11 arrested in Pittsburgh protesting Gov. Corbett's planned education cuts
Kevin White, in the middle with his fist in the air, yells during the protest.
Sam Williamson of the Service Employees International Union, calls for those that wish to volunteer to be arrested to come to the center of the Fifth Avenue and Wood Street intersection. The demonstrators blocked traffic after they were turned away from Piatt Place.
Some of the eleven people, from a crowd of more than 200, being arrested in Downtown Pittsburgh Wednesday.
Protesters during Wednesday's protest in Downtown Pittsburgh.
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Eleven people were arrested Downtown this morning after blocking traffic at Fifth Avenue and Wood Street while protesting proposed cuts to public education funding near Gov. Tom Corbett's Pittsburgh office.
The 11 were among a crowd of about 200 demonstrators protesting proposed cuts to education funding, first at the United Steelworkers Building on the Boulevard of the Allies and then peacefully on foot to Mr. Corbett's office on Fifth.
The demonstrators hoped to present Mr. Corbett with a giant pencil bearing some of their signatures and the words "Stand for children. Stand for public schools."
Most of the protesters were members of SEIU Local 32BJ.
"We can't afford to stand by and watch public education eroded," said the Rev. David Thornton, pastor of Grace Memorial Presbyterian Church in the Hill District.
"We're going to send a strong message to Governor Tom Corporate, excuse me, Corbett. He needs to understand that we are in this fight for the long haul because we care about our children and quality public education for all children," he said.
After protesters were refused admittance to the building housing the governor's office, 11 people walked into the street and sat down, blocking traffic.
Pittsburgh police officers called to the intersection warned them for several minutes that failure to leave the street would result in their arrest. When they didn't move, police loaded them into a wagon.
Pittsburgh police Cmdr. George Trosky said the 11 people arrested would be charged with obstructing traffic.
Just before noon, Mr. Corbett's office emailed a statement to reporters denying claims that the governor cut $1 billion from education.
Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley called those claims "simply untrue."
What Mr. Corbett has done is not replace about $900 million in federal stimulus money that funded education in the 2010-11 fiscal year but is no longer available. Critics say failing to replace that funding with state dollars is the equivalent of a cut. The governor also has proposed cutting $100 million in block grants used for early education and all-day kindergarten.
Some others see the state contribution to education differently.
Ron Cowell, a former Democratic state legislator who now is president of the nonpartisan Education Policy and Leadership Center and who was not involved in the demonstration, said the 2011-12 state education budget "reduced money coming from the state to school districts by nearly $900 million. That was $900 million less that was available for programs and services to students.
"This argument that the school districts should not have expected the state to replace the federal stimulus money ignores the fact that some 70 percent of the federal stimulus money was used by both the Rendell and Corbett administrations to replace state money."
Countered Mr. Harley:
"Gov. Corbett restored state money that had been cut from the Basic Education formula and added more. Pennsylvania taxpayers now pay more toward Basic Education than at any time in the state's history.
"Political opponents of the governor will cling to this myth of a $1 billion cut so long as the media goes along with the fiction."
First Published May 23, 2012 9:35 am