by Jeremy Deaton
Four years ago, Pennsylvania teachers watched as then-Gov. Tom Corbett slashed education funding, a move that cost the jobs of thousands of devoted educators. Among those furloughed was Katy Beth Klinger, a first-year English teacher for the Reading School District. “It’s something you never really get over,” said Klinger. “I finally felt like I found my calling. To have that ripped away from me was dreadful.” A single mother, Klinger has continued to work as a substitute teacher in Reading, but the loss of a stable income has weighed on her heavily.
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Now, there may be hope for Klinger and other furloughed Pennsylvania educators. Earlier this month newly elected Gov. Tom Wolf put forward an ambitious plan to dramatically increase funding for public education. “Our state is never going to get stronger as long as we make our schools weaker,” noted the governor. “That is why the very first thing my budget does is to restore the $1 billion in cuts to public education that occurred under the previous administration.”
Gov. Wolf said his plan would lower property taxes while raising the state’s share of education funding from 35 to 50 percent. PSEA President Mike Crossey offered his support, saying the budget “shows that our state can reverse the school funding cuts that have put our schools in crisis at the same time that we make our tax system fairer for working Pennsylvanians.”
The proposal would also allow school districts to begin rehiring furloughed teachers like Ms. Klinger, whom Gov. Wolf recognized in his March 3 budget address. “Katy just wants to teach and help the students who she saw making real progress before the education cuts,” said Gov. Wolf. “When people ask her why she doesn’t change careers or seek a position in another school district, she says she can make a bigger difference in the city of Reading with the children who need help the most… We need more teachers like Katy in our schools.”
Klinger, who traveled to Harrisburg with her daughter to attend Gov. Wolf’s speech, said it was “a huge honor to be part of the governor’s budget address, not just for myself – but for anyone who’s experienced the loss of a job because of budget cuts.” Klinger hopes the state legislature will approve Gov. Wolf’s budget and restore funding to public schools so she can go back to teaching full time. “I love working with the students in Reading School District,” she said. “I loved my job as an English teacher.”