2,080 foreclosure filings in 2010. The good news is this is a 2 percent decrease from 2009 and a small step in the right direction for York County.

The state Realtors group also commissioned a survey on foreclosures in the Commonwealth and found the top two factors leading into foreclosures were job loss and medical bills. As long as people are without jobs or fear losing their livelihoods, they are unlikely to buy homes. The silver lining: York County had baby-step improvements in the job market in 2010. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, the county unemployment rate fell to 8.8 percent in November after reaching 9.3 percent in October. The county also gained 100 jobs in November. The potential upward trend in the job market has led to optimism in local economic recovery.

A bright spot in the housing market is that affordability conditions are high. With more choices in inventory and historically low interest rates, homebuyers are in a great position to get more home for their dollar in York County.

It is anticipated that the housing market will continue its recovery next year. Most economists expect housing will remain affordable in 2011, but that’s not a sure bet. One thing is certain: Steady improvements in the economy, including local job growth, will be necessary to bring buyers into the market.

Shanna Wiest is the government affairs director for the Realtors Association of York & Adams Counties and has been with the association since 2005. In her position, she advocates for homeownership, economic development and smart growth planning. Shanna also serves as the secretary/treasurer for the York/Adams Regional Smart Growth Coalition and the president elect of the Economics Club for the York County Chamber of Commerce. Shanna earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Dickinson College and her Master’s of Public Administration from Penn State University. Shanna lives in Springettsbury Township with her fiancé Joe.

09 February 2011

Want to change your school? Know your school board

by Leigh Dalton

During a political debate with my husband (then boyfriend) about eight years ago, I learned that he – 27 years old at the time – had never voted.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because it doesn’t matter,” he replied.

I then told him that I would not discuss politics with him until he registered and practiced his right to vote. “It is the right only of those who vote,” I told him, “to weigh in on what is working and what is not in our government. If you don’t vote, keep your mouth shut.”

I sometimes feel that way about parents and their involvement in their children’s schools. I have worked in communities around school issues for about nine years. When I am in schools I hear a lot of parents complaining about how things should be done, but see very little action from the parents to help make changes.

One of the ever-emerging discussions among teachers and school administrators is the need for increased parent involvement. Actually, in one of the first speeches by then President-elect Obama in 2008, he called parents to the plate, reminding them that they need to be involved in their children’s education. And rather than complaining to one another while waiting for school to dismiss, a very effective way to be involved includes attending school board meetings.

I was once told that if you want to make the biggest impact on a child’s life, sit on a school board. And it is true. Who decides at what age your child can enroll in school? Who votes on the curriculum? Who hires and holds accountable the superintendents, who then hire and supervise the teachers? Who passes the budget – a budget that affects class size, building maintenance, after-school programming, elective classes, and availability of social workers and guidance counselors in a school? Who approves attendance and discipline policies?

With all of those issues at hand, why is it that I most often hear parents resolve to go to a school board meeting to demand changes in school calendars and school policies around snow days and two-hour delays? While I understand the need for safe transportation is preferred over crazy attempts to shovel out, spin tires in the snow, and peep over mounds of snow, the frequency of snow days/delays and their impact on a child’s actual educational experience pale in comparison to more important issues such as curriculum, budget concerns, discipline and attendance policies.

I am a new parent; my daughter is 10 months old. But knowing what I know about school boards’ power, I will likely attend at least half of the school board meetings that take place in any given school year. The impact school boards have is amazing. Please consider attending the school board meeting for your child’s school. Not only will you learn about budget items, personnel decisions and curriculum changes; not only can you challenge decisions about school buildings being built or torn down; but you can see and meet the people who make daily decisions affecting your children. If you talk to a teacher, he or she will say their hands are tied, talk to the principal. The principal, most likely, will indicate that she follows orders from the superintendent. And who does the superintendent report to?

The school board.

Please consider issues larger than the school calendar. Think about discipline codes, attendance issues or even bullying situations. Go to the school; talk. Go to the school board meetings; learn.

And the best part? Your child will watch you, learn from you, see that you value his or her education and learn to do the same.

Leigh Dalton is the director of the York County Truancy Prevention Initiative and the community mobilizer for York County Communities That Care. After receiving her law degree from the University of Baltimore, School of Law, she managed a truancy intervention program called the Truancy Court Program. She is pursuing her doctorate in education policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She lives in Spring Garden Township with her husband, baby daughter and her two rescued dogs. She can be reached at leigh@yorkbar.com and 717-854-8755, ext. 209.

06 February 2011

Healthy World Cafe offers unusual business model

Healthy World Cafe hopes to provide
meals made with food from local producers.
by Deron Schriver

The United States Department of Agriculture estimated in 2008 that 49.1 million people were living in food insecure households, meaning those people reported insufficient access to food necessary to lead an active, healthy life. At the same time, many studies estimate that 40-50 percent of all food available for harvest is wasted. Obesity is considered by many to be the top public health crisis of the 21st century, with almost a third of the population meeting that classification.

What if one not-for-profit organization was created to address all of those issues and more, at the local level? Good news is on the horizon.

