JOHNSTOWN — We suspect that a Wednesday evening education funding forum at Pitt-Johnstown will be tilted heavily toward one side of a current heated debate.
Nevertheless, we believe it will be an informative and worthwhile session and we urge taxpayers, parents and students to seriously consider attending.
The panel will consist of an impressive lineup of education officials from the region and across the state.
“Gov. Corbett’s proposal has generated some heated conversations about education spending,” one of the organizers, state Rep. Bryan Barbin, D-Johnstown, said.
“Whether or not you like what the governor proposed, there are consequences for all Pennsylvanians. This forum allows for much-needed public discussion.”
What the governor has proposed is $1 billion in cuts to the state education budget. It’s part of his plan to address what some are saying is a $4 billion deficit.
Barbin has been vocal in opposing the Corbett plan, saying, No. 1, that the deficit is more in the neighborhood of “a $2 billion problem,” and No. 2, the governor should spread the cuts across the board, including slashing corrections and welfare dollars.
Pennsylvania has been on the right track in improving test scores at its public schools, Barbin told our editorial board, while arguing that increased education funding and programming under the Rendell administration has been paying off.
He no doubt would get no argument from one of Wednesday’s panelists, Gerald Zahorchak, former state secretary of education, current superintendent of the large Allentown School District and former school chief in the Greater Johnstown district.
Other panelists are Walter Asonevich, president of Pennsylvania Highlands Community College; Rev. Gabriel Zeis, president of St. Francis University; Donato B. Zucco of the Downtown Regional Partnership and a former Johnstown school superintendent; Beth Winters of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association; Mike Crossey, vice president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association; Ron Bowers of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh; and Cliff Maloney of Pitt-Johnstown’s student government association.
Ray Wrabley, chairman of Pitt-Johnstown’s political science department, will be moderator.
Barbin and state Sen. John Eichelberger, R-Hollidaysburg, will open the forum, which will be held from 7:30 to 9 p.m. in Heritage Hall at the Living/Learning Center.
Among the many issues expected to be addressed are college costs, taxes and school vouchers, but audience members will be permitted to ask questions.
Many of our public schools and colleges and universities have already announced tentative plans to address the governor’s proposed cuts through staffing and course cutbacks and tax, fee or tuition increases.
Obviously, many educational facilities are facing drastic changes in the way they have been operating over the past several years.
We believe area residents should have a say in what those changes are.
We commend the educators and state legislators who have come together to organize and participate in this event.
Have a question?
Questions for the forum’s participants can be pre-submitted by e-mail to Rep. Bryan Barbin’s office to: