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Paul Ryan in Pittsburgh Tomorrow

October 19, 2012 at 9:47 pm Comments (0)

A Victory for the Free Market in Pittsburgh

The State Legislature has finally ended the union monopoly on transit in Allegheny County.

Legislation eliminating the state-mandated monopoly on transit services in Allegheny County is on its way to the governor for signature, House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) announced today.

The legislation, House Bill 10, will allow private companies or other regional transit systems to deliver transportation services in Allegheny County, while still allowing the Port Authority of Allegheny County to provide services. Under current state law, the Port Authority has the exclusive rights over transit within the county.

By allowing other transportation agencies to offer services, the people will be far better served, Turzai said. Eliminating the transit monopoly is a win-win for taxpayers and transit riders.

For those of you who haven’t been following it, the Port Authority in Allegheny County is way broke. Not just financially, although it is truly screwed up in that respect, but they can’t even provide adequate service when they know they need to. It is still one of the most expensive transit systems in the country, is overly unionized, and, in generally, has long outlived its usefulness.

Maybe now we’ll be able to get a bus that goes where we want to for a price we’re willing to pay.

June 5, 2012 at 9:33 pm Comment (1)

Opposing Drug Testing For Welfare Recipients? Are You High?

Randomly testing all public workers is simply common sense

Random drug testing of welfare recipients and public workers is racist, discriminatory and blatantly unconstitutional.

And if believe any of that, you’re smoking something.

Once again, the drug testing issue is making headlines in Pennsylvania, as such a program is now underway. Unfortunately, because the Legislature dragged its feet (what else is new?), the current initiative is a scaled-down version of the original bill, and has been put into effect via an emergency budgetary order from the Governor. It only applies to welfare recipients who have been convicted of a felony in the last five years or are currently on parole or probation.

Too bad.  It should include every single non-elected person receiving a paycheck courtesy of John Q. Taxpayer.

(The only officials who should be exempted from mandated drug testing are elected officials, though that position is sure to generate hoots and hollars from the cheap seats.  The rationale is simple: they are elected by the people. They are not collecting government assistance checks, nor are they hired as civil service workers. True, much of what we see from elected officials leaves us wondering if they’re all on drugs.  And yes, at first glance it seems hypocritical for lawmakers to enact laws that they themselves do not have to follow, but they are in the unique position of being employed directly by the people. What’s next? A State Rep fails the test and is stripped of his seat? Not practical, probably unconstitutional, and a very dangerous precedent.  Would these elected office holders be smart to voluntarily take a drug test? Absolutely, because if they don’t, they’ll be unsuccessfully explaining themselves all the way to the ballot box.)

Remember the point of state-mandated drug testing: to ascertain whether someone receiving money — given to them by hardworking Pennsylvania taxpayers — is breaking the law by using those funds on illegal drugs. It is not to put people behind bars, but to ensure that they are clean and not abusing taxpayer dollars.

Proof that this is not a conspiratorial police-state tactic designed to incarcerate the state’s drug users, but a program to simply ensure responsible stewardship of the people’s money?

Consumption of drugs is not illegal. Manufacturing, distribution and possession of illicit narcotics is. And since having drugs in one’s system is not legally considered “possession,” no one failing a drug test would be arrested.

*****

Taxpayers have an absolute right to know that their money isn’t going to welfare recipients’ drug habits.  No one has a gun to his head to go on public assistance, just like no one forces people to work at a private sector company that mandates drug tests.  It’s part of the deal— take it or leave it.

Seemingly lost in the debate is that drug testing isn’t a discriminatory act against select individuals, but is increasingly common throughout all of society.  Many companies require applicants to pass a drug test as a condition of employment, for obvious, common sense reasons. No business wants drug users on the job, as they would be high-risk, untrustworthy employees who would undoubtedly threaten not just productivity, but company stability.

It’s key to remember that public assistance is supposed to help the recipient and his/her family survive; it should never be used carelessly, especially for something illegal.  Since drugs are illegal, if recipients can’t prove themselves to be clean, they should receive no benefits.  It’s that simple. Public benefits are a privilege, not a right, just like driving or flying. If people choose not to abide by the rules, that’s fine. But it’s simply arrogant to think one is entitled to these benefits without any conditions.

