Dishonesty Disguised as Generosity

During the state-wide call-in day last week, a number of people reported having conversations with legislators and the Governor’s office in which the administration claimed to have actually increased public education funding. That struck many of us here in Yinzer Nation as downright strange, so we tracked down some information to share with you. In the coming days, we will respond to these three major claims of the Corbett administration:

  • Claim 1: “This budget spends more on basic education.”
  • Claim 2: “Schools should have known the federal stimulus funding was temporary.”
  • Claim 3: “The state is simply reverting to 2009 funding levels.”

Today let’s start with the first one.
Claim 1: “This budget spends more on basic education.”
Gov. Corbett and his legislative allies are claiming to have actually increased funding for public schools by carefully stating that they’ve increased the Basic Education Funding (BEF) line in the budget. But they have actually cut so many other line items and categories (moving some of that money over to the BEF line) that the overall budget is greatly reduced and schools are getting much less.

Susan Gobreski, Executive Director of Education Voters PA, explains, “It would be like you doing this. Weekly money for your child: Allowance $10 (i.e. Basic Education Funding), Lunch money $8 (Funding for Full Day K and after school tutoring), Scout dues $2 (Other supplemental programs). [total = $20] From now on: Allowance: $15  — there, I increased your allowance. Aren’t you happy?”

According to an analysis performed by the Pennsylvania State Education Association, in the current state budget, Governor Corbett increased the BEF line to $622.2 million (13.2%) over the previous year, but “the total amount allocated to districts is $420.4 million (7.3%) less than the total amount made available for 2010-2011.” That’s because the state reduced line items such as Accountability Block Grants and eliminated others such as reimbursements for payments to charter schools (a huge deal for districts like Pittsburgh Public Schools which lost millions of dollars on this line item alone). The state also eliminated the Education Assistance Program (tutoring) and froze other programs such as special education funding and career and technical education funding at levels that had already been reduced from previous years.

Thus, the claim that this administration has increased public education funding is patently false. While they are generally careful to state that they have increased “basic education funding,” this is really dishonesty disguised as generosity.

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