In last week’s Jewish Chronicle there is a big picture of Gov. Tom Corbett with the headline, “Jewish leaders taking ‘wait and see’ approach to proposed budget.” Two professional leaders are quoted who are being more than generous when interpreting Corbett’s plans for the budget. The article says there is a proposal to cut $550 million in basic education, $2.4 million for preschool education and to cut funding for state universities by 50 percent.
The article says perhaps the Jewish communal agencies won’t be affected offering the suggestion that perhaps we will we be safe? Well, I know of a few Jews who depend on the state universities and public schools to educate their children. While this might not fall under the category of a “Jewish Agency” most Jews I know care a whole lot about education, both for their own children and those of the community.
What the article failed to mention is Corbett’s millions of dollars of tax cuts, which were given to corporations, before announcing how the community was going to have to sacrifice. Corbett, who received a big donation from Marcellus Shale, refuses to tax them, saying that he doesn’t want the state to chase them away. Marcellus Shale is a captive audience; drilling has to take place where the land is — Pennsylvania. Corbett might as well wear a team jacket, which reads sponsored by Marcellus Shale.
The Jewish Federation recently sponsored an information session to clear up misconceptions about drilling for natural gas. The audience was instructed to sit silently while someone on stage sifted through prepared questions. At that time, then-Gov. Ed Rendell had instituted a moratorium on drilling on public lands because there wasn’t enough available research to suggest if it was safe. One Marcellus Shale representative tried to persuade the audience how important it was to lift the moratorium because we were losing so much potential tax revenue. She said the company wanted to do what was fair. When Corbett took office he lifted the moratorium and refused to tax them. I guess Marcellus Shale must be very upset that they can’t contribute their fair share now.
The article quoted the local Republican Jewish Coalition commenting on Corbett’s plan and then had no representation from a Democratic group because the reporter said there was no local affiliate. She should have made more of an effort to contact someone who could represent an opinion for local Jewish Democrats.
Proposed budget ignores Jewish values
While the representatives of the Jewish community interviewed about Gov. Corbett’s proposed budget for an article last week (“Jewish leaders taking ‘wait and see’ approach to proposed budget,” March 17) provided a measured, cautious response, I can’t say that I greeted the news with the same sangfroid.
The restoration of the Educational Improvement Tax Credit to $75 million a year provided one bright spot in the proposal. However, if anything, this line item proved a lucky exception in a budget overwhelmingly hostile toward public support for education. From early childhood education, serving pre-k students, through higher education opportunities for young adults, the administration slashed funding for education.
The budget eliminates the Accountability Block Grant program, used primarily to provide pre-kindergarten and kindergarten programming. The public education budget receives $1.1 billion in cuts overall, while post-secondary institutions lose over half of their state support.
This contradicts the commitment that Pennsylvania has made to our young people, and which has been paying off in recent years through improved test scores and a better educated, and better prepared, workforce.
I have always believed that access to education represents a core Jewish value. My hope is that the legislature can reach an agreement that preserves the gains we’ve made in education in Pennsylvania without compromising our other priorities — to protect the most vulnerable in our communities.
Dan B. Frankel
(Editor’s note: The author is the state representative from the 23rd Legislative District.)
Student author lauded
Upon reading Princeton freshman Aliyah Donsky’s report from the J Street National Conference, “J Street Conference connected young people to Israel”, March 17, I found pride on two levels.
First, as the chair of J Street Pittsburgh, it is an honor to connect with people across all generations who are choosing to dedicate their time to work toward a better future for Israel. Second, as the mother of a college-bound teen, I am grateful that J Street’s college campus presence (J Street U) has created a place for my son and others to engage positively with Israel in a way that’s consonant with their values.
We owe it to our community to open up the space for our youth in Jewish day schools, Hillels, synagogues and in our homes, to participate in honest and open discussions about how best to secure Israel’s future as a democratic and Jewish homeland. The values of our tradition ask no less of us. For many, it is our work for peace, justice and dignity — not only for Jews, but for all people — that makes us and our children proud to be Jewish.
(The author chairs J Street Pittsburgh.)