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Hosts: Scott LaMar and Mary Wilson

Smart Talk: PA Sec. of Education on Corbett budget

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Mar 9, 2014 3:09 PM

What to look for on Smart Talk Monday, March 10, 2014:

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Gov. Tom Corbett is proposing a $400 million increase in funding to education in his budget plan that begins July 1.

It includes $240 million for a block grant program that will give local school districts options on how to use it. 

The proposal also includes a $20 million increase for special education programs throughout the state.

Pennsylvania's Acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq appears on Monday's Smart Talk to explain the administration's priorities in education.

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The Corbett Administration has been criticized since the governor's first year in office for being "anti-public education."  They point to almost one billion dollars in budget cuts to education in that first year.

The governor has countered that he hasn't slashed any funding.  The state has simply not replaced money to schools that came from the federal government designed as an economic stimulus coming out of the recession.

School districts say they have had to make staff and other reductions because they don't have as much money.

What questions or comments do you have for Sec. Dumaresq about education in Pennsylvania?

Listen to the program:

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Comments: 8

  • Susan Spicka img 2014-03-10 07:56

    Is the Corbett administration telling school districts that the new Ready to Learn grant money may be used for recurring costs? If so, can Governor Corbett guarantee that these funds will be available in future years and are not just a one-time infusion of dollars that are part of an election-year ploy to make it look like he supports public education?

    This is a very important question because school districts need predictable funding levels so that they can plan responsibly for the future.

    Governor Corbett has a bad record when it comes to state grant funding. In Governor Corbett's first budget he slashed the state-funded (not ARRA funded) Accountability Block grant from $254 million to just $100 million. Many school districts had counted on these ABG state funds to pay full-day kindergarten teachers or other recurring costs. When Corbett slashed the Accountability Block Grant, school districts had to either raise local taxes or cut programs and services in order to make up for the state funding they lost when Corbett slashed the ABG.

    PA school districts do not need more one-time funds that will disappear. Any program they pay for that is valuable this year will be valuable next year and in future years. PA school districts need and deserve adequate, predictable funding so that they can provide the quality programs and services our children need to be successful in school and after they graduate.

  • Bob Nunn img 2014-03-10 08:10

    Does the Department of Education make a point of telling parents that one of the main reasons students in other countries do better is that far more receive after school tutoring?

  • Lisa img 2014-03-10 08:20

    If testing is such a vital way of measuring what has been learned throughout the year, then wouldn't it make more sense to have PSSA testing occur at the END of the year. As it is, most schools do this testing in March. I find that in the elementary schools, at least, once testing is done, teaching is too. The teachers and kids are so burned out that everything becomes movies and parties for the rest of the year. It seems we would be doing both our students and our teachers a favor if the tests were in June at the end of the year and we were a little more relaxed during the school year. I think that with all the missed snow days the results this year will show that testing 2-3 months prior to the end of the school is not the best time.

    I also disagree with the comment that classroom size doesn't matter. Baloney! That idea is based solely on cost. There have been numerous studies showing that a classroom size of 14 is ideal. Private schools such as Lancaster Country Day School have taken these studies to heart and set the limit at 14. Teachers do not have time to address the issues of individual students when they have classes of 25. This is especially crucial when mainstreaming students with learning disabilities into classrooms. It seems that only the students at the very bottom performance level get one on one attention. Those struggling at a little higher level in the class room, ie. struggling to get a C, get little to no attention.

    • Bob Nunn img 2014-03-10 08:26

      It would make more sense to do away with the PSSA all together, educationly and financialy this test is a drain on resources.

      • Maurice Reeves img 2014-03-10 09:01

        PSSA's are a huge drain of resources, and take away from instructional time. The way they're done, the amount of effort put into them means less time to actually teach, and I don't care what anyone says, it leads to teaching to the test.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2014-03-10 08:53

    Not to be a naysayer, but Maryland is a perfect example of "merged" school districts not being perfect. If you look at Hagerstown, as an example, politics seems to still be contributing to inequality of schools. North Hagerstown HS, in the wealthier part of town, has many more resources than South Hagerstown HS. Both are part of Washington County Schools with shared oversight.

    Greg from Mechanicsburg

  • Maurice Reeves img 2014-03-10 08:59

    I found the acting secretary's response to my point about increasing Dept of Corrections budget. Yes, the governor could choose to not incarcerate non-violent offenders, or to release existing non-violent offenders already in the system, for example, people who were arrested for possession of small amounts of cannabis, etc. Drug offenses make up the largest portion of people locked up in PA prisons, totaling over 30% of the total population in 2009 (the latest year they've provided statistics for) so there could be significant savings in releasing these prisoners.

    This money could provide for more teachers, it could provide for more free lunches for kids who have nothing to eat, it could provide for head start programs or full-day kindergarten in low-income areas, both of which have been shown to reduce poverty and reduce the overall crime rate, which would further reduce the need for bigger prison budgets.

    I am disheartened that the person in charge of advocating on behalf of public education in PA would be so dismissive of my comments and so willing to support increased prisons. We need change in PA, not people like Acting Secretary Dumaresq.

  • Dean Evans img 2014-03-10 18:02

    What is the governor going to do about restoring the 10s of millions owed to districts for plancon reimbursements?

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