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Pennsylvanians aim to send Gov. Corbett packing

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett launched a statewide re-election swing this month—dogged by a 20 percent approval rating and scores of Pennsylvanians eager to pull the plug on policies that starve public schools, weaken unions and put the commonwealth's working families in the crosshairs.

Teachers have joined parents, students and community activists at virtually every Corbett-for-Governor stop in the state. They've staged spirited demonstrations against the fringe, Tea Party-inspired agenda that has marked Corbett's tenure—and punctuated their opposition by bringing a "moving crew" with a van and boxes to events, an open invitation to help the governor to vacate Harrisburg.

Corbett's approval ratings have hit record lows, with only 1 in 5 voters believing he is doing an "excellent" or "good" job as governor, a recent Franklin and Marshall poll reveals. Over his tenure, Corbett has slashed K-12 classroom funding by 10.8 percent, early childhood education by 26 percent, and higher education funding by 20 percent.

He's also put more than 20,000 teachers and school employees out of work.

The latest demonstration took place on Nov. 7 in Philadelphia, home to a public school system that has taken the brunt of the governor's most virulent and cynical attacks. The Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools helped organize the anti-Corbett rally, and a crowd of parents, students and activists greeted the governor's re-election bus with chants and jeers. Of the nearly $1 billion Corbett cut from statewide education funding when he took office, $272 million has come from Philadelphia since 2011—the deepest per pupil cut in the state.

City schools are still suffering from massive shortfalls, despite Corbett's decision to drop stall tactics and finally release $45 million in federal funds he had kept from Philadelphia schools. The 400 school staff who were recently rehired represent only a fraction of those laid off under the School Reform Commission's "doomsday budget." And no school nurses are being rehired, even after the tragic death of a Philadelphia student who suffered a devastating asthma attack during the school day.

The long-overdue release of federal funding to Philadelphia schools was not without Corbett's political spin, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President and AFT Vice President Jerry Jordan recently told the City Council appropriations committee. The funds were "slated to provide services to children in our traditional schools. And while there were initially no strings attached to these funds, Gov. Corbett chose to play politics by holding on to the money until he got reforms and concessions from the school district and the union.

"We are hearing talk of $10 million being set aside for payments to charter schools," Jordan testified of the federal infusion, but "charter schools have not borne the brunt of cuts to education. They were not asked to make changes or 'reforms.' Therefore, all of the money should go to the city's traditional public schools to restore at least some of what our children have already lost."

[PCAPS, PFT]

November 7, 2013