Bus tour to promote education spending stops in York


A white bus with red words painted on the windows — "Fair PA budget now" — rolled to a stop outside a local senator's office Thursday morning.

The bus was filled with people ready to make a point. Alliance to Reclaim our Schools Pennsylvania was joined by the Pennsylvania chapter of Working Families and other community members outside the office of Sen. Scott Wagner, R-Spring Garden Township, during a stop in a two-week, statewide tour to galvanize public support for the restoration of school funding after years of extensive cuts.

Wagner, who has been a vocal critic of teachers unions and the need for additional education spending, was in Harrisburg and could not be reached for comment.

York was the seventh stop on the statewide bus tour, which began in Philadelphia. The tour will continue through the state before ending in Harrisburg Monday.

Funds for schools: "I'm here to stand up and support Gov. (Tom) Wolf's budget," said Paige Lower with Working Families. "I come from a family of teachers, and I have experienced, firsthand, the consequences of the budget cuts Gov. (Tom) Corbett made."

Wolf, the York County Democrat who unseated Republican Corbett in November, is pushing for the state Legislature to increase education funding by $1 billion.

Working Families, a political organization that campaigns to raise the standard of living for all working families, dubbed York a key stop in the tour to push for better funding for education.

"With everything that's been going on here, we had to take advantage of the opportunity to speak and push for people to take control of this locally," Lower said. "It was essential to come to York, particularly after Sen. Wagner's trip on the helicopter."

Helicopter ride: Wagner earlier this month made national news after chartering a helicopter ride for himself and a local reporter to show that the state's schools are not strapped for funding.

"It's not fair," Lower said. "It's not fair because Wagner's district can represent both the best and the worst of public education. Pennsylvania schools are not over-funded."

Wagner pointed at various schools from 1,600 feet above to make the argument that their expansive facilities meant the state is in fact spending on its schools.

"He thinks that he can fly over a few affluent school districts and say that we're fine," said Zachary Hause with the Central Pennsylvania Area Labor Federation. "Just because you can't see the problem from up the in the air doesn't mean that we don't have any here on the ground."

Some numbers: Wolf's proposed budget would restore funding for education, from pre-K to college, and deliver property tax relief to homeowners, according to the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy center.

Under the new budget, school districts in Wagner's legislative district would receive $12 million in new funding, an additional 415 pre-K slots and $5 million in savings from standardized payments to cyber charters.

Homeowners in the district also could see relief in the form of a $1,216 tax reduction, a 44 percent cutback.

Colleges and universities would also receive new funding. Penn State could see up to $51 million in new funding, while HACC could get an additional $2 million.

— Reach Jessica Schladebeck at jschladebeck@yorkdispatch.com