Lawmakers who supported the plan noted that the spending plan also provides dollars to hire 290 state police troopers, and more money for Attorney General Kathleen Kane, a Democrat. The attorney general’s office will get $4.35 million for a child predator interceptor unit and another $2.5 million for a new mobile street crimes unit.
Democrats repeatedly argued that the budget doesn’t do enough to help schools.
Rep. Mark Longietti, D-Mercer County, is a member of a House policy committee. In that role, he has emerged as a leading critic in the House on Corbett’s educational spending policies.
Longietti said that the bulk of increased funding for schools comes in the form of dollars for distressed schools, including those in Philadelphia.
“All of our schools are distressed, but only a fraction will get a share of that money,” Longietti said.
He noted that school districts in his home district have been forced to cut teachers and raise taxes. The Hermitage School District has shed 31.5 teaching jobs, Longietti said.
The state share of the cost of education in Pennsylvania, 32 percent, lags behind national averages. “We are leaving 68 percent of cost on local taxpayer,” Longietti said.
“We provided 44 percent three years ago and national average is 48 percent.”
Rep. Bryan Barbin, D-Cambria County, said the education funding problem could be solved by fixing the way the state pays public cyber charter schools.
“This is a public education special interest that continues to get fed no matter how bad our conditions are,” Barbin said. Keller said that those arguing that the government needs to spend more ought to pay more attention to the taxpayers who are footing the bill. “When they say, we need to protect the state’s most vulnerable, what they are really saying is ‘Taxpayer, you are not compassionate. We need more money,”’ Keller said.