When Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) unveiled his budget in April, students and parents protested the $1.2 billion in education cuts it contained by holding a mock bake sale at the state capitol, where they estimated they would have to sell 2.4 billion cookies to make up the cost of the cuts. Corbett eventually signed into law a budget, with $900 million in education cuts, reducing the amount of cookies the parents needed to sell but still forcing school to districts to find creative ways to fill their budget gaps.
In Carlisle, Pennsylvania, those cuts meant putting an end to traditional means of cutting grass at two local schools. Instead of lawnmowers, the schools are using sheep:
Rather than spend money on cutting grass, the Carlisle School District has brought in 7 Romney sheep to tend the fields. “They’ve done a good job so far,” says Superintendent John Friend.
The sheep come free of charge, since they belong to the principal of the middle school. Friend estimates that they will save the district about $15,000 this year in mowing costs.
While the $15,000 saved will barely make a dent in Carlisle’s $2 million budget gap, Pennsylvania could render the draconian education cuts unnecessary if it ended special interest tax breaks benefiting corporations and natural gas companies. Pennsylvania is currently the only one of the top 15 gas producers that doesn’t tax companies that use fracking to extract natural gas, when doing so could earn the state $400 million annually. Unfortunately, Corbett, who received more than $835,000 from oil and natural gas companies during his campaign, refuses to go that route. Instead, he’s chosen to force school districts to layoff teachers, cut extracurricular programs, and replace basic landscaping services with animals.