1,000 People

Last night almost 1,000 people gathered outside of Philadelphia to protest the impact of state cuts to their public schools. One thousand. That’s a lot of people. The Upper Darby school district has proposed eliminating music, art, library, and physical education classes for elementary students and foreign language and technical education for middle school students. The district is also calling for a property tax increase of 1.12 mills, a 3.5 percent hike.

School Superintendent Lou DeVlieger reminded the crowd, “Keep in mind we are subsidizing our competition charter schools to the tune of $3.5 million. Charter schools are $3.5 million out of our pockets. … We used to get reimbursed for about 30 percent of our charter school costs by the state in the past. Now we get zero. It’s an annual problem that gets progressively worse each year.” [Delco Times, 5-2-12] (For more on the connection between charter school reimbursements and the budget crisis, see “Soaking the Public.”)

Here on this side of the state, we are seeing the same problems and school districts are proposing the same “solutions” – cutting programs, laying off teachers, and raising local taxes. Even the well-to-do Pittsburgh suburb of Mt. Lebanon announced last month that it will slash programs and staff, while raising property taxes by another half mill to close a $1.9 million budget gap. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 19, 2012] One parent from that town, Stephanie Romero, has a great letter-to-the-editor in today’s Post-Gazette (see below).

Now, can we get 1,000 people from Yinzer Nation to gather in support of public education? Tell us what you think.

The governor’s cuts threaten education excellence
As a local parent and a public school teacher, I am deeply concerned about the future of education in the commonwealth. In his 2012-2013 budget, Gov. Tom Corbett proposed cutting $100 million from public education by eliminating the accountability block grants, which fund proven programs like early childhood education, smaller class sizes, after-school tutoring and reading and math coaches. These are the very things that help the neediest children the most!

If the governor’s plan passes, public schools will have lost nearly $1 billion since he took office. What does this mean for students, parents and taxpayers? Higher property taxes, larger class sizes, less individual attention, fewer programs and pay-to-play sports.

Teachers and schools are continually asked to do more with less. Is this what we want for the future of public education?

In Pennsylvania we have had a tradition of excellence in education, which we supported in our budgets. I hope the Legislature realizes that Pennsylvanians still want to provide a world-class education for our students and that Gov. Corbett is sending education in the wrong direction.

STEPHANIE M. ROMERO
Mt. Lebanon

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