Governor Corbett’s approval rating has tanked, in no small part because of what he is doing to education. A new poll out this week shows him at his lowest rating yet, with only 36% of voters happy with his performance. Meanwhile, over half of those surveyed disapproved of the way Gov. Corbett is handling the state budget. [Quinnipiac poll, 6-12-12]
No small wonder that Mr. Unpopular has garnered national attention for his appalling track record of decimating public education. Last week Alternet.org named Corbett to its list of ten worst governors, saying “His attacks on public education alone make him worthy of our Hall of Shame, but coupled with a massive tax break for Shell Oil–$1.7 billion in subsidies for the oil giant—his comments about taking responsibility for future generations ring awfully hollow.” [Alternet.org, 6-9-12]
Local mom and OnePittsburgh activist Debbie Srogi took Gov. Corbett to task for the same thing in an excellent OpEd piece in today’s Post-Gazette. And Pittsburgh’s City Paper skewered the Governor’s support for Big Oil at the expense of essential public services on its cover this week, playing on the now-famous Time magazine breastfeeding cover. The cartoon, which spread quickly through social media, shows Governor Corbett suckling corporate greed and asks, “Are You Gov Enough?”Even the New York Times wrote a scathing editorial about Corbett’s cuts to public education, pointing to Reading, PA as the poster-child for the consequences of defunding schools. That city, which is considered the nation’s poorest, just laid off 110 teachers and is making drastic cuts to educational programs. The editors criticized Gov. Corbett for failing to replace federal stimulus dollars in the education budget, which the state had committed itself to several years ago, and said, “Instead he further drained his public coffers by cutting business taxes by $250 million this year.” [New York Times, 6-13-12]
But my absolute favorite quote of the week came yesterday at a meeting in Pittsburgh of the Governor’s new Advisory Committee on Postsecondary Education. He set up that group of 31 university administrators, business leaders, and students back in February when he proposed slashing the higher education budget by an unbelievable thirty percent. In a move reminiscent of his attempts to privatize public K-12 education, Corbett and his allies have been trying to funnel state aid to college students (who could attend private universities) rather than fund public universities directly. Even though he leads a private institution, Carnegie Mellon University President Jared Cohon called that plan a “terrible idea” and said it “ignored the idea of education as a public good.” [Post-Gazette, 6-15-12]
Yes, indeed. Thank you President Cohon. Public education is a public good. And Governor Corbett’s approval rating may just stay in the tank until he realizes that.