Here are some of the more disingenuous arguments the pro-druggie side likes to use:

Argument: Welfare recipients are no more likely to use drugs than the rest of the population.

Answer: Who cares?  That’s completely irrelevant. It doesn’t matter what the percentages are, although that claim is certainly suspect.  The majority of the population isn’t directly receiving taxpayer-funded benefits. For those who are, drug testing should be the rule.  Don’t like it?  Fine.  Get a job. And if you have a public sector job, be thankful you do and act responsibly to keep it.  You work for the people. It’s their money.

 

Argument: Drug testing is expensive.

Answer: If the government starts operating like a business, and aggressively negotiates volume discounts with private testing companies, the price isn’t that high.  This common sense expenditure would surely even pass Tea Party muster.  By definition, Government must spend money, but should do so smartly and efficiently. The testing should be for all new applicants, and random testing of the entire public pool thereafter, somewhere in the five to ten percent range.

And financially and ethically, what is the cost of having taxpayers subsidize a crack addict’s drug habit?

 

Argument: The ACLU challenged the mandatory drug testing program as unconstitutional, arguing that drug testing of welfare recipients violates the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches, labeling it “intrusive.”

Answer: That’s insulting to every citizen NOT on the public dole. First, the anti-testing folks, including legislators and the ACLU, are not Supreme Court justices, so it’s not up to them to determine constitutionality.  Second, odds are certainly favorable that given the makeup of both the state and U.S. Supreme Court, mandatory drug testing would be upheld. Welfare recipients arern’t being forced to do anything. They choose to apply for welfare.  After that, they must abide by the conditions placed upon them in return for receiving public money.

 

Argument: Random drug testing is thinly-veiled racism, and an attempt to demonize public sector workers by lumping them into the (false) public perception that all welfare recipients are drug-using, inner city dregs of society.

Answer: I wouldn’t have believed these accusations could be made with a straight face, but that’s exactly what was thrown at me during two televised debates on this issue. Such weak arguments only serve to bolster what most people instinctively know: random drug testing of those receiving taxpayer money is sound policy that serves to weed out bad apples and preserve the integrity of “charitable” giving.

Given that a Democratic Senator, John Wozniak, is the prime sponsor of the Pennsylvania bill, and his Party loves to bill itself as the defender of the poor, minorities and public sector workers, those charges don’t stand up for a second.

They are so ridiculous on their face that they shouldn’t need rebutting, but it bears repeating: this issue has nothing to do with race (many on public assistance are White), and zero to do with demonizing public sector workers and unions (as many in the private sector are tested as well).  It has everything to do with the reasonable expectation of taxpayers that their money be used for humanitarian purposes (public assistance) and an intelligent, stable and productive workforce (public sector employees).

*****

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart ran a comedic segment, with one of its “reporters” interviewing the Florida legislator who sponsored a similar bill, and Rick Scott, the Sunshine State’s Governor who also championed the drug testing cause. Both men are right on the issue, but may have lost the PR battle, looking downright foolish at times.  That’s a shame, because it’s communication miscues like those in that interview that sets the issue back in other states, giving credence to otherwise baseless arguments that should have been smoked from the get-go.

It’s not what you say, but how you say it. So in Pennsylvania, let’s say it loud and clear: “This is your paycheck (a lot of taxpayer money).  And this is your paycheck on drugs: Absolutely nothing!”

Finally something worth inhaling.

 

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

 

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February 13, 2012 at 10:26 am Comments (6)

Catholic School Closings Rooted In Church Being Paper Tiger

 

If the Church had fought for true school choice, many schools would be thriving

 Part Two

What does it tell you when private Notre Dame Academy in Villanova has 101 students in its freshman class — at $20,000 per year — and Archbishop Prendergast in Drexel Hill, an Archdiocesan high school, has…82?  Yes — eighty two.

That the economy is booming because folks can shell out 20K a pop? That the gap between rich and poor is widening, with more people in the “have” category?  Not quite.

