Next week is going to be a sad one for Pittsburgh Public School students. Facing over $30 million in cuts from the state, and struggling to get its own per-pupil costs down, Pennsylvania’s second largest school district is laying off 285 teachers and other educators. (That’s one out of every eight teachers.) Next Wednesday will be their last day in the classroom with students.
While most kids are excited about summer vacation, this year students all across the state will be saying goodbye to thousands of beloved teachers. That comes on top of over 14,000 educators who lost their jobs in the commonwealth last year. [PASA & PASBO Sept. 2011 report] The old school-yard rhyme, “no more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks,” could be shortened to simply, “no more teachers, no more books.”
Last week, the Highlands School District up in the Tarentum and Brackenridge area in northern Allegheny County held a candlelight vigil to say goodbye to the educators who will be furloughed there. [Tribune Review, 6-2-12] Inspired by their actions, Pittsburgh Public school parents and students have decided to host a similar event: plan to join us on Wednesday June 13th from 6-7PM outside the Bellefield Ave. administration building in Oakland. We will light 285 candles to represent the teachers we are losing due to these devastating state budget cuts. Please visit our Facebook event page to RSVP and to help invite your networks to attend.
Republican leaders in the House have announced that they wish to get the budget in next week. So this will also be an important day to tell our legislators that our children need those 285 teachers to thrive and that they will be dearly missed. We can let Governor Corbett know that if he is serious about Pennsylvania jobs, he should be looking at ways to keep the thousands of schoolteachers employed in our communities where their services are urgently needed.
Instead, Gov. Corbett had his Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley out speaking to the press yesterday, defending his $1.6 BILLION tax dollar giveaway to Shell Oil Company as a “job-creation tool.” And the State Revenue Secretary Dan Meuser boasted that it would be “an excellent return on investment.” [Post-Gazette, 6-6-12] As we pointed out in “Can Shell Educate Our Kids?”, we are trading more than 14,000 teaching jobs right now, for the possibility of 10,000 jobs at some point in the future. It will cost Pennsylvania almost twice as much as the governor has already cut from public schools – and the real cost will be born by our children and grandchildren, whose education is at stake.
What kind of crazy calculators are they using in the governor’s office to determine “return on investment”? Pennsylvania taxpayers can see the bottom line and we know that education pays the very best dividends. Perhaps the glow from our candles next Wednesday will help our legislators see that, too.