Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano has a plan for education. Or at least, he had one. But the campaign appears to be trying to some damage control on the fly.
It was not a good plan. It was not even a complete plan. What we know about the plan so far is this-- cut real estate taxes to zero, replace that revenue source with nothing, give everyone a voucher (for far less than their district currently spends on each student).
PSEA took a look at his original proposal-- to cut per pupil spending from $19,000 to $9,000 or $10,000. They made the generous assumption that he would leave alone local non-real estate tax and federal revenue, and figured what that would mean in cuts. Roughly $12.5 billion, or about a third of what is currently spent on education in the state. PSEA has an interactive map on which you can look up how big a cut your local district would get. In the case of my old district, for example, it would be a cut of almost $12 million--about 35% of the local budget. And that's without any projections of students leaving for the many--well, actually, just two-- private (religious) schools in our area.
Mastriano has been responding, sort of, to the PSEA report.
First, he walked back the initial figure from a March interview (Mastriano, like the rest of the MAGA crowd, does not talk to traditional press). Now he has a video saying the new funding level will be an "average" of $15,000 per student. He still hasn't offered an explanation of where that money would come from since the state gives districts far less than 50% or 75%.
Then the Friends of Doug Mastriano, a PAC pushing his candidacy, and Mastriano himself started to push back directly against the PSEA report. Like this:
This is the epitome of the non-response response. PSEA is telling lies? What are they, exactly? If that $12.5 billion figure is not correct, then what is the actual correct one?
The Mastriano campaign has several times pushed back by saying, "I just voted for a big increase in education funding" which is rather beside the point, like arguing, "How can you say I'm kicking this puppy?! Didn't I just buy it a chewy last week?" It's not exactly a secret that Mastriano thinks that too much money is being spent on education, so it's not clear why he would want to pretend it isn't true (unless maybe someone in the campaign remembers how Tom Corbett lost his shot at a second term over cutting education by a single billion dollars).
Supporters also point at this poster:
Several Mastriano memes feature this photo of him shaking the hand of this giant child, but it's the list of policy ideas that is supposed to be the sell here. It leads with "maintain current education funding levels" and "levels" is doing a lot of work here, because Mastriano has been abundantly clear that he does not want public schools to get the same amount of money they currently get. But perhaps he's decided that the whole chop funding plan isn't playing well, so maybe rewrite.
Mastriano's campaign does seem to be scrambling. When I wrote this piece three days ago, the campaign website promised a "Property Tax Elimination Task Force." The current version of his plan page (which has had its address tweaked, breaking all previous links to the page) has moved that portion of the plan from "education" over to "revive the economy." But it's still there.
Mastriano continues to tout responses to the full menu of far right grievances, victim complaints, and demands for a safe space. He'll ban CRT (though he has yet to provide a single example of CRT being taught in Pennsylvania). He'll keep schools open. He'll keep "biological males" out of female sports. He'll have a parental rights law.
But in place of the kind of plans he's been touting for months, Mastriano's website now promisesShift funding to students instead of systems by establishing Education Opportunity Accounts for parents