The next year, he proposed a 20 percent to 30 percent cut to higher education and $100 million out of the basic-education subsidy, though much of that was restored.
Bottom line: This year's $90 million bump to education funding is more akin to returning a dollar to someone from whom you took $100 - two years ago.
At 41 percent of the state general fund, education funding is still lower than it was during Gov. Ed Rendell's last term, when it comprised nearly 44 percent of the budget.
Corbett's proposal relies on changes to the pension plan that are far from certain. So is his plan to sell the state's liquor business. He would use the money to create block grants for certain programs in the schools - up to $200 million a year statewide - if the Legislature agrees.
That is a very big if, considering the tepid reaction to the Corbett privatization plan by many legislators. The same coalition of urban Democrats and rural Republicans that has blocked plans to sell the state stores before seems ready to do it again.
Even if the system was sold and the $1 billion Corbett estimates it will raise over the next four years is devoted to the schools, these are block grants. The governor wants to use the money for specific programs involving school security, pre-K-to-grade-3 education, math and science, and "customized learning plans."
Once this money is gone who will pay for these new programs? Surely the experience of Philadelphia and other school districts that launched promising programs with federal stimulus money, only to see that money and those programs go away, should be a lesson for Corbett.
Although new educational programs are not a bad thing, what Philadelphia and other school districts really need is more general state aid to support their basic operations. Given Corbett's no-new-taxes pledge, that is unlikely to happen. Raising state taxes to support the schools is taboo.
Cutting business taxes, however, is not. Corbett proposed lowering the corporate net income tax and cuts in the capital stock and franchise tax.
Corbett is running for re-election next year. His approval ratings are low. For this year at least, he wants to appear as the pro-education, pro-children governor. But he is dressing up a minuscule increase in state aid to education as a major policy initiative.