Gov. Corbett’s Education Cuts 10 Times Higher In Poor Districts Than Wealthy Ones

Gov. Tom Corbett (R-PA)

Gov. Tom Corbett (R-PA) — like so many other Republican governors — has proposed a budget that cuts corporate taxes in his state while gutting important services such as education. In his budget address, Corbett said that getting the Keystone state’s budget under control requires sacrifice, particularly from educators. “If government is here to share the taxpayer’s wealth then everyone needs to share in the sacrifice. Educators, Pennsylvanians await your decision,” he said.

However, it appears that Corbett doesn’t believe in shared sacrifice, at least when it comes to the distribution of his education cuts. Corbett has proposed about $1 billion in education cuts, and as the Education Law Center found, cuts for students living in poverty are in some instances ten times as deep as those for students in wealthier districts:

In some cases, cuts per student at urban schools would be ten times higher than their wealthier neighbors.

For instance, Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed budget means the Steelton-Highspire School District would get $1,139 less from the state for every student, or $28,477 less for a class of 25. That’s even though the district has a poverty rate of 68.2 percent and already has a tax rate of 24.3 mills, the second highest in Dauphin County after Harrisburg.

In contrast, Derry Twp., with a poverty rate of 12.3 percent, would get $121 less per student from the state, or $3,030 less for a class of 25. Its tax rate is 16.99 mills.

“In general, the cuts fall hardest on school districts with the greatest student poverty,” the Education Law Center said. Steelton-Highspire superintendent Audrey Utley said that the money cut from her budget has been going towards tutoring and aid for “struggling, impoverished students.” Education cuts as deep as those Corbett has proposed are bad enough: to put the brunt of the cuts onto poor districts is far worse.

But as I wrote when Corbett first released his budget, Pennsylvania doesn’t have to go down this road. By ending a series of special interest tax breaks, Corbett could raise enough revenue to render his entire education reduction unnecessary. Just taxing the gas “fracking” industry could raise $400 million annually. Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation’s top 15 gas producers that doesn’t levy a tax on this environmentally destructive industry.

Of course, Corbett received “a whopping $835,720 from oil-and-natural gas interests [during his campaign], including his largest single contributor — Marcellus Shale driller Terry Pegula and his wife Kim, who gave $305,000 to the Republican’s campaign.” And evidently returning the favor is more important than ensuring that students who live in poverty have schools that serve all of their needs.