Editorial | Deeds, not words, needed from Corbett on education funding

This editorial appeared this week in the York Dispatch.

It might be too early to say Gov. Tom Corbett is “on board” with fixing Pennsylvania’s education funding formula, as state Rep. Ron Miller said this week.

After all, Miller, R-York, was basing that on an off-hand comment the governor made at a news conference on another subject — his proposed $2.2 million increase in the state’s funding for domestic violence and rape crisis centers.

If Corbett had called Wednesday’s gathering to announce he was finally prepared to addressed the unfair funding formula that overpays shrinking school districts while shortchanging growing districts, that would have been something to cheer about.

Yet he was simply responding to a question, after the main show, when he threw his support behind a House bill dealing with the education formula — and by “dealing,” we mean setting up a commission to look into the matter.

The governor’s comments were encouraging, however, and showed he’s at least been giving the matter some thought.

“Let’s get a true, fair funding system of all the schools of Pennsylvania, not for one district or another,” Corbett said. “It’s not fair right now, OK? So we need to address that.”

He’ll have to come up with more than words, though.

After all, Corbett hasn’t exactly established himself as the “education governor” in his first term, which is nearing its end.

Basic education funding was slashed by about $1 billion in his first budget, although he says that actually was a result of expiring federal stimulus funds.

“That was cut before I walked in the door (as governor),” Corbett said again at the news conference, according to The (Allentown) Morning Call.

The result was the same, however: districts laying off teachers and cutting programs, while also raising local school taxes to the max.

One way Pennsylvania could increase funding for school districts is a fair severance tax on natural gas drillers in the state’s Marcellus Shale area.

Every other large natural gas-producing state has such a levy, but Corbett would only support impact fees that raise a relatively paltry amount.

Why not reconsider, since the state is facing a $1.4 billion deficit in its upcoming 2014-15 budget?

The governor was asked that question again at the recent news conference, and his answer showed where his allegiance still lies.

Those drilling companies already pay their fair share, The Morning Call reported him saying.

Perhaps Corbett will surprise us when he reveals his 2014-15 budget plan Feb. 4.

Maybe it will include a significant increase in education funding and something more than a promise to plan to fix the broken funding formula.

In that case, we might just share Rep. Miller’s enthusiasm.