Who do you know in the North Hills? One week from today we have a very important opportunity to speak directly with our legislators at the North Hills Public Education Forum. But we need the legislators to attend! They’ve been invited, but so far do not feel the pressure from their constituents to show up on April 12th at 7PM in the North Hills High School auditorium.
We particularly need to reach Mike Turzai, a Republican in the 28th PA House District. As the Majority Floor Leader, he is a key figure in this budget battle and we absolutely need him in the conversation. Turzai represents two school districts: North Allegheny (made up of students from Bradford Woods Borough, Franklin Park Borough, Marshall Township, and McCandless Township) and Pine-Richland (made up of students from Pine Township and Richland Township). Together, these two school districts have had their budgets slashed by $1,690,695 in the past two years (for details, see a breakdown of the state budget cuts to all 125 school districts in Southwest Pennsylvania). That’s 1.7-MILLION reasons Representative Turzai needs to attend the Forum next week.
North Allegheny school district has 8,126 students in twelve schools. According to its web site, “The District is also one of the largest employers in the northern suburbs.” The area is fairly wealthy, but the district has been struggling to balance its budget and just a few months ago was talking about how to “establish a rationale for a millage increase of .60075.” (2012-2013 preliminary budget) The Pennsylvania Department of Education this week approved a 0.32 millage increase, meaning the district is permitted to raise local property taxes without a voter referendum on the issue.
Pine-Richland school district is in a similar boat. Located in the far northern region of Allegheny County, the district has 4,600 students in six schools. This year, “Pine-Richland did not increase taxes and creatively balanced the budget with a $1.5 million gap.” But to balance the budget going forward they realized they needed more than creativity and “the board approved advertising a 0.95-mill increase.” (2012-2013 preliminary budget) The PA Department of Education just approved a little over half their request – a 0.51 millage increase – meaning local property taxes could be going up throughout Representative Turzai’s district.
Who do you know in the North Allegheny and Pine-Richland school districts? Who do you know who knows Rep. Turzai? He graduated from University of Notre Dame in 1981 with a B.A. and received his J.D. from Duke University in 1987. He’s been in the House of Representatives since 2001. Here’s an interesting angle: his wife is Dr. Lidia Turzai, a pediatrician in Wexford. Governor Corbett’s proposed budget cuts $100 MILLION this year, much of it by eliminating the accountability block grant that many schools use for early childhood education programs.
Districts throughout Pennsylvania are being forced to eliminate pre-K programs and full-day Kindergarten. Yet the American Academy of Pediatrics policy on early childhood education states, “High-quality early education and child care for young children improves their health and promotes their development and learning. …Public funding for quality programs is inadequate, yet studies demonstrate that well-focused investments in quality early education and child care provide high public return. Federal, state, and local funding levels do not provide sufficient resources.” Anyone know Dr. Turzai and want to talk to her about the horrible impact of this state budget on our youngest learners?
Seriously, who do you know? Time to make some phone calls to constituents in Rep. Turzai’s district: we need him to attend the Forum next week so we can ask him where he stands on public education.