Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A light bulb went on, but did he actually see the light?

"It's not fair right now, OK? So we need to address that."

- Gov. Tom Corbett, on education funding, Jan. 22, 2014

There’s been a breakthrough: after 1100 days in office, following dozens of protests across the state, and poll numbers that make the Titanic look recoverable -- in the dark abyss that is Gov. Corbett’s education policy, a small light went on. I’d say it was a 15 watt refrigerator bulb in the cold recesses of a beer refrigerator in the garage, but I digress.

Recently, the governor had sprinted from a Philadelphia public school he was scheduled to visit (the first visit to a public school in the state’s largest district, and one whose chronic underfunding repeatedly makes the national news), because he was notified of scheduled protests inside and out of the school.

See it’s only ok for the governor to use the school as the backdrop for his message and to try to save (or create) a legacy, but when teachers, parents and students want to convey a message at the school they work at day-in and day-out, well then it becomes, in the governor’s words, “theatrics that have been designed by adults.”

A few days later during a non-education related press conference, the governor seemed aware of and even expressed interest in a GOP proposal approved in the House that would set up a commission to develop a formula to distribute money for K-12 education.

And you know how the governor feels about commissions: creating them is his favorite hobby, but taking their recommendations is optional.

The larger irony in this: Pennsylvania had an education funding formula, established in 2008 after an extensive study was completed. However, the state abandoned it, before it was even fully implemented. Care to guess when and by whom?

If you said “2011 when Governor Corbett took office and cut a billion bucks from public schools”-- well you’d be right.

So this notion that Governor Corbett supports a formula just may be because it is politically expedient since his cuts to education are a key campaign issue.

Truth is the governor could invest more money in education today – literally today. Its budget day and the governor could choose to appropriate more state funds for education than pre-stimulus, because despite his claims and excuses Corbett’s number is still below that mark.

So while a light bulb has flickered on, I have little hope he’ll actually step into the light.