By June 30th of this month, I will have spent 31 years being a part of The Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools- PARSS. It has been one of the highlights of my life. I was there at its infancy and have been an integral part of it since the first day. We have gone through so many ups and downs in those 31 years. I do not regret any of the things that we have done. We tried to help provide a quality education to all of the students in Pennsylvania, not just rural students. We have always been focused on providing resources for schools and school districts.
This next week will be my final hurrah in the corridors of the capitol. It has long been my dream to resurrect a dormant conclave of rural legislators. I helped with one in the 1980’s which has been lying fallow for quite a number of years. Today, I meet with four members of the House of Representatives who are active ruralists and want to start the rural legislative caucus again.
The tender part of starting such and aggregation of rural legislators is that leadership kind of frowns on them. It is seen by the power brokers as dividing their caucus, whether R’s or D’s. Not sure that is true but we must have our rural legislators, Republican and Democrat, look at all legislation through a rural lens. Yes, there are laws that affect everyone, but there are times when rural reps. need to stand by their own constituents and not by what the hierarchy wants.
The second meeting is with a member of the Senate and a member of the House. They are both interested in a bill that was crafted by a number of us in the early 2000’s and came out of discussions with many school districts. It is a new funding formula and taxing change. It would eliminate the non-formula of the past 30 years and put education on a regular funding basis.
When last offered in 2002, it garnered the support of 21 state Senators, 12 R’s and 9 D’s. It had the support of all of the leadership of both parties. It was submitted by Senator James J. Rhoades, a good friend. He worked hard to get it on the agenda of both parties. It was stymied by an administration that was not interested in rocking the boat.
Senator Rhoades has passed away a few years ago and I have been looking for someone to pick up the mantle of the bill. This will not be my first attempt to get it done. I am not sure what will come out of this meeting. Both the senator and the rep. are not in leadership positions, but they have the respect of their caucuses. The nice thing is that they are smart and able. Once they sink their teeth into this bill and push it, they may get it on the table of both houses.
They are both R’s and the Governor is a Democrat. We do have some entre into the administration. However, this is a big chunk to swallow. Wish me luck, I don’t have much time.