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Visiting Corbett stumps for education budget

| Monday, April 21, 2014, 11:18 p.m.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett touches on his 2014-15 budget for education during a news conference in Carnegie Science Center on the North Shore on Monday, April 21, 2014. The governor stressed the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education programs.

Gov. Tom Corbett touted his support for science, technology, engineering and math — or STEM — education programs during a tour on Monday of the North Shore's Carnegie Science Center.

Corbett is confronting intense criticism over past education cuts from four Democrats seeking their party's nomination in the May 20 primary to challenge him in November.

But Corbett pointed to his February budget address in which he proposed $240 million in Ready to Learn block grants, including an extra $25.5 million for schools in Allegheny County, that could benefit STEM programs. Critics dubbed the proposed 3.3 percent increase an election-year ploy.

“It is a challenging period of time for budgets, we understand that,” Corbett said. “But we believe that STEM is going to have a great role (in education) for future generations.”

Corbett's budget “strategically invests taxpayer dollars into areas that will benefit students and the long-term economic stability of the commonwealth,” said acting Education Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq.

Ron Baillie, Carnegie Science Center co-director, said the center works “to help nurture that next-generation workforce of STEM professionals that we know are key for not only our region but also our state and our nation.”

In March, Corbett announced the establishment of two new governor's schools — agriculture science at Penn State University and engineering and technology at Lehigh University — in addition to the Pennsylvania Governor's School for the Sciences already at Carnegie Mellon University.

Corbett's budget proposal allocates an extra $100 million for pre- and full-day kindergarten, class-size reduction in kindergarten through third grade, tutoring, minority learning, professional development, literacy training and teacher recruitment.

Corbett proposed a $20 million increase in special education funding, which has been flat at just more than $1 billion for the past six years. He pitched $10 million for grants that would encourage schools to blend digital and traditional teaching methods.

Megan Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5815 or mharris@tribweb.com.

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