Wednesday, May 4, 2011

PA NAACP Open Letter to State Senate

This letter was faxed to all members of the Pennsylvania State Senate on May 4th, 2011

MAY 4, 2011


Dear Pennsylvania State Senator,

This letter is to strongly urge that you vote NO on Senate Bill 1 as amended according to the Corbett/Piccola agreements.  The majority of the people of Pennsylvania have demonstrated that we do not want a tuition voucher plan nor do we want education privatized. The majority of Pennsylvanians have clearly asked that the legislature provide fully and equitably funded, universal public education. We want to work with you and support you to that end.

Many voters have read about the ultimate goal of the “vouchers proponents” to totally eliminate government involvement in the schooling of children and to hand education over to free enterprise.  Indeed we have read the Milton Friedman article on selling school like groceries. And we know that Senator Piccola is a spokesperson for the Foundation for Education Choice which exists solely to fulfill the Friedman vision.

Many voters have read the articles about campaign contributions that suggest that Governor Corbett accepted $300,000 filtered through such organizations as Students First and American Federation for Children. Voters have been informed as to who funds those organizations and that their stated and self proclaimed goal is the total privatization of education. Voters know that the Governor is scheduled to deliver the policy address at the Washington D C May 9, 2011 gathering of the American Federation for Children, a proponent of free market control of education.

A growing number of Pennsylvania voters are being informed concerning the documented campaign contributions to various Senators that filtered out-of-state funds and the contributions of a few wealthy Pennsylvania funders through organizations such as Students First. We are aware of who gave the money, and have seen the reported amounts accepted by Pennsylvania candidates. Citizens are well aware that the voucher legislation is not the will of the voters of Pennsylvania and that it puts children in harms way.  We do not want our legislators to do the bidding of people who do not live here in Pennsylvania and who have no interest in the children of this commonwealth.

Voters have read reports that describe the “stealthy” path to total privatization of education; the national plan to introduce legislation by initially focusing the vouchers discussion on Black inner city children who are poor.  We have watched as the national approach – to declare the schools as dangerous and failing, to focus on vouchers for the poor, and to harass and attack elected officials who oppose the plan – has been carried out, step by step, in Pennsylvania. We have seen the attack ads, the face book pages, the vouchers advocacy materials – the pitting of church related schools against the traditional public school system.

Voters have learned of the long-range plan by the super rich: the DeVos family of AMWAY money, the Walton’s of WalMart money to mention two; to turn education into private enterprise that has no government regulations. We have watched videos, read printed materials, reviewed web sites, and seen signed agreements by these people that show the   plan to systematically buy influence in state legislatures across the nation through campaign contributions.

Pennsylvania’s child advocacy groups have read the contents of SB1. We see the systematic deregulation that renders children a commodity to be traded at the mercy of big business. The loss of supportive services and civil rights protections that children face under this unregulated free enterprise proposition is clear and documented through research.  (Levin, 2006). The losses of educational programs that children will experience as well as the tax increases local citizens will face are clear.

If this bill is passed, it could devastate whole communities. The chaos that will ensue is clear. Under the amendments approved by Governor Corbett, the bill no longer addresses the poor. We know that the goal of business is to make a profit.  Hence, we know that the poor will be the worst violated should this legislation pass.

And the saddest part is this.  The voters know that each Senator in the Pennsylvania Assembly knows what we know. 

While they have not been transparent concerning their ultimate goal, the sponsors of Senate Bill 1 are clear about their allegiances; as is Governor Corbett. What the people of Pennsylvania need, is to know who in the Pennsylvania State Senate is there to represent and to serve the will and welfare of the tax payers and the children of Pennsylvania.

In addition, we have questions about the Amendment agreement on Senate Bill 1 between Senator Piccola and Governor Corbett:

How do we account for the present lack of urgency?

Witnesses before the Senate Hearings on SB1 were verbally abused, suffered personal attacks and insulted if they opposed the Bill.  This was supposed to be because of the danger to poor Black children in inner cities who were “in a burning building” and who needed to be rescued immediately.  Now we see the willingness to delay the implementation date for 15 months. To us, that demonstrates deception.

How do we account for the shift in process?

We see by the suggested effective implementation date that the Year One voucher process for low income students is only open for six months – beginning in July of 2012 which will give “the poorsix weeks to apply, get approval, and get accepted into a private school in time for the fall classes.

Home schools would need to adjust their budgets, as well as the bus schedule - adding new routes and additional cost for fuel and driver time while reducing funds after budgeting had been completed.  This will cause chaos within any school district faced with such demands.

