Washington Township Education Coalition
Over the past two months, we had the opportunity to visit with PTO’s and conduct a budget activity. Overall, we had 96 people in attendance, including numerous board members and all school administrators. Part of the activity included responses to eight (8) questions. . (From this homepage link you get the following:)
“An Equal Rights and Opportunity School District”
Activity Questions (1 of 8 questions)
1. How do you feel about the current school configuration? Evidence to support the exploration of reconfiguring the district, especially at the elementary grades. Examples included K-2 buildings, K-3 buildings, 3-6 buildings, and/or 4-6 buildings. Further investigation/conversation is needed. No decision has been made at this time by central administration or the Board of Directors to reconfigure elementary schools. ... ... ...
ALLEGATION: Mr. Grove/K.I.D.S. and the YDR claim that it is "inevitable" -- the Northern York County School District must raise taxes.
FACT: This presumption is based on the notion that 294 new students to Northern comes with costs, and yes, of course it does. But, this claim is baseless and was made without the facts and without any input from Northern itself.
What is often misunderstood is that unlike Dover, who is subsidized by us, WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP WILL PAY OUR OWN WAY. It is assumed that Northern will suddenly get 294 kids and have no money to pay for it. The fact is, Northern does not start from scratch. As part of Northern, we will no longer give our tax dollars to Dover -- NORTHERN will receive it. So not only will Washington Township more than pay our way, there is no need for, or any such call by Northern to raise taxes. The truth is, Washington Township will buffer the need for Northern to raise taxes due to the sheer amount of money that our school taxes adds to the pot. The most recent YDR news article by Angie Mason reflected the likelihood that Northern could benefit, to the extent of realizing a gain of up to a million dollars! (YDR, your own good reporter just exposed your editorial bias). Joining the Northern York County School District, we give Northern a minimum of $2.5 million dollars of our school tax payments every year, at Northern's current millage rates, as well as the additional state (per pupil) and federal funding. In addition, Washington Township’s per capita fees, real estate transfer taxes, everything - go to Northern. Northern requires approximately $7,600-$7,800 per student for education, and just look at the results. Unlike Dover, Northern will manage it better too, with the trustworthy Northern School Board and administration that we want for our children.
FACT: There is no crisis at Northern. The sky is not going to fall. As Northern submitted to the DOE Secretary in 2012, approximately 8-12 new teachers would likely be needed, but in no way did they cite any significant costs nor financial problems created by Washington Township's transfer. Are Seth Grove, KIDS or the YDR's editorial board claiming to know things that the professionals in Northern don't know?! They tried, but there is no crisis cited by Northern, period. In their own responses to the Department, Northern stated that our transfer can be ready assimilated. Again, our $2.5 MILLION will more than cover the costs for ALL educational services at Northern.
As will be noted by the state Board of Education, since WTEC began in 2011, there has been zero DASD and zero political intervention by Grove until now. Grove, nor any Dover Area School District Representatives (other than their one lawyer) have even taken the time to show up in court! There was never an appeal when the opportunity to appeal was on the table. When these facts were presented and on the table in 2012, then in 2014, neither Dover nor Grove challenged anything that Northern provided in 2012, nor the factual WTEC rebuttal, nor the Secretary's 2014 decision on educational merit. Not one word. The state Board will recognize this for what it is. Three years of silence, indifference. Flash forward to late 2014, suddenly there is keen interest in Washington Township's best interests. How interesting.
FACT: In its successful 2013 effort to transfer school districts, the Riegelsville community endured years of the same bogus claims and accusations by its Easton area school district detractors. The state Board of Education, seeing the obvious educational merit and community divide, weighed the facts and approved the educational merit of the move. Today, all is well. The sky did not fall; the receiving school district assimilated new students with ease, taxes were not a significant issue and today the community and students are very satisfied. Riegelsville now has closer, safer schools, better education and has prevailed regardless of the exact same baseless attacks that are raised in our case. In comparison of the Riegelsville/Easton case to the issues of Washington Township/Dover/Northern, our case is much stronger, the convincing educational merit data several times more detailed and convincing. The community of Washington Township has gone above and beyond to provide fact-based, empirically-driven case that is much more broad, diverse and conclusive than Riegelsville. The result? The state Board considered all facts, public comment, weighed out the clear educational merit, then made its decision to approve the transfer to Pallisades School District. WTEC refers anyone with questions to read the Riegelsville vs. Easton's docket/case history, which sets the standard applied to municipalities and districts in transfer.
ALLEGATION: Northern will be forced to build brand new school buildings, and children will be taught in trailers.
FACT: Again, this is not the case, this claim is hysteric and desperate, fear-driven nonsense. The Northern York County School District has never indicated the need to set up trailers and will NOT construct new buildings due to the transfer of Washington Township students. (Students have been taught in trailers within the Dover Area School District, fyi).
