pawatercooler.com

Boockvar: Inexperienced

David Hentosh:

Adding to the bad timing of Kathy’s challenge is the absence of fresh ideas or a new direction that could at least spark interest from voters. Railing against the rich and corporations, blaming Bush tax cuts, and bringing our troops home are stale, Democrat talking points. So, too, is her bumper-sticker, fear-inducing accusation that Fitzpatrick wants to “kill” Social Security. Desiring a change to the tax code is pretty much an across-the-board issue with all candidates and accusing Fitzpatrick of partisanship sounds like the pot calling the kettle black

Boockvar will appeal to far-left voters because she certainly leans that way, but far-left tactics won’t convince others. On her website, she lamely tries to pair Fitzpatrick with Tod Akins, hoping printing their names together will stain Fitzpatrick with Akins’ infamous blunder. That and accusing Fitzpatrick of trying to “roll back women’s rights”, however, are typical far-left, over-the-top tactics showing her true colors – and they are bland.

September 25, 2012 at 2:16 pm Comments (0)

Is Philadelphia Archdiocese Lying Or Just Incompetent?

School Closings And Appeals Leave More Questions Than Answers —And The Church Isn’t Talking

“I don’t know Chief…this shark is either very smart, or very dumb…”

So was the famous line uttered by the legendary Quint in Jaws, as he was trying to figure out the intentions of the great white. 

After the recent roller coaster ride regarding Archdiocesan school closings — and now the many reprieves — Catholics across the Philadelphia region are wondering the same thing.  Is the Church hierarchy very smart (in a conniving way), or very dumb?

Or are they, and the “Blue Ribbon” school commission deciding the fate of so many, just downright incompetent?

There isn’t a fourth option.

At issue is that a whopping 75 percent of Catholic elementary schools that appealed their closings were successful, meaning that their doors are staying open, at least for now.

Last Friday, it was announced that of the 24 appeals, 18 won.  While it seemed like a “Good Friday” to many, something tells me it may turn into a day of regret, closer in fact to a Black Friday.

This is not meant to rain on anyone’s parade, as there is obvious cause for celebration for many Catholic families.  After all, they had been told last month that their beloved schools — 49 of them — were slated for permanent closure.  While there was an appeals process, based solely on factual errors committed by the Commission, virtually everyone figured there would be very few successful appeals, if any.

And with good reason.

In January, the chairman of the Commission, John Quindlen, former Chief Financial Officer of DuPont, made it crystal clear why schools were closing and consolidating.

“A lot of this should have been done 10 years ago…(but)… naivete and an unwillingness to face reality” kept many pastors and archdiocesan leaders from halting long ago the “death spiral” of declining population and rising tuition at so many schools, he said, according to Philly.com.  “They would say, ‘I can make this work…But we had to come along and finally say, ‘God bless you, but this has got to stop.’ ”

Fast forward one month to the Church’s about-face, and Quindlen’s comments tell a starkly different story. “I celebrate the results and pray they all survive in the long term…Neither the commission nor the Archdiocese was in a rush to close schools. Our focus was on how to sustain them.”

What? Did he seriously say that with a straight face?

How can you make the leap from a “death spiral” to “celebrating the results” and talking about sustainability in less than one month? 

Give the Archdiocese credit for one thing: if they are trying to anger as many Catholics as possible in the most bumbling manner while ignoring all rules of good communication and PR, they are succeeding beyond their wildest dreams.

Let’s cut through the emotions tied to school closings and look at this situation objectively.  In doing do, one has to ask: Why the games? Why did the Church say one thing — that in retrospect now seems very suspect — and then almost completely reverse itself, all the while talking in platitudes that didn’t remotely address the questions and concerns of many?

It has left many scratching their heads, and even more seething.

So here are the questions that absolutely must be addressed in order for the Archdiocese to have any credibility moving forward, and to prevent the exodus of loyal, but very bitter, Catholics:

1) Is Catholic education too expensive to sustain in most if not all of the 49 schools that were originally slated for shuttering?  If yes — which is what the Archdiocese has been telling us, and selling us, for quite some time — then how can 3 out of 4 appeals have been successful?  What changed?  Did a billionaire step up and write a big check to keep the schools open?  If so, we don’t need a name, because charity should be anonymous, but we do have a right to know if that happened (extremely unlikely as it is).

