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May 31 marks Day 500 of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett’s term in office. To commemorate this milestone, here are some truths to combat Corbett’s false claims about his proposed 2012-13 state budget.
The Corbett Administration recently distributed a piece called “Top Five Proposed Budget Myths.” Here’s the REAL TRUTH about those “so-called myths” that Corbett doesn’t want you to know:
“MYTH” #1: Pennsylvania spends more money building prisons than building schools.
What Gov. Corbett Claims to be Fact: In the proposed budget, more than $10.7 billion is dedicated to education in Pennsylvania. For the first time in ten years, the proposed budget contains no increases for the Department of Corrections. The budget does include approximately $600 million in prison construction, $400 million of which was committed prior to Governor Corbett taking office. This overall amount is small in comparison to the more than $10 billion the Governor has committed to investing in education. THE REAL TRUTH: In the current year, Gov. Corbett increased spending for the Department of Corrections by $204 MILLION in state funds for prison operations (in addition to prison construction funding), while he cut classroom funding for K-12 public education by nearly $1 BILLION. His proposal for 2012/13 provides level funding for Corrections, but cuts K-12 classroom funding by another $100 MILLION by again eliminating Accountability Block Grant funding.
“MYTH” #2: The reductions in higher education funding will cause universities to raise tuition.
What Gov. Corbett Claims to be Fact: Schools themselves have shown this not to be true. From 1999 to 2011, Penn State, Temple, and the University of Pittsburgh received a combined $7.2 billion in state funding. During that same time period, tuition at these institutions rose an average of 130 percent. The funding reductions proposed for the state-related and state-owned schools amount to an approximate 1.5 to 3.8 percent reduction in their overall operating budgets. These small percentages are something that should be overcome through cost containment instead of reflexive tuition increases. The Governor is urging these institutions to examine how they spend their money instead of balancing their budgets on the backs of students and families. THE REAL TRUTH: From 2001 to the current year, Pennsylvania’s annual higher education funding fell 9 percent. The state has continued to slash funding for higher education at alarming levels. Since 2007, Pennsylvania has slashed higher education funding by 15 percent, four times the rate for all states in the nation. Gov. Corbett last year attempted to slash funding for public higher education by an historic – and nation-leading – 50 percent. The final Corbett budget included a 20-percent cut. But Corbett won’t stop his attack on public higher education. His proposed 30-percent cut would finish what he started – and leave college students and their families with significantly higher tuition bills. Gov. Corbett likes to say he is cutting university funding by just 1.5 to 3.8 percent of universities’ total budgets. But those numbers are misleading because they take into account the universities’ entire operating budgets. He is comparing apples to oranges – state funding levels to universities vs. overall university budgets (of which state funding is a relatively small percentage) – all to make his proposed 30percent cut in state funding appear smaller. What he fails to acknowledge is that the universities’ operating budgets include many restricted funding accounts that universities cannot use to offset the state-funded classroom education cuts.
“MYTH” #3: The proposed budget reduces funding for K-12 education and will force school districts to raise property taxes.
What Gov. Corbett Claims to be Fact: The more than $9.3 billion in state funding the Governor has proposed for K-12 education is the highest in the history of Pennsylvania, with every school district in the commonwealth seeing an increase. Visit investinginpastudents.com to find out how much Governor Corbett is investing in your kids and find out if your school district has money in its reserve fund it could use to offset its increasing costs. Additionally, Governor Corbett, just last year, took action to make sure you have more say in when, and if, your property taxes are increased. He signed historic reform that requires proposed increases to be put on the ballot for residents to decide. THE REAL TRUTH: Gov. Corbett is intentionally trying to confuse the public with a website supposedly showing state funding for education. The plain truth is that K-12 public school funding has been slashed by nearly $1 BILLION under Gov. Corbett. His misleading website includes funding that does NOT affect classroom education. Gov. Corbett lumps in state-mandated funding for transportation and school employee social security payments to make it appear that schools are getting more funding. In reality, Gov. Corbett’s plan not only distorts the funding picture, it means schools will be on their own in the future to pay for increasing gas costs at the expense of classroom learning for students. Gov. Corbett’s education policies have decimated public schools with historic and devastating cuts resulting in more than 14,000 public school job losses, property tax increases in more than half of PA’s 500 school districts and unprecedented cuts to academic and extracurricular programs. Worse yet, Gov. Corbett isn’t finished with his hatchet job on our kids’ public schools. He has proposed slashing funding for public education by another $100 MILLION – which will likely result in the elimination of full-day kindergarten in many school districts, and possibly the elimination of kindergarten altogether in others.
“MYTH” #4: The elimination of cash assistance will mainly hurt children and victims of domestic abuse.
What Gov. Corbett Claims to be Fact: The primary recipients of cash assistance are single, childless adults and constitute 1 percent of the overall public assistance population. The elimination of this program allows the administration to save the state funded medical assistance program which provides medical services to the same population. Currently, almost 39 cents of every state taxpayer dollar supports our public assistance programs, yet costs of the system continue to escalate faster than our economy and the rate of poverty. We must take steps now to contain costs or these programs will be jeopardized in the future. THE REAL TRUTH: Gov. Corbett is either intentionally distorting the facts or he simply does not understand the connection between programs for which he is responsible. General Assistance Cash Grants are often the only source of income for Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable residents, including children under the care of an unrelated adult, individuals with disabilities, victims of domestic violence and individuals who are in drug and alcohol recovery programs. Gov. Corbett conveniently fails to mention that he also plans to cut Medical Assistance services for 35,000 people by cutting $170 MILLION. Eliminating these programs would result in tens of thousands of people seeking higher-cost services at the local level.
MYTH #5: The proposed budget reduces funding for the arts.
What Gov. Corbett Claims to be Fact: Both last year and this year, Governor Corbett protected funding for the arts in Pennsylvania, investing more than $8 million in arts grants throughout the commonwealth. THE REAL TRUTH: This statement shows that Gov. Corbett just doesn’t understand the value of investing in education, or the significant impact of his callous and short-sighted cuts to our public schools. Gov. Corbett’s nearly $1 BILLION in cuts to our public school system have resulted in large-scale cuts to art and music programs in our schools. With such a significant drop in state funding, schools have been forced to raise taxes and – in many cases – cut or eliminate their arts programs. If Gov. Corbett truly cared about the arts, he’d properly fund our public schools so that future generations can learn about, participate in, and enjoy the richness of the arts, music and cultural activities. His cuts are robbing our children of the arts programs that Gov. Corbett professes to care about.
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