Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett was the keynote speaker at the Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce and Industry Annual Dinner on Monday night, but not everyone welcomed his arrival.
Corbett addressed hundreds at the Sovereign Performing Arts Center in center city. He congratulated area businesses on how they are positively impacting Reading and Berks County. As audiences from inside the Sovereign Performing Arts Center applauded his presence, protesters did not.
"We're here to let the governor know that he's not welcome here in Reading because of what he has done to our students and to our schools," said Bryan Sanguinito, president of the Reading Education Association.
More than 100 people stood outside, holding up signs and chanting. They said the education funding cuts in Corbett's proposed budget will be harmful to students and teachers. The Reading School District is proposing a budget that includes 170 layoffs.
"It's unfathomable what's happening to us and what's more important then what's happening to the teachers is the fact that our students are losing 170 opportunities to help redefine success," said Sanguinito.
"Our teachers work hard to try to keep us in school and graduate," said Gabriel Sanchez, a student in the Reading School District.
"What I would like to see him do is restore the education levels to where they were when he took office," said Stephanie Tulls, a librarian in the Reading School District.
Corbett said that is not an option because those funds came from federal stimulus dollars, which have run out.
"A lot of that money went to the education budget in Pennsylvania, but the state reduced its compensation, reduced its portion. What happened, the money disappeared," said Corbett.
The State Senate Appropriations Committee recently gave unanimous approval to an alternate budget proposal, written by Republicans, that would restore millions of dollars to education funding.
Corbett said the budget is still a work in progress. He also mentioned that he refuses to raise taxes to compromise lost dollars.