Jenkintown's assessed value

Council Meeting Roundup: A real debate, smokescreens, and warm turds

A packed house witnessed Jenkintown Borough Council engage in some actual debate and three presentations for developments that promise to have real impact in the community.

Here’s a quick roundup of the lengthy but lively meeting.

Proposed Taco Bell Development

Handed the chance to redeem themselves for gutlessly supporting a project that abrogates their own zoning and degrades our town, Borough Council treats it like a warm turd.

Council member Michael Golden proposed that the Borough ask Summerwood Corporation to voluntarily pay a 50% surcharge over their legal tax obligation in support of the school system. In my time covering these issues, I couldn’t think of a single instance anywhere where such a solution was ever proposed much less implemented. Golden didn’t provide any examples to show precedence either, and Solicitor Kilkenny also thought little of the idea.

In response, Golden back-pedaled and amended his motion to instead withdraw its support of the project. Mind you, Council’s vote has no real affect over the project moving forward. That lies in the hands of the Zoning Board.

However, it did provide Council a golden opportunity to express its contrition for callously dismissing not only its own zoning code, but public sentiment as well.

In the discussion, Council Vice President and Social Media Bully Rick Bunker again spouted his sky-will-fall sentiments by calling this insult to our community a “bird-in-hand” situation. One has to wonder why a person with such eagerly expressed erudition and above-average intelligence would back such an obviously terrible idea. Either he’s not so smart after all, or he’s putting his own personal interest over that of the community he represents.

The motion to withdraw support was tabled 11-1 with Golden standing alone.

Jenkintown School District Budget Presentation

Between the Jenkintown School District and, say, the Trump Administration, I’m not sure which governmental entity lays down a better smoke screen for its acolytes. The JSD claims it is in the red — at least $600,000 this year. It then showed us some very clear charts to illustrate the state of its finances over the course of the past ten years.

You might not be aware that that as it raised your property taxes over the past ten years, the JSD enjoyed some healthy surpluses — more than $2 million at one point. In fact, the JSD has run a surplus every year since 2008. In 2003, we paid a total tax bill of about $3,000 per year. Last year it was over $7,000. One can be forgiven if they think that the JSD took food off your table and kicked a few families out of their homes just so they could sock cash in their piggy bank.

The JSD blames their predicament on falling property assessments, in decline every year but one since 2008. Did it ever occur to the JSD that the more they raise our taxes, the less salable our homes become? Yes, people move here for the school district, which raises our taxes, which suppress our property values, which compels the JSD to raise our taxes again. Wash, rinse, repeat.

What’s the solution? According to Council, Ms. Takacs, and those that regard the arguably overrated school district as untouchable, we should write our state reps. Steve McCarter, our rep, typically looks for solutions for this broken system by nibbling around the edges, tinkering with formulas, and raising taxes — all of which have proven ineffective.

The real solution calls for eliminating the school tax altogether and supporting Property Tax Independent Act. Education benefits the entire commonwealth. More members of this commonwealth should contribute — not just property owners. The current system is broken.

Assurances that the teachers pension system obligations will plateau soon — always “soon” — has not, and will likely never, come to pass. The whole pension system resembles a Ponzi scheme anyway. It’s time teachers contribute into a 401K program like the rest of the work force. I want good teachers paid well, but after they no longer work for us, their retirement becomes their responsibility.

Abington Friends School Development

The Abington Friends School plans to build a brand new, state-of-the-art athletic facility and outdoor track with lighting. Because this all lies within Abington, Jenkintown has no real standing, but because of its proximity to our border, an inter-governmental courtesy is exercised, giving our Council the opportunity to comment. A few residents expressed a concern about the lighting of the field, but it looks like construction crews will be moving in very soon.

New Apartments at 610 Summit

Roizman Development wants to tear down Salem Baptist and build 74 mostly one-bedroom apartments for the elderly. The new building, while conventionally handsome, sure does seem to loom over that location. It stands at four stories tall, and its occupants will have a commanding view of the back yards of their Cedar Street neighbors.

York Road and Noble Station Bridge

We will soon get to test drive a road diet for York Road, though not in the heart of our town. According to Council President Deborra Sines-Pancoe, PennDOT plans to begin the reconstruction of the bridge at Noble Station. The project will pinch the road down to two lanes in both directions, with lengthy merge lanes on both sides.

Remember that it took PennDOT two years to replace the bridge at the train station, so we’re going to get a good taste of what we believe should happen anyway.

