The estimated 2.9 million Pennsylvania property owners receiving
school property-tax rebates from the state are getting a note from Gov.
Tom Ridge urging them to "take the family out to dinner" or do
"whatever you decide" with the money.
But a children's advocacy group in Philadelphia is asking Keystone State residents to instead send the rebate checks—which can be for as much as $100—to their local schools.
Under a bill signed by the Republican governor in May, the state expects to give out rebates totaling about $240 million drawn from its budget surplus.
Shelly Yanoff, the executive director of the advocacy group Philadelphia Citizens for Children and Youth, which is organizing the statewide campaign, likened the rebate program to "a bauble on a Christmas tree," saying that it would have scant impact on recipients' lives.
Ms. Yanoff said it was too soon to say how many people would sign over their checks to schools. As part of its "Give Back the Give Back" campaign, her group had received checks worth $25,000, which it plans to give the Philadelphia school district.
The campaign inspired David M. Stameshkin, the president of the congregation at Temple Shaarai Shomayin in Lancaster, Pa., to ask the congregation's 320 families to give at least part of their rebates to the nearby Ross Elementary School. "This supports our mission to stay involved in the local community," he said, adding that it was too soon to gauge the congregation's ultimate response to his request.
Lancaster schools Superintendent Vicki Phillips is pleased by the temple's effort to help the 11,200-student district. "It's one more example of the community stepping up to help schools," she says, "and that's a step in the right direction."
— Robert C. Johnston
Vol. 20, Issue 11, Page 14