Pa. education chief backs Corbett on cuts

    Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett’s top education official argues he was right to not replace expiring stimulus money with state dollars in his budget.

    Corbett’s budget cuts about $1 billion from basic education spending. Acting Education Secretary Ronald Tomalis told the House Appropriations Committee Tuesday the administration didn’t have a choice.

    “He inherited a $4 billion hole. We can think to make that hole bigger and bigger and bigger, which will end up on the backs of the taxpayer and the economy and the commonwealth,” he said.

    The other option, Tomalis said, was to not replace expiring stimulus money, which he argued was irresponsibly utilized by former Gov. Ed Rendell.

    “If you were told again and again that this was a funding cliff coming in two years, and you were advised not to make an expenditure that’s going to lock you in for five, 10 years down the road, it does matter,” he said.,

    Disappearing federal funds account for the proposed $550 million reduction in the subsidy the state sends to school districts.

    Tomalis also defended eliminating the $260 million Accountability Block Grant program, which many schools use to fund early childhood education.

    “I looked at the Accountability Block Grant program. My first question was, where’s the accountability in the Accountability Block Grant program? The school districts are allowed to use 16 different things–do 16 different things–with the Accountability Block Grant programs. It is a block grant program,” said Tomalis.

    “So then the question is, why wasn’t it folded directly into the Basic Ed Formula?”

    He said doing away with the program helped minimize the basic education subsidy’s reduction.

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