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Gov. Corbett’s school budget proposal draws mixed reviews

By the Notebook on Feb 5, 2014 05:03 PM

Gov. Corbett delivered his annual budget address in Harrisburg yesterday, indicating that public school funding would see an increase of $369 million. Two-thirds of that – $241 million – will be directed to the "Ready to Learn" block grant focused on early learning, STEM education, and supplemental instruction. Basic education funding, however, remained flat. Philadelphia will get a $29 million increase through the grant program.

The Notebook gathered reactions to the budget proposal from several education advocates and organizations.


Susan Gobreski, executive director
Education Voters of PA

Anytime we are not increasing support for basic education, we are going backwards: With rising costs for the programs that we have now, which have already been cut, we will have to cut more of what we have now to make things work, and that is unacceptable.

People will be assessing this budget by how much it delivers services for children. Do programs come back into our schools, do class sizes shrink, do children have libraries?  Overall, this is a marked improvement over previous years, but we shouldn’t be in this situation with a gap in funding in the first place, and that continues to be a concern. That’s why we would consider Gov. Corbett’s proposal a mixed bag.


Jerry Jordan, president
Philadelphia Federation of Teachers

Two years of unprecedented school budget cuts have left our children without counselors, nurses, teachers, librarians, and non-instructional staff. While we welcome any increase in education funding, without a formula to provide fair and sustainable public school funding, the governor’s budget line for education is not enough to make school districts whole again. Rather than have annual piecemeal increases to education funding, Pennsylvania needs to adopt a long-term, sustainable funding formula for our schools.


Donna Cooper, executive director
Public Citizens for Children and Youth

This budget takes a step forward in restoring the $1 billion in cuts made to classroom spending three years ago. However, the Philadelphia School District will see only about $30 million in restored classroom funding if the governor’s proposal is enacted by the Legislature and how those funds can be used ties the District’s hands in ways that don’t make sense.

The likelihood that the governor’s partial restoration of huge state cuts of 2011 will materialize may be remote since the administration’s budget proposal is balanced by increasing the state debt, deferring state payments to future years, enacting tough pension changes in an election year and one-time funding sources.


Helen Gym, co-founder
Parents United

The governor’s paltry handout to Philadelphia ensures that our children will live yet another year without adequate librarians, counselors, nurses, and teaching staff. It’s another year of parents scrambling for resources, paying for basic services in schools, and seeking charitable handouts to sustain even the best as well as the most basic of programs.


Mayor Michael Nutter

I am pleased that the governor’s budget proposal has begun to respond to the enormous needs that the Philadelphia School District and school districts around the state are facing as we all strive to serve the needs of students. My education team and I will carefully review the proposal so that we can fully understand the implications for our public school students. And we will continue to work closely with Dr. William Hite and his District staff as they implement his vision and strategy for improving educational outcomes for our children.

And as we continue to push for full and fair funding for public education statewide, we will also focus on creating sustainable and predictable funding – measures before the Pennsylvania General Assembly such as a cigarette tax and a proposal to split the distribution of the 1 percent sales tax extension between Philadelphia schools and the city’s Pension Fund, legislation that would then require action by the Philadelphia City Council to pass the amended state sales tax bill.


Philadelphia School Partnership

We welcome the governor's proposals to invest in education, especially early learning, through additional K-12 and pre-K funding in the next state budget, and his call for a bipartisan solution to the pension problem that looms large for schools all across the Commonwealth.

Pennsylvania's ability to invest in its future has to be rooted in reform of the unsustainable if well-intended practices of the past.


Action United

Gov. Corbett's budget address yesterday proposed $400 million for public education, leaving us still woefully short on the $1 billion he cut three years ago.  Gov. Corbett must be counting on Pennsylvanians to have short-term memory loss. But parents know why their children don't have nurses, guidance counselors, librarians or textbooks. For those of us in Philadelphia, the $29 million we're budgeted for (with lots of string attached) is less than 10 percent of the projected district deficit this year. We need a governor who takes educating all children seriously, who supports not only full funding but fair funding. 


