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5 Right-Wing Governors Gutting Schools to Fund Prisons, Tax Breaks for the Rich...And a Bible Theme Park

When state after state slashes education dollars, we see what matters to them--and where they spend while cutting schools tells us even more.
 
 
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It's budget time again, and with the economy still in rough shape, that means it's time for governors to show where their priorities are.

It's probably not surprising that right-wing governors claim they can't fund education properly when revenues are low—we've been seeing this happen for years, even before an actual economic crisis knocked states sideways. But cutting funds to schools isn't the only option for states even if they do have to balance their budgets. There are many other places to cut—and of course, they have the option of raising taxes, something the conservative crowd simply refuses to do.

Like any other choice made by a politician, budgeting is a decision laced with ideology. When state after state slashes education dollars (and often at the same time funnels more of the money they do spend to private companies running charter schools, or gives it away as vouchers) we see what matters to them. And when you take a look at the programs that get funded, or the people who get fat tax cuts as money is drained out of the schools, well, you see what matters to state governments.

Here's a look at five of the governors taking money away from their states' kids, and a look at some of the things they are still funding.

1. Pennsylvania

Governor Tom Corbett set off a wave of anger this week when his new budget hit—and slashed a full $1.2 billion from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade education. According to the Education Law Center, that's taking a full 15 percent out of the budgets of the state's already-struggling schools.

That would be bad enough. But, as the Law Center noted, “the cuts fall hardest on school districts with the greatest student poverty.” That means schools in poor districts will get less funding, while wealthy districts lose very little. So the Reading School District in Berks County, which has a frighting 90 percent student poverty rate, loses $1,083 per student, while the Wyomissing School District, with only 22 percent student poverty, is losing just $112 per student.

Corbett expects the schools to make up the funding cuts, naturally, by cutting teachers' pay and firing more experienced teachers—which probably means bigger classes and more work for those who remain with lower salaries.

And then there's the state's universities, which already took a 20 percent hit last year. According to the Delaware County Daily Times , Corbett's cutting $230 million from Penn State, Pitt and Temple—an “astounding” 25 percent.

Meanwhile, what doesn't get cut in this budget? While schoolkids in poor districts will see their teachers laid off and their classes get bigger, Corbett's pumped up funding for prisons (11 percent) probation and parole (6 percent) and state police (6 percent). Guess we know where he expects those kids to wind up.

2. Ohio

Ohio governor John Kasich should be used to protests by now—he certainly has seen enough of them since he decided to attack his state's public workers last winter. So although candidates for the state legislature joined Occupy protesters in decrying Kasich's budget cuts to education while eliminating the estate tax for the state's wealthiest, it doesn't seem to have made much of an impact.

According to Policy Matters Ohio, the state's budget (signed this summer) takes $1.8 billion in funding away from Ohio's elementary and secondary schools over the next two school years. The new report noted that 65 percent of respondents to its survey of Ohio school districts say they are facing budget shortfalls as a result of state budget cuts—that means pay freezes, pay cuts, not replacing teachers who retire; 45 percent report “reductions in force”--layoffs.