It tells us, in no uncertain terms, two things:

1) Over the last several decades, too many leaders in the Catholic Church have strayed from their Godly mission, trying to be all things to all people, destroying the Catholic identity, and, worst of all, covering-up the child sex scandal and protecting pedophile priests (See January 11 column).  The result has been, and continues to be, apathy for most, anger for many, and an exodus from the Church for thousands of others.  The Church has reaped what it has sown, and nowhere is that more evident that the 30 percent decrease in Catholic school enrollment in Archdiocesan schools.

2) The Catholic Church, for all its money, muscle and might, has been a political paper tiger in fighting for its beliefs, most notably school choice. For the last 15 years, it either didn’t do its job to ensure passage of legislation that would provide a voucher to parents (their own tax money) to send their children to the school of their choice, or it backed meaningless and ineffective bills.  Either way, if the Church had done its job effectively without cowering at the sight of its own shadow, only a handful of the 49 schools that closed recently and the scores — that everyone seems to be forgetting — that have been shuttered over the last decade, would be out of business.  In fact, most would be thriving.

The Prendie situation tells it all.  While officially having “open enrollment” where physical or Church boundaries are not criteria for admission, Prendie still traditionally draws from Catholic “feeder schools,” as does its brother school, Monsignor Bonner (119 in its freshman class).  Do the math. If we conservatively estimate that there are 22 elementary schools serving those high schools, that’s fewer than 4 girls per school going to Prendie, and just 6 attending Bonner.  No wonder they closed!

(Though a strong case can be made to consolidate the two schools, many believe the Archdiocese will not do so because a nearby hospital may be eyeing the land. With potentially millions more in abuse settlements, the Church may need the proceeds of that sale to pay those large amounts — just as the Boston Archdiocese sold 99 acres of prime real estate to Boston College to pay settlements.  Closing schools to pay sex scandal settlements just infuriates Catholics that much more, leading to a vicious circle of yanking students from Catholic schools altogether).

And why are the elementary schools not sending more students?  Two reasons.  Many parents are choosing public schools because they don’t feel the value of Catholic high school is justified by a $6,000 price tag.  And of course, there aren’t many students left in Catholic elementary schools in the first place.  Take Annunciation BVM in Irish Catholic Havertown. It is slated to close, allegedly because there aren’t enough students in attendance (though they hit the attendance number the Diocese mandated and are one of a handful of schools with a parish surplus). But a drive through the town will instinctively tell you what any demographic statistician already knows: the Catholic population is more than healthy enough to see Annunciation at 80 percent capacity — or even more.

The proof? In 1911, there were 68,000 students in Archdiocesan schools, out of 525,000 Catholics (in a diocese, by the way, that was considerably larger in size than the one today).  A century later, we are back at the same level of 68,000 (down from a peak of 250,000 in the 1960’s), yet the smaller-sized Archdiocese now has almost 1.5 million Catholics. Those numbers clearly show that, for most areas (inner city Philadelphia being an exception), the Catholic population is absolutely large enough to support most of the schools that closed.

Taking out of the equation those parents who are angry or disenfranchised with the Church (and its schools), there still remains a substantial number of families that would love nothing better than to enroll their children, but simply cannot afford to do so.

Unfortunately, those people get walloped with a triple wammy. They slog through life paying some of the highest tax rates in the entire world, funding wholly ineffective governments at all levels while getting relatively little value in return. They live in one of the few countries in the Western world that does not assist parents with nonpublic school education.  And they are scared to death about receiving a pink slip in an economy that is tanking further by the day, with many banking what they earn rather than paying for the desired education for their children.

Enter school choice in Pennsylvania. Or lack thereof.

In 1995, a statewide, comprehensive school choice bill failed by a single vote. And while the Church played an active role in that fight, it refused to do the things necessary that would have pushed the legislation across the finish line. Priests should have been preaching from the pulpit, educating parishioners on the merits of school choice and rallying the troops to contact their legislators (which can clearly be done without jeopardizing their nonprofit status). But overall, they didn’t.

They could have placed pro-school choice cards addressed to representatives and senators in each pew, to be filled out during Mass and collected before exiting church. But they didn’t.

