Ad Watch: Claims in Pennsylvania governor's race

Tom Corbett, Tom Wolf
In this combination of 2014 photos Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidates Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, left, and Democrat Tom Wolf are shown in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – A look at key claims being made in TV ads that are being aired in Pennsylvania’s campaign for governor ahead of the Nov. 4 election.
THEME: Gov. Tom Corbett attacks the claim that he cut education funding.
TITLE: “Statistics Class.”
LENGTH: 30 seconds.
AIRING: TV stations in every Pennsylvania market starting Sept. 9.
KEY CLAIM: “Tom Wolf and his special-interest groups spent millions trying to mislead you that I cut education spending. As they say, the numbers don’t lie. Ed Rendell used one-time federal stimulus funds to hide cuts to state education funding. Tom Corbett cleaned up his mess, increasing funding every year to its highest level ever.”
THEME: Tom Wolf’s campaign responds to a Corbett’s “Statistics Class” ad.
TITLE: “Education Facts.”
LENGTH: 30 seconds.
AIRING: TV stations in every Pennsylvania market starting Sept. 10.
KEY CLAIM: “Tom Corbett cut a billion dollars from schools. He took an ax to education. Twenty-seven thousand educators were laid off, class sizes increased and now almost 80 percent of school districts plan to raise property taxes.”
THEME: Corbett’s campaign responds to Wolf’s “Education Facts” ad.
TITLE: “Mr. Big.”
LENGTH: 30 seconds.
AIRING: TV stations in every Pennsylvania market starting Sept. 17.
KEY CLAIM: “Tom Wolf’s big lie about education funding has now been exposed. In Pittsburgh, they called Wolf’s education ad a blatant lie. In Philadelphia, they confirmed Tom Corbett has increased state funding for education and state spending on public education is at its highest level ever.”
ANALYSIS: This is a debate over which dollars for education to count and what choices were made.
As the recession took hold, former Gov. Ed Rendell emptied the state’s reserves and used federal stimulus dollars – meant to help states weather the recession – to increase funding for public schools. Rendell’s final budget, 2010-11, ultimately relied on about $1 billion in use-it-or-lose-it federal funds for public schools. Counting that money and the rest of the state money that went to public schools and universities, Corbett’s first budget released about $860 million less for instruction and operations.
Corbett did not raise taxes or use one-time sources of money to replace the disappearing stimulus dollars. Meanwhile, his first budget directed more than $1 billion into business tax cuts and reserves. The currently enacted budget, Corbett’s fourth, spends about $600 million less on K-12 public education than Rendell’s final budget.
The Corbett administration has argued that the stimulus money should not be counted and that legally required payments for public school employee pension costs should be counted. Using those figures, then Corbett can claim funding for public schools is at an all-time high, thanks to an increase of $870 million in annual pension obligations since 2010-11.
On Wolf’s claim about laid-off educators, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there were about 32,000 fewer employees in local government educational services in Pennsylvania from January 2011, Corbett’s first month in office, to January 2014. Those reductions could be through layoffs, attrition or outsourcing, and it’s unclear how many of the lost public school jobs over that period should be attributed to Corbett’s policies. The drop-off came after a long, steady increase in public school employment.
On property taxes, many school boards have increased property taxes every year, even in years when Pennsylvania state government provided an increase in aid. Property tax collections have risen every year but one in the decade leading up to the 2013-14 school year, according to Department of Education data.
On class sizes, a survey by the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators and the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials reported that 64 percent of responding districts had increased class size since 2010-11 to save money.

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