Give House Republicans credit for coming up with a less draconian budget proposal than Gov. Corbett's, but their version would still do too much damage to public education.

The House Appropriations Committee approved the alternative budget last week. Lawmakers should use it to develop a better plan.

The GOP-proposed $27.3 billion budget for fiscal year 2012 would cut spending by nearly 3 percent, but restore nearly $600 million in aid for higher education and public schools that Corbett would cut. Sounds good until you realize that Philadelphia alone needs $610 million to close a projected budget shortfall.

The Republican plan would provide $380 million for 18 state-supported universities and $210 million for public schools above what Corbett proposed. That still represents a $1 billion decrease in funding for K-12 schools. That's a full-scale retreat from the commitment the Rendell administration made to adequately fund schools.

Pennsylvania can't afford to lose the gains that students have made in recent years. Standardized-test scores have improved across the board. That's progress the state must continue to produce a better-educated population that can compete for jobs.

Faced with less state aid, struggling school districts will have few options other than to raise property taxes, lay off teachers, or cut valuable programs such as full-day kindergarten. Parents should tell legislators that's not what they want.

As if that's not bad enough, the extra money the GOP budget finds for education comes largely at the expense of safety-net programs in the Department of Public Welfare, which would be cut an additional $470 million. Acting Public Welfare Secretary Gary Alexander says it will be difficult to find those savings.

Legislators shouldn't be asking so much of the state's most vulnerable citizens, especially when Corbett won't even tax the profitable shale-gas industry.

People also have to wonder about the level of spending cuts being proposed amid some projections of much better tax revenues than previously anticipated. Corbett must be cautious in writing a budget, but he also must use all the information available.