Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Gov. Tom Corbett

United We Stand, Underfunded We Fail . . . Sen. Andy Dinniman Joins the Student’s Voices

PA Students' VoiceUnited We Stand, Underfunded We Fail . . . they are the collective voice of the students of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.

A firestorm is raging on college campuses across Pennsylvania. College students feel the pain as Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed budget calls for state funding to state-owned universities to be slashed nearly in half. The 14 colleges and universities in Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education will see their funding reduced from $444 million to $232 million if Corbett’s proposed budget passes. If Pennsylvania cuts education funding, the students lose. With tuition hikes as high as $2,200 per year if Corbett’s cuts stand, plus cuts to financial aid, many students say they will not be able to attend school next fall.

Representing themselves as the ‘voices of the future’, the students are organizing protest rallies on college campuses across the state. Using social media tools, Twitter, Facebook, website, the students are hoping that their message reaches Corbett.

Locally, this past week, State Senator Andy Dinniman attended and spoke at PA Students Voice rally at West Chester University and made a commitment to stand with the students and professors, in opposition of the higher education budget cuts proposed by Corbett.

In his latest press release, Dinniman said, “Governor Corbett’s cuts mean increased tuition and fees, fewer classes, greater student borrowing and debt and more people on the unemployment rolls. By slashing support for higher education by more than 50 percent, we’re effectively undermining our potential for long-term growth in challenging economic times. Without a doubt, the governor’s proposed cuts would be devastating to West Chester University and the 13 other Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education colleges and universities,” Dinniman said. “For a West Chester student, tuition and fees could jump by $2,100 from around $7,600 to $9,700 a year.”

A former college professor, Dinniman believes in public education. Hosting a rally on the courthouse steps on Wednesday, April 20, at 7 PM, Sen. Dinniman encourages students and their families, professors, university employees and all who care about public education to join him and voice their opposition to the proposed funding cuts.

An elected official who is listening to the community and standing with them . . . how refreshing! United We Stand, Underfunded We Fail!

“Don’t Read my Lips; Read my Budget” . . . so said Gov. Corbett at today’s Budget Address

Gov. Tom Corbett delivered his budget speech at midday to a joint assembly of the House and Senate, suggesting “Don’t read my lips; read my budget.” For a full text of his speech, click here:

In his opening remarks, Corbett’s presented an overview of his budget including “ . . The substance of this budget is built on four core principles: Fiscal discipline, limited government, free enterprise and reform. . . ” Corbett’s fiscal year 2011-12 budget totals $27.3 billion, but no new taxes.

There has been much discussion concerning the economic woes facing school districts across the state. In his budget address, the Governor supports letting the taxpayers decide . . .

” . . . Now, we all know that there’s an elephant in the room when it comes to education funding: The property tax. Too often we have seen school boards raise property taxes to avoid hard and necessary choices. It’s human nature. When you’re spending someone else’s money it’s easier to say yes than no. I believe any new property tax increases beyond inflation should be put on the ballot. If school boards can’t say no, maybe the taxpayers will. Let’s listen to the taxpayers on this one. . . “

The governor takes on the teacher unions with teacher furlough remarks,

” . . . At the same time we need to give school boards some breathing room. There are too many mandates that tie the hands of local school boards. This administration is committed to curbing these mandates, including one that violates every law of economics: the inability to furlough employees when there isn’t the money to pay them. It puts the entire enterprise of public education at risk. . . “

Specifically, how did the Department of Education fair in Corbett’s budget? A quick review indicates that education will receive an expected major cut in funding. The proposed cuts to education include a 10 percent cut in basic education (K-12), which is a loss of $550 million across the state. The budget also eliminates all $260 million in grants that are being given this year to school districts to invest in learning, including pre-K, full-day kindergarten and class-size reduction in kindergarten through third grade.

In his speech, Corbett asked public school officials to consider pay freezes; calculating that each year of this cost-saving measure would save school districts $400 million. Corbett said that he was returning the state education funding to the pre-stimulus funding level.

Addressing the state workers, unions, pensions and collective bargaining, Corbett’s approach was direct –

” . . . In Pennsylvania, we will be looking for salary roll backs and freezes from state employees as well as asking them to increase their contributions for healthcare benefits. We also need to start the conversation about the necessary repairs to our public retirement system.

I want to be clear about this to our union leaders. Collective bargaining doesn’t mean some ill-defined middle ground. It means finding the spot where things work. In this case it is going to have to work to the good of the taxpayer or it’s not going to work at all. Let’s find that place and meet there. Let’s keep things working. Neither side need lose for the taxpayers to win. We need to act on our financial challenges now, before they act on us. . . “

Although Corbett did not use the word, ‘voucher’ in his budget address, he was specific about his desire for school choice . . .

” . . . Pennsylvania needs to re-think how best to educate our children. We simply can’t work within a broken system. We need to change the whole system. We need a new set of priorities: child, parent, and teacher – and in that order. What we have now in too many places are schools that don’t work. Families are trapped in failing schools, or schools that are a bad fit. We need to develop a system of portable education funding; something a student can take with him or her to the school that best fits their needs. One size does not fit all. But as it now stands, not all get to choose. Let’s give them school choice. . . “

During his budget address, the Governor referred to the ‘Budget Dashboard’ available online. The dashboard is on the state website, is user-friendly and provides an easy access for information of individual state agencies. Here is a link to that reference:

If you are interested, here is a link to the entire budget — all 1,182 pages. If you decide up upload the file, remember this is very large file and suggest patience.

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