For this election year we have been asking people to vote for candidates based on their willingness to support the five points highlighted below. With the election scheduled for next Tuesday we have a report card on the two gubernatorial candidates based on how they stack up.
1-Support a funding formula that will distribute state dollars based on student needs and the local district’s ability to pay.
Tom Corbett waited until his last year in office to introduce legislation creating a commission to study the need for a fair funding formula which he now says he supports. However in his first year Corbett dismantled the progressive funding formula adopted during the Rendell administration in favor of distributing funds to politcally favored districts. Corbett’s budget cuts hit poor districts the hardest. Philadelphia state aid per student was cut by 21% while affluent Radnor saw a 7% cut. GRADE: FAIL
Tom Wolf has a detailed and comprehensive plan to create a fair funding formula. He would increase the state’s share of education costs, currently one of the lowest in country at 35%, to %50. He would implement an equitable distribution formula that would allocate funds based on student demographics, rates of poverty and local tax effort. GRADE: PASS
2. Provide more revenue for education and human services by closing corporate tax loopholes, taxing natural gas production and cancelling prison expansion.
Tom Corbett opposes an extraction tax on Marcellus shale, has showered big business with tax breaks and initiated an expensive prison contruction plan. He opposed accepting federal dollars for Medicaid expansion. He favors regressive taxes on working people and strong arming unions to make concessions as the way to fund Philadelphia schools. GRADE: FAIL
Tom Wolf favors taxing shale, rolling back corporate loopholes, and a progressive tax on upper income residents. GRADE: PASS
3. Hold charter schools accountable and give local districts the power to monitor them.
Tom Corbett has been an advocate of school privatization and charter school expansion. He supports legislation to take away the power of local districts to regulate charters. He opposes reforms that would strengthen transparency and make funding more equitable. His elimination of the charter school reimbursement line item in the budget is bleeding funding for traditional public schools in cities like Philadelphia.
Corbett also expanded the Education Improvement Tax Credit which gives corporations credits for giving money to scholarship funds, a backhanded way of providing public dollars for private schools. GRADE: FAIL
Tom Wolf has drawn attention to the fact that charters overall do not outperform public schools and that lack of regulation has produced wide spread corruption and abuse. He calls for increased regulation, supports locating the authorizing of and monitoring of charters in local Districts, and calls for reforming the way charters are funded including the return of excess dollars to the districts.
He also calls for a more transparent and level playing field with annual audits, restrictions on how charters spend public funds, and a uniform application process to prevent cherry picking of students. GRADE: PASS
4) Shutdown the school to prison pipeline. Replace harsh, zero tolerance polices that criminalize students for minor offenses with restorative justice.
Punitive drug laws and harsh sentencing policies that disproportionately penalize young people of color is a point of difference with the candidates. Governor Corbett opposes any “loosening of restrictions on illegal drugs.” While even some Republicans are beginning to question the wisdom of spending on prison expansion and mass incarceration, Governor Corbett remains a supporter. GRADE: FAIL
Tom Wolf has called for decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana and eliminating mandatory minimum sentences. GRADE: PASS
5) Abolish the School Reform Commission and return our schools to Local Control.
Tom Corbett favors continuing state control of Philadelphia’s schools and supports the School Reform Commission using its powers to void collective bargaining and limit union rights. GRADE: FAIL
Tom Wolf supports abolishing the SRC and returning our schools to local control. He calls for Philadelphians to have the right to elect their school board as does every other community in the state. GRADE: PASS