At the same time, it gives the private school personnel about 30 working days over which to receive and review applications, and to access the capacity to receive new students when their courses, classes, and student assignments have already been set. (The making of these decisions usually begins in February.)

No wonder the amendment proposal says: As a result, there will be no significant budgetary costs in the upcoming fiscal year. This section of the bill is designed for failure. It gives lip service to the poor while it clearly is not intended to service them. To us, that supports the notion of deception.

How do we account for the shift in purpose?

Mathematically, there will always be a lowest 5% of performance level for school scores. However, the Governor’s proposed amendments lead us to a number of unanswered questions:

Have steps been taken to close the Charter Schools on the list of 144 failing schools? If not, why not?

Is there a prediction that the remaining schools of the original 144 schools identified as dangerous and failing will show no improvement or could these schools improve and shift the focus for recipients for the 2013 – 2014 funding to other locations? Do parents loose their voucher if the child’s home school is not on the 2013 – 2014 “failing list”?

If low income students are in successfully performing schools, why do they need tuition vouchers in year 2014 – 2015? Why can they not remain in the local school with the “working class” and “middle class” children?

If the year three funding is capped at 3% of the previous year’s Basic Education Funding, exactly how much money will be available for each of Pennsylvania’s 500,000 poor children?

How do we move into the future?

Since the ultimate goal of the voucher’s movement is to totally remove government and to hand over the education of all children to private business, in what way can the Pennsylvania Department of Education legitimately be factored into this law?  What is the future for the PDE?

Why should a three member Education Opportunity Board responsible for the distribution of public funds to unregulated business ventures be appointed by the Governor? If there is such a board, since Governors change, why wouldn’t those who wish to serve on such a Board have to stand for election and give a transparent account of their credentials and philosophies?

When there are underfunded schools in the Commonwealth, how can there be an Excess Fund?

How do we make peace with the despicable deception?

Do the poor and seemingly desperate families who were used in the Senate Hearings understand that, even after their pleas and public exposure, they will not be the recipients of the tuition vouchers?  Do they know they were used to access the public coffers to benefit large corporations, entrepreneurs and people who make 350% of their incomes.

How do we protect the children?

A great deal of money has been spent by the people intent on taking over education in the United States to creat a “vast new” free market. Under Senate Bill 1, no child is safe. The bill is written to remove every government regulation that has protected our children since 1938. There are no civil rights protections, hence, no special education services required. There is no required curriculum, no requirement to report abuse, no oversight of how funds are spent, and no required assessment of learning.

How do we trust our elected officials and where do we turn for representation?

Our collective resistance to Senate Bill 1 is a safeguard against bad policy.  We reject the total privatization of education and the use of children as a market commodity. As well, we reject the dishonest face behind which it has been hidden, the use of the pain and concern of poor African American parents who want what is good for their children
And finally, when we look at the figures below, we know deep concern for the children of Pennsylvania and the future of the Commonwealth.
Keystone State Education Coalition(2011)

 While gubernatorial candidate and Senate Education Committee member Senator Anthony Williams received the lion’s share of $5,077,413.07, it is worth noting who received some of the rest.  Over $400,000 went to Legislative Leadership and Education Committee Members:

Friends of Joseph Scarnati
Senate President and Senate Ed. Committee Member
Senate Majority Leader
Citizens to Elect Dwight Evans
Former Chair of House Appropriations Committee
Incoming House Majority Leader
Senate Ed. Committee Minority Chairman
Senate Ed. Committee Member
Citizens for Pat Browne
Senate Majority Whip and Senate Ed. Committee Member
Citizens for Jake Wheatley
House Ed. Committee Member
House Ed. Committee Member
House Ed. Committee Member
Senate Ed. Committee Member
Senate Minority Caucus Administrator
Senate Minority Whip(deceased)
House Ed. Committee Member
Incoming House Appropriations Chairman


On behalf of the members of the Pennsylvania State Conference of NAACP Branches,

The Education Committee of the Pennsylvania State Conference of NAACP Branches:

M. Barnett – Pittsburgh, J. Brown – Easton, S. Carter, Darby, S. D’Alessandro, Pittsburg,
J. Duvall-Flynn, Media,  G. Love, Harrisburg, E. Vold, Indiana, M. B. Whisler – York
J.Wyatt Mondesire, President PA NAACP

1 comment:

  1. Great letter. Right on the mark. That legislation is not about the best interests of students. It is about the best interests of people who wish to profit off of our school children. It is about the exploitation of children in the American education system. So sad.


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