Morning Must Reads: The Cracker Plant Deal's Impact on Schools and Jobs for Women Lagging

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Brian O'Neill writes about the impact on local schools of a tax deal for Royal Dutch Shell to build a petrochemical plant along the Ohio River in southwestern Pennsylvania. The so-called cracker plant would take the place of a zinc smelting plant that is moving south. The tax deal for Shell will end up costing the Center Valley School District $275,000 in property tax revenue, even as the new facility and related growth are expected to bring in more students.

The school district would lose $275,000 in property taxes if the plant site becomes a Keystone Opportunity Zone. Potter Township, the rural community of 540 residents that hosts the plant, would lose about $40,000 — roughly 7 percent of its budget.

The cracker plant would be exempt from state taxes, too, a break that would last 15 years under the legislation pushed by Gov. Tom Corbett and approved by the Legislature this past winter. There's another 25-year tax break on the ethane purchased for the facility, too.

If the plant does what it's supposed to do, many of the children of this plant's workers will be landing in a district that already has its middle and primary schools at capacity.

The Post-Gazette also has an article on a new study from The Institute for Women's Policy Research in Washington, D.C. (commissioned by the Women and Girls Foundation of Southwest Pennsylvania) finding that women are losing jobs in the economic recovery thanks to state and local cuts.

Men lost jobs at a greater rate in the first rush of the Great Recession in 2008, but women are now lagging far behind in the recovery...

The report also found that during 2011, with widespread cuts to government spending, women saw a net reduction in jobs, while men experienced gains...

Since the recovery, there have been cuts throughout the various levels of government, particularly concentrated in education and social services. Those fields are dominated by women, meaning that women are still losing jobs even as men return to employment.

The report found that women accounted for 60 percent of the employees cut from state and local government jobs between June 2009 and June 2012 — the three years after the recovery officially began. Still, the report notes, the unemployment rate for women remains lower than it is for men — partly because some of them choose to drop out of the workforce altogether and aren't included in the jobless rate. 

Finally, as we noted last week, the Keystone Research Center has released its 2012 State of Working Pennsylvania. Check out some of recent press coverage on the report.

Mark Price highlighted more State of Working PA coverage here.

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