The receiving district (Northern) does not question this fact. The facts of Northern’s position are clearly documented by statements in Northern’s recent public board meetings as well as in Northern’s response document to the Department of Education in June, 2012. In Northern’s own words regarding the transfer of Washington Township... "students are more resilient that parents, and (the transfer) will be met as with all students, they will be given a great education." Our transfer does not create insurmountable costs nor adverse affects that Grove and K.I.D.S. state will happen. Northern’s current and previous statements in 2012 refuted these unsubstantiated claims by Dover’s Dr. Krantz then, as it does now. (See “Northern’s Response to Secretary, DOE Investigation of Educational Merit” response document), which is a public document.
Most recently, Northern’s long range facilities plan openly describe maintaining a 65-75%% capacity rate at its four elementary schools – a figure that INCLUDES Washington Township’s students. The sky is not going to fall: Northern's own numbers show adequate capacity, with Washington Township. Thus, either Northern is not capable of counting its own students, or the false claims are baseless. Northern's capable management cites the real figures of its four elementary schools maintaining a 65-75% capacity average (including our students) which is far from 100% capacity or more. This public information and well-documented data disproves that our children will be taught in “trailers” and supports that Northern has adequate capacity. At no time has Northern stated the need to place Washington Township students in trailers.
With that point being made, WTEC understands the concern behind the claims raised by K.I.D.S. as well as all WTEC and K.I.D.S. parents. We all want what we believe is best for our children. It is understandable that parents want assurance that all students are not forgotten in the legal process and are in a safe, nurturing environment. WTEC has no intention of forcing children into educational trailers. The people making up WTEC make up a large number of parents with children in the schools, parents who also have babies, toddlers and/or plan to have children and a lot of parents and mostly Dover graduates that collectively drive WTEC's decision. We are not heartless curmudgeons and nobody doubts K.I.D.S. genuine concern. We do recognize that all parents are truly seeking to have the very best for their children. K.I.D.S.' efforts demonstrate that they take it seriously and fight for what they believe is right. WTEC shares the deep concern of moving children as well as other painful realities. WTEC has carefully considered and debated these issues for years and has not been cavalier in its effort. However, the difference is in how we view the best long-term educational option.
FACT: Northern has committed to a minimum estimated $8 to $10 Million revitalization of Wellsville Elementary school, whether Washington Township joins or not. Let us pause and recognize Northern's superb district management on behalf of the forward-looking Dr. Eshbach and Northern School Board. This decision speaks volumes and is quite revealing of Northern's administrative foresight and commitment to every community it serves. THIS is what we need for Washington Township. Dover's solution is to neglect and close any school outside of its Township/Borough borders. Northern's approach is a winner, its decision to keep and maintain community schools and equal commitment to each of its seven municipalities is the "Polar Opposite" of Dover. Northern's community approach is what we want for Washington Township. Also, most people are unaware that the Northern high school has witnessed a recent decrease in student population, according to Dr. Eshbach. So, there is existing capacity that does not require new building/s. Our total student population of 294 averages out to about 21 or 22 students per grade level, which in no way presents a need for "new buildings" as claimed. With Northern's official position to the Secretary of Education stating that Washington Township elementary students would attend Northern Elementary and/or Wellsville Elementary, it further allows for the assimilation of our students into existing schools without overcrowding. This fact is also the basis for another of the many non-tax reasons why WTEC wants Northern - because it absolutely means closer elementary schools for ALL elementary students, a huge deal.
FACT: Since 2011-12, Northern has remained officially “neutral” yet generally supportive to the transfer of Washington Township, planning for facilities and long-term accommodation of our students. Northern recognizes that Washington Township's high property values; our land and solid student population are desirable, and our population growth has remained steady at only 1-2% for the past 35 years! As opposed to the rampant urban sprawl of Dover which results in unsustainable costs, we work for hard-earned stability and give Northern the rock-solid predictability that supports long-term school planning. Our $2.5 Million in annual school taxes more than cover all costs, busing, supplies, heating, cutting the grass, sports, teachers - everything. With this transfer, no new taxes and, no massive construction of infrastructure is necessary. In support of these facts, remember that Washington Township's high property values are the fuel driving the engine of local school taxation/funding and absolutely more than pays for our students. Northern has recognized publicly that by having Washington Township, we buffer Northern and they may avoid this claim of drastic raising of taxes.
ALLEGATION: (from Grove) It is wrong that the people of Washington Township choose to send its students (read "tax dollars") to Northern; according to Grove, Washington Township provides a total of 21% of Dover’s local education budget and would result in $4.1 Million lost.
