Dear Governor Corbett,
I am writing this letter on behalf of all the hard working Philadelphia public school teachers who will be losing their jobs next school year because of your proposed cuts to education (yes, I know the general public thinks schoolteachers are greedy bums protected by villainous unions, but the reality is, most schoolteachers work extremely hard and have to provide for their families). I am also writing this letter on behalf of all the city’s schoolchildren, the 165,000 students who will be losing badly needed supports and programs because your proposed budget cuts will stop education funding mid-stream.
Before you balk and give me a lecture on fiscal responsibility, just stop for a moment. Breathe. Count backwards from ten.
I know how the game works, Mr. Governor. I know all about politics. Although I’m registered as an Independent, I feel your pain. Obama and the Democrats were smart. They got everybody hooked on that Federal Stimulus money like crack. They made state politicians adopt liberal agendas and vote for progressive bills before getting rewarded with a boatload of federal green (green that the government didn’t even have in the first place). It was a good plan. Genius. And everybody and their mother bought-in.
The Philadelphia School District jumped right on board. After all, former District C.E.O. Paul Vallas broke camp for New Orleans and left the Ackerman administration a “surprise” $73 million deficit. Why wouldn’t the SRC grab hold of that Stimulus cash? At the time, the District even had a long term budget plan for developing a surplus by the year 2011. The plan was titled, “Five-Year Financial Plan: Fiscal Year 2008-2009 through Fiscal Year 2012-13” (click here if you want to read it).
In 2009, to Dr. Ackerman’s credit, the District balanced its books. Of course, around this time, that Stimulus cash started to look mighty tasty. In three short years, from 2009 to 2011, the District’s budget went up almost a half a billion dollars (this was in spite of their own fiscal plan which called for a budget in 2011 of $2,646,495,847 instead of the $3,216,000,000 they actually spent).
Again, much of this overzealous spending was politics. All part of the Democrats’ plan. Get people hooked on free stuff so when it runs out, bang! You find yourself in serious withdraw—to the tune of $629 million. You also find yourself cursing the bastards who took half your free stuff away. Example: those damn Republicans!
I feel your pain, Mr. Governor. I really do. I understand that “free stuff” really isn’t free, that money doesn’t grow on trees. I understand that the well eventually runs dry, and that if we want to replenish it, we have to make cuts. I also understand your politics, the games played by the Republicans. We can’t waste too much money on public programs, because that will ultimately offset private wealth. Taxes will have to be raised to make-up the difference, and we can’t have that.
So how about if we compromise, Mr. Governor? You have to cut irresponsible spending, but don’t cut us off cold turkey. Seriously. Cutting $293 million from Philadelphia public schools is just too drastic, even if the SRC did overextend itself over the past three years. We admit our mistakes, and the fact that we could have planned better, but dropping this kind of hammer on us is too harsh. How about cutting our funding by $150 million instead? Do half now and see where the budget stands next year.
I know I’ve just talked a lot about politics, but for the record, your cuts are affecting children. Do you truly understand how your decisions will be impacting our city’s youth? Schools will be losing counselors, nurses, reading specialists, ESL teachers, special education teachers, police officers, art and music teachers, librarians, summer programs, and athletic programs. Did you know this? Do you even care?
I know you need to appease your constituency by coming into office and reeling in “reckless” spending with a swift hand, but even you can exercise some moderation. Don’t think of it as failing to corral the Democrats, but as investing in the future of Pennsylvania’s children.