That tired old refrain emanating from the Governor's Office - school districts squandered their stimulus money - is wearing very thin these days as school districts across the state continue to cut faculty and curtail educational programs.
Over the past two years, the Warren County School District has reduced its teaching staff by 55 positions, cut its administrative costs by 14 percent, and reduced curriculum and student services. Governor Corbett would have us believe that all of those positions, all of those costs, were the result of some drunken orgy of spending and staff expansion occuring during the two years previous.
We don't buy it. If there was some massive ballooning of staff, programming and spending, we didn't detect it here.
Then, on Wednesday, the governor suggested that school districts are sitting on fortunes in reserve accounts, even suggesting that those accounts are kept from public view. He went on to recommend that they be tapped to offset the reductions in state educational spending.
This is an interesting fiscal strategy suggestion from the man who, in a chilly response to efforts in the General Assembly to use some unexpected state revenue to restore some of his cuts to education and other services, said the state should hang onto that money in case revenues fall again.
For those districts with some reserve - Warren County is one of them, although its reserve has shrunk - that savings is being held, in part, to deal with the specter of drastic increases in pension payments looming on the horizon. The pension schedule, by the way, was negotiated in Harrisburg.
For those districts which have already expended their reserves on maintaining basic educational services, the governor's financial advice sounds like something uttered through a sneer.
No, we don't believe that throwing money at anything, including education, necessarily improves the product. However, there comes a tipping point where reduced funding can significantly impact the quality. In Warren County, and we suspect many other school districts, that tipping point is within sight.
Governor, it's time to come up with a new plan, or at least a new excuse.