And the answer is?

I have no idea what the answer is. But here is the question: How do you "fix" poorly performing school districts? I ask this as much as an educator as a taxpayer and a parent.

For many years, the Pittsburgh Business Times has published the "Guide to Western PA Schools." I have been following this guide since 2005, when the school district I live in ranked 91/105 districts in the area. This year, my district stayed at 98, although it has now dropped to 104/105 in the overachieving rankings, which takes into account the economics of the area. In other words, if you live in a district where people don't make a lot of money but the kids school high on standardized tests, then your school will rank high on this list. In my school district, the kids did just as poorly as you would expect considering the economics. Sigh.

What is going on? How can things keep getting worse when my school board has raised taxes a handful of times in the eight years I have lived here, all in the name of "making things better." Yeah, clearly throwing money at the problem is not the answer. I am pretty sure the brand-new school that is being built is not going to help these kids do better either.

On top of this travesty and the thing that infuriates my husband more than me is that our millage is one of the highest in the state yet our district ranks 475/497 in the state. He says we should just refuse to pay our taxes. Of course we would not, mostly because we can't without having a lien put on our house. But this is crap.

My kid is in Catholic school because of our awful school district. And if you think the academics in the district are poor, you should hear about the discipline problems, which almost never seem to make the news. I am glad my kid is getting a religious education, but if we lived in a good school district, we would be utilizing it. There is no way my religion-less husband would have it any other way, and I can respect that.

I never made a big deal out of paying school taxes before I had kids. We should all be responsible for helping to produce educated, productive citizens. If these kids are not educated properly, down the road we will all suffer, make no mistake. But how can I and the rest of the taxpayers not be angry knowing most of these kids aren't getting smarter or performing on anything but the lowest level?

I am planning to go to the next school board meeting (which I am assuming won't be for a few more months), armed with this sickening ranking. But what else can I do? I don't want to be the person who just complains. I want answers, but I have to think if there were easy ones, this problem would have been solved by now.

Help! Please. Looking for any ideas or anything I can say at a meeting.


Sherri said…
I am speechless regarding this topic - aside, that is, for the many discussions my hubby and I have about this - since we also live in a school district that we feel like we can't use -though we pay taxes, etc. Tuition gets to be cumbersome, doesn't it? I am not an expert on the topic, but... I didn't even have a good public school experience "back in the day" - and I was, supposedly, in "one of the best districts" in my area (out of state). Good luck at the meeting....
G said…
You should ask some of your teacher friends. This is a toughie. The socio-economic status obviously plays a big part so how do you counteract that?

I think you should go to the meeting and demand more from your school board. But be prepared for some ugliness.

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