Guest editorial…Pennsylvania schools facing budget crisis

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Protesters statewide took to the streets May 28, and a total of 25 people were arrested during massive demonstrations in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

In Pittsburgh, Superintendent of Schools Linda Lane’s recently announced that the district would be cutting 1/6, 300 to 400 teachers, of its teaching staff as part of its efforts to address a budget shortfall. Fifty-five of those are special education teachers, while another 14 paraprofessionals and nine administrators will also be laid off.

The state is directing 7th- and 8th-grade students in the bankrupt Duquesne School District be sent to either East Allegheny or West Mifflin School District next fall.

Philadelphia plans to lay off thousands of employees as it closes 64 schools in the next five years, and earlier this year the Chester Upland District ran out of money entirely.

In Upper Darby, the school district is looking at scaling back its curriculum in the elementary and middle schools and significantly reducing staff to save $4 million.

Other School districts throughout the state are forced to cut back because of the recession, rising costs and in large part due to Governor Tom Corbett’s $27 billion-plus budget plan and its proposed reductions to public education.

Parents have expressed outrage over the possibility of the elimination of art, music, library and gym.

In the state capital in Harrisburg the budget crisis is even more severe.

The Harrisburg school district is looking at eliminating kindergarten and all sports programs, bands, clubs and arts program.

Class sizes would go up to 30 students per class in the elementary grades and 35 students per class in high school.

Corbett has also proposed cutting another $100 million in bloc grants currently used for early education and all-day kindergarten. The governor said he plans to sign a budget on time, meaning it must be finalized by the end of the fiscal year, June 30.

During a meeting with the Journal Register News Company editors and reporters in Norristown last week, Gov. Corbett shifted the blame to local school districts.

He said taxpayers in every district across the state need to look at how the money is being managed by local officials.

It is disingenuous to blame the school district’s money problems on mismanagement by local officials when the state has drastically cut funding to local school districts.

Meanwhile the governor is seeking tax breaks for a multibillion-dollar petrochemical refinery planned by Shell Oil Co. in western Pennsylvania that would essentially give Shell $1.7 billion in tax breaks over the next 25 years.

Governor Corbett signed a pledge not to raises taxes when he campaigned for governor. He is more intent in keeping that pledge than making a commitment to ensure that local school districts receive adequate education funding from the state.

(The Philadelphia Tribune contributed to this editorial.)

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