Dems question schools funding in Corbett budget

Posted: February 20, 2014

HARRISBURG - There may be more money for public schools in Gov. Corbett's proposed budget, but Democratic legislators on Tuesday questioned whether the administration is paying for it by shortchanging equally important programs.

At a hearing before the House Appropriations Committee, Education Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq detailed how Corbett's spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1 contains the biggest public education increase of his tenure in office.

But she also acknowledged that the new money depends on savings from yet-to-be-approved initiatives, including one to rein in the cost of public-employee pensions by postponing payments into the system. The move would save the state $170 million.

"Isn't that essentially just kicking the can down the road?" asked Rep. Joe Markosek of Allegheny County, the panel's ranking Democrat. He called the plan "very shortsighted."

Dumaresq said the administration viewed the proposal as "temporary relief" and was simultaneously advocating for more aggressive changes in the way the state funds pensions for state and school employees.

While that is true, the administration has yet to get the legislature to agree to a specific proposal.

The majority of the new money Corbett is proposing for education, or $240 million, would fall under a "Ready to Learn" block grant, which the administration says is designed to ensure that every child is reading and doing math at grade level by the third grade.

Separately, Corbett also is proposing an additional $20 million in special-education funding and an extra $10 million to help 1,670 children from middle- and lower-income families attend prekindergarten programs.



comments powered by Disqus