Old York Road Jenkintown

The York Road Diet for saving Jenkintown FAQ

Walkable Jenkintown calls for PennDOT to put York Road in Jenkintown on what planners call a “road diet”. In order to reduce traffic, its speed, and to catalyze the revival of commerce on the York Road and the surrounding commercial district, PennDOT must reduce road capacity by removing a lane of traffic in each direction through Jenkintown between Washington Lane and Cloverly Avenue.

Your questions, please.

Q: This idea is nuts. Where’s all that traffic going to go?

A: The short answer is, “somewhere else” but that’s just me caring more about pedestrians than cars. Let’s start with some historical background first.

York Road experiences such heavy traffic volumes simply because it has the capacity for it. PennDOT expanded capacity in the 1970s to deal with a classic 1970s problem: Getting cars from the city to the outlying suburbs and to expand an existing arterial into Philadelphia to accommodate commuter traffic — despite the fact that train service existed to do exactly that. People had begun to lose interest in public transit back then and the Reading Railroad was going out of business, so PennDOT stepped up and gave us lots more roads to drive our cars.

Attitudes have changed since then. SEPTA provides pretty good service between the city and the burbs (despite the constant complaints about it), but more people work outside of the city than within it now, yet York Road remains heavily used because it’s there, not because it’s needed.

So, where will the traffic go? Some will continue to pass through Jenkintown, but almost as much traffic passes through Rockledge as it does through Jenkintown, and Rockledge doesn’t experience the car-mageddon that some Jenkintonians have predicted for here. Speaking for myself, I stay away from Rockledge at rush hour because I know how congested it can get. I suspect thousands of potential trips are canceled in this manner every day. The same will happen in Jenkintown.

Second, alternative routes do exist. Washington Lane and Easton Road are just two. Route 309 exists for exactly this. If you go to Google maps and plot routes (for sample’s sake) between the H-Mart in Cheltenham and the Home Depot in Willow Grove, you save only 1 minute traveling through Jenkintown over taking the Turnpike to 309 south.

Several other technological solutions exist to alleviate traffic flow in this corridor, including the Waze app and other live GPS tools.

In other words, yes, this will largely take care of itself.

Won’t cars just use our side streets?

Have you ever tried to do that? I have. Trying to save time between the Abington Wawa and the Fern Rock terminal, I took the Runnymede/Cheltena/Cedar/Washington Lane detour. Big mistake. I’ll never do that again.

Jenkintown streets are too choked by one-ways, stop signs, oncoming cars on narrow streets, and speed humps. Only a true masochist would attempt that twice.

Isn’t it a state road?

Which is why we have to ask the Governor. For whatever reason, our own borough council has gotten nowhere with this. They keep appealing to PennDOT. PennDOT keeps shooing us away. We think they should go over PennDOT’s head.

Do you really think this is possible?

Yes, but it’d be a long slog made longer by the fact that our borough government can’t get anywhere with PennDOT. Why, isn’t clear, but this for at least the sake of raising the profile of this issue we are petitioning the governor. Nothing good will come from doing nothing.

Didn’t Jenkintown sell off the parking spaces in the 70s?

This is a common myth. The state has always owned that road, and in fact owns it right up to the storefronts. When Jenkintown issued it’s long-range plan in 1962, it planned to expand York Road to four lanes. Since PennDOT always owned that road, stories in the Chronicle suggest it could have removed the parking spaces any time they wanted.

Why do you say Jenkintown isn’t walkable? I walk everywhere in town.

In this context, walkability doesn’t mean ability to walk around, it means desirability. You can, if you want, walk from the Willow Grove Mall to the Olive Garden, but you won’t.

Is Jenkintown the kind of place where you’d park your car and spend the day? Maybe you have an appointment at Hot Yoga or maybe your kid wants a cupcake, but is Jenkintown a destination to spend an afternoon? No. It’s not.

By contrast, in Ambler, you can shop, eat, catch a movie, grab a beer, see a play, or get a haircut. Its atmosphere is more conducive to social interaction than Jenkintown. Ambler has Deck’s Hardware, one of the most amazing independent hardware stores within 50 miles. You don’t just have one brewery, you have two — and a wine bar. You have a barbecue place, a Mexican place, an old-guy bar, ice cream shop, a Rita’s, several gift shops, upscale and downscale dining options, and sidewalks used by people who live, work, and visit there in volumes that Jenkintown can only wish for right now. It has things I don’t yet know about, because it’s changing constantly. This was not the case only ten years ago. Jenkintown has made far less progress.

