In the 2013/2014 budget, Governor Tom Corbett is expected to flat fund education, which means that we shouldn’t expect proposed draconian cuts to public education for the third year in a row. In fact, the message coming from Governor Corbett and his Budget Secretary Charles Zogby – who strikingly resembles Bill Lumbergh from “Office Space” - is that we should be on our knees and kissing their feet because they have reigned in “wasteful spending” through gutting the education, higher education, the General Fund, welfare, tourism, disability and other budgets. While at the same time, they’ve dolled out tax breaks to the Natural Gas Industry and your potential employer who gets to keep 95% of your state income taxes if he, she or them hire 250 people in 5 years.
Under Corbett’s disastrous tenure, unemployment has hovered around 8% while tens of thousands of public sector workers have lost their jobs due to prior budget cuts. Now the Governor is risking the jobs of three thousand more public sector employees- this time those working in the state liquor stores – so teachers and education advocates can kiss the feet of King Corbett for restoring education funding with what equates to 40 pieces of silver. Grant it, the outdated liquor and beer laws in Pennsylvania need to be modernized, but that is not the heart of the issue. The heart of the issue is trying to force a union that will benefit from this privatization process against the union representing the thousands of workers that have just been put on layoff notice.
In Orwellian fashion, the King’s plan to fund education through the wholesale of the state stores is aptly named the “Passport for Learning.” “The Plan” will generate 1 billion dollars over 4 years through selling wholesale licenses, auctioning off the wine and spirits stores, selling wine and beer licenses and selling “enhanced” licenses to beer distributors. Then the money will be distributed through “block grant” programs, which means there will be strings attached to the distribution of these funds. This also creates a problem because these “strings” will probably be performance based initiatives which could ultimately leave out school districts that need the money the most – say Philadelphia, Reading, Harrisburg, Allentown and Chester Upland to name a few. The money will go towards “school safety, early learning, and science, technology, engineering and mathematics courses programming.” Before I get into where we should be really getting this money, let me diverge for a quick moment because the first item on the agenda is an interesting item. With Pennsylvania Republicans trying to ban any federal gun control legislation in the wake of the Newtown tragedy, is Governor Corbett trying to pander to the hard right and have more “good guys with guns” so they would be able to stop the “bad guys with guns?” If Corbett keeps to his record, the people of Pennsylvania won’t know because his administration likes to release sexy talking points while keeping his horrid plans under lock and key – IE) the privatization of the Lottery System.
With Right To Work legislation waiting to be debated in the House, will the King get his kicks watching two different public sector unions squabbling with each other over the idea that we should fund education – for only 4 years – on the backs of thousands of middle class workers who essentially got their layoff notices or will “the Plan” spark an actual debate on how we should be funding education in this Commonwealth? The answer is obvious, we shouldn’t rely on the selling of state assets to fund education when our government has allowed those making the most over the past 4 years to share no sacrifice whatsoever during this time.
Sean Kitchen is an Assistant Editor and Social Media Organizer for Raging Chicken Press. He is student at Kutztown University. You can follow him on twitter @RCPress_Sean.