There has been discussion in the press recently about claims from the Scott Wagner camp that Governor Tom Wolf intends to enact — or “supports” — massive cuts in funding to Clarion County schools. That’s based on an offhand comment that the governor made about the ideal method for distributing state funding to all schools across the state. It’s the classic “he said X, so he must mean Y” argument. We hear these kinds of spurious assumptions all the time in political attack ads.
The state adopted a new formula for distributing funding that is being used only for new money. That formula is based on the number of students in attendance in each school district, poverty rates, local tax effort and other factors, and is inherently more fair. The governor made a comment in passing one day that, ideally, all school funding should be distributed using that formula. The reality, though, is that implementing that right now would result in unacceptable cuts in funding to many schools. That is not something that the governor supports.
What he would like to see is the state seeing its way clear to fully funding the public school system, so that the funding formula could be structured more fairly without adversely impacting any of the schools. Governor Wolf has restored the $1 billion in cuts that were enacted under the previous governor, Tom Corbett. He has also increased funding for school safety programs by $60 million, increased career and tech-ed programs by $10 million, increased the number of students in career and tech-ed by 42 percent, and increased the high school graduation rate by 86 percent.
When you see these attacks, in print and on TV, keep in mind that they come from a candidate who has repeatedly stated that “we could lay off 10 percent of the teachers statewide and never miss them.” Our schools have been cutting programs and staff at an alarming rate for the last 10 years just to keep them afloat. Which 10 percent should we cut now? Mr. Wagner has voted against every bipartisan budget agreement to invest in public schools during his tenure as a state senator. He is no friend of public education.
Governor Wolf’s record of support for all public schools is clear. Senator Wagner’s record is also clear. The choice is clear as well.
DANIEL F. CAREY