You don’t want to go to Ambler? That’s your choice. Maybe you don’t appreciate downtown experiences like I do. I love them. Nothing better. In every aspect of that, Jenkintown comes up short, and as a community, we are paying dearly for that.

I feel perfectly safe walking on York Road.

That’s what men say, and men will do all kinds of nutty things with no regard for their safety. Women, and especially mothers of small children, don’t feel the same way. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the true litmus test.

What does making York Road slower do for Jenkintown?

If we can create a more pedestrian-conducive environment on York Road, we have the opportunity to make the properties there more valuable and in the process raise their tax assessments. Jenkintonians are straining under the weight of our tax burdens, made much worse by commercial district assessments declining since 2009 (the year they opened that new parking lot, by the way).

If I told you that a two-lane York Road could lower your taxes, would you support it then?

Doesn’t our Jenkintown2035 plan have the answers?

The Jenkintown2035 plan does express a very high priority on proper development of the commercial district and along York Road, but the plan is essentially useless unless the Borough actually commits to it. The Taco Bell development is a very bad sign. The Borough does not have a Main Street manager. It has George Locke, who has contributed nothing that anyone knows about to this process, and under his watch, code enforcement along York Road has gone lacking.

Taco Bell proposal

Jenkintown’s community conversation gets hot and spicy

For this walkability advocate, it’s deja vu all over again.

Twenty years ago, my former home town considered a plan to demolish a five-story, historic retail store on prominent corner in its downtown and replace it with a McDonald’s, Shell gas station, convenience store combination. This poor city had long since suffered the ravages of having teeth kicked out of its main streets for thirty years before that, and those who cared about the city’s future, desperately hoped this property could be saved. I joined that cause. Somehow, miraculously, the zoning board voted it down. Today, that building is filled with life as an artist residence with retail shops, anchoring a new arts district in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Here we go again, only this time Jenkintown Borough Council thinks it would be just fine to tear down a handsome, occupied historic structure and replace it with a fast food joint — all for the money. Money, they claim that will stave off further tax hikes by both the Borough and the School District, which is reportedly $800,000 in the red. Believe me, we all heard about the dire straights of the school district tonight — like a bludgeon beating away our desire for a better Jenkintown.

The developer needs a variance because ten years ago, Borough Council passed an ordinance that specifically prohibited exactly this type of development. No drive-through windows and all new buildings must stand at least two stories tall, but apparently all is fair in love and zoning ordinances. Council President Deborra Sines-Pancoe said this was merely like allowing a fence to be an extra few inches higher than other fences. Thankfully my disgust with her rationalization was tempered by watching her flap in the wind trying to explain this disaster. This is leadership?

Council Vice-President and Social Media Bully Rick Bunker, with foot well-planted in his mouth, dismissed concerns about walkability saying that this Taco Bell was “far from Jenkintown center,” and that we have all the walkability we need around Town Square.

This didn’t sit well with residents who lived around Vernon and Homestead, some all their lives. Apparently, you only deserve walkability if you live near our “pretty parking lot”. Trouble is, that square is surrounded by more parking lots. Bunker also attempted to dismiss the issue of a drive through in that area because of the Dunkin Donuts and the Outback. In other words, the area’s already trashed, so let the cancer spread. Bunker’s house on Summit, by the way, is well-removed from this kind of architectural dreck.

One resident reminded us that once Taco Bell gets their variance, then it’s open season on that end of Old York Road. We can probably expect a KFC or a Burger King to follow soon after. Summerwood builds those too.

The residents who spoke up kept their tone in check, especially after Councilor Kimberly McGlonn wagged her finger and shamed us into it. Residents, however, were rightly angry because she and her colleagues were selling them out.

Many good points did emerge, on both sides of the issue frankly, but Council could not escape their hypocrisy and their mismanagement of Borough finances. Pancoe on the one hand expressed her desire to keep that property on the tax roles forgetting that she herself is responsible for removing the Cedar Street property from them. If the Borough needs money, they can grab a quick $350,000 by selling that property tomorrow.

