Today’s the day! We are joining Education Voters PA for a state-wide call-your-legislator day. Over the past three years, our children have suffered enough: they’ve lost thousands of their teachers, art, music, tutoring, library, nurses, counselors, athletics, and so much more. When will it end? Our legislators are debating the state budget right now and things will really heat up over the next few weeks.
Unfortunately, the news out of Harrisburg is not good. Back in February, Gov. Corbett proposed a state budget that would flat fund basic K-12 education, but included some small increases for special education and early childhood education. He also proposed creating a new block grant program, which would come with many strings attached. [See “More Bad than Good”] To pay for it, Corbett’s proposal relies on inflated expectations of leftover year-end revenues that could be carried forward into the next fiscal year. [See “Paying for It”] However, that appears highly unlikely given the latest state revenue projections.
Last Thursday, the state’s Independent Fiscal Office calculated that Pennsylvania would be short $1 billion in revenue needed to fund Gov. Corbett’s proposed budget. Now the governor is looking for ways to cut $800 million from his plan. Will it come out of education? (Or human services? Or any of the other critical things we need?) At the same time Corbett looks to make more cuts, “corporate tax collections have dropped by $292 million compared to last year” because of the numerous tax giveaways our legislators have enacted in recent years. [PA Budget and Policy Center, 5-2-14]
Now is the time to speak up and tell our legislators that, as Education Voters says, “Pennsylvania’s children cannot afford another year of inadequate state funding and political posturing.” Why make phone calls? Just 10 calls in one day can get a legislator to pay attention to an issue: joining together with thousands of other parents, students, teachers, and community members across Pennsylvania on a single day means we can amplify our voices. Please take just a few minutes and make three phone calls:
- Call your State Senator. [click here to find the number]
- Call your State Representative. [click here to find the number]
- Call Gov. Corbett’s office at (717) 787-2500.
For the past three years, we have been demanding adequate, equitable, and sustainable funding for our public schools. Want some tips on what else you might say? Here is what Education Voters suggests we all ask our legislators:
- Make the proposed increase of $230 million a permanent source of funding in the Basic Education Fund (BEF). This increase should NOT be distributed to school districts in block grants that have many strings attached and can be eliminated in future budgets.
- Allocate state funding using a fair, transparent, and accurate funding formula. This formula should take political deal making out of the budget process and be based on current data and the real costs of educating students with different needs.
- Keep the proposed increase for special education of $20 million in the budget. After six years of flat funding for special education, we applaud the decision to finally increase the funding.
- Restore charter school reimbursement payments to local school districts. Public schools lost hundreds of millions of dollars in state funding when Governor Corbett eliminated this line item in 2011. The legislature made changes to the public education system by adding charter schools, and then put in place the charter reimbursement line to help address the additional costs communities were facing. Cutting this funding hurt both community school district students and charter school students and compounded an already difficult situation. These funds should be restored until a formula is adopted.
- Ensure that any savings from the elimination of the charter school pension double-dip payments stay in the education budget and be returned to local school districts. These savings should not go into the general fund where legislators can spend them as they please.
These phone calls work! If you want some more inspiration, check out this fun one minute video of Pittsburgh Public School parents making phone calls in 2012, the year we saved $100 million from being cut from the early childhood budget: