The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

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May 23, 2014

Corbett finds Joy in campaign visit

Governor defends record at cone company

HERMITAGE — After donning a hairnet, Gov. Tom Corbett got a taste of Hermitage Thursday afternoon.

He and his wife Susan took a quick tour of Joy Cone Co. – one of the first stops on his re-election campaign, following Tuesday’s primary where Corbett secured the Republican nomination.

He faces Democrat Tom Wolf in the fall.

Regarded as the most imperiled governor seeking re-election in the country, Corbett is seen as an under-underdog.    

Even fellow Republicans, including Mercer County’s Congressman Mike Kelly of Butler, question his chances of winning.

“Everywhere I go, county party dinners, they all say, ‘He can’t win,’ ” Kelly told the Harrisburg Patriot-News last week.

Yet such talk doesn’t dampen Corbett’s enthusiasm in his quest for another four years.

After touring Joy Cone, he spoke with a small group of local politicians and community leaders.

“We’re stronger today than we were four years ago,’’ he told the audience seated in an employee lunch room. “I have great confidence where we’re going in Pennsylvania.’’

Reminding the group of his campaign theme of “Promises Kept,’’ the governor said Pennsylvania has added 150,000 jobs since he took office.

“We’re going to stay the course we’re going,’’ Corbett said. “When we get to 2019, we’re going to be in a much better position.’’

A favorite topic of Corbett critics – funding cuts to education – draws a quick response and a sharp denial.

It was the outgoing Rendell administration, facing billions of dollars in a budget shortfall, that whacked education funds, Corbett said. Further, the state is spending 40 percent of its entire budget on education.

“We’re spending more money on education in the state than any time in history,’’ he said.

He talked further about education with The Herald, touching on whether the state could force a merger or consolidation of the five Shenango Valley school districts that now graduate fewer students than Sharon High School did in the early 1960s.

“We don’t have the authority’’ to consolidate them, he said. “Who has the authority? The voters.’’

He noted the state gives money to school districts but is not represented at the bargaining table when boards negotiate labor contracts.

“We’re like a bank without having terms,’’ he said of state funding. “What we’re looking for is accountability in schools.’’

He also said he seeks some kind of reform in how teachers and administrators are evaluated.

Current evaluation statistics rate more than 99 percent of the state’s public school teachers and administrators as satisfactory.

“Do you believe 99 percent are satisfactory?’’ he asked.

He said he sees a problem when young, outstanding educators – sometimes the best performers in a district – are furloughed because they have less seniority than a poorer performing teacher.

Corbett said he is a proponent of “fair funding,’’ in which districts would get state funding based on a formula of need and performance, but finding the right formula isn’t easy.

“I challenge you to find five people running for office in favor of a fair funding formula who are in agreement with each other,’’ he said.

Corbett stayed a little longer than expected because his scheduled visit ended at a shift change at the plant, so employees were entering and exiting.

Traveling with an small entourage, Corbett’s movements would have blocked the doorway.

“I don’t want to interfere with production here,’’ he said.


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