Healthy World Café is a not-for-profit restaurant developed by a group of dedicated community members coming to York in the near future. The business model includes allowing patrons to choose their portion size and pay what they feel is fair (although there will be suggested prices to be used as a guide). Those that cannot afford to pay will be given the opportunity to volunteer an hour of their time in exchange for a healthy meal. The Café will serve only healthy meals, and part of the Café’s mission will be to rely heavily on food obtained from local producers. It will strive to be a gathering place for people of all backgrounds, and it hopes to partner with other local efforts aimed at improving the future of the York community.

Healthy World Café is modeled after similar restaurant projects in other cities, including Denver; Spokane, Wash.; and Salt Lake City.

The organization’s Guiding Committee is finalizing the business plan and is seeking community input. A prime site in downtown York has been identified, but it will require funding before any commitments can be made. Please visit http://www.healthyworldcafe.org/ or follow us on Twitter and Facebook to learn more or contact us at healthyworldcafe@gmail.com. You won’t find a better return on the investment of your tax-deductible donation or your volunteer time.

Deron Schriver is the executive administrator for The Women's Healthcare Group and a member of the Guiding Committee for Healthy World Café.  He has a particular interest in studying and participating in solutions to address health issues affecting our society. Deron earned a bachelor's degree in accounting and a master's in business administration, both from York College.  He lives in West Manchester Township with his wife, Lisa.

03 February 2011

More on Chris Leinberger, Building York Summit

There's still time to register for next week's two-day Building York summit. On Feb. 9, there's a kick-off event with a VIP dessert reception and a screening of the film "My Tale of Two Cities." On Feb. 10, there will be a couple of breakout sessions in the morning, a lunch keynote from Chris Leinberger and an afternoon roundtable discussion.

Read Eric Menzer's blog post on Chris here, and watch this video to get a feel for where Chris will go with his message:

- Dan Fink

01 February 2011

Grim fiscal picture requires action now

by Dan Fink

YorkCounts will use its annual meeting April 14 at Penn State
York's Pullo Center to begin identifying ways to confront
a grim fiscal outlook while improving student achievement.
YorkCounts staff and several board members attended an event in Lancaster last month called Public Schools in Crisis. For several hours, those of us in the audience listened as one presenter after another painted a grim picture of the outlook for Lancaster County's public school districts.

How grim, you ask?

The most affluent districts are three years - three years - away from burning through their reserves and sinking into bankruptcy. The less affluent will face that situation sooner.

The phrase that stuck out was "unprecedented fiscal environment." The end of federal stimulus money. The prospect of no increases - and possible cuts - in state education funding. Caps on property tax increases. Rising costs for employee pensions and health insurance.

A conservative estimate puts Lancaster County's total deficit at $225 million over the next three years. To cover the shortfall, districts would be faced with enormously painful choices. Should they cut 500 teaching positions over that time frame, or increase taxes 13 percent a year each year?

Or should they do a little of both and start slashing budgets? But what to cut? They'll start with offerings not mandated by the state. One Lancaster presenter, the superintendent of Hempfield School District, went through a laundry list of possible cuts: kindergarten and foreign languages; art, music and phys ed; guidance counselors, school psychologists and schools nurses. They could close schools, increase class size and reduce bus service. They could ask for wage freezes and early retirements. None of it sounded appealing.

The biggest shock, of course, was knowing that these exact issues challenge York County schools now, too. From York City to York Suburban, every district is having the same difficult conversations. Take a look at this recent story by the York Daily Record/Sunday News. Their reporting shows budget deficits ranging from $350,000 in Southern York to $15 million in York City, with most clustered in the $2 million-$5 million range.

All of which brings me to the YorkCounts annual meeting set for April 14 at Penn State York's Pullo Center. Our board had already started the process for focusing on education in 2011. Last summer, we had some preliminary conversations with the York campus of Harrisburg Area Community College to partner on an education-focused event for later this year. More recently, the board concluded that driving real change in our Indicators data could be accomplished most efficiently if we work to improve student achievement across the entire county.

All of this was in our minds as we listened to the Lancaster presentations, and afterward there was no doubt that our annual meeting needed to focus on the same education issues spotlighted at the Lancaster event.

We want to come away from the summit with a few specific recommendations that will form the basis of future action by YorkCounts and our community partners. Our April event will focus on the fiscal crisis, for sure. We also hope it becomes the start of a process for future conversations about other public education issues of interest to the entire county, issues such as:
  • What do we do about public employee pensions?
  • Are there ways for all county districts to work together - meaningful ways that have not been explored to date - to provide services at lower cost?
  • How do we reduce truancy and keep more kids in school?
  • How do we better link public school courses and programs with workforce needs?
They are tough questions. And the conversations will be difficult, as they were during the Metro-York education task force meetings back in 2006. But there's no choice. These problems have to be dealt with now.

Check our Web site, this blog and our Twitter and Facebook updates for details on the summit as we add speakers and flesh out other details.

Your only homework for this? Be ready to talk about solutions.