Lawmaker calls for commission to reform education in Pa.

READING, Pa. - Gaping budget deficits have been crippling school districts across Pennsylvania.

Federal stimulus money that was provided at one time is no more.

That's why Pa. Sen. Judy Schwank, D-Berks Co., said she has a plan to help the commonwealth with its struggle.

"We're doing something to another generation that is downright shameful, and it's time that we made a change in how we look at education," said Schwank.

Her frustration, Schwank said, is what spearheaded her to develop legislation calling on Gov. Tom Corbett, R-Pa., to establish an education advisory commission.

"Would include parents, teachers, school administrators, business leaders, college and university level experts and legislators as well," said Schwank.

The commission, Schwank said, would make specific recommendations on how education should be funded and identify potential sources of income for schools.

The governor's office did not return 69 News' calls for comments on Schwank's proposal.

"This commission is the step in the right direction to work together to figure out how we adequately fund our public schools while ensuring state government lives within its means," said Pa. Sen. David Argall, R-Berks and Schuylkill counties.

Teachers, school administrators, and students also spoke on the components of Schwank's plan.

"Art is just as important as math, English, science and the mandatory stuff you need to take. We should keep it in our schools," said Samantha Matthies, a 2012 graduate of Conrad Weiser High School.

"I think we're at a point here where it goes beyond what's happening in Reading. I think Reading is like many other urban schools, sort of the tipping point of what's going to befall the rest of the schools in the commonwealth," said James Washington, a member of the Reading School Board.

The Reading School District faces a $40 million budget deficit. As a result, it is planning to lay off more than 100 teachers.

Schwank said education is one issue where every state citizen is a stakeholder. It is just too important, she said, to have state leaders impose an agenda without giving citizens a voice.

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Allentown, PA 18102


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