The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

March 23, 2014

Education is expensive

The Daily Item

— Recently, Robert Thomas advised the Lewisburg High School issue be resolved by referendum. My wife and I moved to Union County from Mount Pocono, Monroe County (once one of Pennsylvania’s three fastest growing counties).

Mount Pocono is part of Pocono Mountain School District (PMSD). Around 2000 a “consultant” convinced nearly everyone that PMSD would soon have an enrollment of 16,000 students. PMSD engaged in a building program.  There are now two separate high school/junior high campuses with numerous outlying complexes. The latest and best in technologies were used. There were additional jobs.

Capital growth required additional revenue.   Some additional revenue came in the form of state grants (requiring compliance with state approved programs). But most of the revenue had to come from local taxpayers.

Strangely, the new technologies and buildings, and mandated curriculum did not yield better educated students. We speak first-hand to this unsatisfactory result. We owned a small business and had difficulty finding employees who showed up for work regularly and who possessed basic math, reading and writing skills. We devised a pre-employment test. It required at most only simple algebra and writing skills we assumed one had acquired with a basic eighth grade education. Over the years only three persons scored higher than 70 percent.

PMSD now has slightly more than 9,000 students. Buildings, and classrooms in buildings, are vacant. Parents are using charter schools and are homeschooling, concerned about quality and content of curriculum. The economic downturn dictated some families had to leave the area. Some stayed accepting unemployment and associated subsidies, but do not contribute local taxes. High property/school taxes exacerbate a bad real-estate  market. Fewer are left paying for earlier errors in judgement.

Education is expensive. History can mitigate the cost. Let those paying the bill decide.

Dan McDavitt,