Jeff Bartos: Tom Wolf Is Having “Short Term Memory Lapses” On Education
This interview comes on the heels of the Warren Times Observer’s analysis about how Wolf’s proposal would cripple the Warren County School District:
“Last week, I wrote a story about proposed state-wide changes to the distribution of basic education funding.
And as we’ve talked about the issue here in the newsroom and I’ve pondered the political and practical implications of what Governor Wolf has proposed
Wolf’s proposed change would send a massive infusion of cash to growing (or at least enrollment-flat), urban and suburban school districts who receive a far lower percentage of their funding from the state than we do in NW Pa.
A $10.6 million overnight reduction in funding from the state would cripple the district in its current form.
There aren’t too many political issues that require me to essentially overthrow my political belief in the name of my practical self-interest. This is one of them.” (Warren Times Observer, 7/30/18)
Listen to Bartos’ full interview HERE.
QUESTION: Absolutely. Let’s set the scene on this: There were comments made by Senator Wagner’s campaign that the governor and his education plan would take money away from school districts to give it to other school districts, and the Governor took great offense to that and last week on our broadcast said that that wasn’t true and that Senator Wagner knew it wasn’t true and that he was out there spreading falsehoods.
JEFF BARTOS: Yes, I was really disappointed. I listened to your interview with the Governor last week, and the Governor, he came on with a pre-written statement, which surprised me, and in that pre-written statement his staff and then the Governor read it, they called Scott a liar on this issue about education, and I really want to address what the Governor said. I don’t want to call the governor a liar. I think that’s a terrible word to be throwing around, so let’s just say he suffers perhaps from, or is suffering perhaps from some short term memory lapses, because well, let’s set the stage as you said. The Governor claims to have restored a billion dollars in education cuts over the last three and a half years – and I am sure you gentlemen remember Schoolhouse Rock, how a bill becomes a law – if you’re the Governor, if you’re the executive, you actually have to sign the legislation to take credit for those appropriations and as everybody knows, the Governor did not sign the first three budgets of his term. He let them go into law without signing them and now he wants to claim, or take credit for those restoring of funds when in fact Scott Wagner, as a senator, voted for those funds being allocated to education, and so in this race, over the last four years Scott Wagner has had more of hand on putting more money into education than the Governor has. The Governor did sign a budget this most recent year which increased education funding by 100 million dollars, but that all went to addressing the pension crisis that we have in our commonwealth and not into the classroom.
But the issue the Governor came on last week to talk about was on June 21, the governor’s chief of staff said that the governor and the administration supports putting all education funding from the state through the 2016 funding formula. Now I apologize for being a little wonky, but that 2016 funding formula, if applied to all education funding across the commonwealth, would have the effect of taking $1.2 billion from mostly rural and suburban school districts and redistributing that $1.2 billion to 30 percent of the school districts in the commonwealth. Principally, Philadelphia is getting a $400 million bump from that. The governor’s chief of staff said that, and a week later the Governor, Governor Wolf, went to Philadelphia, gave a press conference where he said, I support applying the 2016 funding formula to all education funding. In essence, the governor and his administration support what is known as House Bill 2501, which would have the effect of redistributing a $1.2 billion from 362 school districts to the remainder of the school districts in the commonwealth. That is something that rural school districts across the commonwealth and legislators across the commonwealth are up in arms about, and then the governor has the audacity to come on your program and call Scott a liar, when just in the last month his administration said it and the governor reaffirmed it.
QUESTION: Doesn’t this budget shortfall go all the way back to when the federal government earmarked money to jumpstart the economy and gave states a bunch of money for shovel ready projects that the legislature in this state utilized to prop up, falsely, the education budget? And that was under Ed Rendell, then Tom Corbett, when that money didn’t exist anymore, got blamed for cutting the budget when really that money was never there in the first place for education and we’ve been trying to play catch up ever since.
JEFF BARTOS: You are 100 percent correct. Only in Harrisburg, or only in government, is the expiration of a billion dollars of stimulus funding a ‘cut.’ You and I, we all live, most of your listeners I assume, almost all your listeners live in the real world as well, where if you don’t have money to spend, you don’t spend it. We don’t call that a cut. We just call that reality. I should have mentioned too by the way that the governor’s plan, if enacted, would cut $68 million from the Pittsburgh schools alone — the Pittsburgh School District alone. So yes, your analysis of how we got to where we are is exactly correct.