Doug Mastriano wants to cut school funding by billions

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Doug Mastriano wants to cut school funding by billions

By Rich Askey

All across Pennsylvania, school districts reported crisis-level shortages of teachers, nurses, counselors, and support professionals over the past year. Substitute teachers, too, are in short supply.

Policymakers from both parties recognize how serious the situation is. They have come together to identify solutions that range from encouraging greater diversity among the teacher workforce to investing the resources our schools need to solve this problem.

One idea that nobody talks about is cutting public school funding by billions of dollars.

Nobody, that is, except Doug Mastriano, the state senator from Franklin County who is running for governor.

In a March 2022 radio interview, he said, “I think instead of $19,000, we fund each student around $9,000 or $10,000 [annually] and they can decide which school to go to: public school, private school, religious school, cyber school or home school.”

Let that sink in. Mastriano wants to cut public school funding by as much as $10,000 per student. That would add up to billions in lost school funding each year.

School districts wouldn’t have to worry about staffing shortages anymore. They’d be too busy laying off educators, increasing class sizes, eliminating sports, and curtailing other programs.

A cut that large would be devastating — and an insult to the 1.7 million students who learn in our public schools.

For the past eight years, Pennsylvania policymakers from both parties have come together to make needed investments in our public schools. Today, Pennsylvania is providing billions more to support educational programs that make a difference in the lives of students and their families.

Mastriano, if elected governor, would undo all of that progress, returning Pennsylvania to school funding levels unseen in decades.

Such an idea is completely out of step with elected leaders from both parties. Nobody else — Republican or Democrat — is talking about cutting school funding by that much.

Mastriano, meanwhile, refuses to provide any detail about what such a plan would look like. Parents deserve to know how a school funding cut this drastic will impact their children’s public schools, including how many teachers will have to be laid off, how class sizes will increase, and what opportunities will be lost to students.

It’s tough to even imagine what cutting public school funding by up to $10,000 per student would mean. What does school look like with a fraction of the teachers, school counselors, school nurses, custodians, bus drivers, and aides?

Doug Mastriano is the only one who knows how his plan will work. He needs to provide the details.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the other candidate in the race for governor, has a long track record of supporting public education and Pennsylvania students.

Shapiro will fight for continued investments in our schools and make sure our students have the tools they need to succeed. That means giving students access to vocational, technical, and computer training as well as other academic and extracurricular pursuits.

Shapiro also recognizes that too many students are struggling with mental and emotional health issues. He has pledged to make sure that every school building in Pennsylvania has at least one mental health professional so that kids can access help when they need it.

How we fund public schools in Pennsylvania is one of the most important functions of state government. Doug Mastriano’s dismissive notion that we can cut public school funding by up to $10,000 per student is just the latest evidence that he is unfit to lead.

The solution to our educator shortage isn’t eliminating teaching positions and educational programs, as Mastriano seems to think.

We need a better vision for the future of public education — one that ensures students will have access to the educators, nurses, counselors, extracurricular activities, sports, and other programs that prepare them to be the successful leaders of tomorrow.

Rich Askey is president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, which represents about 178,000 active and retired educators and school employees, student teachers, higher education staff, and health care workers.