And they could have tied all of it together by playing hardball with wishy-washy politicians, informing them in no uncertain terms that school choice would be the one and only issue that many Catholics would be voting on — and Catholics vote — in the next election.  But they didn’t.

Instead, too many left the battle to the “insiders,” and guess what? Choice failed, and schools closed.  A lot of them, most of which would be open today had school choice passed.

Fast forward to 2011. What did the Church do?  Support the weakest, most meaningless education reform bill that would have neither helped educate nor reform anything (Senate Bill 1).  It was so restrictive that it would not have affected one middle class family, but the final version (which bombed) seemed to cater only to those Capricorns in the inner city who promised to wear plaid pants on Tuesdays.

The Catholic Conference’s rationale for supporting such a bad bill? Incrementalism was the only way to go, and, after all, that was the only bill out there. Talk about a losing mentality. Maybe if the Catholic leaders in their ivory towers had the foresight to see what was coming down the pike with school closings, they would have made a broad-based bill a reality and went full-bore to accomplish passage. And since the 1995 bill was run with a somewhat hostile legislature and still almost passed, it should have been a no-brainer to aggressively push for a bill this time that would also help the middle class, since the Governor and legislature were infinitely more amenable to such a bill.

But they didn’t.

And they didn’t even push for an expansion of the educational improvement tax credit (EITC) after school choice failed, which, while not a panacea, would certainly help.

Senate Bill 1, even had it passed, would not have saved one Catholic school. But that was simply an alien concept to the Church’s political braintrust, and the results speak for themselves.

As a result, all people suffer the financial consequences. Of the over 24,000 students displaced, a significant number will now attend public school.  And since it costs over $15,000 per student, per year to educate a public school student, property taxes are about to go through the roof, which could not come at a worse time.  Not only will more textbooks and buses have to be purchased, but more teachers, more modular classrooms, and, quite soon, more capital projects to accommodate the influx of Catholic school students.

Some claim that school choice is a bailout of the Catholic schools.  Wrong. Since the money is directed to the parent, not the school, it clearly isn’t.  But it will be interesting to see the reaction from critics of school choice (and Catholicism in general) when they can no longer afford to pay their property taxes. As the saying goes, what goes around comes around.

Where do we go from here?

There is a passage from a book written in the 1987 book, God’s Children, that best sums up why Catholic education must be saved:

“The Catholic Church must forget its inferiority complex. No other religion is reluctant to ask for what it wants. If we don’t ask, if we don’t stand up and fight for what we believe in, we can’t expect to win. Life is a street fight. We can roll up our sleeves and jump in, not certain whether we’ll win or lose, or walk away, allowing a huge part of our heritage to disappear….

If we fail, what do we tell the ghosts? The nuns and priests who for two centuries devoted their lives to the cause? The men and women, like our parents, who broke their backs to support their families yet somehow found a way to support our schools? Do we tell them that it’s over, that their legacy has disappeared forever? That we couldn’t hold on to what they gave us?”

And most haunting:

“I don’t want to tell my children and grandchildren that I was around when time ran out on Catholic education.”

Is it that time?  Put it this way.  Anyone who believes that the closings are done is simply deluding himself, for shutting down schools is a band-aid solution to a gaping wound that will continue to hemorrage.

That is, unless the Archdiocese of Philadelphia somehow finds a leader with the courage of his convictions, someone willing to “roll up his sleeves” and fight for what is right.

Archbishop Chaput, your 15 minutes are upon you, and the floor is yours. Godspeed!

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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January 13, 2012 at 11:04 am Comment (1)

My Holiday Wish

My holiday wish for this season is for Pittsburgh to NOT be one of the featured news-of-the-weird stories on Drudge.

Seriously, we’re on there about once every two weeks because of some stupid thing someone did somewhere in the 412/724 area code. Have some self-respect people.

And Merry Christmas.

December 22, 2011 at 9:15 pm Comments (0)

Pennsylvania Society In New York? Absolutely Yes!

When the second weekend in December rolls around, you can set your watch to two things:

1)  Politicians, business leaders and media executives from the Keystone State converge on the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan for three days of receptions and parties in an event known as The Pennsylvania Society Weekend.

