Ignore the Pecksniffs, Governor
By Colin McNickle
Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Is Gov. Tom Corbett about to succumb to Pennsylvania's educratic lobby and organized labor's disinformation campaign to pander for support for his re-election?

The Philadelphia Inquirer, citing one source, says the governor's budget, to be unveiled on Feb. 4, will propose a $200 million increase in education funding. Perhaps $100 million could come from pension reform, it says. Where the balance comes from is unclear but “new revenue sources” (i.e., new or increased existing taxes) are not expected to be part of the equation, said “a source familiar with the plan.”

“Addressing one of his perceived political liabilities, the governor will call for what one source described as a ‘major investment' in basic education with more modest investments for colleges,” write The Inquirer's Amy Worden and Angela Couloumbis.

“Perceived political liabilities” being the operative phrase.

Mr. Corbett has been under attack for “cutting” education funding, never mind that what really happened was that federal stimulus dollars, eagerly devoured by the black hole that is public education, expired. Instead of blaming the real culprit (union greed and the carrot-and-stick suckering Obama administration), the intellectually dishonest (think the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) and many of the cackling Democrats hoping to unseat Corbett, John Hanger chief among them) blame the governor.

But the facts show otherwise, the Commonwealth Foundation's Nate Benefield notes. “State spending on education is at an all-time high,” he says. And fact-twisters such as the PSEA selectively source the contention of cuts, he adds. “They are only including line items that were cut, not those that were increased.”

Furthermore, Mr. Benefield reminds, “Everyone knew the stimulus funds were going away; the question was whether school districts should have budgeted for that or whether Corbett (and state) lawmakers should have raised gobs of new taxes to replace stimulus funds.

“Obviously the PSEA supports the latter.”

Of course, labor's sleight of hand does not end there.

“The PSEA does not want to count pension funding — claiming it doesn't go to the classroom,” Benefield notes. “The pension line item (aid to districts) is one of the fastest growing and why the state aid has increased. But not counting the increase implies that funding teachers' pensions doesn't benefit students.”

Remember that the next time unionistas cry, “It's for the children!”

Oh, and then there's this: Benefield says education “‘cuts' have been so devastating, that school districts have increased their funding reserves by hundreds of millions” of dollars.

But, still, the PSEA whines and dissembles: “When the stimulus money came to an end, there was an expectation that states would continue to fund the ongoing operation of the schools as the economy recovered, not that they would defund the schools,” the union argues.

Diagram the sentiment of that sentence of Orwellian concoction and you begin to understand the perception conundrum in which the Corbett re-election campaign finds itself. But the administration should stand on the facts instead of attempting to assuage Pecksniffs wearing union labels and donkey behinds.

Colin McNickle is Trib Total Media's director of editorial pages (412-320-7836 or cmcnickle@tribweb.com).

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Contact Colin McNickle (412-320-7836 or cmcnickle@tribweb.com).