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Reactions to Corbett’s education budget

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Here are some reactions to Gov. Corbett’s newly unveiled education budget, which calls for a $90 million increase in basic education funding.

Rosemary Boland, American Federation of Teachers Pennsylvania’s executive vice president:

At a time when Pennsylvania needs sustainable education funding, Gov. Corbett offers little new funding and a small restricted block grant in exchange for acquiescing to his agenda of privatizing public employee pensions and selling the state’s liquor stores for private profit. A fire sale of liquor licenses and defunding school and state employee pensions are no way to finance world-class schools and colleges. With the economy improving, the 2013-14 education budget must address the devastating impact state cuts have had on education: larger class sizes, fewer full-day kindergartens, school libraries will remain shuttered, and more honors and AP classes and art, music and sports programs eliminated.

Joan Benso, president and CEO of PA Partnerships for Children:

Budgets are ultimately about priorities, and with this budget, the governor rightfully recognizes that Pennsylvania’s 2.7 million children must be a priority. He wants to invest more in programs ranging from pre-kindergarten to health coverage to K-12 education that will build our commonwealth’s human capital. When it comes to economic development, that’s the smartest investment we can make.

Susan Gobreski, executive director of Education Voters PA:

Today, Gov. Corbett proposed a token increase for basic education, not surprising given his low polling numbers, strong public support for public education and how much public frustration there has been over the nearly $2 billion in cuts he has put forth in his first two years. Unfortunately, he proposes to restore a mere 5% of what he has cut. This $90 million does not begin to address the lost programs and lost opportunities our children are experiencing, nor the crisis facing our schools and communities if we continue to systematically under-invest in education and put the primary responsibility for funding schools on property taxes. And it pales in comparison to the hundreds of millions in corporate tax breaks he wants to see implemented over the next few years. He didn’t see fit to mention those. The increased support for early education is a bright spot; he had promised to make this a priority when he campaigned for governor, so it is good to finally see some evidence of action on those promises. But overall, I am astonished at how short-sighted this is. Pennsylvania needs good schools in every community and there is nothing in this budget that suggests there is any long view. There is no commitment to create a sensible, fair way to allocate funding, or make appropriate investments or provide communities relief from having the buck passed to them. The main thrust of his education plan is about selling liquor stores, a gimmick. I think people are going to be very unhappy when they start to understand the details.

Ashley DeMauro, state director of StudentsFirst Pennsylvania:

We are pleased that Gov. Corbett continues to place a high priority on improving education across the Commonwealth. The legislature must build on these proposals, and explore accountability measures for additional funds that flow to districts to ensure taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely for the benefit of students. Moving forward, StudentsFirst and our Pennsylvania membership are excited to learn more details about these proposals, and to work with policymakers to pursue other meaningful reforms that create student-centric environments for children in the Commonwealth to thrive.

State Sen. Christine M. Tartaglione:

Tying education funding to an ill-advised plan to eliminate thousands of good-paying jobs and millions in profit through the state liquor stores is a cynical, political gimmick that will only delay a reasonable solution to the challenge of educating children for a competitive 21st century economy.

Donna Cooper of Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY)

The governor has proposed $1.8 billion in new recurring revenues to improve the condition of our roads and bridges. He could have done the same to improve the condition of our children. Instead, this budget proposed a status quo budget that fails the test of helping kids. The $28.4 billion budget spends $441 million less for public school subsidies and the Accountability Block grant compared to when the governor took office. In fact, the budget restores less than one-tenth of the $1 billion cut made to basic education in 2010. The modest increases in early childhood education are welcome, but they fail to make up for the previous cuts. In sum, this budget spends $107 million less on critical early learning and child care services compared to when the governor took office. With a $232 million surplus built into the proposed budget, the state has the option of investing more funding to meet the needs of our children. Revenues could be increased by hundreds of millions with the governor agreeing to expand Medicaid services in accord with the Affordable Care Act. Even after providing for the expanded medical services, at least $50 million per year is estimated to become available in new state revenue from gross receipts tax on Medicaid managed care plans for 2014-16. It’s fair to say that this is a ‘status quo’ budget that undermines the state’s short and long-term prospects for economic growth.

State Sen. Mike Stack:

Our schools have been suffering over the past few years and they continue to work with fewer and fewer resources. They have still not recovered from the governor’s last two budgets. Although the governor has technically called for increasing basic education funding, it’s wrong to tie funding to pension reform and liquor privatization. Sure, the increased funding looks good on paper, but the devil is in the details. These one-time windfalls won’t be available down the road. Our children deserve better than that. They don’t deserve to receive funding that is contingent upon plans that may never even materialize.

State Sen. Vincent Hughes:

The plan to sell liquor to fund education that the governor outlined is a non-starter and his pension reforms are set on a dubious legal foundation. Neither should be linked to education and the budget should not be balanced on savings from these proposals.

State Rep. James Roebuck:

The governor’s comments on K-12 education funding were again misleading – his cuts went beyond the loss of the federal stimulus funding, and at his pace, it would take 10 years to get back to the funding level our children’s schools had in 2010-11. The first Corbett budget cut about $900 million from categories such as kindergarten, early childhood education, tutoring and reimbursement for charter schools. The governor’s proposed 1.7 percent increase for basic education would only represent flat funding, due to inflation – and to add insult to injury, wealthier school districts would get larger percentage increases than lower-income districts.

Roebuck provided the following examples in a statement:

  • The four districts in fiscal recovery status: Duquesne, 0.73 percent increase; Chester Upland, 0.97 percent; Harrisburg, 1.19 percent; York, 1.25 percent.
  • The two largest cities’ school districts: Philadelphia, 1.47 percent; Pittsburgh, 0.75 percent.
  • Wealthier districts: Radnor, 2.7 percent; Upper Merion, 2.7 percent; Lower Merion, 2.9 percent; Fox Chapel Area, 3.1 percent; Manheim Township, Lancaster County, 4.1 percent.