by Felix Perez
As a rule, elected officials do not go against the wishes of the majority of people who put them in office. Not so with Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett.
Corbett introduced an education agenda this month that takes away money from public schools to pay for private schools at taxpayer expense.
Corbett is traveling the state promoting his proposal despite three polls this year showing that Pennsylvanians overwhelmingly oppose using state tax dollars for vouchers. The most recent survey, by Terry Madonna Opinion Research, revealed that nearly two-thirds of the public said they oppose this use of tax dollars.
Corbett’s voucher proposal would further undercut public schools, which already are grappling with the aftereffects of $860 million in state funding cuts pushed by Corbett. As a consequence, schools were forced to eliminate more than 14,000 education jobs this academic year, according to a survey [ed note: pdf link] by the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials and the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators.
The School Business Officials survey also found that
- 70 percent of Pennsylvania school districts have increased class sizes
- 44 percent have reduced electives and
- 35 percent have reduced or eliminated programs designed to provide extra help or tutoring to struggling students
Kulsum Soonasra, an NEA student member enrolled at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, reacted to Corbett’s proposal this way: “As a current student and future educator, I am extremely unhappy with the statewide budget cuts in Pennsylvania. The students are the future of this nation, and in order to be effective citizens, they need the best possible education. As governor of this state, Corbett needs to listen to the people because they are looking out for the best interest of the students.”
Mike Crossey, an educator with 34 years experience in the classroom and president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, says, “Public schools are hurting because of these unprecedented funding cuts. It looks like the only person who really wants vouchers is the governor.” He adds that “state funding cuts have forced the public schools to increase class sizes and cut programs. We need to restore those cuts, not spend more money on initiatives that don’t work.”
“Tutoring programs, small class sizes, and full-day kindergarten are programs that we know work for Pennsylvania’s students,” Crossey says. “People across the state know it, too. These are the reform ideas that Pennsylvanians want and that our students need.”
Those ideas also are at the heart of PSEA’s bold and research-based school reform agenda, Solutions That Work.