2) If the opposite is true — that those schools are in fact affordable — then why have we been told something so radically different for so long?  It’s like being pregnant: you are or you aren’t. Either the Church can operate these schools efficiently, or they can’t.  There is no in-between. But that’s exactly where this situation is — in no-man’s land, and their equivocation has just added to the confusion.

3) Is incompetence to blame for the contradictory messages? We were told that appeals would only be considered if factual errors were made in determining which schools closed.  Well, by that logic, that’s a heck of a lot of errors.  If a student makes “factual errors” on 75 percent of a test, his grade is a 25.  Which, unless you attend a public school in Philadelphia, is an F.  Not exactly a stellar track record.

4) Were we lied to from the get-go? And if so, why? Was the threat of closings a grand conspiracy to flush out big contributors as well as lighten the wallets of the rank-and-file even more? Don’t scoff.  The Archdiocese has a history of not being straightforward.

Just look at its red face regarding its mishandling — and lack of truthfulness — involving one its schools in Philadelphia.  According to a news report, a group starting a public charter school stated that it was assured by the Archdiocese that it could rent Our Lady of Mount Carmel school for that purpose — two months before the Commission recommended closing the school! Mount Carmel appealed its closing. Any guesses as to how that turned out? It begs the questions as to why the Diocese would even allow the school to appeal when its fate had apparently already been determined.

Since we are on the topic of education, perhaps a refresher is in order.  The 8th Commandment tells us that we should not bear false witness against our neighbor.  In layman’s terms, playing loose with the truth — and outright lying — doesn’t bode well for a Church preaching morality and in desperate need of credibility and trust.

5) What about the folks at all the other schools who wanted to appeal but were dissuaded from doing so because the odds were so long for success?  Common sense tells us that if they had known such a large number of schools would win their cases, many others would have appealed.  Now, those parents and students feel even more burned than they did a month ago — a remarkable feat in itself.

6) The appeals have thrown schools that were thought to be “safe” into chaos.  Nativity BVM in Media, for example, was originally intended to stay open, absorbing students from St. John Chrysostom in Wallingford.  St. John’s won their appeal though, and now, in a stunning reversal, Nativity is shutting its doors.

Not only do parents and teachers feel completely betrayed by this out-of-nowhere blindside, but there’s an even more unjust twist: Nativity apparently does not have the ability to appeal like all the other schools did. Talk about rubbing salt in the wound.

And it’s exactly that type of move, accompanied by virtually no communication, which drives fuming parishoners to leave the Church. Hence the decline in church attendance and school enrollment.

7) How can the Church push for school choice when it does not allow choice for its own members at the elementary school level? So some families in Annunciation parish in Havertown, for example, whose school closed because its pastor refused to file the appeal that so many parents begged him to do, must send their children all the way across town to St. Denis, when in fact they live within walking distance to Sacred Heart?  How ironic that the very Church fighting the image of hypocrisy born from the sex scandal now engages in more hypocrisy: fighting for school choice as long as it doesn’t apply to its own flock. When will they learn?

8.  There are no guarantees in life, but what assurances can the Church give that, in the next few years, those 24 schools, as well as any others, will not close? Since it is impossible to believe that the problems of declining enrollment, rising costs and overall unsustainability have all been solved in the last 30 days, woe to those parents who take the recent reprieves to be a sign of long-term viability, for they may well be revisiting this exact situation in the near future.  And that just isn’t right.

*****

The point of this column is neither to agree with nor criticize the specific school closings and successful appeals, but to implore the Archdiocese to come clean with all the facts. 

Quint had to figure out what the shark was doing and why. For all the blood, sweat and tears Catholics have shed for their Church over the years, they should never have to question the motivations of their Catholic leaders. They only seek the truth, and deserve no less. It’s time to give it to them.

And that’s no fish story.

 

An accredited member of the media, Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television/radio commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com  His self-syndicated model has earned him the largest cumulative media voice in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

 

 

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
February 22, 2012 at 8:44 am Comments (2)

School Closings Are Because Catholicism No Longer “Demands” Greatness

Part One 

Vatican II Destroyed Catholic Identity And The Essence Of Being Catholic

The message from Headquarters was sent to field agents worldwide:

“This is your mission — if you choose to accept it:  Take one of the most powerful institutions in the history of mankind and change it so radically — in all the wrong ways — that in the span of fifty years, it will be a shell of its former self, relegated to a backwater shaped only by the sad ghosts of the past.”

