Gov. Corbett Strikes Back at Teachers Union for Accusatory Letter

Tom-Corbett-portrait-loresGov. Tom Corbett responded to accusations from several teachers unions regarding the underfunding of Philadelphia public schools, which they allege may have led to the death of a 7-year old boy.

“It’s inexcusable that you decided to use this as yet another opportunity to grandstand and make a political statement when you, as the union leaders, continue to fail to engage in meaningful negotiations,” Gov. Corbett wrote in response to a public letter co-written by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT), and the Pennsylvania AFT.

The letter blames the death of 7-year old Sebastian Gerena on insufficient education funding. Gerena died on Wednesday at Andrew Jackson Elementary School in Philadelphia due to a rare congenital heart defect.

“The last time we wrote, the Philadelphia community was grieving the loss of Laporshia Massey, a 12-year-old who died from asthma complications that started at school. Today, tragically, we grieve once more,” the union letter to Corbett stated. “Again, a child has been stolen from us much too soon—this time a 7-year-old from Jackson Elementary School. Again, there was no school nurse on site.”

The union pointed to the Governor’s supposed slashing of school funding by $1 billion and his decision to reject Medicaid funding. According to the teachers unions, the number of nurses in Philadelphia public schools has declined from 289 to 179 since Corbett was elected in 2011. Moreover, the unions say that nurses are stretched thin–working at “five or six” schools at a time.

“We don’t know if a school nurse could have saved this young boy,” they write. “But we do know every child deserves a full-time nurse in his or her school. We do know all parents deserve to know that their child will be safe and his or her most basic needs will be tended to at school. We do know that all Philadelphia children deserve better.”

“Mr. Governor, we cannot tolerate one more life lost, one more dream snatched from our children. You have the power to fix what you have broken. Restore full and fair funding to all Pennsylvania schools. And do it now.”

The Governor took offense to these claims and expressed his concern that the union would in his eyes politicize such an event.

“I am deeply troubled that the union leadership of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers – and by extension the American Federation of Teachers – would use the recent tragedy at Andrew Jackson Elementary School as an opportunity to make a political statement and to further your self-serving agenda,” Corbett responded.

The governor attempted to depoliticize Gerena’s death, saying, “There is an appropriate time and place to call for education policy discussions.”

Education funding was hot topic in the Democratic Primary, and it is sure to be discussed further as Gov. Corbett faces nominee Tom Wolf in the general election.

20 Responses

  1. Josh-
    1) Why can’t or won’t Philadelphia citizens cover their own school costs?
    Philadelphia contributes plenty to the state: sales taxes, income taxes, tourism, etc. Philadelphia also has a lot of expenses that rural areas don’t have. There are a lot of poor areas in Philly and the children of the poor are short-changed by current funding rules.

    Why is it someone else’s fault that their kids are dying in their schools?
    They aren’t killing their own kids, so clearly it is someone else’s fault.

    Why are their schools someone else’s problem?
    The PA Constitution states:
    “Public School System Section 14.
    The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth. ”

    What on earth does Tom Corbett have to do with any of this?
    He hasn’t done a damn thing to help. He’s administrated the government incompetently. He’s refused to support taxing oil/gas extraction to make up for budget shortfalls that he was aware of and could have avoided. Basically, his priorities have been repeatedly shown to be boosting private corporate business interests over the welfare and well being of the ordinary citizens of PA.

    Why aren’t you teaching for free?
    Rent/mortgage. Eating. Clothing. Raising a family. etc.

  2. We had one nurse for the entire school district in the rural area where I attended. I graduated in 2004. Now I understand this is Philly and everything is worse, but Philly spends more per student than most rural districts and gets worse results. Philly needs to learn to live within the means most districts have to operate.

  3. Here we go again. Here we have a K-12 school that is over-subscribed. Even if you give that the Philadelphia Public Schools are sup-par, my understanding is that the K-12 and other similar products produce worse outcomes for the students at a considerably higher cost. But education in PA is not about the Kids. These kids will be the product for the for-profit prison lobby soon, why shouldn’t the Corbett Team enable the Cyber Charter Corporate School Welfare Queens, with K-12 a leader at the feeding trough. Charly Zogby, please

  4. To amplify on Josh’s comment. Rendell did something besides using stimulus to temporarily increase school money. Wait for it – Rendell cut state spending for education. He used the money he cut for spending in other areas in his budget. The temporary stimulus made up the Rendell cuts and gave increases to boot. When the temporary fed stimulus ended the Rendell cuts to schools were apparent and so the teachers blamed Rendell? No, teachers unions are democrat controlled so they blamed the Republicans.
    Look at any fact based chart and you will see my statement is true.

  5. Why can’t or won’t philadelphia citizens cover their own school costs? Why is it someone else’s fault that their kids are dying in their schools? Why are their schools someone else’s problem? What on earth does Tom Corbett have to do with any of this? Zero. Governor Rendell used federal “Stimulus” money to artificially expand government school spending. The federal money had a beginning and an end, and it ended as it was supposed to. What does this have to do with Tom Corbett? Zero. I hate this kind of politics. It’s crap. Corbett is about the least charismatic, least able communicator PA has had in a long time. Some of his policies suck. A lot of his staff are young and inexperienced. None of this makes for good govt. But it still has nothing to do with what partisans on the left accuse him of. Hey, teachers unions, if you care so much about the students, why aren’t you teaching for free? Why should you make money providing a necessary benefit to the citizens? Are you greedy?