And frankly, I shed few tears for the School District as well. Those of us in the working class that cling desperately to their houses are well aware of the vicious cycle this funding system imposes upon us.

the JSD is making it very hard for people to stay here. People move here for the schools, which should make raise our property values, but the level of taxation then negates that advantage. So, because of the JSD, we have a great school, but we then seek quick fixes for fast money. As it gets worse, the school goes into more debt because tax assessments go down. It’s a vicious cycle.

If ever you needed justification for the passage of HB76, look no further than the Home of the Drakes. They spend more than $26,000 per pupil and proudly cite the fact that it’s in the top 30 of districts in the state. For that kind of money, they should be in the top 5 and graduating our kids with pre-awarded Princeton diplomas.

The owner of the property did not do his due diligence. This Hellweg lot provides a high-profile opportunity for a developer with half a brain to turn it into a real point of pride. Instead, he entered into an easy deal with someone he happens to know all to make a quick buck. The franchisee, Summerwood, has a template that fits onto that lot, and that template requires a drive-through because that generates — in their own words — 65% of their business.

Well, why Jenkintown? Because Mr. Hummel, the owner, and Mr. DePasquale can smell blood, and during their dog and pony show that DePasquale all-but-phoned in, they tossed out rosy numbers that no one should take as gospel. A two million dollar development does not mean a two million dollar tax assessment. As soon as they turn on the lights, you can bet DePasquale’s lawyers will be in Norristown fighting to get that assessment dropped down closer to what Hellweg’s paid. Never, ever believe a developer’s numbers in these situations.

For an example on how to do this properly, one doesn’t have to travel far from Jenkintown. In Mt. Airy and Germantown, developer Ken Weinstein has made major strides in the name of walkability and sustainability by rehabbing old industrial buildings — and even an old Arby’s — into places that have added value and charm to those neighborhoods. He has brought both much needed tax revenue and a solid sense of livability to the host communities. It takes someone with vision and resources to get these projects done, of course, but isn’t that what our town truly deserves? Jenkintown actually has a population with great demographics and this is the best Hummel can do?

Well, maybe. After all, you elected this board, people, and all twelve of them think it’s just fine to renege on promises when they become inconvenient. This Council has made it quite clear that they will not follow the Jenkintown 2035 plan when it gets in their way or when expedience dictates. Why did we bother?

Let’s also not forget that both the Borough and the School District possess the power of eminent domain and that towns across American have condemned whole neighborhoods of occupied homes so that they could sell those properties to developers. I used to think that Jenkintown would never do this. Now, I’m not so sure.

The latest tempest to thunder into our fair borough comes on the back of a chihuahua, that despite our laws against it, sports a drive-through window.

Taco Bell tolls for Jenkintown’s fiscal mismanagement

Is Council about to sell us out to cover for an impending financial crisis?

We seem to have a Borough Council that relishes controversy — or is perhaps clueless about how they cause it. The latest tempest to thunder into our fair borough comes on the back of a chihuahua, that despite our laws against it, sports a drive-through window.

My experience has taken me down dozens and dozens of main streets across this country. I’ve sat down and spoken with many from those communities and discussed the challenges that they’ve faced. Towns go into decline and stay there because of gutless or ignorant leadership eager to make any deal, no matter how Faustian.

When I lived in Worcester, Massachusetts, the city had just completed a magnificent $60 million restoration of its Union Station. Eager to spark more development around it, the city almost offered up a lot across the square to Days Inn for one dollar! This signaled to the business community and to the community at large how little City Hall actually valued the city it governed.

Jenkintown today finds itself at a similar crossroads. Old York Road, which traditionally served as our borough’s commercial heart and soul, has become blighted thanks both to PennDOT’s intransigence and the Borough’s inability to challenge it.

We’ve run out of band-aids.

I’ve lived here now for 15 years, and I’ve long heard all the heartfelt and colorful stories about how vibrant Jenkintown used to be. Like many traditional towns that could not adapt to the automobile age, it lost its way. It has since applied many band-aid fixes with mixed results at best.

People like to point to our Town Square and all the new restaurants, but the restaurants are here because of our demographics and improving economy, not because of any Borough policy. The Town Square, though not without its charms, is really a poor excuse for a public space. Frankly, it’s a back-alley consolation prize given to Jenkintown by the county and really provides little to no tangible benefit to the community or the businesses around it, as evidenced by how our school taxes keep going up to compensate for the declining assessments.