Was this a Mission Impossible communiqué sent at the height of the Cold War to implode the Soviet Union? Certainly could have been. And the goal would have been a worthy one, fighting an evil adversary hell-bent on human domination.

Interestingly — tragically, actually — that message could also apply perfectly to another mammoth entity — the Roman Catholic Church. 

There is one critical difference. The Soviets fell from outside forces, namely the influence of the United States.  But the Church, while admittedly having its fair share of outside “attackers,” is falling from within, and most of its decline is entirely of its own making.

The above message could well have come from St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, 1965.  The “field agents?”   Cardinals, bishops and priests.  The objective: implement Vatican II.

And implement it they did.

The result? Disaster.

In the tumultuous 1960’s, the world was on fire as secularism and moral relativism were in vogue. Rather than standing its ground and fighting those undesirable concepts, the Church went in the opposite direction.  In effect, Vatican II allowed Catholics to be “Catholic” in pretty much any way they wanted, playing right into the hands of the Woodstock culture. Unwittingly, that carte-blanche decree served as a launching point for the now-dominant “do whatever you want to do and whatever makes you feel good without remorse” mentality.

In an instant, the things that made Roman Catholicism the world’s dominant force vanished.  To many, the “rock” upon which St. Peter built the Church no longer seemed solid, but more “flexible.” So rather than building upon the mighty history of the Church, expanding its reach while adapting to the times with a measure of common sense, the hierarchy went in the other direction.

Some Church officials, to be sure, disagreed with the Church’s new vision, but they were powerless to stop it, and for good reason.  Not only were they forced to follow orders, but in a much more practical sense, they were no longer able to hold their flock accountable when the Church itself abandoned many of the tenets which made it so attractive in the first place.

Give people an inch, and they take a yard.  And unequivocally, that isn’t limited to religion, but all organized entities.

When a political party strives to become a very large “tent,” trying to be all things to all people rather than affirming its platform — what it stands for — it eventually becomes impotent. It’s one thing for a position to evolve as circumstances change, so long as the basic belief structure isn’t irreparably compromised as to make the original tenet unrecognizable.  When that occurs — and both Parties are guilty of it — the result is the most unintended of consequences: no one is pleased, and people abandon the organization in ever-growing numbers, both officially and through apathy, indifference and inaction.

Has a football team ever won a Championship when the coach tells his players to practice in whatever way that makes them feel good about themselves — if they want to practice at all? Has a team ever been successful after making mandatory team meetings optional?  And how long will a team stay a cohesive unit if players simply ignore the coach’s play-calling and do their own thing?

Morale and pride mean everything in building a successful team or institution, but they can only exist when sacrifice and dedication is demanded of the individuals who make up that entity. The only part of JFK’s inaugural address that people remember was when he demanded greatness of Americans by asking “what you can do for your country.”

The Church lost those things when it stopped demanding greatness from its rank and file, instead letting folks off the hook by making things “easier.” It thought that by doing so, it would be the recipient of goodwill from the flock and see its membership increase.

It thought wrong.

Holy Day of Obligation falls on a Saturday or Monday?  You don’t have to go to Church that day, since we’ll just make Sunday mass count for both.

Too hard to fast from midnight to receive Communion? That’s way too long! Make it an hour.

You want to wear cut-off shorts, sports jerseys and flip-flops to Church? If it makes you feel good, then no problem.

Fasting from meat on Friday get in the way of ordering sausage on your pizza? The hell with it. Just do it. We’ll eliminate that rule too.

The list goes on and on, and the more the Church gave in to such expediency, the more people stopped going to Mass, and yes, the more parents stopped sending their children to Catholic schools.  Since the Church took away the essence of Catholic identity — the very point of being a proud Roman Catholic — then what was the point of doing either?

And now, several generations later, the carnage is everywhere.

The mosques are full, as are many evangelical churches, yet the churches are empty.

