Governor Corbett showed his true colors on January 17th when he decided to play hooky and ditch an event to honor the achievements of Central High School and three other high-performing public schools in the city.
Central High students and teachers were left dumbfounded when the governor abruptly canceled his visit at the very last minute, leaving students waiting. His visit would have been the governor’s very first trip to a Philadelphia public school during his entire term. Under the Corbett administration, funding for education has been cut by $1 billion, including $272 million in cuts to Philadelphia. The governor cut $1.4 million to Central’s school-based budget, which means they’re educating their students on just $5,177 per child – the lowest in the entire district. And last year, Corbett’s draconian cuts led to the closing of 24 Philadelphia schools and massive school employee layoffs. But the governor couldn’t even go see what his cuts are doing to our schools and our students.
Hundreds of education activists marched from the corner of Broad and Olney to Central High. Activists waved signs and chanted, “Hey, hey, ho, ho Governor Corbett has got to go!” But as the march approached the school, protesters received word that Governor Corbett had turned tail and bailed on his own event. Protestors crowded onto the lawn in front of Central, and official word was given about Corbett’s cancellation, which was met with jeers and boos. Parent, teachers, education activists, and clergy spoke out against Corbett and his blatant disregard for public education.
“You don’t get any credit for our student’s accomplishments!” Fight for Philly’s Tara Tillman, a South Philadelphia resident and public school parent, told the governor. “The only thing you should get credit for is hurting our schools!” Tara told the crowd, “Governor Corbett is the root of the education crisis in our city! Why would he highlight the success of our best high schools, when he and administration had nothing to do with it?”
Protesters caught up with Corbett outside his Philadelphia office, where he had fled to present the achievement award to Philadelphia Public Schools Superintendent Dr. William Hite. Amazingly, Corbett told reporters his reason for the last-minute venue change was not wanting to be “a distraction to the school day.” Never mind the huge daily distraction of massive program cuts and layoffs caused by his budgets. Corbett also dismissed the protesters, claiming, “I was not going to engage in the theatrics of what the adults wanted to do.” Did the governor miss all the students protesting him too? The governor even claimed, “We have not received, to my knowledge, any requests to sit down and talk,” from proponents of more public school education funding. Did the governor miss the invite to our candidates forum, our phone calls, our hunger strike at his office, our visits to the Capitol, and all our protests? We’d love to talk to him!
In addition to giving the award, Corbett nominated City Councilman Bill Green to head the School Reform Commission. Bill Green has strongly supported charter school expansion and voucher programs in the past, which worries many public school parents. The fight for full funding for education continues every day.
We’ll be in Harrisburg Tuesday for the governor’s budget address, demanding he give our schools what they need!