May 12, 2011

Governor Corbett should stop 'blame game' and fund Pennsylvania's public schools


The Governor’s proposed $1.2 billion in public school funding cuts is the problem that he should focus on solving, rather than creating a taxpayer-funded tuition voucher program for private schools.

“There are struggling schools in struggling communities, but the governor will not help these schools by slashing $1.2 billion in school funding,” said PSEA President Jim Testerman. “Taking hundreds of millions of dollars away from public schools for a tax-funded voucher program for private school tuition will make conditions for teaching and learning in our public schools worse.”

Testerman added that the Commonwealth’s $500 million revenue surplus should be used to reduce the Governor’s proposed school funding cuts, not sit in the Commonwealth’s “Rainy Day Fund.” 

“It’s obvious that the governor is trying to divert attention away from the devastating impact his proposed budget will have on public education,” Testerman said. “The facts speak for themselves - our public schools are among the best in the nation.

“Instead of playing the blame game, the governor and state lawmakers can help improve public education by providing the resources to help all students,” Testerman said. “Legislators can stop the governor’s proposed cuts.”

Gov. Corbett, in a speech before a pro-tuition voucher audience delivered Monday, blamed teacher unions for conditions in struggling public schools. Testerman pointed out that teachers are heavily unionized in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New Jersey, Minnesota and Massachusetts – states which routinely score at the top of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the "Nation's Report Card." In contrast, southern states which do not allow for public sector unions typically are ranked at the bottom of the Nation’s Report Card, year after year.

Public school teachers in Finland – which typically compares favorably to other nations in international comparisons – are also heavily unionized. “The governor's suggestion that weakening teacher unions is the answer to improved student achievement is based on some faulty assumptions,” Testerman said.

Testerman said the governor may not realize what a good return Pennsylvania receives from the Commonwealth’s investment in public schools. “The facts show that we are making wise investments in public schools – and the governor’s proposed cuts would reverse the positive trend,” Testerman said.

According to the Nation’s Report Card, the reading scores of Pennsylvania’s students are among the nation's best. Only six states have statistically significant higher 4th grade reading scores than Pennsylvania, and no states have statistically significant higher 8th grade reading scores than Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania’s math scores are also among the nation's best. Only four states have statistically significant higher 4th grade math scores than Pennsylvania. Only seven states have statistically significant higher 8th grade math scores than Pennsylvania.

Researchers from The American Institutes for Research (AIR) performed a study that statistically linked state performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 8th grade mathematics and science tests with international performance on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 8th grade mathematics and science tests. 

The AIR researchers found that Pennsylvania’s NAEP performance projected on the TIMSS scale would rank it above the U.S. TIMSS average and the averages of 36 of the 48 countries in math. It ranked below only that of five Asian jurisdictions (Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea, Chinese Taipei, and Japan).

By nearly a 2-to-1 margin (61 percent opposed, 37 percent support, 3 percent unsure), Pennsylvanians oppose the idea of tax-funded private school vouchers. According to a Terry Madonna Opinion Research survey conducted in March 2011, the support for vouchers decreases further when respondents learned it would mean increased transportation costs and less money available for local public schools.

More information on the latest Madonna Opinion Research survey can be found on the Pennsylvanians Opposed to Vouchers coalition website, www.paopposedtovouchers.org.

 



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