Thursday, September 03, 2009

Nuclear Winter? Another School Funding Rant

According to Capitol Ideas today, Sen. Scarnati said this of Gov. Rendell's budget request for education:

"It won't be nuclear winter if we don't have the $300 million for basic education that he wants," Scarnati said. "He links things when he wants to link them."

The blogpost also says:
Republicans, in the person of Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, (also quite tan, we might add) said they're all for spending money on schoolkids. It's just that the state can't afford it right now. And they'll be happy to start spending money once the economy's good.

Well, the state seems to be able to afford a lot of other things, per diems, legislative caucus slush funds, and very nice benefits for Scarnati and his fellow senators. We seem to be able to afford not to ask companies drilling for natural gas in Marcellus shale to pay for some of the infrastructure needed for them and their workers to flourish. We seem to be able to tax some tobacco products but not all. We can afford that. We can afford to pay for newsletters to let the constituents back home know how wonderful the state senate is. That seems to be a higher priority than schools.

And while nuclear winter might not be the immediate result of reducing education funding, as a parent, I'd prefer not to have some important aspects of my childrens' schooling delayed or removed altogether for budget reasons. Science textbooks and laboratory equipment need to be updated frequently to keep up with new discoveries. If schools have libraries (and they should) new books are needed to keep up. Schools still use printed encyclopedias, especially with primary grades, and you want a new set every few years. What are art classes going to do if the school can't afford supplies? Computers need to be upgraded. If teachers want reports printed out the school will need printers, print cartridges and paper. Want our kids to be competitive in a global environment? They need to learn the current versions of standard software. Is the English class assigning a novel? I hope all the parents can afford to buy a copy because there may not be a classroom set. Special education kids who don't have adequate support for mainstreaming are going to cost a heck of a lot more if the school district has to pay for them to attend a special school. Laying off or not replacing teachers leads to kindergarten classes of 30 or more, which is too many for an effective introduction to school. Want a generation of workers who can communicate with the larger world? Better pay for language instruction with native speakers.

Let school start without a budget, which seems inevitable at this point, and the legislature is going to have a lot of angry parents on hand.

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