And in those evangelical churches, a significant percentage of the congregation is former Catholics who left the Church not because it was too “hard,” but because it stopped demanding.

Vocations are nonexistent, elderly out-of-touch priests have no replacements, schools are being shuttered at a staggering rate (which goes way beyond this latest round of closings), and scandal and corruption are rampant with no end in sight, as criminal trials and more billion dollar settlements loom.

And worst of all, the cover-ups continue, serving for many as the final nail in the coffin.  Why go to Church to listen to a long-winded uninsprational sermon about “morality” when Church leaders actively stonewall investigations and protect society’s absolute worst — child predators?

So what does the Church do?

Despite all that baggage, the Church has fast-tracked Pope John Paul II to sainthood faster than anyone else in history — a man who either was asleep at the switch during the height of the sandal, or chose to look the other way.  He could have aggressively rooted out the perpetrators with a take-no-prisoners attitude, sending an unmistakable message that the Church does not solicit nor will ever tolerate pedophiles to fill its ranks, regardless of the dearth of priests. But he didn’t.

And now, it has rolled out language changes in the liturgy which are ridiculous and inexplicable. Was it just another example of how out-of-touch the Church has become, or a deliberate distraction, as some theorize?

Either way, it doesn’t matter.

Until the Church implements real reforms that will start the road to recovery, the numbers will continue to dwindle.

What are they?

-For starters, demand more of its followers. Don’t cower behind the “if I demand that people dress better for Church, they won’t come at all” mentality. Make them look presentable and act appropriately when entering the House of God — or tell them they aren’t welcome. The Church would be shocked to see how many MORE people will start attending Church again, and acting more reverently when they are there — just like public school children have more pride when required to wear uniforms.

-Motivate the flock by relating to them, not talking in platitudes with rhetoric that puts the congregation to sleep.

-Make it tougher to be a Catholic — to once again be the religious equivalent of the Marines. Sure, a kid taking the forbidden cookie wants it, but deep down, he is really looking for discipline. And sure, we complain when we have to sacrifice, but we feel good about it.

-Market the wonderful aspects of the Church, including it being the largest provider of social services in the entire world.

-Stop being a paper tiger politically. What’s the point of having so much muscle if you’re too scared to use it? If it had, most of the schools would not have closed (discussed in tomorrow’s Part Two).

And most important, eliminate the correct perception that the Church is close-minded and sexist. Allow priests to marry — and yes, allow women to become priests.  Not only would these common sense changes enable all priest to better relate to their flocks, but they would also attract non-pedophile priests to fill the ranks, allowing those who want to pursue a life of service to not be viewed suspiciously— by virtually everyone.

And neither would violate Church dogma, since priests married for at least four centuries, and quite possibly much longer. The practice was stopped not for religious reasons, but for disputes over property rights.  And since God was kind enough to bestow upon us annuities, life insurance and other neat financial tools in the last century, it’s time to drop the charade and bring the Church into modern times.

*****

The Second Vatican Council set in motion series of changes that, if they didn’t completely shatter much of what was beloved about the Church, certainly called into question Catholic identity. And nowhere are the tragic results more apparent than the dwindling number of Catholic schools. As schools go by the wayside, so does the Church’s future generations. 

In 1911, there were 68,000 Catholic school students in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. That number peaked in the 1960’s at 250,000. After Vatican II took hold, the number plummeted back to 68,000 in 2011 — despite the U.S. population exploding from 92,000,000 a century ago to 308,000,000.

And now, 49 more schools just went on the chopping block. The biggest irony is that the closings are not a solution, but the symptom of a much greater illness.  To save the remaining schools — and that’s by no means a sure thing — the Church needs to solve the problem…

Part II will discuss how to save Catholic education in America.

Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television/radio commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com  His self-syndicated model has earned him the largest cumulative media voice in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

, , , , , , , , , , , ,
January 11, 2012 at 3:39 pm Comments (0)

Two conservative victories out east

How delightful.

Incumbent Lehigh County Commissioner Dean Browning lost handily in the Republican Primary on Tuesday, derailed by opponents’ successful efforts to saddle him with the blame for the county’s 16 percent property tax increase.

Three members of a slate of fiscally conservative candidates headed by Scott Ott, the GOP’s 2009 county executive candidate who nearly defeated heavily-favored Democrat Don Cunningham, were in the top three spots, according to unofficial results.

