Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Protesters: Deep Education Cuts Put Future of PA Public Schools at Stake

(05/21/12) PHILADELPHIA - Saying the future of public schools in Pennsylvania is at stake, thousands of protesters are expected in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and Allentown this week, railing against education cuts proposed by Governor Tom Corbett.

Recently, the Philadelphia school system announced it would close 40 schools next year and expects to lose 40 percent of its current enrollment in the next five years.

Gabe Morgan is Pennsylvania State Director for 32BJ SEIU, which represents school employees ranging from aides to bus drivers to maintenance workers. He says they chose Philadelphia for the rally over concerns that what's happening there could become commonplace in the Commonwealth.

"In Philadelphia, what we're seeing is really the first attempt to privatize a major public school system, and turn it into essentially a pass-through for money that would then go to some affiliated collection of charter schools."

Morgan says he also has major concerns about legislation making its way through Harrisburg that would place distressed schools under state control. He says there, too, Philadelphia schools serve as an example.

"Philadelphia has been under state control for the past ten years, and that's how it's gotten to the situation that it's in."

Morgan says while Governor Corbett claims the state doesn't have enough money to write bigger checks for public schools, he's turning his back on a potential revenue source that could bring in billions of dollars to the state.

"In Pennsylvania, our governor and Legislature have chosen not to significantly tax the world's largest natural gas supply. Instead they'd rather balance the budget by dismantling the public school system."

Governor Corbett has defended the cuts, saying they reflect money the state doesn't have. Morgan says not only do kids suffer when education budgets are slashed, but so do school employees who end up pink-slipped because their positions can no longer be funded.

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