2) The news media will, verbatim, recycle their tired old story, criticizing the event and asking why it isn’t held in Pennsylvania.

Good point, right?  Wrong.  It’s articles like that which make a newspaper’s biggest value being the backup when you run out of toilet paper.

Instead of actually reporting on some of the newsworthy stories that emerge from the weekend, or, God forbid, using the opportunity to generate leads for future stories, most reporters choose the easy — read: lazy — way out by publishing last year’s article after simply changing the date.

Water is wet, the sky is blue and the Pennsylvania Society gala will always be in New York — as it should be. So for all the misguided good-government types, self-described “reformers,” and the chip-on-their-shoulder folks who sport a nose-pressed-against-the- glass attitude, here’s a newsflash: your self-righteous criticism is not just wrong, but factually incorrect about the PA Society.  As a result, your comments are simply ignored as white noise.

Here is the truth rebutting many criticisms leveled at the year’s premier networking event and the “elite” who  attend:

1) Why isn’t it held in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh?  Uhhh, this is a no-brainer.  Because, literally, no one would go.  Period. Not only is there always an excitement in getting away for a weekend — which just isn’t the same when the destination is in your backyard — but there is the ultimate incentive to attend:  it’s Manhattan at Christmas time. No city in the world comes close to matching the electricity flowing through New York in December. There is nothing better. End of story.

2) Why is the Pennsylvania Society event held in New York?  In addition to the above, there’s a little thing called history. In an age when traditions are routinely scoffed, it is refreshing to see that some are still sacred. The weekend started a century ago when some of Pennsylvania’s successful businessmen living in New York (you know, the evil industrialists who had the gall to actually employ hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians and transform the state into one of the most dominant economic engines in the world) wanted to keep in touch with fellow Pennsylvanians. 

Wow. Maintaining friendships, cementing business relationships and furthering the economic interests of Pennsylvania.  What a crime.  Maybe they shouldn’t have started the tradition and instead let the state fall into stagnation, decay, and malaise — kind of like it is now.

3) It’s all backroom deals in smoke-filled rooms: Not true.  New York has one of those ridiculous, all-encompassing smoking bans, which is a shame.  I saw a bunch of CEO’s and pols trying to finish their deal-making after getting thrown out of a mahogany-paneled restaurant for lighting up their Cubans, only to get ticketed for smoking in Times Square.  Yep.  That’s illegal too. The nerve of New York to interfere with Pennsylvania’s elite!

Of course, it hasn’t dawned on the critics that “schmoozing, networking, fund-raising, backslapping, wining, dining, and deal-making” (as the Inquirer described it) can and does take place outside of New York.  It happens in Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and everywhere in between.  As a matter of fact, these folks don’t even need back rooms anymore, as they can “make their deals” on cell phones, and, for those who prefer face-to-face conspiracies, Skype.  

The truth is that the last time a candidate was “anointed” at the Pennsylvania Society was Bill Scranton for Governor.  In 1962.  And a check of the records will show there was in fact an election that year, so Mr. Scranton was not installed via dictate by the power elite.

4) The money would be better spent in Pennsylvania, and what kind of message does it send in this economy to have politicians attending lavish parties in New York?

It’s probably a bad image, but damn it’s a fun time!

Of course, both these points boil down to one of America’s biggest problems — and a major factor why we are in this mess.  We are all about style and symbolism over substance.

Does it “look good” to spend money in-state?  Sure.  Would it make one bit of difference?  None.  Zero.  Maybe if a fraction of the energy spent advocating for symbolism was actually spent on getting Pennsylvanians back to work through meaningful growth policies, we’d all be a lot better off.  Ironically, many of the detractors are the same ones standing in the way of real progress, but that’s another column. 

5) It’s so aristocratic…all the power elite playing in their privileged world. 

Well, since this author attends, that theory is shot to hell. But beyond that, it’s simply not true.  Here’s the biggest non-secret that will get me barred from the few events to which I’m actually invited: most “By Invitation Only” events are nothing of the kind. Put on a suit or nice dress, and you’re in.  And once that happens, the preconceived notions disappear right before your eyes.

