Wolf’s “Plague” on Public Education

Schools across Pennsylvania are feeling the squeeze from Gov. Tom Wolf’s $3 billion education funding cut. In Red Lion, Carbondale, Plum, and Erie—to name just a few—districts are struggling to remain open.

The governor claims he’s fighting to restore funding lawmakers “cut” and blames the legislature for supposedly underfunding education.

But last week, the administration’s education secretary, Pedro Rivera, dropped two bombshells that undercut the governor’s rhetoric.

First, Rivera confirmed Pennsylvania’s public schools are among the highest funded in the nation:

Second, Rivera conceded that the legislature has never voted to cut education spending:

Why, then, does Gov. Wolf continue withholding funds from cash-strapped schools? Wolf’s Budget Secretary Randy Albright admitted the real reason on Thursday. PennLive reports:

Wolf's $6.9 billion in December line-item vetoes—including more than $3 billion earmarked for schools—to close a budget hole estimated at $500 million to $600 million was ultimately about leverage.

Actually, we already knew that.

But rarely is it stated as openly or directly as this:

The vetoes were “to make the clear statement that it (the overall amount of funding earmarked for state aid to public schools in the GOP-crafted budget) is not enough,” Albright said under questioning about the governor's strategy.

Apparently, funding Secretary Rivera says is among the highest in the nation is “not enough” for the governor. So, Wolf's strategy is to punish schools.

Not surprisingly, this approach has become increasingly unpopular.

From a recent editorial in The Intelligencer, emphasis added:

Locally, some districts — among them Central Bucks and Hatboro-Horsham — have so far been able to weather the storm. But Mark Miller, president-elect of the PSBA, says it’s only a matter of time before the stalemate in Harrisburg consumes every district. “No school district is immune,” Miller said. “This is a plague that the governor has released on public education, and it’s not necessary. We’re all going to catch the disease.”

These are harsh words from an organization typically friendly to Wolf’s high-tax agenda. But Miller is right—Pennsylvania’s funding crisis is not an accident. It is an intentional element of the governor’s political strategy.

Each passing day without $3 billion in education funding is another day public schools are manipulated as leverage for higher taxes. Fortunately, Rep. James Santora introduced legislation (HB 1821) to appropriate the funding that Wolf has blocked. It is time to release those funds and cure the schools from Wolf’s plague on public education.