Now he’s blaming school boards. Speaking yesterday during his monthly appearance on Philadelphia’s Talk Radio 1210 WPHT, Corbett told a caller concerned about pressures on taxpayers, “I think the taxpayers need to help themselves.” He suggested that school boards are responsible for their own problems because they have granted overly generous contracts to teachers unions and have too few students in each classroom. Corbett said, “I would love to see the taxpayers speaking up at the school board meetings.” [LehighValleyLive 4-11-12]
Talk about trying to shift the blame. Perhaps Gov. Corbett is looking to deflect all this unwanted focus on his $1 BILLION cuts to public education. Don’t get me wrong, there is still plenty of blame to go around when we are talking about the looming pension crisis (more to come soon on that topic). But right now school districts are struggling under the massive and unprecedented defunding of public education in Pennsylvania. You can’t take away one BILLION dollars and then say it’s all the fault of local elected school officials when they are forced to cut essential programs.
Districts with declining enrollments, such as the Pittsburgh Public system, have been closing schools and moving students around to keep classrooms at an optimum size. This is important, ongoing, controversial, and painful work. But the Governor seems to think our kids are sitting in empty classrooms when nothing could be further from the truth. Take Pittsburgh Colfax K-8 as one small example: next year, second grade classrooms are projected to have an average of 28 students and fifth grade classrooms will have 30 students. And that’s nothing compared to some districts around the state.
Our legislators should listen to what Christine Chirdon, a Sophomore at Shaler Area School District, said at the Rally for Public Education back in February. (Watch a short video clip of Chirdon’s moving testimony here.) She spoke about having 32 students in a classroom and not enough desks for everyone to sit down. And she reminded us that some classes, such as her AP Japanese language class, must be smaller to be effective. School boards can’t apply a one-size-fits-all solution to the issue of class size and decide to cut all classes with smaller enrollments. But Shaler has lost over $1.5 MILLION in state budget cuts, and may have few alternatives.
It’s outrageous for Governor Corbett to suggest that the current budget crisis rests solely with local school boards. Yet that’s precisely who is stuck with this mess as the state pushes responsibility for funding schools down on local municipalities. School board members across the state who campaigned as good fiscal watchdogs and promised not to raise local property taxes are now in the position of having to do just that.
The governor may want taxpayers redirecting their anger and speaking up at school board meetings, but shifting blame is a shifty trick. And taxpayers are not so easily fooled. Here are three opportunities in the coming days to speak up and tell our legislators that they must reverse these devastating budget cuts:
- Saturday, April 14th: “WriteNow! Education Matters” kids’ advocacy event at the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum, 10AM-2PM
- Monday, April 16th: Mock Bake Sale at the Munhall Vol. Fire Company, Main Street (across from CoGos), 3PM-6PM
- Tuesday, April 17th: Mock Bake Sale and tax-day “protest” (where we will be sending the message that we are happy to pay our taxes in support of public education, but want to know why all corporations aren’t paying their fair share). Outside the Squirrel Hill Post Office, Murray Ave. 4PM-5:30PM. We expect lots of media coverage for this event and hope you will join us!