Over the past two years, Gov. Corbett has led the effort to cut nearly $2 billion in investments in the education of our children, causing program cuts, increases in class sizes and reductions in services like tutoring, library access and more. Along with the loss of dollars, under this administration we have lost significant ground on fixing a broken system for how schools are funded. Nearly all of the progress that was made to fix that has been lost. There are still terrible disparities from one community to the next and a ridiculous over-reliance on property taxes.
Today, Governor 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.