[...]

Ott, a conservative blogger and Tea Party favorite, put together a ticket of self-styled fiscal conservatives that included Mazzioti, Najarian and Scheller, who targeted Browning and his vote against rejecting a 16-percent-tax increase included in Cunningham’s 2011 budget.

Browning never actually voted for the tax increase itself, but he voted with five commissioners including Republican Percy Dougherty, against a Republican plan to trim it to 13 percent.

He cast the deciding vote against a second Republican bid to reject Cunningham’s budget outright. In theory, that would have forced Cunningham to enact deep cuts in county spending to balance the budget without a tax hike.

If you aren’t familiar with Scott Ott’s stuff, check him out at Scrappleface. It looks like the site could use some attention, but when you’re busy smoking a tax-hiking RINO, something’s gotta give.

On to round two
and Phillyburbs columnist Kate Fratti channeling Dionne Warwick and her psychic friends.

In Pennsbury, any seats not won outright by the anti-union faction in Tuesday’s primary will be won in November. They will take over the school board majority. That’s my prediction.

Pennsbury School District is the home of Simon Campbell, founder of Stop Teacher Strikes and a staunch opponent of the ever-growing behemoth that is the PSEA. All the seats on the school board are contested this fall with the pro-union candidates going up against the pro-education candidates.

Let’s hope Kate’s prediction comes true.

May 19, 2011 at 10:52 pm Comments (0)

Backroom Contract Deals

Lovely.

Pennsbury school board members Simon Campbell and Allan Weisel – part of a minority of four board members – were looking Thursday when an unpublicized meeting of contract negotiators almost occurred. We say almost because Campbell and Weisel, being outcasts, are not the board’s official negotiators. So when they showed up to “observe” the session, representatives of the teachers union took their proposal and went home.

Taxpayers should be OK with that, maybe even thankful. While some will characterize Campbell and Weisel as obstructionists and troublemakers, in our view they were standing up for the public’s right to know.

One of the problems with the way teachers contracts are negotiated – if not the biggest problem – is secrecy. A board negotiating team meets with union representatives sometimes for months or even years to hammer out a labor agreement. The sessions are closed to the public and not much of what negotiators agree to is communicated to the people who will pay for the deal – taxpayers – before the full school board gives its “tentative” approval. Likewise, union officials keep the deal under wraps until teachers vote.

I didn’t realize the contract negotiations were with only a few of the board members. I still blame them all.

April 25, 2011 at 1:23 am Comments (0)

Protesting Fitz

Nine showed up.

The Thomas Jefferson Club blog details the lameness.

Unfortunately, if you want to get noticed, you need more than nine protesters. So when Fitzpatrick came out of his office, he just got into the waiting minivan and drove away. His spokesperson claimed that they didn’t even notice the protestors.

As might be expected, the protestors were disgusted. Watch the video here. The feigned outrage is pretty funny, especially when one of the protestors remarked that Patrick Murphy would “stand up”, whatever that means. Perhaps they’ve forgotten that Murphy avoided the general public throughout the entire healthcare debate, refusing to hold a town hall.

March 28, 2011 at 11:59 am Comments (0)

If it’s not a baby, then you are not pregnant

I happened to see a bumper sticker on my way home yesterday that I used for the title of this post. It struck me as particularly appropriate after reading about the married idiot vet in Upper Gwynedd killing his pregnant girlfriend so his wife wouldn’t find out about his affair. Inky:

A married Montgomery County veterinarian has been jailed without bail on charges that he shot and killed his pregnant girlfriend in Lehigh County last week.

David A. Rapoport, 30, of Upper Gwynedd Township, was arrested Tuesday, accused of fatally shooting veterinary technician Jennifer Snyder and killing the unborn child believed to be his.

State Police found the body of Snyder, 27, Friday in a nature preserve in North Whitehall Township. Authorities said the Lower Macungie woman had been shot twice by a gun placed inside her mouth and once in the lower back, then doused with bleach, wrapped in black plastic with duct tape, and left in the woods along Game Preserve Road.

According to court records, Snyder’s roommate told police that Rapoport, who is married, had been dating Snyder. The two had formerly been coworkers at a veterinary hospital in Lower Macungie.

