About 300 students from across Pennsylvania rallied against education budget cuts at the State Capitol in Harrisburg on Tuesday.
A fifty-student delegation from Pittsburgh Public Schools joined others from Chester, Philadelphia, and Reading to protest cuts to the current education budget, and to show their dissatisfaction with Governor Tom Corbett's 2012-2013 education funding proposal.
Three local students from the A+ Schools Teen Bloc program also met with House Education Committee Chair Paul Clymer (R-Bucks) and staffers at the Department of Education.
Barack Obama Academy junior Dynae Shaw said she told Clymer how the cuts to the current education budget have affected her school.
"I talked about the increased class sizes," said Shaw. "We are way over the limit, almost double the recommended limit for an [International Baccalaureate] school. When it comes to the health conditions, we have a lot of leakage and mildew throughout our schools."
Allderdice High School senior Shealynn Williams said the increasing class sizes are overworking teachers.
"They don't really have enough time to develop relationships with students, and that's a key component of teaching and education," said Williams.
Williams said Democratic legislators joined the rally to denounce Corbett's proposed education budget.
Click here for a video of University Prep senior Tia Torres speaking at the Harrisburg rally.
Inside the Numbers of Corbett's Education Spending
Education funding levels dropped nearly 8 percent during Corbett's first year in office, falling to $9.6 billion. The $818 million spending reduction came in large part because a $676 million federal stimulus infusion ran out.
Under the governor's 2012-2013 budget proposal, overall education funding would increase 3.4 percent, to $9.9 billion. However, funding priorities would change: basic funding for the classroom would increase only slightly, while money would be shifted from tertiary programs to boost school pension payments.
For example, the governor's "School Employees Retirement" line item calls for 52 percent more money this year, at $916 million. Meanwhile, the "Pre-K" budget would take a 5 percent hit, at $78 million; "Teacher Professional Development" funding would drop 10 percent to $6.45 million. Four programs would die off.
"I think what the governor is signalling is, we continue to be faced with difficult financial decisions, and everybody from the higher education all the way down through basic ed, and in every sector across the economy, needs to look at reducing expenditures in any way that they can," said Tim Eller, Department of Education spokesman.