by Catherine Balsamo – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
During the year that I’ve been organizing with Working America members, I haven’t seen anything fire up our members in Western Pennsylvania more than Governor Tom Corbett’s state budget. The current budget slashed education and social services, demanded sacrifices from children and struggling Pennsylvanians, and caused some districts to increase property taxes – but continued to let corporations off the hook.
The proposal for the upcoming year’s state budget looks even worse. Here’s what some Working America members expressed to me last week about the Pennsylvania budget:
LaTonya Greene, mother and waitress:
This state budget has crushed education in PA, and we can’t afford for that to happen again this year. My six year-old son was in full-day kindergarten last school year, and he learned a lot. My daughter is in kindergarten now, but it was cut to half-day due to the budget cuts. She’s not learning, and I’m afraid she may have to repeat it.
My two year-old son entered an early childhood education program in September, but because of state budget cuts, it closed in November. To make things worse, some after-school programs here have been cut as well.
The government claims the state broke, but many corporations and gas companies here are getting richer, and not paying taxes. This is being done at the expense of our children’s education.
We need to make sure that our politicians know that we value education and want to see it funded in the state budget. Our elected officials need to put our kids over corporate profits, and finally require corporations to pay their fair share of taxes.
Dr. Ronald Ladick, former Assistant Superintendent:
The serious defunding of public education in last year’s state budget caused school districts in my area to eliminate after-school tutoring, cut kindergarten, axe staff development trainings and programs, and scale back truancy remedies.
We have to hold our politicians accountable for a decent state budget. They want to keep their jobs, and they’re accountable to us. We need to write letters, call, and meet with our elected officials to demand a decent state budget.
Cindy Frye, mother:
State budget cuts are hurting education, overtaxing the little guy, and driving people out of the area.
My school district recently merged with another school district, in part to avoid having to raise property taxes… but because of the severe state defunding of education, our property taxes are still going to go up! Houses by me went up for sale after the millage increase was announced. How will there be a future here for the upcoming generation? The good jobs (manufacturing jobs) have been outsourced, education cuts are underway, property taxes are being increased, and public transit is on the chopping block.
Robert D’Angelo, music teacher:
I worked as a music teacher for 25 years, and my wife teaches family consumer science as well as gifted education. Due to the severe state budget cuts, programs like music, family consumer science, computer science, and libraries in or near my district have been scaled back significantly.
Computer science and library class are now only available to certain grades. Books aren’t able to be maintained or replaced. Family consumer science classes have been reduced, and they now charge students a fee in order to participate in class (the fee is needed to pay for the food). Our school district can only afford 2 music teachers, and the band and theatre programs are weakened as a result. Instruments are falling apart. The school musicals are have decreased in size and scope, and can no longer include as many kids. Kids who would be involved in theatre if there were space for them are now getting into trouble instead.
People need to speak up for a budget that restores funding to education. We need to let our elected officials know what we’re experiencing so that they can shape a budget that reflects our values and needs.
Working America members recognize that Pennsylvania’s state budget is crushing communities, compromising children, and slashing educational resources. We need to speak up to our elected officials and demand a state budget that restores funding for education and social services, and requires corporations to pay their fair share of taxes to our state.