Tom Joseph, Public News Service-PA
HARRISBURG, PA. - Education advocates in Pennsylvania say a $90 million funding increase in Gov. Tom Corbett's budget proposal falls far short of what schools have seen cut from their budgets in the past two years - and what students need for a quality education.
Susan Gobreski, executive director of Education Voters of Pennsylvania, a group aimed at keeping the public informed on public school issues, said the nearly $2 billion in education cuts during Corbett's first two years in office have led to decreases in staffing, increases in class size and reductions in programs for students.
"We need something that works for communities to support their schools," she said, "so we're not constantly pushing things down onto property taxes, which creates more disparity and pressures communities in other negative ways. It needs to be constitutional - and, for goodness sakes, we've got to get politics out of this."
Nicole Bassett, whose three children attend public schools in Macungie, said the impact of the past two years is clearly visible.
"I think the biggest area where you can see that is class sizes. In our district, which is a good district, our class sizes in the elementary schools are upwards of 30 kids in some cases."
The more details that emerge on the budget, the more shortcomings will be exposed, Gobreski predicted, "ranging from the gimmicks around using the liquor stores up to and including the fact that there are a lot of tax breaks for corporations, even as we are under-investing in our schools."
Corbett said his spending plan represents a 1.7 percent increase from current spending levels. He also has called for a program that he said would boost school safety, enhance full-day kindergarten and expand math and science in grades 6 through 12. Corbett said the program would be funded by privatizing the state liquor-store system.