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REMARKS: Education Emergency Press Conference

Arthur Steinberg

October 31, 2022 Mastriano Education Press Conference Remarks as prepared:

Good morning. I’m Arthur Steinberg, President of AFT Pennsylvania, the state federation which represents 36,000 educators, paraprofessionals, public and private sector employees in 64 locals across Pennsylvania and Delaware, including the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.

And Happy Halloween. I’m not big on jokes, but to be talking about Doug Mastriano on Halloween is extra spooky.

First off, Doug Mastriano is a disgrace.

He lacks the character to lead our commonwealth and he would only take us backwards—which is what he wants. As we saw this weekend, Doug Mastriano is an antisemite who has surrounded himself with vile people, many of whom joined him on his trip to the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, among other antisemites, virulent racists, misogynists, and just generally creepy people that have no place in positions of power.

But in terms of Doug Mastriano’s plans for public education in Pennsylvania, they’re just as bad as his views on everything else.

The first thing Doug wants to do is cut $12.75 Billion from our education budget—a third of our current budget. The last time we had a Republican governor, he and the Republican legislature cut a billion dollars from the education budget, and we were just barely closing that gap when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. If a billion gutted our schools, an amount nearly thirteen times that would utterly end public education. Which is exactly what Mastriano and the MAGA Republicans in the state legislature want.

With that budget cut, nearly half of all public-school employees—over 118,000 teachers, paraprofessionals, school nurses, counselors, aides, bus drivers, cafeteria cooks, and other critical school staff would no longer be there to serve our students or have jobs to support their families. The effects this would have on the state’s economy would be devastating, but not as devastating as it would be on our students.

The number of students in each classroom at a school like the one here at SLA Beeber would double. For those of us who have more than one kid, you know what it’s like to get them to focus on anything. Our educators in public schools right now already have classes with 25-30 students, but Doug Mastriano thinks we should push that number to 50 or 60. Obviously, Doug’s never been in a classroom.

This whole scheme is aimed at destroying public education in our Commonwealth. Doug has been very clear that he prefers to give our public tax dollars over to unaccountable, for-profit and religious institutions who will, in turn, charge families even more for tuition, putting a quality education out of reach of most students in Pennsylvania.

And when it comes to higher education, Mastriano was among just seven senators who voted this past July against providing funding for state-related universities. That’s Penn State. That’s my alma mater, University of Pittsburgh. That’s Lincoln University, an historically Black university. And that’s our hometown school, Temple University. Getting ZERO; nothing from the state if Mastriano’s governor.

So, then, we’d have two separate systems of education in Pennsylvania. One for the haves and one for the have nots. And guess which one is going to be better at preparing students for a life of success. And that’s what they want. Doug Mastriano and everyone running with him in the Republican Party is deadest on taking us back to a time before Brown vs Board of Education, when public education in America was both separate and unequal.

But we won’t have it here in Pennsylvania in 2022. Next week, we’re going to show Doug Mastriano and Dr. Oz and everyone running on the Oz-Mastriano ticket how we feel about public education in Pennsylvania.

We believe our educators ought to be treated as the professionals they are; that our school buildings should be safe from toxins like lead, mold, and asbestos; and that our students need to be given every opportunity to thrive, with special attention given to those students who have experienced poverty or trauma or who are in some other way vulnerable and didn’t get an equal start to other students their age.

If we care about our kids, if we care about our future the way that so many people do—because our own kids have the power to give us hope for the future—then next week, we need to send Doug Mastriano and Dr Oz packing and elect Josh Shapiro and John Fetterman.

Thank you.


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