More than 200 rally in favor of more public school funding

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Snow showers and 25 degree temperatures didn't deter about 200 people who gathered today in Schenley Plaza to protest Gov. Tom Corbett's budget proposals.

The outdoor event was held under a tent set up between the Carnegie and Hillman libraries in Oakland. Participants, who included many school-age children, carried hand-made signs with messages like "More Schools, Fewer Jails" and "Some Cuts Don't Heal."

Patrick McElfresh, of Highland Park, said his three young daughters each made her own sign, featuring frowning faces and block-letter printing.

The Republican governor's $27 billion spending plan for 2012-2013 would increase aid to local school districts slightly, but most of the new money would go toward increased pension obligations.

Organizers of today's event warned that the effects of the proposed budget would be larger classes, staff layoffs and fewer programs in areas like early education, art, music and foreign languages.

Christine Chirdon, a sophomore at Shaler Area High School, said she and her fellow students already faced overcrowded classrooms in core subjects and outdated textbooks. The governor's new spending plan placed important electives like Japanese at risk, she said.

Every time Jordan Montgomery shouted "Budget cuts," the crowd yelled back, "I've had enough." Jordan, a junior at Pittsburgh School for Creative and Performing Arts, was another of the half dozen student speakers at the event.

Rally participants were asked to write letters and send postcards to the governor and to their state representatives requesting more money for public education.

Jessie Ramey, of Point Breeze, was one of the event organizers. State leaders were being short-sighted, she said.

The two budgets proposed by Gov. Corbett have pushed financial problems onto local governments and school boards, she said. In response, elected officials have raised property taxes as they have picked up more of the costs for programs that had been funded by the state.

Parents and supporters of public education from 20 schools in the Pittsburgh area took part in the event, organizer Cassi Schaffer, of Oakland, told the crowd.

The event was sponsored by a group of parent volunteers who also maintain a website at

When Gov. Corbett released his budget proposals on Tuesday, he called them "lean and demanding." The result is slightly smaller than the current year's spending plan, with the most severe cuts proposed in state aid for colleges and universities.

While the legislature will have the final word on the budget, both the House and the Senate are controlled by the GOP, and many members, like the governor, have taken no-new-tax pledges.

Len Barcousky: or 412-263-1159. First Published February 11, 2012 9:00 PM


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