On February 4th, over fifty Fight for Philly community activists boarded a bus to Harrisburg to protest Gov. Corbett’s annual budget address. Based on the governor’s record, we knew he’d have little good news for the people and plenty of help for big corporations, and we needed to tell him to change his priorities. Hundreds of other activists from across the state met us at the State Capitol Building to share our message: the governor continues to put big business ahead of working families.
Activists packed the Capitol rotunda to protest the governor’s record of putting corporations before people and cutting vital programs for health and education. Activists booed and shouted “Governor Corbett tells lies” and “Corporate Corbett” at the television sets airing the budget address. Activists also wore bright orange t-shirts that read “Governor Corporate” on the front, and “Whose side are you on?” on the back. Later, we found out that people in the chamber where Corbett was speaking could hear us!
Corbett cut nearly $1 billion from education when he took office in 2011. $272 million was cut from the Philadelphia schools. In the governor’s new budget, he is promising to spend $386 million more on education, but this is only a fraction of what was cut. He is also restricting the way districts can spend the money, adding nothing at all to basic education funding. Instead, he is proposing one-time fixes and block grants that don’t do much to help budgets. Many education activists say his proposals primarily benefit wealthy districts.
Corbett’s proposal will bring only $29 million in new money to Philadelphia schools, which does very little to restore programs and services lost from the previous budget cuts. Additional funds for public schools are certainly beneficial, but these funds will not go back into the classroom. Giving schools more money only for special programs instead of basic education is one of Governor Corbett’s gimmicks to better his chances of re-election.
The governor’s decision to increase funding for education is too little, too late. Philadelphia schools have struggled all year, but students and teachers have been resilient. Three of Philadelphia’s best performing high schools exceeded expectations despite the governor’s cuts to school staff and counselors.
Many saw through Governor Corbett’s budget gimmicks. “Corbett’s budget proposal just confirmed for me that he doesn’t care about Philadelphia kids and is proposing a tiny increase in funding just to look good for re-election,” said Fight for Philly member and parent Tara Tillman. State senator Vincent Hughes, the ranking Democrat on the state Senate Appropriations Committee, panned Corbett’s budget speech. “Pretty weak budget presentation,” Hughes said afterward. “Failed on job creation, failed on education.”
Pennsylvania working families have to keep fighting against the governor’s attacks. Thanks to activists like us making sure everyone knows what he’s doing, the governor’s approval rating is a mere 23%, and he is considered one of the most vulnerable GOP governors in the country. Pennsylvania has a real chance of dumping the Corbett agenda this year.
Check out this awesome video of activists rocking the Capitol rotunda!
— Fight for Philly (@fightforphilly) February 4, 2014