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Pennsy school board head offers a Christmas wish list

December 18, 2003

Dear Santa Claus:

I'm the head of a local school board in Pennsylvania and I've been pretty good this year. But unless you help, the only holiday present I'm going to get is more empty promises from state government.

They promised me a lot, Santa. They said they'd help the folks on fixed incomes who complained that the schools depend too much on property-tax revenue for their funding. They said they'd replace that property tax money by raising the income tax at the same time.

It seemed simple, Santa, but then it got complicated somehow. As a result, the state hasnot sent us any money this year to help with school expenses.

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We've spent down our reserves and if there's not a settlement soon, we're going to have to borrow money to keep the schools open. That would mean that the same people state government said it wanted to help would have to pay interest on those loans.

So far, according to The Associated Press, the state's school districts have borrowed about $250 million to keep their doors open. But some are saying that if a deal isn't struck soon, they'll have to shut those doors.

What a terrible thing that would be, Santa. Think of how many families would have to spend money they haven't budgeted for day care or private schools. Think about how many programs would be disrupted and about how much class time would be lost, at a time when many children are eager to learn.

Why has this happened? Because both sides have concentrated on winning the argument and what they'll say to the voters in the next campaign.

Meanwhile, those of us who have to keep the schools running aren't sure how we're going to do that. What do we tell voters when we have to raise school taxes to pay the interest on our loans?

If you could do this, we would greatly appreciate it. And while you're at it, could you ask Mother Nature not to bring us so many snow storms on school days? We'll have enough problems getting through this year without running classes into the middle of summer.

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