FACT: Currently, Washington Township pays nearly $3.6 Million (not $4.1) every year to Dover Area School District. But something doesn't add up. While Grove cites that DASD will lose 21% of its local education budget, Washington Township does not make up 21% of the Dover student population, not even close. Our student population it is less than 10% of Dover's total! Yet "Mr. Property Tax Relief" Seth Grove claims that the people of Washington Township must continue to pay over ONE MILLION DOLLARS MORE EVERY YEAR MORE TO DOVER THAN WE WOULD TO NORTHERN! Wow. In effect, Grove states that Washington Township should continue to make up this large difference -- not for the sake of our own families, but for Dover's children and services. In addition, the $3.6 Million that we reluctantly pay to Dover is a much, much smaller part of DASD’s $54+ MILLION BUDGET. $3.6 Million is not close to 21% of $54.5 Million dollars. It is about 6%. WTEC argues that it is fundamentally wrong and unfair for an elected official to pressure Washington Township, a rural township that is not in Grove's district, to stay for the sake of his district to pay for what Dover controls, to pay for the avoidable mess that has been and remains out of our control.
[For clarification, Mike Regan is Washington Township's state representative, 92nd district; Seth Grove is an outsider after our money].
MISSING: Grove/K.I.D.S./YDR's silence, denial on the obvious superior educational data and performance outcomes of Northern. This main issue is - educational merit, educational quality and performance.
OBSERVATION: Grove and K.I.D.S. are in denial. Grove and K.I.D.S. do not hide their denial. They scoff at the decision of educational merit painstakingly made by the Secretary of Education and her professional staff that poured through a mountain of evidence, records, statistics, data all case-related facts for nearly 16 months. These denial parties, now including Dover Area School District -- presented few facts on educational merit; they fail to discuss or challenge the real educational performance data and advantages that Northern offers to our children. On the other hand, WTEC holds that this is what it's all about, educational merit and performance are the main event, not side issues. The most likely cause of such silence and denial is the impossibility to refute the glaring educational merit and performance advantages of Northern over Dover. Conversely, as predicted by WTEC, there was no way the Secretary of Education and staff could find the educational merit of Dover over Northern.
In turn, those in opposition are throwing a last-second Hail Mary. Their solution is to deny, to present weak editorials and baseless claims that are emotional, fear-based, devoid of fact and credibility. Grove and K.I.D.S. have attempted to speak for Northern, but Northern has spoken for itself, (see Northern's website) it has nothing to fear and everything to gain since we pay our own way, bring good kids and no costs of sprawl. A good idea sells itself. Most importantly, as seen after the ill-conceived Porter Township case and the logical Riegelsville case, the Board of Education is a fact-based, education-first entity that will focus on educational merit.
The arguments have been made, facts presented, positions are well-established. Next, the Board of Education will set the hearings, weigh the anecdotal and empirical evidence to make the final decision. The Board made the right decision on Porter Township - a case weak in academic merit that attempted to send their kids much further to school. The Board also made the right decision on Riegelsville, who sought closer, safer, better performing schools and clearly the optimal educational situation for Riegelsville and Pallisades School District. As with Riegelsville, the Board will make its decision evaluating baseless claims versus the substantiated facts. It is hoped that the Board will weigh in WTEC's unprecedented public participation process as made by people who are part of our community, committed to improving our educational situation against outsider interests who have never spent the countless hours listening to our neighbors, parents with children in the schools as WTEC has. Already four years into this process, WTEC will continue to look at our educational future over the long-term, doing the most good for the most children with a conscience to understand the wide variety of positions that made up the hundreds of individual decisions of 1,406 people, most who are disaffected Dover alumni who want to move out of the Dover Area School District and into Northern. It is hoped that the state Board of Education takes these discussions, the baseless claims, Grove's press release and the many newspaper articles into account when making its final decision.
ASSERTION: Without exception, Grove and K.I.D.S. claim that WTEC's decision is 100% tax-driven.
FACT: The heart and soul of this decision involves significant educational issues, such as:
The vast majority people of Washington Township (WTEC) maintain that this case is about educational performance and outcomes, demonstrated and supported by source-referenced, empirical evidence. WTEC contends that education is our highest priority, a claim justified only after thorough comparison, review and detailed evaluation of the cumulative body of evidence to support it.
We look forward to having this discussion at our hearing with the state Board of Education.
SETH GROVE PRESS RELEASE: Washington Township Move Could Cause Property Tax Increase, Grove Says
DOVER - Rep. Seth Grove (R-Dover) today issued a statement following an informational meeting Monday, regarding the possible transfer of Washington Township to the Northern York County School District. In his statement, Grove said:
“As an advocate of property tax reform since my election in 2008, I understand the desire for lower property taxes. However, the decision of Washington Township to leave the Dover School District is wrong not only for taxpayers, but also for our community. The financial impact on taxpayers in the Dover area from this decision would be significant. The district would lose roughly $4.1 million which is approximately 21 percent of our local education funding. The loss of this funding would force the school district to cut back on teachers and raise property taxes on the remaining residents.
