Corbett’s Education Cuts Define the State of his State

February 3, 2014

The writing is on the wall for Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett – no matter how he tries to rewrite history in his Budget address tomorrow, his deep cuts to education have defined his record in the minds of voters. There’s no doubt he’ll claim that he’s restoring funding to schools in his speech, but for those who have suffered the consequences of his devastating cuts, the damage has already been done.

Just look at the last few weeks – Corbett was embarrassingly forced to run scared from a Philadelphia high school when he found his visit would be met by students and teachers protesting his education cuts. They were there because by cutting $1 billion from public schools and universities, Corbett did severe damage to teachers, students and parents. Teachers faced layoffs, schools saw a 70% increase in class size and college students met a tuition increase. This is Corbett’s record. 

Unfortunately for him, voters get it. A new poll from Franklin and Marshall found that education is a top issue for Pennsylvania voters, far above unemployment, economy, taxes and even crime.  In large part, for that reason, 23% of Pennsylvania voters think that Corbett deserves a second term and 62% believe that the state is on the wrong track.

Teachers, students and parents need a governor who understands investments in education are key to a strong economy and a competitive Pennsylvania workforce – and despite Corbett’s rhetoric tomorrow, that’s exactly what they’ll get this November when they elect a Democratic governor.

BACKGROUND:

Corbett’s First Two Budgets Cut More Than $1 Billion from Public Schools and Universities. According to a statement in April 2013 by Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center Director Sharon Ward, the “last two state budgets cut more than a billion dollars for public schools and universities. Infrastructure investments have been delayed, and county human services funding has been slashed. Classrooms are more crowded…and local taxes are higher. There is more harm to come. Hidden deep within Gov. Tom Corbett’s…budget plan [proposed in 2013] are major income tax cuts for corporations beginning in 2015 that, when fully phased in, will cost hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Profitable corporations will pay less, hardworking families will pay more, and our schools and communities will deteriorate.” [Patriot News, 04/16/13]

Corbett Cut Education Funding by $900 Million. “Reduction of approximately $900 million, more than 10%, in funding for instruction, accountability grants, special education, teacher training, student tutoring aid, charter school reimbursements and more for public schools.” [Times-Tribune, 7/1/11]

Corbett Cut University Funding by $220 Million. “Reduction of approximately $220 million, almost 20%, in funding for 14 state-owned universities plus Pitt, Temple, Penn State and Lincoln.” [Times-Tribune, 7/1/11]

Corbett Has Not Fully Restored Cuts. “Mr. Corbett’s 2011-12 budget cut almost $1 billion from education, and those cuts were not restored for 2012-13. His administration claims he did not cut funding because former Gov. Ed Rendell chose to use federal stimulus dollars for education, and when stimulus money ran out, so did the education funding. The overall decrease in funding caused larger class sizes, cuts to programs and layoffs of staff in…schools,” yet in July 2013 “the governor’s office touted record-high funding for education, including $5.52 billion for basic education, the largest line item distributed to the state’s 500 school districts. The funding is a $122.5 million increase over last year.” …This “hike in basic education funding…[was] the first increase in two years but not enough to offset heavy cuts in education aid during the first year of the Corbett administration as federal stimulus money ended.” [The Scranton Times-Tribune, 07/02/13; The Scranton Times-Tribune, 02/05/13]

Corbett’s Cuts to Education Resulted in Increased Class Sizes Across the State. Corbett’s 2011 “state budget state budget provided nearly $900 million less in funding for public schools…” “The reduction in state funds came at a time when many local districts already were seeing a drop in their local tax revenues because of the poor economy. The result was a significant number of teacher and support staff furloughs, program reductions and eliminations, and increases in class sizes across the state. Some districts started to charge fees to students who participate in extracurricular activities.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12/29/11]

Cuts Lead to 10,000 Layoffs and a 7.5 Percent Tuition Increase for State College Students. “The nearly $27.2 billion budget represents the biggest state budget rollback since the Great Depression. Gov. Tom Corbett singled out education for his biggest cuts – slashing more than $900 million from K-12 education funding and cutting funding to state-owned universities by 18 percent. The cuts have resulted in more than 10,000 teacher and staff layoffs and 7.5 percent increases in tuition for state college students as well as a 50 percent increase in technology fees for the coming year.” [Intelligencer Journal/New Era, 7/5/11]

20,000 Public School Positions Eliminated Under Corbett’s Administration. “By focusing on private-sector job growth, the ad leaves out public-sector job cuts, which include the elimination of about 20,000 public-school positions under Corbett’s administration.” “Critics argue that the cuts in state funding forced school districts to shed 20,000 jobs, partly canceling out growth in other areas, including the expansion of natural gas drilling which added 35,000 jobs.” [Allentown Morning Call, 7/20/13; The Sharon Herald, 2/15/13]

“Nearly 70 percent of Pa. school districts increased class sizes, survey shows.” “The survey released this week by the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators and the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials is based on responses from 294 of the 500 school districts. The survey blames the cutbacks on the nearly $1 billion reduction in state aid, as well as the expiration of temporary federal funds. It says more than 5,100 school employees, including more than 1,600 teachers, were laid off. Seventy percent of districts increased average class sizes, and nearly half reduced courses in foreign languages, music and other elective courses.” [Associated Press, 9/16/11]

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