This morning, Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz continued her “One Pennsylvania” policy rollouts by addressing the issue of education.
Speaking to reporters, Schwartz repeatedly emphasized that funding education would be her top priority as Governor, and that Corbett’s cuts have been devastating to the future of the commonwealth.
“We should have high expectations for our schools,” said Schwartz. “Governor Corbett has turned his back on Pennsylvania’s public schools. Pennsylvania needs a new governor who understands that strong schools are the foundation for building a better future for our children and a stronger economy.”
Update: Corbett’s campaign responded broadly to Schwartz’s announcement.
“Governor Tom Corbett, a former school teacher, is prioritizing education by increasing state funding for Pennsylvania schools to historic levels,” said Corbett campaign manager Mike Barley. “Congresswoman Schwartz’s plan recycles the same old tax-and-spend policies of failed administrations that led to a $4.2 billion deficit, high unemployment and kicks the can down the road for future generations.”
Components of the plan will seem familiar to public education supporters who have advocated related measures for years.
Schwartz outlined three initiatives that she thinks will help alleviate Pennsylvania of its structural educational concerns.
First, she would create a program called “Keystone Kids” aimed at providing universal pre-k for four year olds. This would not be a mandate for schools or families, but rather would provide voluntary access.
Second, Schwartz would reverse the nearly $1 billion in cuts to education she said Tom Corbett has made during his tenure as Governor. She admitted that, realistically, this would take all four years of a term to accomplish, but that it had to be a top priority.
Finally, the Congresswoman said she would instate a ‘fair funding formula’ that would allow for better allocation of funds across the state. This plan would establish a funding formula that is both transparent and attuned to the wide-ranging needs of the many diverse school districts in PA.
These three initiatives represent a concrete and comprehensive plan for the future that many Democrats will likely support. What is less concrete, however, is whether or not Schwartz would actually be able to secure the necessary resources to make these programs materialize.
The Congresswoman contends that much of the funding for these initiatives would come from the Marcellus Shale extraction tax she proposed earlier this month. Schwartz was evasive in explaining where the rest of the money would come from.
Tom Wolf, the former Pa. Secretary of Revenue and one of Schwartz’s primary opponents, sent out a release Thursday reiterating his plan for reforming education.
He argued that funding for schools should not be influenced by politics but by need. He also stated a hope to lessen the burden of local property taxpayers, and instead have more funding come from the state.
“I believe that all of us have a stake in the quality of the education our children receive because it’s the key to good jobs and a secure middle class,” said Wolf.
His plan and Schwartz’s are largely parallel.
Polls have shown Allyson Schwartz as the frontrunner in the Democratic primary. Also in the race are former DEP Secretaries John Hanger and Katie McGinty, State Treasurer Rob McCord, and Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski.