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Pa. teachers union predicts ‘devastating’ cuts from Mastriano’s education plan

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Ben Hodge, a York County performing arts teacher, said one of his students last year told him that his acting classes were the only thing that motivated her to get up each day and come to school. 

At the beginning of the year, the high schooler had been shy and timid, he said. But Hodge watched her come out of her shell as she took on three separate roles in a school play, an opportunity that boosted her self-confidence and taught her leadership skills. 

That’s the kind of the experience Hodge fears could be lost if GOP Sen. Doug Mastriano wins his gubernatorial bid this year and implements funding cuts that could jeopardize elective courses and force larger class sizes. 

“I worry for the 125 students who are currently enrolled in my performing arts electives that I currently teach,” Hodge said Wednesday during a press conference hosted by the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA). “If these funds are cut, electives are often the first things to go: Music, art, dance, performing arts.”

A PSEA analysis — which Mastriano says is incorrect and based on a misinterpretation — estimates the candidate’s plan would slash annual public school funding by more than $12 billion and cause the estimated loss of about 119,000 jobs across the commonwealth. 

The association’s analysis draws upon comments Mastriano made in March about changing the state’s student funding levels, now set at $19,000 per pupil. 

“I think instead of $19,000, we fund each student around $9,000 or $10,000, and then they can decide which school to go to: public school, private school, religious school, cyber school or home school,” Mastriano said during the Altoona radio interview

The PSEA said that would translate into a $29 million cut in school funding and a loss of 304 jobs for the Central York School District.

“Cutting school funding in half would be devastating. Can you even imagine what school would look like with half the teachers, half the staff and half the opportunities for our students?” said the association’s president, Rich Askey, during the press conference, one of about a dozen the PSEA held around the state this week to present its estimates.  

But Mastriano is accusing the union of cherry picking the remark from his March interview and incorrectly extrapolating from it. The comment about the $9,000 or $10,000 in per-student funding relates to just one element of his overall education plan, according to a rebuttal video released by the campaign.

“The union deceptively took that one component and is representing that as his entire plan,” the video narrator says. “Except, that’s not his plan.”

Mastriano’s website says that as governor, he would “make sure public schools are well-funded” but would also “fight like hell to provide them the competition that will make them great.” His plan, the site says, would call for expanding school choice options so “no child is trapped in a failing school ever again.”

He also says he’d try to eliminate property taxes, pledging that if elected, he’d form a task force that would work toward this goal.  

However, the site offers few details about how he would accomplish those policy goals. PSEA representatives said they’ve repeatedly asked Mastriano for the specifics of his plan but received no answers. 

“Sen. Doug Mastriano has told you who he is,” Askey said. “Please, for the sake of our students, believe it.”

The PSEA is supporting Mastriano’s Democratic rival, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, in the Nov. 8 general election.

This content was originally published here.

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