Doylestown, Hatboro, Manayunk, Chestnut Hill, Media, and West Chester have no such town square, and yet you would never mistake their economy with Jenkintown’s. What they do have are pedestrian-friendly thoroughfares — streets that they can actually close off when necessary and have a parade. Thanks to Jenkintown’s failure to convey to PennDOT or our governor that Route 611 is killing this town, we must funnel our festivals and parades onto side streets. In 1974, Jenkintown staged its centennial parade on Old York Road.

No standards. Lax enforcement. And soon, no plan.

So, yes, let’s bring a Taco Bell here and grant them a variance for their drive-through window. Then we can finally state the obvious and just declare that we’ve given up. We have no standards, and we need the cash. Sorry for the time you wasted helping us develop the Jenkintown 2035 plan.

The Borough needs the money to pay for a parking lot that doesn’t pay for itself, for leaves they have to pick up from private property, for a theater and library and other community programs that are not fully supported by the residents who use them, for the maintenance of six police vehicles, and for a pocket park that looks more and more like a holding yard for borough trucks and less like a bird sanctuary with every month.

Why should the Borough care about its own building codes and zoning? It has for years ignored ADA laws by willfully allowing cars to park on Walnut Street sidewalks, by failing to cite crumbling properties for health code violations, by ignoring pedestrian safety on disintegrating slate and brick sidewalks, and by gathering revenue from illegal stop signs placed throughout the borough.

When you remember that Council granted George Locke a 23% pay raise without a performance review, it recalls George W. Bush commending his FEMA director after Katrina destroyed New Orleans.

For the record, I have no issue with any business setting up shop providing that they adhere to our established rules. However, this Taco Bell idea smacks of desperation, especially when Michael Golden puts lipstick on this pig by saying “At least we’ll get a traffic light out of it.”

And that there strikes to the heart of exactly the problem with this proposal. Old York Road makes it impossible to develop foot-traffic and the types of businesses that would cater to it. Instead, we get more sprawl, with Taco Bell planting that flag. Before long, we will become another traffic-choked Willow Grove instead of another New Hope, or any town with a business district we can point to with pride.

We can and should do better, but we won’t if we continue to be led by the same tone-deaf Council and the machine that puts it there.

Jenkintown School District

Stepping on Jenkintown’s political third rail

It’s time to talk School District and why the school tax is unravelling our community

Any discussion of Jenkintown inevitably leads to how much the community values its tiny little schools, and if the school has any shortcoming at all, it’s an unnamed need not yet met. By most measures, Jenkintown schools fare well in most state-wide comparisons of test scores, and everyone from parents to administrators to realtors all but fly those results up a flag pole. In the minds of many here, why mess with success?

During the last election, Pennsylvania voters approved a referendum that allows governing bodies to eliminate property taxes as a method of funding schools. In Jenkintown, we saw not a little hand-wringing over this. When I volunteered at the poll in Ward 2, I watched a school board member point to that question on the sample ballot, emphatically telling a hapless voter in a tone normally reserved for pedophiles, that “this question scares the hell out of me!”

Of course it does. Without its power to tax, a school board becomes properly focused on serving only the interests of students — not the administration and not the teachers union. A rationally empowered school board deals exclusively with curriculum, oversight of the administration, and it represents the educational concerns of the parents — full stop. It submits a budget like any municipal department to a higher, more objective authority and must then live within that budget. As someone who always has to deal with limited budgets, I can tell you it forces you to become resourceful and smarter about your job. Do you really think that a school board populated with people in or connected to academia — most with no kids in the system(!) — and who never have to worry about paying the light bill can properly represent those who struggle to live here?

Prop 1285 won’t by itself actually do much, especially here in Jenkintown, but it did serve to gauge support for a real solution to the school funding problem, the passage of the Property Tax Independence Act (PTIA), also known as HB/SB 76. If enacted, all funding for public schools in the state, with some exceptions, will come directly from the state. And yes, our school board truly hates this. No one likes to be stripped of their power, no matter how much they abuse it.

The reasons often cited against passage of 1285 and eventually HB76 strain credulity, and typically reveal someone who failed to even read the proposed bill, relying instead upon the PSEA talking points. If one reads the actual bill, every argument against gets shot down.

Fallacy: “The only folks that may benefit from this bill are retirees in big houses. The rest of us will suffer. “

If HB76 passes, our household will get upwards of a $4,000 tax break. Yes, according to HB76, income and sales taxes do rise, but the poor don’t pay income taxes, and if they don’t get stupid with money, they’ll pay almost no more in sales tax. In our case, we’d have to buy $85,000 of taxable merchandise to pay the equivalent amount of taxes.

