WHILE we're told that our financial belts require tightening, it's insulting to know that the administration of the Philadelphia public school system can continue to "feed the beast" to the detriment of its proscribed purpose - the education of our youth.
Phil Goldsmith, in his July 29 article ("$338 Thou?!), described in vivid detail how the salaries of school administrators have continued to rise under the direction of Arlene Ackerman, while the school district faces a "fiscal tsunami." The federal stimulus money the district has relied on for operation will be gone, tax revenues continue to plummet and the Pennsylvania education budget is lower than in previous years under the Rendell administration.
While other elected officials, including Mayor Nutter, have taken 5-10 percent reductions in their annual salaries as a result of the state's economic crisis, Ms. Ackerman and her personal hires make almost double what individuals in similar positions make in other large cities throughout the United States.
What's more alarming is that this upward trend in school-administration earnings has continued since Pennsylvania's takeover of the Philadelphia school system in 2002.
The unemployment rate in Philadelphia is more than 9 percent and rising. The current majority in the government has done nothing to create any new jobs.
But this hasn't stopped Ackerman from doing just that. For example, she created the position of chief of institutional advancement for Leroy Nunery four months ago at a salary of $180,000.
No explanation was given for what that position was for, but Nunery must have been so good at it that he was promoted to Ackerman's second-in-command with a $50,000 raise! Goldsmith noted that a six-year teacher with a master's earns only $50,000. Despite comments to the contrary by the school board, these salaries are not "budget-neutral."
This exposé by Goldsmith presents another "black eye" to those in government who were charged with improving the lives of its citizenry and protecting the future of our children. We cannot forget that while Ackerman has been allowed to hire and spend as she wished by the current administration, education has been in the top three areas in the amount provided by the state budget.
Clearly, it's not that we need more money for education - it's really time to change how we spend such funds. Instead of spending six-figure salaries for administration, we must limit the amount of employees and salaries for the school board in order to allocate more funding to follow the child. Education resources must be used at early ages so that we can reach our youth during their most formative years to give them the tools they will need to lead productive lives. Moreover, let's use that funding to allow parents to send their children to the schools of their choice.
AS A CANDIDATE for the General Assembly, but, more importantly, the father of a child entering the city's public-school system, I say we must remind leadership that it's our money and it must be used for our most prized resource. . . our children.
Marc D. Collazzo is the Republican candidate for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for the 170th Legislative District in the Northeast.