It’s not about backroom deals and the coronation of candidates.  It’s about people enjoying the company of folks whom they see only this once the whole year.  It’s about renewing long-lost friendships. It’s about swapping war stories, exchanging ideas, going shopping, seeing a Broadway play and taking in a show at Radio City.

But perhaps most remarkable is that, just this one time of year in New York, you can walk into a room with no gatekeepers and have a relaxed, in-depth conversation with some fascinating people who are otherwise insulated. Current and former Governors, U.S. Senators, Attorneys General, Cabinet Secretaries, Congressmen, titans of industry, media publishers, authors… the list goes on and on.  The overarching point of the weekend isn’t to lobby and politic (though clearly that takes place), but to have fun.

State Representative Mike Vereb said it best, “You can actually talk to someone for more than five minutes.”  Too bad we can’t do that more often in Harrisburg, but it’s a start.

And here’s the best part.  It’s civil. Democrats and Republicans actually talk to one another without hurling insults and fists.  About the only folks hitting the floor are the ones who enjoyed the festivities a tad too much.

The media would do itself a huge favor by reporting on the true aspects of the Pennsylvania Society Weekend and not regurgitating the same trite garbage that only serves to further undermine people’s faith in their leaders.

So I raise my glass to keeping the Pennsylvania Society Weekend exactly where it belongs — New York City. 

Cuban cigar, anyone?

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

 

 

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December 13, 2011 at 12:40 pm Comment (1)

PA Poll: Dump Low Income Vouchers, Increase Tax Credit

 

There is an age-old adage: if you’re going to do something, do it right — or don’t do it at all.

Based on poll results exclusively obtained first by Freindly Fire, nowhere is that more applicable than in the fight for school vouchers in Pennsylvania. According to the Pulse Opinion Research poll conducted on behalf of UNITE PA, which surveyed 500 likely voters across the state, the majority of Pennsylvanians prefer that any school choice program be open to all students (or at least most of the middle class), as opposed to just low income, predominantly inner city students. This result is not surprising on any level, and, undeniably, leads to five rock solid conclusions:

1) The middle class realizes that ALL schools need improvement, and competition through choice is the best way to achieve that objective;

2) Pennsylvanians, by a whopping 78 to 9 margin, favor a broad-based choice program;

3) If a comprehensive choice program isn’t offered, citizens would prefer an expansion of the EITC educational tax credit — by a 3 to 1 ratio;

4) The reason voucher legislation failed in the Spring, and in all likelihood won’t pass now, isn’t due to opposition to school choice, but because the senate refuses to consider a broader, more inclusive bill, and therefore:

5) If a suburban or rural legislator supports vouchers only for low income families, while their constituents would be left out in the cold without receiving a penny, they do so at their own peril.  A full 40 percent of likely voters stated that they will be “less likely” to support that lawmaker in his or her next election based on that vote.

The message of this poll is clear: do vouchers the right way, or don’t do them at all.  And since the senate has already passed a low income version by the slimmest of margins, with its leaders stating that’s all they will do, expect the voucher bill to die what may be its final political death, and look for the EITC expansion to pass as a stand-alone bill (which it did in the Spring by a virtually unanimous 190-7 bipartisan vote on Rep. Tom Quigley’s House Bill 1330).

Failure to act responsibly will leave the GOP politically vulnerable, and, infinitely more important, abandon yet another generation of Pennsylvania’s future.

*****

Since last January, Republican Senator Jeff Piccola has been trying to pass legislation offering school vouchers only to students in underperforming schools who meet low income requirements. Despite crafting Senate Bill 1 (SB 1) during the Rendell Administration (when there was a Democratic State House and an anti-choice governor), Piccola never bothered to broaden the bill to reflect the new ten-seat Republican majority in the House, and pro-school choice Governor Tom Corbett.

Piccola, along with Democratic co-sponsor Senator Tony Williams, ran the bus over anyone who dared question why SB 1 was being treated as hallowed legislation, scoffing at — but not answering — queries as to why no attempt was made to broaden the bill, given the favorable legislative climate.  In the process, many SB 1 proponents demonized long-time political allies for their “brazen” attempt to improve a badly flawed education reform bill that would neither educate nor reform.

