Public education supporters ramp up rallies with call-ins

March 5, 2012 4:01 pm

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As the state House Appropriations Committee today conducts a hearing on state education spending, parents, students and other taxpayers will be calling legislators and the governor to urge them to spend more on public education.

"It's a statewide call to action," said Susan Gobreski, executive director of Education Voters of Pennsylvania, which set the date for what she called a "pretty broad, grass-roots effort."

"Our big point here is we want our legislators to find a way to sustainably and equitably fund public education," said Jessie Ramey of Point Breeze, parent of two Pittsburgh Colfax K-8 students and a founder of the blog Yinzercation.

By her count, parents and community members from at least nine Pittsburgh public schools and 11 suburban schools will be participating.

Some of them will have "sidewalk parties" before or after school, with banners, refreshments and cell phones parents can use.

Ms. Ramey said the events were not organized by the schools themselves.

Some high school students also are planning to get their peers to make calls.

Pittsburgh Allderdice senior Nico Kass said students want to emphasize how the cuts affect them, such as increased class sizes.

"I feel that I have received a first-rate education that has propelled me into a top college, and I am seeing the opportunity that I had taken away from those who are younger," he said.

A+ Schools, a local public education advocacy organization, also has urged the public to call their legislators today.

The effects of cuts made in this year's state budget are being felt now, including larger class sizes and fewer programs, Ms. Gobreski said.

She said Gov. Tom Corbett's proposed budget would make that the "new normal."

Kathy Newman of Squirrel Hill, a parent of a Pittsburgh Linden K-5 student, said cuts being made at that school "jolted me into action."

The Corbett administration maintains that he has proposed increasing funding to public schools by $338.1 million.

However, relatively little of that would provide additional resources to classrooms. Of the total increase, $315.8 million is allotted to cover the steadily increasing amount of employer contributions to pensions. Most of the rest is designated for Social Security and transportation costs.

In addition, that figure doesn't consider the $100 million in accountability block grants now in the 2011-12 budget but not in Mr. Corbett's proposal. He didn't include accountability block grants in last year's proposal either, but the Legislature put the money in the budget.

Today's hearing by the state House Appropriations Committee is part of a series of hearings on the proposed education budget. Today's session includes the state Department of Education, the state System of Higher Education and the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency.

Education writer Eleanor Chute: echute@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1955.
First Published 2012-03-04 23:12:42

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