Rapoport had become “very angry” upon learning that Snyder was pregnant, said the roommate, Hilary Schiavone, but they had “made up” after not speaking to each other for several days.

Snyder had been scheduled for an ultrasound exam the day after she allegedly was killed. An autopsy showed she was about two months pregnant with a male fetus.

Let’s forget for a moment the rather morally bankrupt behavior on the part of both parties that led to this unfortunate situation. What interests me this evening is that following the article are a series of comments trying to reconcile the “murder” of an unborn child and the rather mundane practice of abortion (Are you still wondering why Kermit Gosnell was surprised by the charges of murder that he faces?). Here’s the jist of it:

I’m basically pro-choice, but am baffled by how he can be charged with murder of an unborn child. If the pregnnt woman had rolled out of bed this morning and decided she didn’t want the child, she could end its life. She can, because science says at two months the fetus is not actually a “life”. But, because she WANTS the child….it’s now a life? — jabs69

getoveryourselves….Sorry about the double post. You don’t know where I’m coming from, apprently. All I’m saying is I find it amazing that what truly determines whether that fetus inside her is a life or not, is what SHE says it is. We are told it’s determined by science, but that is apprently not completely true. If it was, it would then be impossible to charge the man with the murder of the fetus. She’s not a murdere, should she choose to terminate, that “non-life”. You following this? — jabs69

Subsequent commenters can’t decide whether jabs69 is trying to make a point or really trying to figure out the disconnect:

jabs, I get it wholeheartedly and wonder the same thing myself. Apparently it’s a “baby” or a “human being” ONLY if it’s wanted, otherwise it’s just a “blob of tissue” or a “bunch of cells” that can be yanked out like a bad tooth.
This guy has to be one of the stupidest ever. Can’t imagine what kind of “vet” he was. I shudder to think of any poor animals who were under his care. — catharine_christian_carpenter

Interesting logic jabs. You actually believe a woman has the power to determine if a human is actually a human? If she decides it’s a a hamster, will it become a full-grown hamster some day? — Mr. Underhill

I have to agree with jabs. Since when did a 10-12 week old fetus become a murder victim? So if a woman miscarries then she should be charged as well, with that logic. I could possibly see the logic if it was viable outside the womb, but that’s not the case. Though it is uniquely an American concept to revere the fetus and ignore them once they’re born….. — SBL

oops! I probably am not in complete agreement, jabs! I’m referring more to the legal interpretation, rather than the personal. It’s my understanding that the law is designed to protect it’s “citizens”. And I don’t recall when embryos, zygotes, fetuses became part of that legal class. But, like I said, it’s distinctly American. — SBL

The comments on this story pretty effectively encapsulate what the abortion debate has degenerated into on the left: dishonestly manipulating the language. Enough with the tortured parsing. Call it what it is: What was she 2 months pregnant with if it was not a baby?

March 23, 2011 at 8:43 pm Comments (2)

How To Pass Pennsylvania School Choice

Author’s Note:

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia just announced that it will be closing seven more schools, a trend that has been occurring for decades. Despite some disingenuous critics who label any choice program as a “bailout of the Catholic Schools,” it is no secret that non-public schools would significantly benefit from comprehensive school choice legislation. And the more non-public schools there are, the more competition there is.

These school closings — four of which are in Philadelphia —reinforce Freindly Fire’s earlier-stated position that Senate Bill 1’s effectiveness will be extremely limited, not just because it caters only to low income families, but for the simple reason that fewer and fewer schools remain as alternatives to the current monopolistic system.

And to repudiate yet another fallacious argument that school choice costs taxpayer money (when in fact it would save it), consider the following:

The seven schools had a cumulative projected enrollment of 857 students next year.  Based on dwindling number of non-public schools, assume that half will attend public schools.  At an average cost of $15,000 per student, per year to educate one student in the public schools, these 428 students will cost taxpayers an additional $6,427,500 per year.  If each student has, on average, six years of grade school remaining, the cost rises to over $38 million. 

And of course, that figure does not reflect inflation, nor the huge costs of hiring more teachers, funding additional pensions, building more classrooms, buying more textbooks, and increasing busing. 

