Education talk

Pennsylvania State Education Association treasurer Jeff Ney looks on as Richland Education Association member and local teacher Jacob St. Clair talks during a public address on Monday, Sept. 12, 2022.

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – Pennsylvania State Education Association treasurer Jeff Ney joined local educators at the East Hills Memorial Park of Veterans on Monday to discuss state Sen. Doug Mastriano’s comments regarding public education funding.

Ney said the candidate for governor is quoted as saying during a March interview that “instead of $19,000 we fund each student around $9,000 or $10,000 and they can decide which school to go to: public school, private school, religious school, cyber school or home school.”

After pushing Mastriano for more information and receiving none, Ney said PSEA did its own calculations based on those numbers.

“The results are nothing short of devastating,” he said.

According to PSEA, Mastriano’s purported cuts would mean a $12.75 billion decrease in public school funding that would result in 118,704 jobs lost, or 49% fewer educators, school counselors, nurses, aids, cooks and “other critical school employees.”

It would also mean a 109% increase in the student-to-teacher ratio for institutions across the commonwealth.

The methodology to model these projects includes an in-depth analysis of educational funding and how a decrease of this scale would affect payroll, debt service, supplies and equipment purchases and other key factors.

The state teacher’s union has also released an interactive map that show’s how each district in the commonwealth would be impacted.

Throughout the region, Somerset County schools would be affected more than Cambria County districts, but overall the area would see 20% to 49% decreases in revenue and staff layoffs in the several hundreds.

Some of the most affected school districts include Shade-Central City and Shanksville-Stonycreek.

Jacob St. Clair, a Richland educator who spoke on behalf of the district’s education association, talked to the attendees about the affects these sort of cuts would have on Richland.

He said Mastriano’s proposal, as modeled by PSEA, would lead to a $4.2 million decrease in funding, 47 jobs lost and a 44% increase to the student-to-teacher ratio.

“Schools can’t function this way,” St. Clair said. “Students can’t function that way. ... Sen. Mastriano’s plan is a future we don’t want in our schools.”

Ian Miller, a community member who listened in on the presentations, said he’s also against the senator’s plan.

He’d heard a little about Mastriano’s reported comments but wanted to learn more, that’s why he showed up on Monday.

“To me, this is a way to funnel public money into private hands,” he said.

Richland parent Jessica Miller said having a strong public school matters a lot to her and she wants to make sure the children of the district still have access to the high quality programs the district is known for.

That’s why she opposes Mastriano’s purported plan.

Ney said afterward that he was president of the Wilkes-Barre Education Association during former Gov. Tom Corbett’s educational cuts 10 years ago that resulted in roughly $1 billion of lost funding and several dozen of his colleagues being furloughed.

Hearing that similar cost-cutting measures may return is devastating for him, especially because Pennsylvania school districts are reported to be underfunded already.

Ney said the last thing he wants is for local school leaders to have to go into work and let staff know they’ve lost their jobs.

Since Corbett, state funding of public education under Gov. Tom Wolf’s tenure has increased by nearly $4 billion.

More information about PSEA’s modeling can be found at www.psea.org/mastrianocuts

Joshua Byers is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5054. Follow him on Twitter @Journo_Josh.

Trending Video

Recommended for you