That intransigence directly led to vouchers dying on the vine in June.  Despite repeated assurances that it would pass the Senate, it was never brought to the floor for a vote. Piccola’s excuse for not running the bill was that the House wasn’t embracing SB 1 with the same fervor, yet the truth is that he didn’t even have the votes in his own chamber.

Last month, a watered-down version of SB 1 finally passed the senate after much arm-twisting, but as the poll shows, it’s back to Square One, meaning that SB 1 faces a tough road ahead. Many folks in Pennsylvania view vouchers favorably, but when they learn that the only voucher bill being considered is one that will never impact them, their support plummets.

Many traditional supporters of school choice have had SB 1 sold to them as the be-all-and-end-all.  But the huge irony is that these people in turn become the biggest detractors of SB 1 upon learning what the legislation does, and, more importantly, doesn’t do. From Catholic school advocates to Tea Partiers to everyday parents, the majority of those who favor school choice become irritated, if not downright angry, after discovering that in SB 1, a full seven years after enactment, middle income students would still be excluded. Because of this, many look at SB 1 as nothing more than yet another targeted entitlement program for Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

The results of the Pulse Opinion Poll are so clear cut that it’s a good bet many House members on the fence will now be moved to oppose the voucher aspect, instead calling for other educational reform measures to be considered individually rather than part of an SB 1 package.  Charter school reforms, teacher evaluations, and the EITC should be debated on their merits and not held hostage by certain senators hell-bent on ramming an ineffectual voucher bill down the House’s throat — or all-else be damned.

And if the House decides to eliminate the voucher and significantly expand the EITC, what then? Will Piccola once again call that legislation “dead on arrival” and kill it upon its return to the senate?

And if so, will the House leaders do the right thing and relegate Piccola to the dustbin of irrelevancy by simply mandating that the EITC expansion be part of the 2012 budget? 

It’s time to stop playing games.  Pennsylvania students are 42nd in SAT scores, ranking low in literacy, graduation rates and those attending 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 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.

The poll clearly shows what common sense already dictates: only competition can begin to reverse decades of educational failure. Comprehensive school choice provides that free-market solution, and, if passed, would be a model for the nation.  But since stubbornness, personal agendas and lack of political will are still prevalent in the Senate, let’s hope the House of Representatives acts responsibly and does the right thing for our children. 

As Voltaire said, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

And jettisoning a bad voucher program while passing other meaningful reforms is a very good start.

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

 

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November 10, 2011 at 10:26 am Comments (0)

Obama vs Obama

Pittsburgh.

Then and now.

October 12, 2011 at 9:34 am Comments (0)

Pa-18: Feinberg Vs Murphy

Jim Geraghty interviews Evan Feinberg who is planning on taking on incumbent Republican Tim Murphy from the right.

If his spending record isn’t bad enough (and it is), his record on jobs would convince any conservative that he needs to go. He consistently votes to kill jobs in an effort to line his campaign coffers with donations from Democratic special interest groups. The best example is his resolve to eliminate the secret ballot in union elections, voting for the infamous “card check” bill.

By any measure, Murphy is one of the top ten most liberal Republicans in the House. National Journal rates him the 7th most liberal, Club for Growth has him 5th from the bottom, and National Taxpayers Union gives him a terrible score of a C-minus. Murphy does not run from his liberal record: he self-identifies with the Tuesday Group and the Republican Main Street Partnership, the liberal wing of the GOP.

In contrast, I am a limited government, free market conservative. I believe in less spending, lower taxes, and constitutional limits on government. I have the experience and policy acumen to provide real solutions to our country’s fiscal problems.”

October 10, 2011 at 2:36 pm Comments (3)

Sports Heresy

We Pittsburghers take it as an article of faith that Philadelphia Is The Cause of Everything That Is Wrong With Pennsylvania. Admit it. You believe that, too. So join me in my gleeful mockery.

Ha.

Ha ha.

On the plus side, Rutgers did beat the living p*ss out of Pitt yesterday which I wholly endorse.

October 9, 2011 at 4:32 pm Comments (0)

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