Demonstrators seek more education funds from state


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Pittsburgh teachers, parents and community members were among demonstrators in one of 60 rallies nationwide for what the American Federation of Teachers called a National Day of Action to Reclaim the Promise of Public Education.

More than 100 people listened to speakers, chanted slogans such as “Tom Corbett’s got to go” and marched Monday, some holding signs that said “Education Not for Sale” and “Support Funding for Public Education.”

The Pittsburgh rally took place at Wood Street and Fifth Avenue outside the regional office of Gov. Tom Corbett.

Holding a sign saying “Fair Funding Now,” Nina Esposito-Visgitis, president of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, said in an interview, “Here and in Philadelphia, we know that the major fight is with our governor who has robbed our schools of more than $2 billion funding.”

Ms. Esposito was talking about the cumulative effect of cuts made since the federal economic stimulus money ended and Mr. Corbett took office.

From his point of view, Tim Eller, spokesman for the state Department of Education, said state support of public schools has increased by $1.17 billion since Mr. Corbett took office.

“Unfortunately, the AFT, as well as other traditional public education establishment organizations, continues to misinform the public about the governor’s record of education funding in Pennsylvania,” Mr. Eller said.

Ron Cowell, president of the Harrisburg-based Education Leadership and Policy Council, who was not part of the National Day of Action event, said in a phone interview, “I very much agree with those who argue that state financial support to districts to support academic services for students has been cut and cut substantially.”

He said state increases have gone largely to pay for state-mandated contributions to the pension system, not services for students.

“The reality is that school districts opened their doors this September 2013 with about $700 million less from the state in support of academic programs and services for students than was the case in September 2010,” he said, noting that takes into account about $160 million of lost funding that was restored.

He said the cuts had the biggest financial impact on the poorest districts.

In addition to teachers and retired teachers, the rally attracted members of various groups, such as Great Public Schools-Pittsburgh and some of its member organizations, including Yinzercation, Action United and the Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network.

One Pittsburgh Public Schools board member addressed the crowd, Mark Brentley Sr., and urged people to vote.

“We will stand united. We will fight united, and we will replace the governor in a united way,” Mr. Brentley said.


Education writer Eleanor Chute: echute@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1955.

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