  6. $2 billion budget, and they can’t find enough for a few more nurses? Why not? Where is it all going?

  7. Ryan-

    The clear implication is that a nurse was more likely to recognize the symptoms and know what to do. The teachers weren’t in a position to send the kid to a nurse.

    The teachers are probably trained in little more than CPR, and probably not very well. They are probably told to put pressure on a wound to slow bleeding. But, ranking the severity of asthma is asking a bit much.

  8. Can someone explain how a nurse would have saved this kid? Teachers are required to have first aid training and pretty much every school in the district is within 15 minutes of a level 1 trauma center.

  9. The letter didn’t blame the lack of a nurse. It pointed out that there wasn’t a nurse present and went on to say:

    “We don’t know if a school nurse could have saved this young boy,”

    So please tell me where they blamed the death of a child on the lack of a nurse. And this letter was written before the autopsy was released.

  10. Suburban schools put up around 85% getting 12% from the state and less than 1% in fed money. Now philly get around 44% from the state and 12% from the feds. Good support for the students. What happens from philly a paltry 33% comes from the city. Why? The city diverts its money to wasteful politicians cutting both needed funding to both the schools & also to cuts to the libraries having also made the city unsafe by cuts to cop complement.
    What happens when the state has increased school money? The same as always the state increases and the city cuts schools and uses the money elsewhere. The city has repeatedly shortchanged the kids while playing politics. Why don’t the philly state reps tell the truth. Well because they are diverting the money to their political reelection while blaming the state. The city should put at least 50% of the school needs. It would fix it. Instead they hide the big lie.

  11. The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) union refuses to adopt any reforms to deliver or at least attempt to deliver education to children. PFT union just whines for more state money while it refuses any attempt at education. The union’s only objective is Cadillac contracts and in that pursuit the union bashes republicans. The recent election showed an associate of the PFT union lobbyist Wanner Associates attack Republicans in Chester County. One of the lobbyists in that firm is a Republican Exec Committee member but without hesitancy that lobbyist starting attacking Republican committee people. Ceding victories to Philly PFT union control in Chester County is pretty scary. Wonder whether the Exec Committee Republican can be counted on for loyalty to the teacher’s union or to Governor Corbett campaign after the recent move.

  12. Philly Progressive-

    You are sounding an awful lot like a pissy Schwartz supporter who saved all their ammunition to tell me how wrong I was on Schwartz’s brilliant campaign, and now has nothing to say, so you are lashing out in your impotence.

    The use of a unique nametag, like any sales/marketing technique, is to bring attention to yourself and make people remember you (since it’s hard to remember all of them). It’s a conversation starter and the “message” is usually my name. Clearly, you are too embarrassed by your own name/identity to reveal it here. If you had any actual interest in “settling” anything, you’d use your real name.
    So, until then, I’ll just assume that you are on some pedophile watch list and want to keep your identity under wraps.

    You are claiming to have had conversations with my former clients. That’s kind of odd that you couldn’t figure out why someone would use my product, while talking to people who you allege did actually use it. If they are/were truly dissatisfied, they should be addressing their concerns to me, not you.

  13. When policies affect health and safety of young students, that sounds like a good time to start discussing those policies.

  14. David Diano, another set of brilliant insights into politics and policy. You’ve really hit it out of the park on this thread.

    This past weekend, I was talking with some of your former clients, and I’d like for you to settle an argument… Does your electronic light-up name tag actually contain subliminal messages hypnotizing candidates and potential candidates to using your voter file? During our conversation this weekend, we couldn’t figure out why anyone would use your product (or a light-up name tag for that matter), and the idea came up that you are using it for subliminal messaging.

    I won’t say which side of the argument I was on, but it basically centered around whether or not you could figure out the technology of your name tag better than you can put together a voter file.

    Looking forward to settling this argument.

  15. Corbett unleashes on the Teacher’s Unions but he is willing to to do the bidding of his friends the Cyber School Charter School Corporate Welfare Queens. The Cyber Charter Schools are producing nearly criminal negligent results at great expense to the forgotten PA taxpayer. Tom Corbett: Why did you let Nicky Trombetta of PA Cyber get away? Tom Corbett: Do you want to destroy PA teachers, which remain the last bastion of the middle class in this state?

  16. The Governor is right on this one. To the extent that there is plenty of blame to go around…

    The death of two children is simply not the time to play politics with an issue that is mostly adults fighting over issues in education which seldom seems to put the children first. If it did, all sides would have worked It out about 20 years ago when it was then equally evident that the Philadelphia School District was in desperate need of rightsizing.

  17. One should not expect someone like Corbett to care about the welfare of children,

    His positions on gun control, pollution, health care, and the minimum wage ALL demonstrate his callous disregard for the health and well being of the children of PA (and the adults as well, unless they are lining his campaign coffers).

    In about 5 months the voters will kick this unfeeling, self-absorbed, hypocritical buffoon out of office.

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