Our view: Colleges bring in top-notch speakers


Diamonds to our area colleges and universities for the steady flow of interesting speakers they bring to the region. The latest will be Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist David Leonhardt on Sept. 21 at Misericordia University, but the list over the years has become long and diverse. Wilkes University has legendary basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar slated for Sept. 30. We’ve also seen people like Steve Forbes, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, to name a very few. The lists are long and the level of discourse high thanks to our good fortune of having so many schools eager to attract top talent to annual events and lecture series.

Coal to Wilkes-Barre city officials for managing to unintentionally make the latest joke on us: Things have gotten so bad in Wilkes-Barre the state refused to declare it distressed. On Friday the state Department of Community and Economic Development told Mayor Tony George and his people that the city’s application for distressed status was denied. Technically, one could argue, this is actually good news. DCED seems to believe the city can take less drastic steps to climb out of its financial woes. But considering how bleak a picture the George administration had been painting, and the fact that an official from the Governor’s Center for Local Government Services seemed to think distress status was all but guaranteed, the inability to get the official designation seems, well, a tad distressing.

Diamonds to Wilkes-Barre Area School District officials for squeezing some extra money from the state. District officials have long complained that the state pushes local costs up with mandates while failing to provide a fair share of the money. That changed, at least a little, when the state department of education announced this week that the district will get an extra $1 million in the Ready To Learn block grant program. Coupled with a $493,120 school improvement grant announced earlier in the week, the district should be feeling at least a hint of relief from the constant struggles from tight budgets.

Coal, while on the topic, to the state’s ongoing failure to earnestly address the inequities in education funding. It may be good news to Wilkes-Barre Area taxpayers to hear of the recent grant money awarded to the district, but this and other cases of extra money going to select school district shows just how broken the education funding system is. Wilkes-Barre Area may have nabbed an additional $1 million in block grant money, but it came after extensive lobbying by district officials. Importantly, it is actually considerably smaller than one-time largesse recently bestowed on a few other districts statewide. Scranton School District, for example, got an extra $6 million in RTL money. Education funding is too important to be doled out at the whims of select lawmakers or because certain districts made the most noise.