EXETER – Democrats rallied outside Wyoming Area Secondary Center on Tuesday and railed against Gov. Tom Corbett's education agenda.
State Treasurer Rob McCord, running for re-election against Republican Diana Irey Vaughan, told a crowd of supporters – many of them teachers – he believes in fiscal restraint but that "we need to do it in a sensible and prudent way."
McCord contended Corbett and the Republican-led state legislature have made spending cuts "with an ax," leading to teacher layoffs and larger class sizes that will be "doing harm in the long run."
McCord also warned of "water balloon financing, creating the fiction that they are cutting the government burden on taxpayers," while taxes "are blowing up at the local level."
State Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Wilkes-Barre, said the climate in Harrisburg has changed.
"There was bipartisanship six years ago," Pashinski said. "Now there is a logjam of ideology."
Contending Corbett cut $1 billion from education last year – the governor insists the loss was caused by the end of federal stimulus dollars, not a cut in state spending – Pashinski said the real goal behind that and other moves is to privatize education.
Pashinski cited a new teacher evaluation system that does not apply to charter schools, which receive state money, or private schools that will indirectly receive state financial support through the new Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit program.
Businesses get tax credits for money donated for scholarships that go to students who live near "low achieving" public schools. The scholarships can be used at other schools not on the low achieving list.
"They are taking your tax dollars and paying privateers to set up private schools for profit," Pashinski said.
Pennsylvania State Education Association Northeast Region President Glen Galante rattled off the consequences of budget cuts statewide.
Galante said 60 percent of districts increased class size, 58 percent cut music, art, physical education or advanced placement classes, 46 percent cut field trips, 75 percent reduced staff by furlough or attrition, 19 percent cut early-childhood programs, and 37 percent cut tutoring and after-school programs.
"Join me and stand up to this tyranny," Galante urged.