T/E School Board Debate: Six Questions,One Glaring Omission
Candidates came ready for the question that, incredibly, was never asked.
Eight of ten candidates for the T/E School Board answered six of the 20+ questions submitted by audience members during a League of Women Voters sponsored forum Tuesday at the Tredyffrin Municipal Building.
The two hour format - which included time for opening statments (2 minutes), closing statements (2 minutes) and 90 seconds each for candidates to answer questions on topics that ranged from support for the arts and athletics to competitive contract bidding on building projects to vouchers- allowed for six questions.
It's math that virtually any student at Conestoga High School would be expected to figure out.
To be fair, debates like this are stressful for the candidates and the organizers. Sometimes answers go long, sometimes candidates don't show up and always the clock is ticking.
Still voters and candidates were left wondering why a question about the teacher salary matrix (the what? see editor's note below) was addressed while the "elephant in the room" question was never even posed. That would have been question number seven: Where do you stand on the Earned Income Tax (EIT) issue?
The EIT has arguably been issue number one throughout the campaign. It has been the focus of two months of work by the vounteer citizen Tax Study Group. An EIT would affect virtually every working resident of the T/E School District.
The question, incredibly, was never asked during the two hour forum.
Moderator Anne Suss had a stack of at least 20 audience question to choose from each time a question was asked. She told Patch that the EIT question was going to be number seven but she simply ran out of time. She explained her goal was to cover a range of topics and that in a live format one "can't predict" how timing will go. Candidates can go long (a few did on one or two turns before being cut off by the official timer). Candidates can go short (a few did on some answers).
Had the question been asked of the school board candidates, chances are the audience would have heard the same kind of responses that were given Monday when Tredyffrin Board of Supervisor candidates were asked about the EIT. Each Board of Supervisor candidate said they personally opposed it.
It is, however, the school board members and not the Tredyffrin or Easttown boards of supervisors who will have to decide whether to put the EIT question on the April 2012 primary election ballot for the voters to decide.
Tredyffrin Republicans have staked their claim on the issue. No EIT. It's on lawn signs all over Tredyffrin. Monday after the Board of Supervisors candidate debate TTGOP Chairman Mike Broadhurst made a point of telling Patch that his party had taken the lead on opposing the issue.
A Tredyffrin Democrat insider told Patch after Tuesday's debate that TTDems' candidates were fully prepared to address the EIT question in the debate.
According to the insider, the Democrat candidates from Tredyffrin would have expressed their personal opposition to the tax proposal. However the TTDems insider said the issue, first suggested by retiring Republican T/E School Board Finance Committee member Kevn Mahoney, should be allowed to go to the voters.
Easttown Democrat leader Craig Lewis, who is running for a seat on the school board, also said the question of an EIT should be allowed to be put to the voters.
The Tax Study Group will present its findings to the public and the school board on November 3, five days before the election. The Tax Study Group is expected to map out the pros and cons of a tax as outlined by expert witnesses and citizens who spoke at the group's meetings in September and earlier this month.
The T/E School Board, which currently has a 6-3 Republican majority, will have to decide whether or not to put the EIT question on the ballot.
None of the school board candidates during Tuesday's debate stated whether or not they would vote to put the EIT proposal on the ballot.
They were never asked.
Editor's Note: The salary matrix is a critical part of the TESD contract which will be open for negotiation starting in January. The matrix lists salaries for teachers and other union professionals based on years of service and education levels. It can be found starting on page 39 of the current teacher contract which is posted on the TESD website.