It isn’t every day you hear a candidate for office say, “Hey, let’s cut public school funding by billions, lay off a ton of teachers, and send class sizes through the roof.”
Yet that’s what state Sen. Doug Mastriano wants to do if elected governor in November, even if he isn’t saying it that way.
Late. Mastriano, a frequent critic of Pennsylvania’s public schools, voiced support in March for cutting per-student spending in public schools from an annual average of more than $19,000 to just $9,000 or $10,000, per-student funding levels unseen in Pennsylvania in more than two decades .
More:Pennsylvania’s cyber charter schools cost taxpayers and businesses
That idea, along with his plan to completely eliminate local school property taxes, would add up to a loss of more than $12 billion for public school districts, charter schools, career and technical centers, and intermediate units, according to an analysis by the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA). About 118,700 jobs in public education would be lost, more than doubling teacher-to-student ratios in schools statewide.
The results would be disastrous in Erie County.
The Erie School District would see the biggest dollar impact — with a revenue cut of more than $62 million resulting in the loss of 540 jobs, according to PSEA’s analysis. Several suburban districts would see funding cuts of 30% or more — Union City Area and Wattsburg Area above 40%. Job losses would range from 36% in Millcreek Township to 62% in the Wattsburg Area, while teacher-to-student ratios would rise across the board.
More school district-level details can be found at www.psea.org/mastrianocuts#analysis.
More:Govt. Wolf’s budget helps close the education funding gap for challenged districts like Erie
Just imagine what our public schools would be like with a fraction of the teachers, school counselors, school nurses, custodians, bus drivers, and aides? What would it mean for the education and well-being of Pennsylvania’s students?
There’s no doubt Sen. Mastriano’s plan would turn our schools upside down and hobble day-to-day operations. Students would lose out on learning opportunities, after-school activities and sports, and time with educators and support staff.
One thing his terrible plan would accomplish: School districts wouldn’t have to worry about staffing shortages anymore. They’d be too busy laying off educators and support staff, increasing class sizes, and eliminating student programs.
This idea is completely out of step with elected leaders from both parties. Nobody else — Republican or Democrat — is talking about cutting school funding by that much.
For the past eight years, Pennsylvania policymakers from both parties have come together to make needed investments in our public schools. Today, Pennsylvania is providing billions more to support educational programs that make a difference in the lives of students and their families.
Late. Mastriano, if elected governor, would undo all of that progress, returning Pennsylvania to school funding levels unseen in decades.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the Democratic candidate for governor, has a long track record of supporting public education and Pennsylvania students.
He will fight for continued investments in our public schools and make sure our students have the tools they need to succeed, including access to vocational, technical, and computer training as well as other academic and extracurricular pursuits.
Attorney General Shapiro also recognizes that too many students are struggling with mental and emotional health issues. He has pledged to make sure that every school building in Pennsylvania has at least one mental health professional so that kids can access help when they need it.
More:Govt. Wolf addresses ‘future of education,’ gun violence in visit to McDowell Mfg.
How we fund public schools in Pennsylvania is one of the most important functions of state government. Late. Mastriano’s dismissive notion that we can cut public school funding by more than $12 billion is just the latest evidence that he is unfit to lead.
We need a better vision for the future of public education — one that ensures students will have access to the educators, nurses, counselors, extracurricular activities, sports, and other programs that prepare them to be the successful leaders of tomorrow.
Rich Askey is president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, which represents about 177,000 active and retired educators and school employees, student teachers, higher education staff, and health care workers.