• Pittsburgh residents facing school tax increase in next year's budget

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    PITTSBURGH - Pittsburgh residents are facing a school tax increase in next year's budget, but it isn't the extra money that has many concerned.

    It's the way the school board has proposed to spend that money.

    "Pittsburgh spends approximately $30,000 per student per year yet ranks in the lower 25 percent in achievement. That should not be an excuse to spend more money and raise taxes," said resident Cheryl Diethorn of the West End. 

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    Residents spoke at a public hearing on the budget Monday, many pointing to research they say shows that increased policing and security in schools doesn't make things safer and can cause more harm to students.

    "What these drills can do is either trigger a past trauma or trigger such a physiological reaction that it actually ends up scaring the individuals than better preparing them to respond in these types of situations," Diethorn said.

    Instead, they lobbied for spending money on social services they believe would tackle the root of the problem.

    "If we actually had the same amount of counselors and social workers as we do security personnel that would change the game tremendously," said Angel Gober of One Pennsylvania.


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    School board members said they agree, but figuring out the budget is difficult.

    "We've been trying our best to increase that in the budget, but it all costs money," said school board member Sylvia Wilson.

    Wilson said that Pittsburgh Public Schools partners with social service agents to get students the resources they need, but admitted more can always be done.

    The board is expected to adopt the budget on Dec. 18.

    How will the money be spent?

    PPS rolled out its new proposal on Tuesday -- a plan calling for sweeping changes over the next 6 months to help schools make the grade.

    Over 130 recommendations were proposed in areas ranging from graduation requirements and medical careers to mental health resources and education.

    But the presentation wasn't without controversy. Neighbors are facing a school tax increase in next year's budget.

    Some argue students are failing at reading, writing and math -- so why rollout more?

    Superintendent Chief of Staff Errika Jones talked directly to tax payers, saying: "Yes, we heard you. We're listenting and we're going to figure out how to move forward in a way that tightens our belt and gives our students the best education possible."

    The district said it will pour resources into struggling schools like Westinghouse and Perry, while community partners like Heinz Endowments will help with everything from early childhood education. 


     

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