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Does Pa. spend enough on education? Depends on who you ask - abc27 WHTM

Does Pa. spend enough on education? Depends on who you ask

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -

The final weeks of the legislative session are here, and lots of advocates are feverishly working lawmakers at the Capitol with last-minute requests for funding.

But a theme emerged on Wednesday that was unmistakable.

In the morning, a report was released suggesting Pennsylvania is underfunding pre-kindergarten education.

An hour later in the Capitol Rotunda, Shippensburg University students, majoring in education, criticized a lack of state support for public schools.

"Teachers do not have the supplies that they need because of budget cuts," lamented Rebecca Rohr, a Hershey native and Shippensburg senior.

Two hours later, from the same spot in the Rotunda, charter and cyber charter school students took to the microphone to criticize a Senate bill that would reduce their funding by five percent.

"If funding is cut, I worry about the opportunity for future students to take classes like my advanced placement computer science course," said Courtney Thurston of Mechanicsburg, who says she was bullied out of her previous school but is flourishing at Commonwealth Connections Academy.

Also working lawmakers on Wednesday was Frank Brogan, the new Chancellor of the State System of Higher Education. He was shaking hands and trying to shake the legislative money tree on behalf of the 14 state-owned universities including Shippensburg and Millersville.

"I don't think anybody is getting as much money from the state as they used to," Brogan said.

And that, say education advocates, is unacceptable. They insist the state isn't doing enough, which surprises Republicans like Senator Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster) who counters that education is 40 percent of the state budget.

"The largest line item in the budget is basic education funding that goes to school districts," Smucker said. "It is higher than it has ever been in Pennsylvania."

But the math is fuzzy when it comes to education spending because the total spent now includes pension payments, which doesn't fund current students.

"It is is absolutely untrue that there is more money going into our students' classrooms for their education," said Susan Spicka, the co-founder of Education Matters in the Cumberland Valley.

Much clearer than the math is the political science. Democrats will make education spending the top issue in the governor's race, and they're counting on all the voices of discontent heard in the Capitol to support them.

"I think Governor Corbett's education stance is going to hurt him deeply," said Spicka, a former Democratic candidate for the State House in Franklin County.

 

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