Corbett Imposes Steep Cuts to Education

Schools underwrite campaign promises (Guest Opinion by Mark B Miller)

Our governor has much explaining to do for slashing $1 billion of education funding from the next state budget. His administration cannot be blind to the fact that removing $550 million will result in an additional tax burden for residents of Bucks County (and elsewhere) by forcing some area school districts to increase taxes beyond the Act I limit. Likewise, pulling all those millions out of higher education will make it difficult for even high-income families to pay college tuition at state institutions.

The proposed cuts are massive, more than $30 million in Bucks County alone. We also face potential losses of federal funding after reauthorization of the Elementary & Secondary Education Act aka “No Child Left Behind” and the Child Nutrition Act. The Child Nutrition Act has increased funding, though greater amounts of money are being pushed from suburban school districts to pay for free and reduced lunch in urban school districts like Philadelphia, Allentown, Pittsburgh, Erie, etc.

I’m curious how Gov. Corbett can insist on giving a free ride to corporations involved in ecology-defiling Marcellus Shale exploration, and then eliminate $259 million in Accountability Block Grants, which pay for things like full-day kindergarten and reduced class size, and $224 million in charter school subsidies. These two cuts alone dwarf his fantasy that school districts will save $400 million if teachers accept a pay freeze in 2011-12.

Teachers in many school districts, like Centennial, Neshaminy and Pennsbury, are already working under a freeze and without contracts because our school districts can’t afford pay increases. I’ll let you in on a secret: we’ve already spent that money. Please don’t hurt our teachers.

What about our Basic Education Subsidy, Dual Enrollment Programs and Intermediate Units? Why should we be pressured to seek additional taxes from community members, many of them seniors on fixed incomes or people looking for work?

For our school districts, this is “pay us now, or pay us later.” We are under a federal mandate to have 100 percent of our students making “Adequate Yearly Progress” within three years. Inevitably, students who are “proficient or advanced” will go down if we remove the building block of early childhood education. We need that money to spend today or we will be spending much more in the future.

Every dollar spent on full-day kindergarten is $7 less spent in remediation when those children reach secondary school. Let’s tax foreign corporations on the portion of business they do in our state, rather than exempt for incorporating elsewhere? Please don’t hurt our property owners.

How can our new governor expect school districts to underwrite his election promises? Our local school districts will have a difficult enough time coping with Senate Bill No. 1, which will redistribute another $1 billion of education funds as “school choice” vouchers over the next three years.

Did anyone see coverage of the lottery among 900 students for 20 empty seats in one charter school? How can you call the practice “school choice” when you don’t choose the school – you hope the school will choose you! This is the use of tax dollars with no accountability at all. No parent should ever have to compete for their child to receive a constitutionally guaranteed “free and appropriate education.” Please don’t hurt our parents.

Why should businesses keep 1 percent of the state sales tax they collect as a prerequisite for paying it to the state, when the governor whacked over $25 million from science education programs and school improvement grants? Why is Pennsylvania the only state that does not tax cigars or smokeless tobacco? I don’t care if you hurt tobacco.

Reduced spending for education by the state will increase property taxes and reduce the quality of education throughout the commonwealth. Please don’t hurt our students.

Mark B. Miller, a member of the Centennial school board, also serves as Pennsylvania School Board Association’s area director, and is the co-chair of Keystone State Education Coalition, a grassroots network of more than 125 Pennsylvania school districts, career technical centers and Intermediate Units.

Copyright 2011 . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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