State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

House Dems urge Corbett to propose hike in schools spending

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Jan 14, 2014 4:33 PM
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Gov. Corbett is slated to make his state budget proposal in three weeks, and House Democrats are calling on him to make education a higher spending priority.

"We urge Governor Corbett to make a course correction in this year's budget and really make our children the priority that they should be," said Philadelphia Rep. James Roebuck, the ranking Democrat on the House Education Committee. He was surrounded by his caucus colleagues. Republican aides looked on, tweeting from the side of the rotunda.

Democrats have been urging the governor to spend more on education since 2011, when Corbett's first budget made deep cuts to schools funding. The governor's administration argues the reductions were the direct result of the disappearance of federal stimulus dollars that had been used to prop up education budgets under former Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell.

2011 was also the year lawmakers abandoned use of a schools funding formula, which was intended to smooth out funding disparities between school districts. Schools advocates say now school districts receive more money based on the relative political power of their legislators.

House Minority Leader Frank Dermody pressed for a return to such a funding formula. Democrats point to a plan to order up a study of recent cuts to education and a "detailed analysis of school funding adequacy and equity in Pennsylvania."

"This resolution," Dermody said, "would give us the information we need to determine the true scope of Corbett's cuts, while also giving us a road map for reversing the damage done by those cuts."

A separate Republican proposal to develop a new funding formula (which would be applied exclusively to any increase in education funding) awaits a vote by a House committee.

The governor's budget secretary has already said cuts aren't really an option this year. But with an estimated deficit as high as $1.4 billion, it's unlikely education will see a big hike in spending in Corbett's proposal.

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