You want me to call my legislator again, you ask? Yep. And here’s why, along with the answers to some other frequently asked questions about today’s state-wide call-your-legislator day. (Plus, the Post-Gazette already has a great article on our event!)
Q. I’ve already called my representative and the Governor; they know how I feel. Why should I call again on March 5?
A. We need to keep the pressure on, especially now while the Governor’s additional $100 MILLION in proposed budget cuts to public schools are under consideration. (That’s on top of the continuation of the $1 BILLION in cuts our schools suffered last year.) It’s not like voting: you can, and should, call your legislators more than once! When we participate in these call-in days (scheduled by our friends at Education Voters PA), we add our voices to a state-wide movement – there’s a real multiplier effect when we all do this together on a single day. Legislators hear us!
Q. But my legislator is already supportive of public education. Why should I bother him (or her) about this?
A. Even if your representative generally supports public education, we want her (or him) to take a more active role. You might ask your legislator to become a public education champion. And it doesn’t hurt to let them know that we “have their back” on this issue. We will never see sustainable dollars put back into our schools unless our legislators take this issue by the horns.
Q. Phone calls seem so simple. Is this really working?
A. Yes! Legislators and others in Harrisburg tell us that they are hearing from parents in numbers they have never seen before. Our other actions are important, too (rallies, letters, face-to-face meetings) – but these call-in days are an opportunity for all of us to speak up and be heard directly by our politicians. They are listening!
Q. What should I tell them?
A. Give a couple examples about how these state budget cuts are having a devastating impact on your school: Has your school cut a tutoring program? Laid off teachers and custodians? Do you have larger class sizes, or lost money for supplies and text books? Are you losing a librarian, music teacher, gifted program? You might also want to mention that Yinzer Nation has suffered nearly $172 MILLION in total cuts to our schools: that’s a number we simply cannot afford here in Southwest Pennsylvania.
Q. Where should the state find money to pay for public schools?
A. We need our legislators to find a sustainable way to support public schools, using an equitable formula (like the one recently abandoned by Governor Corbett). It’s a matter of priorities. Here are some suggestions for sources of revenue:
- Close the Delaware Loophole, one of the single largest forms of corporate welfare costing our state $500 million in tax revenue every year. More than 20 other states have already closed this loophole and there is no reason we can’t, too.
- Tax Marcellus shale — even the drilling companies have said they’re willing to pay a severance tax and not having one has cost Pennsylvania over $314 million since October of 2009.
- Eliminate the bonus depreciation rule passed by the Revenue Department last year without a legislative vote (cost us $260 the first half of this fiscal year alone).
- Repeal the sales tax exemptions for things like coal ($120 million) and candy ($90 million) which essentially give away state revenue.
- Stop Corbett’s plan to eliminate the Capital stock and franchise tax, which are paid by corporations and will cost the state $200 million in revenue each year.
- Impose a moderate tax increase.
Q. How do I find out who my legislators are?
A. Use this handy on-line tool to look up your state representative and senator.
Q. What should I expect the phone call to be like?
A. You will be speaking to a staff member. Introduce yourself and identify yourself as a constituent. For example: “Hi this is _____, I am a constituent of Representative _____, and I am calling because I strongly support public education and I am very concerned about the impact of budget cuts on my school, and on our community.” Then, in your own words, say something like the following (pick a few points):
- Stop these drastic budget cuts! The $1 BILLION cut last year was devastating to our district and we can’t lose another $100 MILLION.
- I am concerned / outraged / distressed that (give examples of cuts to your school)
- Every kid must have an opportunity to learn and good schools make stronger communities; education is a human right.
- Education is my top priority issue as a taxpayer and voter – a responsible community with strong values educates all of our children and makes it a priority.
- We can find the money to pay for schools. It’s just a matter of priorities. (see examples above)
Let them know you plan to follow these issues and see what happens. For example: “I am interested in the Representative’s position on these cuts and would like to hear back about it. My email address is …. Thank you.”