Pennsylvanians Witness Heroism, as Teachers Work for Free
Ordinary people doing extraordinary things in unordinary circumstances. Every so often we are graced with seeing a hero do their work. Sometimes they have names, like Pat Tillman or Dakota Meyer; but most often they are faceless. The FDNY and NYPD who raced into the burning twin towers, random bystanders in Utah who pushed a flaming car off of a motorcyclist, and teachers working to educate students…for free. The last is the case in Chester Upland school district in Pennsylvania, where due to state budget education cuts of $900 million, teachers began to volunteer their time beginning Wednesday, when the school district ran out of money to pay their salaries. Each teacher committed to work and provide an education to their students for as long as they could individually manage living without pay. This has sparked an intense debate in the steel state over the budget cuts made by Republican Governor Corbett. Corbett ran on a platform of fiscal responsibility and government accountability in last year’s elections, and has made a few drastic reforms to the state budget proposed in the first fiscal year beginning under his leadership. Pennsylvania is under massive debt and state government strains; their $4 billion dollar debt is the largest state debt in the nation, and Corbett is determined to do something about it, unfortunately it comes at the expense of education.
Unfortunately for Corbett, his budget cuts only further the notion that the Republican Party is full of racist bigots who only care about the rich people in our country. The school districts populated by the poorest citizens took cuts nearly 10 times the cuts of the more wealthy school districts. For instance, under the proposed budget, Steelton-Highspire school district, which has a poverty rate of 68.2%, will have their budget cut by $1,139 per student. To contrast that, Derry Twp, which has a poverty rate of only 12.3%, will only be cut $121 per student. This is not an outlier, but a norm of Corbett’s budget cuts. Harrisburg School district faces cuts of $1,026 per student; York School district will face $1,545 per student. School districts are largely funded by property taxes from their citizens; if the school district has a high poverty rate the residents are much less likely to own valuable property, and therefore will not pay as much in property taxes. The remainder of the school funding comes from the state budget. To be fair to the Governor, he did not single out the poorer schools and cut more money from them, he simply cut evenly across the board; however, because poorer school districts rely much more heavily on the state for their finances, when the budget does get cut, it affects them the most. This is the case in the Chester Upland district, where they will now end up $19 million short on funding, which led to the heroic decision made by the teachers to work for free.
Many in Pennsylvania are arguing that the education cuts could have been avoided by implementing modest tax hikes. Governor Corbett opposed this by saying that tax hikes are never modest to the people paying them. He continued by saying, “if you tax less, people will see the point in earning more.” patriotslog has never found any logic in this argument, and neither has Warren Buffet who said “People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off”. This makes perfect sense; think to yourself, if you had one million dollars to invest, and you estimated a return of three million, even if taxes were as high as fifty percent on gains (patriotslog does not endorse such a ridiculous tax rate, this is only used as an example) would you walk away from the deal because you only would be able to keep one million from your return, thereby doubling your one million to two million? It seems hard to believe anyone would refuse that deal. However, Governor Corbett has a point in that if another state is taxing less, it seems a more attractive place to do business. Yet, if Pennsylvania can offer something no other state can, investment will have to come, or the opportunity will be lost. The steel state has that in their abundant natural resources. Pennsylvania is currently the only major natural gas producing state which does not tax drilling and fracking for their resources. A tax, at a competitive rate on drilling could bring an additional $200 million in revenue this year alone and as much as $400 million each year three years from now. The governor opposed this by saying he wanted to make Pennsylvania the center of natural gas in America, the way Texas was the center for oil in America. This is another valid argument; however, a tax rate even half of what others are utilizing would still make Pennsylvania the most attractive place for drilling and fracking, and provide some relief for the now bankrupt school system. Moreover, corporate tax loopholes make it possible for as many as 71% of businesses to pay no state taxes; closing these loopholes even slightly would help provide more relief, and still keep tax rates far below average, thereby keeping Pennsylvania attractive to business. Lastly, it has been pointed out that Pennsylvania is the only state not to tax smokeless tobacco, and one of only two with no taxes on cigars.
Schools which now have no ability to pay their teachers were told they would get no additional funding because they were not wise in their spending earlier. Government money certainly does need to be spent frugally, but now is not the time to take a moral stand by gutting the education system. Governor Corbett pointed out; prisons in Pennsylvania are already overcrowded. Education is the foundation of America. This land was founded as the land of opportunity, and education is the key to opportunity; the new Pennsylvania state budget is threatening that. One could argue that the pursuit of happiness in this nation requires at least a high school level education. If the state does not provide education, statistics show, particularly for inner-city youth, that the most likely alternatives are prison, drugs, gangs, or most likely, some combination of the three. However, no matter how you slice it, the budget had to be cut, and the Governor cut far more than just education. Public employees have seen salary increases while the average tax payer has not; moreover, it is the private tax payers who foot the bill for those higher salaries, and the better health care plans the state employees are receiving. It is commendable for Governor Corbett to take a stance and cut the budget. No other politician seems willing to serve the public the way the public needs. No doubt his budget will draw criticism and be unpopular, and it is admirable to see a governor who does what the state need nonetheless. However, there could have been a better way to ease their debt vice; nobody likes taxes, but everybody needs education. Taxing industries in the state which now get a free ride would help make the cuts less painful. Cutting education funding is reasonable, but not so heavily that teachers cannot be paid. Patriotslog applauds Governor Corbett for making the tough choices, even though they could have been made without gutting education. However, patriotslog gives a standing ovation to the heroic teachers who are willing to provide hope for young kids who otherwise have little. Teaching is one of the most important and underappreciated occupations in this nation, especially considering its necessity. It is inspiring and moving to see a group of educators so committed to their cause that when nobody would have blamed them for giving up, and paying the bills with another job, they decided they could make do without money, because the children cannot make do without education. Thank you for your heroism.
14 Jan, 2011
Posted on January 15, 2012, in Education, Patriotslog Articles, Politics, Taxes and tagged budget cuts, corporate tax, drilling, education cuts, fracking, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania budget cuts, republicans, teachers work for free, Tom Corbett. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.