Lara Cosentino of Mt. Lebanon had an important letter to the editor in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette yesterday (February 15, 2012) countering two negative, anti-public education letters in recent days. First, Lara’s letter:
“Gov. Tom Corbett’s budget plan ( “Corbett Calls Budget Plan ‘Lean and Demanding’ ” Feb. 8) leans on local school districts to make up for state funding deficits and demands that we all accept less for Pennsylvania’s children. In Pennsylvania, what school districts spend per pupil can vary by up to $15,000. Local taxpayers cannot close that gap. There cannot be equal, quality education with these differences in spending. The governor’s proposed budget would support this inequality.
“Gov. Corbett is demanding that Pennsylvania think only in the short term and forget about a prosperous, healthy and forward-moving state. He wants us to forget the direct correlation between poor quality education, incarceration, lack of job readiness and poor health.
“My three children attend what’s been labeled an “affluent” school district. Even my district is facing tough choices in terms of staff reduction, increased class sizes and program modifications. Mt. Lebanon previously lost approximately $180 per pupil. Pittsburgh Public Schools lost approximately $560 per student; what will they do? This is not the public education I want for my children or any of Pennsylvania’s children. I hope our legislators will reverse Gov. Corbett’s short-sighted budget and restore the cuts to public education funding. Pennsylvania’s future depends upon it.”
Lara’s excellent letter appeared in the paper just above another letter, declaring “Corbett is Correct.” The author of that letter restates a common claim that former Governer Rendell “artificially inflate[d] the commonwealth’s basic education budget by dumping a billion dollars of one-time federal stimulus money into it.” He concludes, “It’s time for the education establishment to stop whining and realize: We don’t have a billion dollar shortfall because we didn’t collect enough taxes. We have one because we spent too much.”
It’s not clear who the “education establishment” is — students? Their families? But unfortunately, this is much the same twisting of facts expressed by a third letter writer the day before in “The funding facts.” This author said, “It gets tiresome and somewhat irritating to continually read the incorrect allegations regarding Gov. Tom Corbett’s 2011-2012 education budget. … In point of fact, when the one-time 2010-2011 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds provided by President Barack Obama (from our tax receipts) are deleted from Gov. Ed Rendell’s budget, the present Corbett budget for the basic education fund increased from $4.734 billion to $5.355 billion. It is disingenuous, if not dishonest, to continue to allow such misrepresentations to take place.”
The dishonest thing is to represent the current education budget as an increase to public schools. As critics of the state budget cuts have repeatedly pointed out, the Basic Education Fund line item has increased slightly (to cover the state’s portion of state-mandated pension payments), but overall funding for education has been slashed dramatically. For a complete explanation and our responses to several persistent claims by the Corbett administration, see:
- Dishonesty Disguised as Generosity
- Should Schools Have Known the $$ Was Temporary?
- A Shameful Betrayal
- Corbett Blames … Us
As these anti-public education letters demonstrate, it is crucial that we all stay educated on the issues surrounding the state budget, that we keep talking to our friends and colleagues about public education, and that we keep writing letters to the editor and op-ed pieces. We especially need folks from the suburban districts to write, so please encourage all your friends. We need to keep this conversation going in the press — our movement is being heard!