The Solanco School Board called on state Rep. Gibson C. Armstrong last week for help with three concerns they have: Gov. Rendell's 2006 funding proposal, cyberschool funding and prevailing wage rates.

The school board invited Rep. Armstrong to a board meeting in November, but he wasn't able to attend until the Feb. 27 board meeting.

"I'm very proud to represent Solanco," said Armstrong. "Some of my colleagues believe it takes money to create a good education, but Solanco has the lowest tax rate in the county and some of the highest test scores."

Armstrong said he is impressed with Solanco's teachers and students.

Superintendent Jon Rednak told Armstrong that Solanco is one of three districts in the county that didn't receive funds from the state because the district taxes are too low.

"Let's recognize districts that are doing a good job academically and fiscally," he said to Armstrong about the Governor's proposed education budget.

Solanco business manager Tim Shrom said, "It's a funny message. You do well and get penalized for it."

Solanco would've received $400,000 for the 2006-07 school year from a Foundation Supplement.

If a school district spends $9,030 a student, they get more from the Foundation Supplement, said Shrom.

Solanco spent $7,572 per student during the 2004-05 school year, less than any other school district in Lancaster County.

Although Solanco would've received $400,000 according to a state formula, they won't now because they tax too low.

On the issue of cyberschools, Rednak said Solanco spends between $400,000 to $500,000 of its limited budget on cyberschools.

"We're not a for-profit," he said. "We don't think we should be funding anyone that is."

Last year, Shrom said Solanco had 80 students enrolled in cyberschool/charter schools and this year it's down to 52.

Last year the district spent more than $460,000 to fund cyber/charter schools.

"We don't have any control," said Shrom, who added that it costs $6,000 per student for a tuition rate change.

By having its own Virtual Academy for students, the district is able to have more control.

Solanco has four students presently enrolled in its Virtual Academy for students in kindergarten through sixth-grade.

Although it's a pilot program, the curriculum is built, said Shrom.

"We have more control of the curriculum and it's our students. We're spending $4,500 per person," he said.

Rednak said Solanco is not against cyberschool education.

"We're doing it to provide a quality education," he said. "We just want legislation to create a fair amount across the state."

Property tax reform was also an issue.

"None of the plans we've been seeing are lowering taxes - just shifting taxes," said board president Craig Chubb.

Armstrong said: "I believe we can completely eliminate school property taxes but you've got to pay the piper."

Board member Steve Risk said: "If you truly want to cut taxes take out the prevailing wage."

A possible repeal of Pennsylvania's antiquated prevailing-wage law, which provides for artificially high wages and benefits for workers on taxpayer-funded construction projects, including school buildings, was on the table in Harrisburg - again last year.

First approved in 1961, the law that school officials, in particular, hate and union bosses love, has proven to be quite resilient to challenge.

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