HARRISBURG, PA – The NAACP Pennsylvania State Conference led the “Children’s March to Save Public Education”, a rally of students, teachers and legislators protesting Governor Tom Corbett’s proposed 2011-2012 budget. The budget would slash education funding by $1.2 billion, including 52% from higher education, while raising the state’s prison spending by nearly 11 percent and building three new prisons.
Thousands of students and community leaders gathered at the Main Capitol Steps in Harrisburg, PA this morning.
Governor Corbett’s budget would reduce funding for Pennsylvania colleges from $1.5 billion to $836 billion and shave $550 million from basic education funding, including $260 million from Pre-K, kindergarten, and class-size reduction programs. Meanwhile, the budget would increase prison spending by $186 million. On April 7th the national NAACP released a report called “Misplaced Priorities: Over Incarcerate, Under Educate, which urged lawmakers to downsize prisons and shift savings to education. The report received widespread bipartisan support for its endorsement of “smart on crime” policies.
“Governor Corbett proposes cutting $625 million from colleges and universities as he spends $600 million to build two new prisons,” stated NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “The governor’s budget betrays a lack of faith in the power of education and the promise of rehabilitation. Investing in human potential is ultimately what will narrow the achievement gap, grow our economy and rebuild our middle class. Today, children from around Pennsylvania are marching on the State Capitol in Harrisburg to remind legislators that they are the future of this state.”
“If we are going to find our way back to being first in the world and, leading other nations in adults with college degrees, we’ll have to stop leading the world in the number of adults and children that we incarcerate,” stated NAACP Pennsylvania State Conference President J. Whyatt Mondesire. “Governor Corbett’s budget callously deprives children and college students of the education resources they need, while ignoring the growing national call to reduce prison spending.”
The rally was attended by students and community leaders from Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, York, Gettysburg, Reading, Allentown and other school districts around Pennsylvania. Speakers included Mondesire, who is also president of the Philadelphia Unit of the NAACP; NAACP Director of Criminal Justice Programs Robert Rooks; State Representative and Chair of the Legislative Black Caucus Ronald G. Waters and students, teachers, and education community leaders.