Philly education advocates, kids press for more Pa. school funding

As Philadelphia students returned to school, children’s advocates rebuked Gov. Tom Corbett for not spending more on education.

 

As Philadelphia students returned to school Monday, children’s advocates rebuked Gov. Tom Corbett for not spending more on education at a rally outside his Center City office.

The city’s public schools are opening with a scarcity of guidance counselors, nurses and funding for supplies.

The students themselves couldn’t attend the protest, of course, but that doesn’t mean their voices weren’t heard. Activists and elected officials read excerpts from letters that students wrote to Corbett.

“Dear Gov. Corbett,” read Patricia West of the nonprofit Public Citizens for Children and Youth, “it’s horrible that because of these budget cuts, our counselors and secretaries will be put out of a job. Please reconsider the budget. By taking away our art and music, you are taking away what makes us special.”

“If you cut art, it would be like you killed me because I love art. If you take it away, I will tell everyone not to vote for you,” read another advocate.

Local and state elected officials, including Republican City Councilman Dennis O’Brien, state Reps. Michael O’Brien and Michelle Brownlee, both Philadelphia Democrats, attended the rally. Brownlee said the GOP-led state legislature could help the city’s schools by approving a cigarette tax for Philadelphia.

“It’s unconscionable that our students in Philadelphia, our children, have to go back to school under these conditions,” she said. “There’s a shortage of support staff. I don’t think any child in 2014 should have to return to school or go through the school year without the total support that they need.”

Corbett was not in Philadelphia Monday. Billy Pitman, a spokesman for the governor’s re-election campaign, said he has called on lawmakers to authorize a cigarette tax.

“He is fighting for the future of the children of Philadelphia because they should not be held responsible for the mistakes past leaders made in mismanaging the school district,” said Pitman.

Democrats blame the Philadelphia School District’s condition on Corbett and Republican lawmakers, who they say cut about $1 billion from state education funding in 2011.

Corbett says most of those cuts were the result of federal stimulus dollars running dry. He asserts that he increased education funding by more than $1 billion since taking office, but that takes into account legally required pension payments and other line items that don’t directly go into the classroom.

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