Pennsylvania can’t afford NOT to enact school choice.

The school choice bill in the Pennsylvania Senate is significantly flawed legislation which should never have been introduced.  Rather than craft a new bill to reflect the positions of the current legislature and Governor — both far more receptive to comprehensive school choice than their predecessors — the prime sponsors didn’t do their homework and jumped the gun by dusting off outdated legislation.  As a direct result, Senate Bill 1 (SB 1) is effectively dead-on-arrival.

Since SB 1 was introduced a mere week after the new legislature was sworn in, no preliminary vote count was conducted during those seven days.  Therefore, statements that SB 1 is “the best we can hope for at this time” and “school choice can be expanded incrementally in the coming years” are fallacies based on the musings of out-of-touch ivory-tower proponents naively setting the bar artificially low.  Incomprehensibly, they are throwing in the towel before the fight has even begun.

Here are the facts why statewide school choice is needed, and suggestions on how to accomplish that goal:

1)      Pennsylvania students are 42nd in SAT scores, and rank low in literacy, graduation rates and those going to college.  Their performance on the National Assessment of Education Progress exam has not improved.  And most startling, nearly HALF of all 11th graders are not proficient in math and reading.  This cannot be attributed to just the poor-performing urban schools pulling down scores, but is testament to an across-the-board educational failure. 

Advocating school choice for only low-income students results in the default perception that education is adequate everywhere else, which, based on the results of PSSA standardized test scores, is not remotely accurate. We cannot afford to waste another decade, forsaking our children — our future — because some choose to ignore the widespread failure occurring on a daily basis.

2)      Pennsylvania spends $26 billion per year on education — more per student than 39 other states — an amount which has doubled since 1996.  Despite a drop of 27,000 students over the last ten years, the public school system had added 33,000 employees in that time. Therefore, by definition, increased funding, more personnel and decreased class size has not improved student achievement.

3)      Teachers’ salaries and benefits rank among the highest in the nation, yet Pennsylvania leads the nation every year in school strikes — more than all other states combined. 

4)      The components in SB 1were derived during a prior legislative session with a Democratic House and an anti-school choice governor (Rendell).   But the current legislature has thirteen more House Republicans than last session, giving the GOP a ten-seat majority.  While education should never be partisan, it is no secret that Republicans are much more favorable to choice than Democrats.  And Governor Corbett made school choice a cornerstone of his campaign. Combined with the pro-school choice positions of several Democrats, including Senator Anthony Williams, passage of comprehensive choice is eminently obtainable.  (And if Williams and his colleagues won’t support statewide school choice, but only a program only for low-income families, their motivations will be questioned and their credibility severely undermined).

5)      With a legislature approximately 80 percent different (and one clearly less open to choice), no votes from the Black Caucus, and only a one-seat House Republican majority, the statewide school choice effort in 1995 failed by a mere three votes. Given the night-and-day differences between then and now, it is indisputable that political will from Governor Corbett and legislative leaders could, should and would result in the nation’s most comprehensive and inclusive school choice program, one which will save taxpayer money.

6)      The argument that school choice will take money away from the public schools is not just wrong, but irrelevant.  The only thing we should EVER be concerned with is the children. Schools don’t get jobs and lead nations; people do.  The funding should follow the child, not the system — a brilliant aspect of SB 1, where parents designate the school to which the state subsidy will be applied.

Following are the steps necessary to ensure that meaningful school choice is passed in Pennsylvania:

A)    SB 1 must be re-written and introduced as a new bill, or a separate bill needs to be introduced in the House.  Grassroots organizations cannot support flawed legislation with the hope or “promise” that it will be amended at a future date.

B)    The bill must make school choice available to all students, regardless of family income.  This type of comprehensive program is the only way to bring accountability and competition to all schools, public and non-public alike. Our dire situation demands no less.

C)    The provision for public schools to “opt out,” as is permitted in SB 1, must be stricken.  Opting out will result in the public school establishment’s “Good Old Boys” network to kick in, guaranteeing that the vast majority of schools won’t participate.  If that occurs, school choice is meaningless.

D)    The bill should contain strengthened language that no additional regulations may be imposed on non-public schools.  Current government requirements are adequate and unobtrusive, such as core curriculum and length of school year.  Vouchers or subsidies do not lead to additional regulation, as the highly successful post World War II GI Bill attests, but eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, so such language will alleviate this issue.

