Friday, February 1, 2013

Corbett Budget Clues Concern Education Advocates

With Pennsylvania schools already facing staff cuts, growing class sizes and programs in jeopardy, another concern is what Gov. Tom Corbett may have in store for education in his upcoming budget address.

Corbett's call to privatize state liquor stores and use the one-time funds for education turns a blind eye to what happens when those funds run out, according to Mike Crossey, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, which represents 187,000 public employees, including teachers and school workers.

"The only way he's going to fund education is if he gets some of the reforms that he thinks are reforms," Crossey said, "and we're just very disappointed in the governor."

Pennsylvania's wealthier school districts may be able to compensate for some of the education funding cuts, Crossey said, but the districts that depend on state funding most, can afford this crisis least.

"If you go to the Reading school district, the poorest city in the nation, their cut per student was almost $1,300," Crossey said. "There's a community that doesn't have the personal or community resources to make up that difference."

The Corbett cuts have dug deep holes in districts around the state, Crossey said, and students are the ones trying desperately not to fall in.

"Instead of giving them the resources to really give them a chance to succeed in our world, I think they're going to be exacerbating the dropout rate and the poverty rate going forward for generations," he said. "We as a society need to provide them with the resources necessary to allow them to compete."

Corbett has defended close to $1 billion in budget cuts to education in the past two years by saying the state simply doesn't have the money. Crossey said the governor has turned his back on revenue-generating initiatives such as higher tax rates on natural gas drillers and corporations he believes don't pay their fair share now.

Corbett is to deliver his budget speech Tuesday.

Tom Joseph

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