Thursday, May 17, 2012

More voices heard in Upper Darby school controversy

The controversy surrounding proposed curriculum cuts in the Upper Darby School District paid a visit to the township council last night.

A group of concerned parents urged the pols to get involved, assuring them that what happens in the schools will spill over to the township.

You can read about it here.

In the meantime, we devoted another ‘Live From the Newsroom’ live-stream Internet broadcast to this crucial issue.

If you missed the broadcast, you can catch the replay here.

We were joined by state Sen. Ted Erickson, R-26, who represents Upper Darby; former Upper Darby Superintendent Joe Batory; and Larry Feinberg, Haverford School Board member and representative of the Keystone State Education Coalition.

Erickson provided an update on the Senate’s effort to restore some of the cuts enacted in Gov. Tom Corbett’s budget. The version passed by the Senate now goes to the House. Erickson indicated the plan likely will be tweaked some more before final passage, and is largely dependent on revenue projections, which have actually been improving.

Erickson said the goal is to have a budget in place by June 15, two weeks earlier than the deadline of June 30. He said it with a twinkle in his eye. I’ll believe that happens in Harrisburg, where adopting a budget is something of an art form that almost always runs right up against the deadline, when I see it.

If anyone knows the Upper Darby district, it is Joe Batory. He served as superintendent from 1984-1999. He repeated his opposition to the proposed cuts – which would eliminate the so-called “special” classes in music and art at the elementary level, and language and technology in the middle schools. Batory insisted this is exactly what districts should not be doing, that almost every study done boosts the importance of introducing students at an early age to music and the arts.

Feinberg, who deals with his own issues in Haverford, went so far as to declare what is going on in Pennsylvania as a move to “privatize public education.” Feinberg complained about the growing presence – and influence – of big money factors that are pushing cyber and charter schools.

It’s clear this issue is not going away, in Upper Darby or anywhere else.

Now all eyes will be on the public hearing on the budget plan set for May 23.

Will the district make changes to their proposal in an attempt to save the “special” classes? Will more money or some kind of fundraising effort similar to what was launched for area archdiocesan schools save the day?

Stay tuned.

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