Responds to letter by Wolk regarding LM School Board
To the Editor:
Arthur Wolk has made it his business to attack the current school board of Lower Merion over its tax policy. He called them liars at a school board meeting, told them to make do with what they have in terms of facilities (MLT 3/16/17), and now urged citizens to kick them out, bizarrely comparing them to Hilary Clinton’s e-mails (MLT 3/23/17). I do not know Mr. Wolk personally. I do not know if he is as altruistic as he claims, does not like paying his school taxes, or shares with people in the new Right Wing the idea that people should be judged by their incomes; people wealthy enough to send their children to private schools are more socially valuable. His initial pleading does make clear in his own words that he believes that public schools should not be funded at the same level as private schools.
Let’s step back calmly for a minute. The purpose of the school board is first and foremost educating our community’s children. Its directors are to monitor the actions of school leaders and employees and to set broader goals and policies for the district. Left undiscussed in the heat of yet another tax discussion in this very wealthy area is the remarkable accomplish of these same school directors in writing a new comprehensive educational plan. That plan promises to prepare our children for the reality of the world they will enter as adults, not the old model that assumes many will be headed to factory work.
Second, unlike what he implied is his earlier letter to MLT, the increase in students is not a matter of demographic projection. They are here already. This is not happening in Radnor or other districts Wolk’s supporters like to cite. Why is that? We have choices to make. Do we want to make do, and see an increase in class sizes? Do we want to cut programs? Do we want to hire the new teachers that will be needed and pay into their pension funds now or create a ticking time bomb like the Republican legislature in Harrisburg? Budgeting in such a dynamic situation is difficult. After assessing taxes, the school board cannot go back midyear to ask for more.
I cannot claim to understand fully the complexity of tax law. Maybe the board should have sought a vote or taken other action. What I do know that the current board are extraordinary public servants. For no pay, they spend at least 20 hours a week laboring to improve our schools, the heart of our community and the basis of our property values (the reason these new families are moving here). I know them all personally and they are not liars and do not deserve the rough treatment Mr. Wolk has given them. I know as well that the funds in question have not been misappropriated; they are right there for all to see. If the court orders them to return some, they can and will. Make no mistake, however, that cutting costs has educational consequences.
When the vote comes in the primary on May 16 and the general in November, please ask yourself the following. Do the candidates really understand education and how to provide an excellent education for all of our children, or are they only talking about cutting taxes without assessing the educational costs? Are they offering the same quick and empty promises that we now understand are the ideological fantasies (our nightmares) of too many in the current government in Washington, DC?