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Guest Opinion

We cannot afford a tax-and-spend model in Pennridge


When I ran for school board eight years ago, taxes were being raised every non-election year, and either bonds were taken out or money was being pulled from fund balance to fund spending on election years. Long-term planning was non-existent.

My first year, I was the sole vote against raising taxes, but for the last seven years there was enough support not to raise taxes or take out new bonds, balance the budget, and refinance our debt down significantly. Next year, our debt will drop $6.5 million annually and four years later, we will be debt free, dropping another $5.5 million annually. That was done while increasing supports to the classroom, adding STEM courses, and enacting a senior tax rebate.

We cannot afford to go back to the tax-and-spend model one slate of candidates wants to revert to.

In addition, the district continues to run up frivolous Right To Know requests, increasing legal fees required to review and redact all confidential staff and student information, while attacking the district for the increases they created.

It never ceases to amaze me the extent people will go to on election years to manipulate the public. Regarding the recent lawsuit, the board has been extremely vocal about its desire to remove completely inappropriate sexual content from libraries. To that end, a supermajority of the board publicly passed a specific policy designed to do so. It simply does not follow that a board publicly committed to a review of inappropriate material would avoid a debate about the removal of books or seek to hide their removal. The district will continue to investigate this matter and, if any staff member(s) are found to be responsible for falsifying any documents, they will be held accountable.

Another recent rumor is that we somehow deleted a century of history. Our curriculum was realigned to add an Economics, Government and Civics course to prepare our students to be productive citizens. The realignment simply moved that history to 8th and 10th grade instead of 9th. No class will graduate without that content. In addition, the significantly qualified consultant who formerly served as a curriculum director and helped write high quality and unbiased K-12 curriculum, which continues to be misrepresented, cost 1/8 of prior district consultants who trained staff on how to weave in what they want students to think instead of teaching them how to think and come to their own conclusions. That prior thinking had a negative impact on curriculum and student scores.

Jordan Adams was brought in to increase the rigor and quality of the curriculum while providing facts and primary sources to help students strengthen critical thinking skills, analyze information, and come to their own conclusions. Over time, the resources used in education have been dumbed down to spoon-feed conclusions.

Ironically, the group complaining about test scores doesn’t want the curriculum fixed and wants to blame proposed changes for past scores. They argue for the status quo and inflating the administration instead of providing direct classroom supports. They want to force their opinions on students because they believe their opinions are facts. They advocated strongly for masks and shutting down schools over COVID, but now want to capitalize on the drop in scores due to COVID shutdowns.

We recently expanded choices within graduation requirements for students to individualize their courses to fit their individual pathways. They advocated for a one-size-fits-all system where they know what’s best for everyone. We expanded dual enrollment opportunities for students to earn college credits in all content areas. They pushed back, wanting to control content.

For eight years, I advocated for adding Reading/Language Arts and Math building-level teaching assistants to pull small remediation and enrichment groups from each classroom based on formative assessments to work with them on their individual needs. There was finally administrative and board support to put that in place. That’s what increases scores and student success, not more administrators.

Let’s continue to prioritize students’ needs first with a board that will continue to move things in the right direction. I don’t agree with all the Republican candidates on everything, but the Democratic team will lead us in a direction our students and taxpayers cannot afford.

Megan Banis-Clemens is the current vice president of the Pennridge School Board. She is not seeking reelection.

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