It’s Time to Act

Do your vocal warm-ups – it’s time to act. Don’t worry, there are no auditions for this role, and it will get you ready for the “Operatic Rally” tomorrow (Saturday, 5PM, 22nd and Liberty in the Strip with cotton candy and hot dogs).

The Pittsburgh Opera, insists in a letter-to-the-editor today that Gov. Corbett deserves our thanks because the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts has awarded $16 million in grants to arts groups around the state these past two years. While that is wonderful and necessary, this same man has cut $1 BILLION from public schools during that same period. He has effectively gutted arts education in school districts across the commonwealth.

Where will our future artists and audiences come from when our students no longer have art class, music, band, choir, or foreign languages? As the hundreds and hundreds of posts to the Opera’s Facebook page make clear this week, Pennsylvania is outraged about the real impact that Governor Corbett is having on the arts. How can an anyone continue to say, “We believe it is important for us to thank the governor … for showing such strong support for artists and arts organizations” when the man has effectively tossed a bomb down the arts pipeline?

The editors of the Post-Gazette agreed in an editorial today, asking, “What’s next? A posthumous prize for engineering excellence to the designers of the Titanic?” [“Sour Note: The Opera Makes an Ill-Times Bow to the Governor”] The P-G also pointed out that Corbett keeps insisting he increased funding for public education and said, “We don’t buy it. A visit to school districts around the state will reveal the impact of cuts made or threatened at the state level.”

Look no further than one column over, where Eric Swogger writes in his letter-to-the-editor this morning saying, “Our school district in the South Hills (Bethel Park) was forced to make severe cuts to our well-respected music program (which had to eliminate the entire third-grade strings program and other various art programs) due to Mr. Corbett’s budget cuts.” Roy Werner of Franklin Park wrote yesterday saying, “We need equitable and sustainable state funding for public education, not phony awards for governors who devastate our children’s future.” [Post-Gazette, 5-10-12]

Yes, phony. The Opera’s original press-release announced it would honor Gov. Corbett for “his early work as a teacher as well as his long-standing protection of the public interest” and that, “as governor, he has recognized the economic, educational and social value of the arts.” Steven Singer, an eighth grade teacher in the Steel Valley School District, replied in a letter to the editor yesterday, “Yes, he taught high school for one year in the Pine Grove Area School District in Schuylkill County. By the same logic, my Christmas stint as a movie theater usher when I was 16 should get me an Academy Award!”

It’s time for intermission in this unfolding drama. Time to get up, run to the lobby for a drink – and make a couple phone calls. Use this hot moment to tell your legislators and the governor that $16 million to arts organizations can’t possibly compensate for $1 BILLION cut to our schools. We must have art and education. In fact, they go hand in hand, as the viral firestorm of a protest this week amply demonstrates.

Our legislators play the starring role in the second half of this play as they negotiate the budget these next few weeks. So please, call them now and let them hear your voice, before the bell dings and we have to rush back into the theater for the second act.

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