Friday 5: Legislative Scissors

“Cut” may be the most common verb in newspapers in the past year. Pennsylvania’s legislators have especially loved their scissors and knives when it comes to education funding.  Governor Corbett announced his proposed budget for 2012-13 last month. “With this budget, every gain in school funding enacted by the General Assembly over the past decade will be wiped out over the course of two years,” says the PA Budget and Policy Center. This week’s Friday 5 is about education funding at various levels in Pennsylvania.
  1. K-12 education. Overall public school funding would be cut by $78 million. That’s on top of the $1 billion cut Corbett took from K-12 schools last year. The Department of Corrections, meanwhile was one of few areas to receive increased funding (10% or $1.73 million) last year. Quite a statement of values and priorities.
  2. Higher education. The deepest cuts have been to colleges: 20% reduction in funding for state universities (e.g. Millersville, Bloomsburg, Shippensburg), 28-30% reductions for Temple, Pitt, and Penn State. The governor would also reduce funding for PHEAA, the agency that offers financial aid to students.
  3. Mid-year freezes. Cuts don’t just happen when the budget is planned. Last month I got a message in my Head Start email that there had been a mid-year freeze in state funding. The result here is that the program had to close a classroom and add those students to other classrooms, most of which were already full.
  4. Cyber charters. It’d be easy to demonize Corbett on party lines, but the underfunding of education in PA is not something that would simply go away if a Democrat were in the governor’s office. It’s part of a larger, national push to make education a market commodity instead of a human right. Online charters school, for example, are making million-dollar profits in this time of austerity. Cyber charters bill school districts for each student that comes out of regular schools and into the charter. PA Cyber Charter, the largest online school in the state has made $45 million in profits since 2004.
  5. Students demand better. High school students from across PA are building a network of organizations to fight for equitable school funding for all students. Read and watch their powerful stories in the recent article and video Mitch and I did for PA from Below.
Show some love to public education

High school students from four PA cities converged in the Capitol Rotunda on Valentine's Day, telling Corbett to "show some love for public education." February 2012

4 Responses to “Friday 5: Legislative Scissors”

  1. 1 Molly Caldwell March 9, 2012 at 11:48 am

    I was in a focus group yesterday about the budget cuts! I will have to tell you about it in person…the complexity of the discussion is impossible to sum up in a few words.

  2. 3 paindecompagne March 10, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    This is really enlightening. So when you write, do you tend to know the statistics offhand, or do you have some suspicions that you research?

    • 4 RogueAnthropologist March 10, 2012 at 9:06 pm

      Haha, no I don’t know budget statistics offhand. Most of the information I learned about the budget is from the analysis I linked to (“PA Budget and Policy Center”) in the intro. paragraph.
      The information on cyber charters came from a PBS video ( that focused on PA. I’ve also been reading about them from a national perspective because the school district I write about for the Lancaster paper joined an online consortium this year to try bring students/student money back to the district. I’m gonna be writing a feature article about it soon. Part of what I love about journalism is having a deadline and a focus for learning about topics I’ve been curious about anyway!
      Also, I feel like I’m just starting to figure out how to find useful sources with reports and such (a good one is the Education Law Center, PA). Part of that is having a focus (or several) because things lead to each other, whereas if I want statistics about something random I have a hunch on…I never know how to find the relevant data!

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