Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Back to School Policy

It's back to school, kids, and the policy of the moment is education.  From Head Start to higher education and all the shockingly ill-funded students in between, Democrats smell blood in the electoral waters and they aren't holding back.  The current state of Philadelphia city schools is Pennsylvania's nationally visible shame, thanks to Governor Corbett and our Republican-led state government.

While gubernatorial candidate John Hanger talks sensible high education funding and Brian Sims slams Corbett on his near total abandonment of Pennsylvania's students, today the Secretary of the Commonwealth announced that Pennsylvania would join a multi-state anti-voter-fraud initiative.  Because seriously, you guys, voter fraud is a serious issue...or, you know it would be if it happened ever.

Educational funding is something that has had a huge impact on the course of my life.  Twelve years ago I had to leave college during my sophomore year at Penn State because my family and I just couldn't make the financing work.  I was, at the time, totally unaware of what my options were, which is not to say that I sat by and expected my parents to do it all for me.  On top of a full course load I maintained a full-time job, but it wasn't enough.  I don't know what we could have done differently, but at this point it doesn't really matter.  After twelve years, I only have to wait six more days until I start classes again, this time at Penn State Altoona.  If anyone knows the importance of supporting education, it's me.

School districts all around the state are in trouble, but perhaps none so much as Philadelphia.  As a person from Western PA, I've certainly complained about how much time and thought and money siphon into Philly, but this time you'll hear no complaint from me however much money anyone wanted to put into Philadelphia schools.  In the United States of America we have a great dream left not just unfulfilled, but under attack.  That dream is free and equal education.  In Pennsylvania, that free and equal education is promised to us in our Commonwealth Constitution: 
"The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth."
..."a thorough and efficient system" indeed.  The only thing thorough and efficient about education under Governor Corbett is the unsurprising prowess with which Corbett and his ilk have worked to utterly dismantle Pennsylvania's public school systems.  As they allow money to be siphoned into private charter schools, they complain that no amount of money would ever make public schools worthwhile.  Back in 2011, the PA Republican Committee of Chester County lauded Governor Corbett for tearing money away from our public schools because when you're over budget, the first thing you should cut is school funding.  

Over the last two years it's been more of the same in school funding.  During the first half of this year, Governor Corbett has been pitching his liquor privatization plan as a way to fund schools.  He proposed that schools would get $1 billion from liquor privatization.  Hey, isn't that exactly the amount that got cut at the beginning of his administration?

What students and parents alike should remember at the beginning of this school year is that, as Brian Sims pointed out, 83% of children in this commonwealth go to underfunded schools.  Governor Corbett and his Republican allies aren't interested in fixing the problems, they're interested in placing blame.  It's up to every citizen of this Commonwealth to make sure that they know exactly where they should be pointing those fingers - the mirror.