Sharon Ward, executive director
Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center

It is clear Gov. Corbett has heard the voices of Pennsylvanians who disapprove of cuts to Pennsylvania’s public schools. This budget reverses course, providing a welcome increase in dollars to the classroom. However, the proposed Ready to Learn block grant will not allow districts to restore the basics upon which quality education is built: small class sizes, extended learning, art, music, sports, nurses and counselors, and enrichment programs. The foundation of public education has been deeply damaged; restoring that foundation should be Harrisburg’s first priority.


Responses compiled by Notebook interns Daniel Hampton and Jeseamy Muentes.

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Comments (9)

Submitted by Gloria Endres (not verified) on February 6, 2014 10:32 am
This supposed increase in education funding is a gimmick thrown at voters during an election year by a desperate politician. As others above have pointed out, this is not really new revenue supported by new and permanent sources. It is rather a rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul charade. Borrowing from one fund to spend on another is simply kicking the can down the road for another governor to solve. We do need a governor with the real interests of our state's children at heart and enough concern to propose two things: a dedicated funding formula and the end of state control of Philadelphia's school district with no accountability.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 6, 2014 12:47 pm
That is the problem with supposed school advocates. More education funding from cutting other government spending isn't good. Only ever higher taxes is acceptable. And it's never enough. He is taking money from the tobacco settlement fund? So what. Are you upset the state won't be spending $120 million on TV ads telling people not to smoke? Then I look at city. There is an incredible amount of waste in Philadelphia, ridiculously high taxes. Yet never will anyone see a public school advocate come up with any idea to save money in this city. PGW could be sold for $1 billion. And then generate additional recurring money for schools from taxes. Yet crickets chirping from public school advocates... Same thing with the absurd state store system. When it comes down to helping kids or unnecessary government workers, we know whose side you are on. Solidarity trumps the public interest everytime.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 6, 2014 12:36 pm
What about Corbett's cutting of corporate taxes and no taxes on fracking companies taking resources from our state with no return? Is that OK with you? This is why taxes on small businesses, workers, and sales taxes are raised. Do you really think the general population should be subsidizing corporations which are making billions in profits?
Submitted by Gloria Endres (not verified) on February 6, 2014 2:46 pm
Thank you for saving me the trouble of pointing out Corbett's largesse to the gas companies exploiting our state without having to pay their share. Other states tax gas drillers but never PA??? What about the 90% write-offs that corporations get for donating money to tuition for private and sectarian schools? That fund is presently $100 million and climbing. Sure we could raise money by selling our public assets, but why should we do that? Pennsylvania could also save billions by opting out of the federally mandated testing program under NCLB. We spend way too much on testing and all the accompanying preparation and scoring....making billionaires out of test publishers. By refusing to pay mandatory bills, Corbett is dodging the issue.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 6, 2014 10:56 pm
The fact that you consider the state stores a public asset says it all. My point is all the crying about more money for the children. You could get mote money for schools but really you'd rather support fellow government workers doing a rubbish job selling liquor. There is no magical money fairy. Resources are always limited. And public school advocates seem to only scheme up new ways to screw taxpayers.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on February 7, 2014 4:11 pm
Bottom Line is that Privatization is code for screwing over workers and their rights. Be careful what you wish for comrade or you'll deserve what you get.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 8, 2014 9:00 am
Got it. You think there is a right to feed off the public teet. But No rights for the workers forced to fund state stores. They just have to pay up.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 6, 2014 10:58 pm
Completely separate issue. I do agree severance taxss should be higher, but pa business taxes are already top of the charts. The tax on capital equipment that Corbett cut has been scheduled for phase out since rendell. Btw, no other state taxes investment like this. It is a remnant of a bygone era and counterproductive. Companies that actually manufacture here get screwed. I also have the common sense to understand the difference between spending tax money on corporate subsidies and cutting deals that cost taxpayers nothing, but offer a lower tax rate for new investment- i think that is what you call 'corporate welfare'. I think it is distasteful but necessary since there was zero chance of a company like shell making a multibillion investment in pa without it. Corbett has actually done little real corporate welfare, especially compared to his predecessors rendell and ridge.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on February 6, 2014 6:31 pm
Corbett is bad news for all people not connected to the corporate elite and their political ilk. He's a disgrace, a sub primate with hate in his heart. People who fall for his gimmicks deserve him. This isn't debatable. Look at the facts.

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