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An initiative to provide nonpartisan, independent elections journalism for southwestern Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania's largest teachers union denounces Mastriano’s plan to cut education spending

doug mastriano Election 2022 Governor Pennsylvania
Marc Levy
/
AP
Doug Mastriano, the Republican gubernatorial nominee in Pennsylvania, speaks at an event on July 1, 2022, at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa.

Leaders of the Pennsylvania State Education Association held a handful of events the week of Sep. 12 in western Pennsylvania to draw attention to what they call a damaging plan for public education.

In March, Republican state Sen. Doug Mastriano said during a radio interview that he would cut per-student spending by almost half if elected governor. He said that instead of funding a school system, dollars should go to students who would use it to go to whichever school they’d like.

“I think 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, cyber school or homeschool. The money goes to the kids. And I believe that would incentivize or drive down the cost of public education,” Mastriano said during the March 24 interview.

Mastriano’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment to expand on his proposal.

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With the approaching November election, the PSEA says it's important that voters know where the gubernatorial candidates stand. The union is backing Democrat Attorney General Josh Shapiro for governor. PSEA vice president Aaron Chapin says Shapiro was the only candidate to meet with the union.

The union calls Mastriano’s proposal “devastating” and “extreme.” An analysis by the PSEA found that the cuts would amount to nearly $13 billion or 33% of all funding which leaders say could result in staff layoffs, increased class sizes and lost opportunities for students.

“When you reduce the funding for schools by that much … the first thing that’s going to happen is that teachers are going to be laid off, programs are going to be lost and class sizes are going to go through the roof,” said Rich Askey the union’s president.

During an event in Cranberry Township this week, Seneca Valley high school teacher Julie Parenti said she fears the plan would cut programs that keep students engaged.

“As a world language teacher, I fear that Seneca Valley would be forced to make the hard decision to cut programs like world languages, arts, music, other popular electives that kids enjoy. And it makes their day,” she said.

Seventy public school board members across the state have also signed an open letter condemning Mastriano’s plan to cut funding. They call it “dangerously out of touch with the majority of Pennsylvania families.”

Sarah Schneider is WESA's education reporter. From early learning to higher education, Sarah is interested in students and educators working to create more equitable systems. Sarah previously worked with news outlets in Pennsylvania, Illinois and Idaho. She is a graduate of Southern Illinois University Carbondale where she worked for the school newspaper, the Daily Egyptian.