By Eric Mayes, The Philladelphia Tribune
Democrats are warning that vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s much-discussed budget proposal would “devastate” public and higher education in Pennsylvania.
“While President Obama has worked to make quality affordable education available and accessible to all, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan’s budget plan would, in fact, reverse that progress,” said Mayor Michael Nutter. “Pennsylvania students would feel a devastating impact … all while preserving historic tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.”
The Obama campaign pulled together Nutter, U.S. Rep. James Clyburn from South Carolina and two teachers from Philadelphia public schools — Juanita Leyath, a speech therapist and Padraic McCaffery, an English and social studies teacher — to condemn the possibility of budget cuts to federal education spending should the Republicans seize the White House on Nov. 6.
Clyburn laid out the party’s point of view, saying that congressional Democrats, along with the president, have worked to lower the barriers to education.
“Just one example is the Pell Grant,” he said. “We took $60 million that would be going to banks to administer the program and turned the program into a direct loan so that colleges and universities would be able to direct those resources to the students themselves … we were able to double the number of students getting Pell Grants, and we were able to increase the grant size from around $4,600 per pupil to around $5,400 per pupil.”
Congress also provided $2 billion more for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, he said.
A Republican White House would reverse those gains, the two men agreed.
Nutter laid out a series of specific numbers, projections from the Obama campaign as to how the Romney/Ryan budget could impact Pennsylvania schools. The figures were based on across the board cuts under Ryan’s plan, which would slash federal spending by about 20 percent over the next decade.
According to those figures: $186 million in cuts for public schools, 12,000 fewer spots in Head Start, an average cut of $810 college scholarships for 313,000 Pennsylvania college students and 9,180 fewer work study positions for state college students.
In May, Romney visited a school in West Philadelphia, where he called for larger class sizes.
“Every second grader knows that’s not right,” Nutter said.
Romney has said he would not necessarily implement the Ryan budget, which includes $5.3 trillion in spending cuts — but since choosing Ryan as his running mate a week ago, debate on the plan has dominated the national conversation. While Ryan has laid out a plan that includes a set of sweeping numbers, he has consistently declined to get specific about exactly where he would cut or what tax deductions he would eliminate in an effort to balance the federal budget.
Leyath said she’s seen the impact of Obama’s plans personally. A teacher in Olney and the Northeast, she said the president’s stimulus package kept teachers working, allowing the district to keep class sizes smaller which ultimately benefits her students, who are “overwhelmingly Latino or African-American, or who come from low-income families.”
“I am standing with the president because I have seen how much he had done these last four years,” she said. “I know he is the man to keep us moving forward.”
Contact staff writer Eric Mayes at (215) 893-5742 or firstname.lastname@example.org.