Headline by Not Enough Said
Raises More Questions Than Answers: A Dissection of Bait and Switch" by Robert J. Frasconi
NESE is Not Enough Said Editor
H-S.com is Herald-Standard.com highlighted links are to:
School District Consolidation Study to Begin by Carla DeStafano May 13, 2011
RJF is Robert J. Frasconi
"Article Raises More Questions Than Answers: A Dissection of Bait and Switch"
H-S.com An education management company has been hired to perform a consolidation study that will examine the potential cost savings
of combining all six Fayette County school districts.
RJF Who hired Education Management Group (EMG) LLC to do the consolidation study?
H-S.com According to state Rep. Tim Mahoney, D-South Union Township, who proposed the consolidation, officials of The Education Management
Group (EMG) LLC will begin the study immediately with a projected completion date sometime in August.
RJF Again, who made the decision that EMG would perform the study?
H-S.com "My goal is to have it on the referendum in November," Mahoney said.
RJF What piece of legislation empowers Rep. Mahoney to place a school consolidation referendum
on the county election ballot in November? Last we checked, Mahoney is not a sitting Fayette County commissioner.
Moreover, Fayette County commissioners do not possess the legal authority to place a school consolidation referendum on the
H-S.com Consultants Dr. Donald Boyer and Dr. Ronald Stainbrook of EMG met with Mahoney and an advisory board of education officials,
area business owners and community organization leaders on Thursday to answer questions and discuss the move that calls for
the consolidation of administrations and business operations of the public school districts in the county.
RJF Who are these people? Why aren’t the members of the “advisory board of education officials, area business owners and community organization leaders” identified? Why is Rep. “Open Records” (so-called) holding shadowy, closed-door meetings with unidentified
“advisory board” members?
H-S.com The study, paid for by a $100,000 state grant, will include a close look at the operations in Uniontown Area, Albert Gallatin
Area, Brownsville Area, Connellsville Area, Laurel Highlands and Frazier school districts.
RJF We’re informed that the study will be “paid for by a $100,000 state grant.” (May 13, 2011) However, in another H-S article , we're informed the cost for the study will be $68,000 (May 11, 2011, Steve Ferris)
What happened to the other $32,000? The legislator who spouts about holding others accountable
needs to be held to account for this discrepancy. Will the Uniontown Redevelopment Authority, who is to administer the
grant, receive the $32,000? Why? When all the authority is going to do is wait for the study to be completed,
does it really take $32,000 to “administer the grant”?
RJF In light of what we have learned thus far by the dissection of this article, this statement
by Rep. Mahoney is laughable. Does he actually believe that holding non-public meetings with an “advisory board”
whose members remain undisclosed is trying “to do this study in an open and honest way”?
RJF We at Not Enough Said relish laying it out the way it is. Rest assured that we will not
sugar coat anything. That includes not sugar coating the massive power grab that is now apparent in Fayette County.
RJF While Dr. Boyer finds it difficult to provide “concrete answers until after the study
reveals whether or not the consolidation is feasible in the county,” the fact the study has not yet begun has not prevented
Rep. Mahoney from offering wildly optimistic forecasts of savings. As we have documented, Rep. Mahoney has made unsubstantiated
projections of 25-30 percent savings, which subsequently were pared back to 15-20 percent. But even these more restrained
estimates seem overly optimistic. In light of the 2007 Standard and Poor's study that shows per capita costs actually
increase in districts where student population exceeds 3,000, and noting that EMG’s study has not yet begun, it strikes
us that Rep. Mahoney’s grandiose savings projections have been, at the very least, premature, and at the most, highly
"Based on the configuration of the county, I don't think there is any possibility of changing anything
with the high schools," Boyer said. "But we will be looking at elementary schools. There's always a lot of emotion attached
to that, but it's a combination of technology and dwindling population that determines (a building's) future use."
One might, at this point, ask why Fayette County has a dwindling population. At this point,
those in political power may want to fetch a mirror!
RJF One Cyber School. One alternative school. One vocational-technical school.
There will also be a uniform curriculum, “uniform millage” rate and “consistent salaries for teachers and
Oneness and uniformity permeate the plan; however, “savings” are not guaranteed, as Rep.
Mahoney himself later admits in this very article.
For example, one of the reasons that actual savings may not materialize in a consolidation is that
salaries for teachers and staff naturally tend to gravitate toward the higher salary levels of the constituent districts,
not the lower levels.
As for “uniform millage,” one need only study the Central Valley School District merger
to realize that while a uniform millage rate may result in tax decreases for some property owners, for other property owners
it portends tax increases.
RJF Here is where the rubber meets the road in Rep. Mahoney’s school consolidation plan.
Instead of decision-making staying in the hands of 54 elected individuals, the consolidation plan push, like the force of
a tornadic vortex sucking up everything in its path, uproots local control and leaves in its wake what can only be described
as a disaster of governmental proportions -- a highly centralized, seven-member board of school directors with power that
would make a Russian czar blush.
Mahoney suggests that the directors be paid. How much they are to be paid remains unsaid.
However, if those directors are to be compensated, any realized savings from reductions in administrative staff would soon
The pay will be to get qualified (read: politically-connected) people on the board.
Here Mahoney uses ‘districts’ (plural), when under his plan, there would be only one
county-wide school district (singular).
He could, however, have meant alleged nepotism within current school districts. If so,
one might ask how he would come to expect to eradicate nepotism by concentrating hiring power in a seven-member, county-wide
Most likely, the seven super-directors would control nepotism all right. They’d control
it for their own benefit, and hiring would become ever more politically-charged!
RJF Who are these officials in Harrisburg that say school districts “could see 15 percent
to 20 percent in savings after consolidation”?
RJF Rep. Mahoney now admits there may be no savings at all! Amazingly, this admission comes
after he has irresponsibly touted 25-30 percent savings (subsequently pared back to 15-20 percent savings).
Tellingly, Mahoney relates that he would “put that 15 percent we save back into education without
anyone’s taxes going up.”
Did you catch the bait and switch?
First, Mahoney sells the deal as saving property owners money on their property taxes, but he intends
on pouring any “savings” back into education!
NESE Did he let that one inadvertently slip!
RJF So, in reality, Rep. Mahoney doesn’t intend to “save” the taxpayers any money!
RJF He has to pay those qualified, professional (read: politically-connected) school directors, don’t
This is absolutely astonishing. He sells his consolidation plan as tax relief, but he never
intends on providing any relief!
Bait and switch.
Under Mahoney’s school consolidation plan, taxes will not go down even if savings are realized!
Bait and switch.
Mahoney has moved from a platform of property tax elimination, to the false carrot of property
tax reduction, to an outright admission that there will be no reduction whatsoever!
Bait and switch.
NESE And the Herald-Standard.com is complicit in the promise-game, the promise
that can't be kept (as studies show costs go up in larger units of government!).
RJF If a Fayette County political huckster ran on a power grabbing platform of ever-higher, property
tax rates and less parental say in education, could he get re-elected?
Stay tuned. We may just find out!
NESE We're taking futures bets long before Lady Luck Casino gets up and running...