Dear Editor:

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. And we know that Senator Piccola, chair of the Senate Education Committee, is a spokesperson for the Foundation for Education Choice which exists solely to fulfill the Milton Friedman vision to achieve this.

Senate Bill 1 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.

Fortunately, Pennsylvania voters now know that this is the long-range plan of a group of the super rich: the DeVos family of AMWAY money, the Walton’s of WalMart money to mention two; to turn education into a private enterprise that has no government regulations. This has been substantiated by videos, printed materials, web sites, and signed agreements. And a part of that plan is to systematically buy influence in state legislatures across the nation through campaign contributions.

Voters have read about campaign contributions filtered from these donors through such organizations as Students First and American Federation for Children. Voters have read that Gov. Corbett accepted $300,000 from them. And voters know that he delivered the policy address May 9 to the American Federation for Children, a proponent of free market control of education.

As well, Pennsylvanians are aware of campaign contributions from voucher proponents to various senators that filtered these out-of-state funds along with the contributions of wealthy in-state financiers through organizations such as Students First. At the same time, citizens know that the voucher legislation is not the will of the Pennsylvania voters. We know that this proposed Opportunity Grants Bill puts children in harm’s way. And, we do not want our legislators to do the bidding of people who do not live in Pennsylvania and whose only interest in our children is to bid them out on the free market.

Pennsylvanians are now aware of the nationwide tactic to introduce voucher legislation by pretending a concern for Black inner city children who are poor. The approach is systematic. First, declare the schools as dangerous and failing. Next, harass and attack elected officials who oppose proposed voucher legislation. We have seen the attack ads, the Facebook pages, the voucher advocacy materials—the pitting of church related schools against the traditional public school system. However, the current form of the bill, with the amendments proposed by Gov. Corbett, now pits working class and poor against the middle class. The bill now proposes vouchers for families of four who earn up to $78,000.

Under the amendments approved by Gov. Corbett, the bill no longer addresses the poor. 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 a proposal to delay the implementation date for 15 months. No wonder the amendment proposal says: As a result, there will be no significant budgetary costs in the upcoming fiscal year. To us, that demonstrates deception.

As well, the governor’s proposed amendments leave us with unanswered questions.

Have steps been taken to close the Charter Schools on the list of 144 failing schools? If not, why not? Do parents lose 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 percent of the previous year’s Basic Education Funding, exactly how much money will be available for each of Pennsylvania’s 500,000 poor children?

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 percent of their incomes.

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.

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, Pittsburgh, J. Duvall—Flynn, Media, G. Love, Harrisburg, E. Vold, Indiana, M. B. Whisler—York

J.Wyatt Mondesire, president PA NAACP

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