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Education Advocates Protest Funding Cuts In Harrisburg

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Hundreds of teachers and public school supporters rallied in Harrisburg Tuesday afternoon hoping to stall school closings and layoffs this fall.

It comes as legislators continue to debate a state budget that, critics say, does little to restore funding cuts made to education in earlier years.

About 150 teachers, parents and students boarded three buses in Pittsburgh Tuesday morning headed to Harrisburg as part of a rally of more than 800 at the State Capitol to protest Gov. Tom Corbett's budget cuts to education.

"It's unbelievable the cuts that have been made to teachers, to support staff have been cut drastically in our schools," said Nina Esposito-Visgitis, of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers. "Every district across the state has felt the effects of his devastating budget cuts."

Esposito-Visgitis says the rally is to encourage state lawmakers to restore the $3 billion in education funding they say Gov. Corbett has cut over the last three years.

"There's been cuts in counselors, in arts across the state we're hearing about," said Esposito-Visgitis. "I'm sure you're hearing about it -- sports programs gone, decimated. Music -- gone. Things that kids need to have a well-rounded education are ripped out of our educational system. It's incredible."

"We need to urge Harrisburg to change their ways so that the schools aren't decimated any further," Naomi Mattarock, an elementary school teacher, said.

Education advocates worry that without help from Harrisburg there could be a repeat of more school building closures, teacher and staff layoffs and a political consequence for Gov. Corbett.

"I hope Gov. Corbett realizes that people are not going to sit idly by while he makes these just devastating cuts to the schools," said Mattarock.

"He has bad suggestions for public education," added Esposito-Visgitis. "Our suggestion for Tom Corbett would be to retire."

Of course, that's not likely. The governor, so far, has every intention of running for re-election next year.

And he argues that he has not cut "state" funding for K-12 education since the budget cuts resulted when money from President Obama's federal stimulus expired in 2011.

Of course, either way, school districts have felt the loss and taxpayers and schools are left taking the hit.

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