About Last Night...

I was pleased to take part in a candidate forum last night, hosted by the Newberry Business Association at the Red Land Library. What a beautiful venue for the event! In attendance were the candidates running for State House, State Senate, and Congress. The event was cordial and well attended.

During my remarks, I mentioned that in the beginning of my teaching career, there was a budget year in which Pennsylvania had a $1 Billion cut to education spending. A sitting State Senator pounced on this line, making sure to “correct” me that there was not a $1 Billion cut because some of that money was one-time federal funding with no guarantee of renewal. I want to be clear that the Senator is correct on that figure. However, there was still a $1 Billion decrease in school funding, and we need to talk about that.

Please see this link for a more thorough explanation of the cuts that took place:

https://www.pennbpc.org/education-funding-final-2011-12-budget

It is true that federal grant monies were distributed to schools with the caveat that they should be used for one-time purchases, not school-sustaining funding. It’s pretty outlandish to tell a school that you’re giving them money, but they shouldn’t use it for things that will actually help their students. Maybe they should buy a new flag pole, or some tables for the cafeteria. Those would be wonderful additions to a school! But do you know what is even better? Staff. Teachers. Counselors. Aides. Nurses. Custodians. Cafeteria Workers. Tutors. Human beings who can make a difference in the life of a child.

Semantics aside, there was a giant hole left in education spending that year that we have only just recovered from. School districts typically know what is best for their students better than the government- this is an argument made by people on both sides of the aisle. The problem with the argument made by the Senator last night is that Pennsylvania schools should never have been put in that position to begin with. The national average for percentage of school funding provided by the state is 47%. In Pennsylvania, the state only contributes 37%, and that number may be higher than reality. If the state legislature was funding education adequately, property taxes would drop and we wouldn’t have to depend on federal grants to sustain our schools.

We need to fix our priorities in this state. Are there too many regulations on small businesses? Maybe. Is that really the most pressing issue we face in this state? Hardly. We need to fix the way we fund our schools. Educated children produces an educated work force, which leads to a better economy and a Pennsylvania that is one step closer to working for all of us.

Shanna Danielson