“Not only is this bad for taxpayers in the Dover Area School District, but it also hurts taxpayers in the Northern York School District. The impact on Northern York School District is simple; the district will increase taxes. This tax increase is inevitable because the school district will be forced to hire more teachers, expand services and enlarge buildings to educate the additional students.
“In addition to being the wrong choice financially for our community, this move is wrong for our children whose education is our highest priority.
“This decision is an effort by members of our community to see their property tax bill shrink…etc….
Majority of Washington Township Residents Support School District Change, Says Regan
DILLSBURG – Rep. Mike Regan (R-York/Cumberland) today said a majority of residents in Washington Township, which is a part of the 92nd Legislative District, support a move of their school children from the Dover Area School District to the Northern York School District. The Pennsylvania State Board of Education is currently considering a petition from Washington Township residents to facilitate that change.
“The legal petition circulated among residents in that part of our district indicated 74 percent support for the move to the Northern York School District,” said Regan. “Despite some statements to the contrary, I believe the residents of Washington Township have the best interests of their children in mind in making this effort.”
Regan said this is a process that will take time, as the petition must be fully considered by the state board, which will not meet again until . In addition, there is still an opportunity for filing requests for a public hearing and for other petitions to intervene or protest the proposed move. The deadline for filing such actions is .
A group named the Washington Township Education Coalition is spearheading the effort to make the school district switch. The coalition lists its reasons as switching to a better educational system at Northern York, in a desire to get better outcomes for their children. Additionally, they cite better safety records and a closer proximity for travel.
The coalition lists all of their reasons in detail on a website, http://www.wtecsite.org.
Regan said the Northern York district has indicated its willingness to work with parents in Washington Township in the event high school seniors would wish to finish out their education at Dover, and others who may wish to remain where they are.
“There is a lot to take into consideration with this potential move and I think the process needs to play out fairly where all the pros and cons can be fully evaluated, and a decision can be rendered that positively impacts all involved,” said Regan.
Representative Mike Regan
92nd Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
The vast majority of Washington Township residents, including at least 170 parents with children have signed a legal petition, entered into the legal process to become part of the Northern York County School District. Northern offers an outstanding education, with long-term proven performance and educational outcomes, with better managed community schools and a 30% lower tax rate. Northern has demonstrated long-term, higher standardized test scores (ex. SAT, AYP/NCLB, PSSA) as well as a higher districtwide score on the new school performance profile, as well as a wider curriculum, extra-curricular activities, higher graduation and college placement rates, a better community and geographic fit, much lower in-school crime, school arrests and truancy rates (than Dover) while offering Washington Township much closer schools on safer roads for travel. As part of Northern's responses to the Secretary's official questionnaire, all Washington Township elementary students would most likely attend Northern and Wellsville elementary schools, offering closer elementary schools (than any Dover school) for all Washington Township students. Independent, empirical, factual evidence concludes the obvious educational merit of this change.
NORTHERN: Closer Schools, Safer Schools, Less Crime, Truancy; A Stable, Better Managed District; Lower Taxes, Consistently Better Performance, and the Legal Choice as Determined by Vast Majority of Washington Township.
Better Education, Outcomes, Performance: Snapshot of SPP, SAT comparison
In 2013 and again in November, 2014 -- The new PA Department of Education's School Performance Profile (SPP) ratings and comparison shine more favorably on Northern's schools. Notably, Northern's district aggregate score is higher than Dover's, even with the advantages of the SPP criteria that favors DASD.
Northern has an elementary school that received a rating in the top ten of all schools in the nine county region of the midstate, juxtaposed with Dover intermediate school's score of 71 (2013), which is two points away from a failing score. As expected, in 2013 and now again in 2014, a comparative analysis and scores, similar to what has previously been documented for most important standardized tests/performance, displays Northern's higher overall #'s and %'s than Dover.
2014 -- Northern has again outscored Dover in every category of the SAT: every category, every year for at least the 14th year in a row.
2013 -- Confirmed SAT scores once again Northern students have achieved much higher SAT test scores than Dover
NORTHERN -- Scored average of 520 (Verbal), 531 (Math) and 598 (Writing). Northern scores are also higher than state and national averages.
DOVER -- Scored average of 492 (Verbal), 490 (Math) and 466 (Writing).
NORTHERN -- Scored average of 516 (Verbal), 531 (Math) and 500 (Writing)! Northern scores are also higher than state and national averages.
DOVER -- Scored average of 472 (Verbal), 479 (Math) and 444 (Writing). Dover scores average 50 points less per category. <150 points overall.
Northern's SAT performance is outstanding; top of York County, consistently higher than state and national averages. Northern has outscored Dover in the SAT test in every category, every year, fourteen years in a row (since 2000).