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School Employees Take to the Road for Better Education Funding

School employees are traveling around the state to support Gov. Tom Wolf budget. Photo courtesy Service Employees International Union 32BJ.
School employees are traveling around the state to support Gov. Tom Wolf budget. Photo courtesy Service Employees International Union 32BJ.
July 20, 2015

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Rank-and-file school employees are on the road rallying to support Gov. Tom Wolf in his budget standoff with the legislature, saying the education of Pennsylvania's children is at risk.

On Friday, a bus full of the school workers traveled to the offices of six Philadelphia-area legislators who oppose the governor's budget. Theodore Daniels, an employee of the Philadelphia Schools, spoke by cell phone from the bus between events.

He says after years of funding cuts, there are not enough teachers or even desks. He says his school only has a nurse two days a week, and thinks it's only fair to tax natural gas drilling to pay for better public education.

"Schools are being overcrowded," says Daniels. "The kids are not being educated the way they're supposed to be educated. We have to pay our fair share, but they don't want to make big business be a part of it."

Some Republicans in the legislature say it would be a mistake to tax a growing industry. The state was supposed to have a budget finished by the end of the fiscal year. But that was three weeks ago, and lawmakers are still deadlocked.

Daniels says Gov. Wolf campaigned on increasing funding for public schools, and was elected with a specific mandate to do that. He says by blocking those plans, Republican leaders in the state are ignoring real needs of real people.

"I fight this fight for my kids, my coworkers, and the people of Pennsylvania," says Daniels. "Because what he's doing is what the people are asking him to do. Because it works best for all of us, not some of us."

GOP lawmakers are pushing their plan to privatize the pensions of many public employees, including Daniels - trading traditional pensions for plans more like a 401k. The teachers' union and others have argued that would be unconstitutional, and violates an existing contract with people who took their jobs with the understanding they would have a traditional pension.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 32BJ says it has planned similar events in the western part of the state.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - PA