For some time now, I have suspected that the Conservative agenda involved the systematic dismantling and undermining of public education. Conservatives have repeatedly belittled public school teachers, fought the increase property taxes (which are the primary source of funding for most public school budgets), sought to pass bills calling for vouchers, and promoted the proliferation of charter schools, as their agenda for “reforming public education.” I have seen this is my children’s own suburban school district, in the Philadelphia public schools and in communities around the country. Taken together these actions sound the death knell of many public schools, especially in economically depressed communities. However, I doubt it will stop there; conservatives want to destroy publicly funded education in all its forms.
Recent actions by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett have done nothing to dissuade me from this perspective; in fact he all but publicly proposed that for two communities in Pennsylvania. In my last blog posting, I decried the action of the governor denying funding for the Chester-Upland school district that had run out of money mid-year. The governor refused to provide relief claiming the school had “mismanaged” its funds. Chester-Upland has been under the oversight of the state government for several years, so if there was mismanagement it was in his own government as before he was governor he was the Attorney General.
Fortunately, a federal judge ordered Gov. Corbett to provide the $3.2 million necessary for the Chester-Upland district to complete its school year; this isn’t sufficient but it gives the district some more time However, the governor has already submitted a bill to the PA legislature that will effectively dissolve the school district, disband the teacher’s contracts and turn the remaining schools over to charters. He has proposed a similar plan for the community of Duquesne City in Western PA. Moreover, he proposes lower payments to schools that Chester student would apply to, thus making a lesser incentive for schools to attract or admit Chester students. The bill is so bad that even some of the Governor’s Republican allies are rejecting the bill. Fortunately, others are proposing their own bills, but it is clear that while the Governor continues to protect his corporate friends from any more taxes, he openly and disdainfully ignores the needs of the poorest citizens and their children in place like Chester. Because of the governor’s budget slashing other districts like Philadelphia also face further cutbacks even after slashing $600 million for their budget last summer, which led to larger class sizes, fewer teachers and the elimination of many academic support programs.