In an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer last Thursday Gov. Tom Corbett tied state education funding in his soon-to-be-released proposed budget to a package of public pension reforms he supports.
There is no question that Pennsylvania, like a number of other states, is facing a pension crisis. The crisis might be blamed on a perfect storm of spend-thrift governors and legislatures eager to pander to a large constituency and the economic collapse that cost pension systems billions in earnings that were supposed to support the largesse of politicians.
Corbett is determined to do something about it without risking the benefits already being collected by retirees or the amount that current employees have already accrued.
In that matter, we wish him luck.
It is never easy for government to tell a large group of people whose representatives have negotiated contracts through collective bargaining that the future of their retirement benefits will not be as rosey as in the past. Nevertheless, in some respects public employee benefits have been fairly insulated from the economic misfortunes suffered by those working in the private sector.
Education funding, for both public schools and those post-secondary institutions which receive state support, represent a significant chunk of the state budget. We're hoping that the governor dropped that nugget during the interview as simply an assessment of the state's balance sheet and not a veiled threat that education would be held hostage if he doesn't get the pension reforms he wants.
Local school districts, like our own in Warren County, found themselves cutting staff, student services and curriculum during Mr. Corbett's assault on education spending two years ago.
Education should not be a pawn in a political chess game.