E)     While government should not impose tuition mandates on non-public schools, the possibility of inflated tuition costs at these schools is an area of concern. Language can be written that limits the subsidy (which cannot exceed tuition cost) to a maximum two percent increase per year, based on the tuition charged in the first year that school choice is enacted. This common sense solution would keep tuition inflation in check while keeping government out of private school decision-making.

F)     Expanding the Educational Improvement Tax Credit is a positive step, as the program has seen positive results.  But to be clear, the EITC is not school choice since parents do not control their tax dollars; the scholarships, which average $1000, are doled out by organizations and schools.  Parental control is significantly limited, unlike a true statewide school choice program.

Like any controversial issue, the school choice debate lends itself to misinformation, half-truths and personal attacks.  Pennsylvanians should not be hypnotized by the complexities of education reform, but rather focus on what is indisputable: our government-run public school system is a monopoly with no incentive to change, and only competition can begin to reverse decades of educational failure.

Comprehensive school choice provides that free-market solution, and, when passed, will be a model for the nation.  Failure to do so will destroy another generation’s chances for success.

Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com

Readers of his column, “Freindly Fire,” hail from six continents, thirty countriesand all fifty states. His work has been referenced in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, foreign newspapers, and in Dick Morris’ recent bestseller “Catastrophe.”

Freind, whose column appears regularly in Philadelphia Magazine and nationally in Newsmax, also serves as a frequent guest commentator on talk radio and state/nationaltelevision, most notably on FOX Philadelphia.  He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

, , , , , , , , , ,
March 1, 2011 at 4:32 pm Comments (0)

CB East Teacher Not Backing Down for Blogging

God Bless Her.

People waiting to hear some kind of an apology will have to keep waiting.

The teacher is not backing down. She’s hired a lawyer and is claiming she was just being honest in her blog and the controversy surrounding it amounts to political correctness run wild.

Engulfed in a blogging scandal that could cost her a teaching job, Natalie Munroe is not wavering.

Her controversial blog entry about what she wished she could write on students’ report cards included comments such as:

“Frightfully dim,” “Rat-like,” “Am concerned your kid is going to come in one day and open fire on the school,” “I hate your kid,” and “Seems smarter than she actually is.”

The best defense is the truth.

… and while her blogging did not list kids by name, I’d probably come out and say, “hey, your kid X, is about to shoot the place up.” Other kids would probably say, “Yeah, we were thinking the same thing.”

February 16, 2011 at 1:59 pm Comments (0)

Montco: Matthews Cries ‘Uncle’

Philly.com

In an interview Tuesday, Matthews said he would call it quits at the end of this year unless the county GOP opted to draft him for their 2011 ticket – a prospect even he conceded looked increasingly small.

The decision reverses his earlier vows promising a bid for a fourth term with or without party support just to stymie the election chances of his avowed political enemy fellow Republican Commissioner Bruce L. Castor Jr.

“I have a great legacy,” Matthews said. “I’m satisfied with my 12 years in office. I’m not going to taint that with an independent run.”

In other words, he wouldn’t taint it with a handy defeat at the hands of the county’s Republican committee.

As recently as Monday, Matthews told several media outlets that he would run in the primary solely to frustrate Castor’s chances of taking over the county board.

Later that evening, though, he had changed his mind. Driving to Harrisburg to participate in Gov. Tom Corbett’s inauguration ceremonies, he started to think of the message such a move would send to Republicans across the state, he said.

“I’m thinking, ‘I’m going up here to meet hundreds of people I know who respect me at the state level, and here I am talking about running against my own party,’ ” he said. “That’s not me. That’s not Jim Matthews.”

Nope.

That leaves the current GOP candidates as the incumbent Bruce Castor, State Rep Kate Harper, Jury Commissioner Marie Cavanauh, Plymouth Twp Commissioner Nick Salamone, and Lower Merion Commissioners Jill Govberg and Jenny Brown.

Realisitically it’s a contest between the five for Castor’s running mate.

update: Whoops! Forgot Marie Cavanaugh.

January 18, 2011 at 10:28 pm Comment (1)

« Older Posts