Every year in Pennsylvania, more than 10,000 homes are listed for auction at sheriff’s sales. Many of those homes had no mortgages. The owners couldn’t afford the school tax.

Fallacy: “They will raise our income taxes (which is a volatile source of revenue) and sales tax.”

Is the property tax a stable source of revenue? Not according to the Brookings Institution.  Right in the first paragraph of this article, Brookings shoots down that assumption:

More than in past economic downturns, state and local governments were a prominent casualty of the recent recession. States in particular saw their revenues plunge. Although state taxes have been rebounding, local property taxes have dipped, consistent with a two- to three-year lag between home prices and property tax rolls. These reductions coincide with state cutbacks in local aid, further squeezing local budgets.

In other words, property taxes enjoy no immunity from the effects of an economic downturn.

The tax bill before Congress may indeed do away with the property tax deduction, but we don’t itemize so we never claimed it anyway. We are solid working class. We will surely benefit financially from the elimination of the school tax. If you make more money than us and you itemize, then we no longer have to pay so much of our income to educate your kids.

Fallacy: “The money has to come from somewhere. That sounds like unicorns and fairytales to me.”

Indeed it does have to come from somewhere, but by what reasoning should it come primarily from homeowners? Ethically, how does one justify that when everyone benefits from public education?

As I previously wrote here:

For most of the history of western civilization, only the wealthy owned property. Levying a tax served as a form of income tax, since those who owned property generated income from it. That changed with the rise of the middle class and the industrial revolution, but it changed wholesale after World War II thanks to the GI bill and the home interest deduction. With property ownership within reach of most working Americans, local governments continued to apply a 17th century solution to a 20th century problem.

Property taxes also fuel the spread of sprawl and gentrification, driving out long-time owners who can no longer afford rising assessments. Not too long ago, a drive from Willow Grove to Doylestown took you through beautiful pastoral landscapes. Today, it’s a vehicular meat grinder thanks in part to the property tax system.

If HB76 passes, here’s what happens to the JSD:

Not enough that anyone will notice. HB/SB76 freezes the budget at existing levels when the bill goes into effect. All increases in school budgets are tied to the rate of inflation.

Please note that because the School District has leveraged itself so heavily, Jenkintonians will continue to pay a property tax until the district has paid down those debts. However, the law prohibits adding to the burden without a local referendum. Also, the JSD may not expand its budget beyond state allocation without a local referendum. In other words, we all finally get a say in the matter. Anyone who objects to that objects to democracy in action.

Fallacy: “But what about renters? They also pay through their landlord.”

In no way does a family of four living in a three bedroom apartment of any size in an apartment complex in Jenkintown pay the same amount of property tax levied upon a typical three-bedroom free-standing house in this town. Our total property taxes amount to about $7,000 on a 1300 square-foot house. We have one kid in the system, so this funding scheme really hurts us.

Scare Tactic: “It’s going to be a windfall for businesses”

Unless you haven’t driven up Old York Road in the past 20 years, you know that Jenkintown needs more businesses, and the ones it does have need to do better. Putting more money in the pockets of people who employ others, invest in our town, and create wealth can only benefit the community. Plus, under HB76, the wealthy will pay more in income and sales tax.

Scare Tactic: “It will hurt our kids.”

The quality of a child’s education is mostly determined by parental involvement and not by the amount of money lavished upon each student. Jenkintown spends $26,000 per pupil. The highest ranking school in Massachusetts spends $16,000. Last year, our new superintendent sent out a letter boasting of Jenkintown’s ranking among high schools. The number one school in that list spent $13,000 per pupil. How many times do we guild the lily before it collapses under its own weight?

I am a product of a large school system. I graduated with over 400 classmates from an inner-city high school. I went to a university of more than 20,000. Yet, despite these setbacks in my education — at least by Jenkintown standards —  I have learned to question every assumption and to challenge every status quo. We used to call that critical thinking. When confronted with a phalanx of emotional individuals who insist that I am wrong, I instinctively know I’m on the right path. I know that the sky will not fall. It never does.

Our kids will be fine. If their parents have more money in their pockets, I’d argue that they’ll be far better off. If there’s one thing that Jenkintown can be proud of is the level of parental involvement, which is the real reason our school does so well in the rankings. It can only enhance their education to experience economic diversity rather than see it driven out.

Read the facts here.