Education protests dot Pa.
Police arrested more than two dozen people across the state, including 11 in Pittsburgh, during demonstrations on Wednesday against public education budget cuts.
Protesters walked into the street and sat down in the Golden Triangle during the morning commute, blocking traffic on Fifth Avenue at Wood Street near the Gov. Tom Corbett’s Downtown office. Police said they arrested them and cited them for obstructing traffic upon several warnings to move. In Philadelphia, police arrested 14 people for doing the same. There also were protests in Harrisburg, Doylestown, Hollidaysburg, Bethlehem, Hazleton and Greensburg.
The protesters blame Corbett for cuts in school funding this year and next, but the governor’s office says his administration added state money when federal stimulus money disappeared.
“If they’re going to cut funding for education, that’s going to affect us as a country as a whole,” said Hermaine Delaney, 62, of Shadyside, the Western Pennsylvania District Leader of 32BJ Service Employees International Union. “If we don’t have a way to educate our children, how are they going to find decent jobs?” Delaney was among those cited for blocking traffic.
Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley defended the governor’s support for public education and noted that 40.3 percent of the state’s general budget goes there.
“Claims that the governor cut $1 billion from basic education are simply untrue. The missing $1 billion was one-time-only federal stimulus funds that districts were warned against using for operating budgets,” Harley said.
The Pittsburgh protesters were among a crowd of 200 demonstrators who marched from the U.S. Steelworkers Building on the Boulevard of the Allies to Corbett’s office to voice their concern.
Hundreds of protesters marched from Philadelphia City Hall to school district headquarters. They rallied against proposed cuts and a planned overhaul of the local district that would close 40 schools.
And more than 1,000 students, parents and staff members from the Harrisburg School District lined the Capitol steps for a rally that the district and the Harrisburg Parent Support Network organized.
Lawmakers are negotiating changes to Corbett’s proposed budget for next year, which would increase basic education funding to $9.5 billion from $9.2 billion, including pre-kindergarten funding.