Stan Shapiro's blog

NN Meets to Fight the Next Step in Privatizing Education: Vouchers

In the legislative term just ended, Governor Corbett and his right wing clones in the Legislature devastated public education funding. But they have new blows ready in their effort to destroy the future of Pennsylvania’s children. The next step planned is to divert some of the insufficient money that has been left for public education into private hands through vouchers. Neighborhood Networks will be meeting on Tuesday night to discuss the next intended blow and what we can do to ward it off. Susan Gobreski, Exec. Director of Education Voters PA will be with us. We hope you will be too.

The idea that problems with public education can be solved by giving poor parents a voucher to pay for their kids to go to quality private schools is a sham. The legislation that now embodies this idea is Senate Bill 1. If enacted, it would probably cost $1 billion per year, taken directly out of amounts that would otherwise be available to public schools. Yet, according to Education Voters, only 6,500 students would use the vouchers provided for in this bill, about 65% of whom already attend private schools. Low income students will not likely be among the new students getting assistance, since many of them would have to come up with additional money for tuition; the vouchers wouldn’t pay enough.

Furthermore, nothing guarantees that poor, educationally challenged, low income students would ever be admitted to the best schools whether they pay full tuition or not. These schools would retain total discretion to admit whomever they want.

Philly Power Structure Screws Working Poor Again

Here's the bankruptcy of the Philadelphia power structure -- and the Democratic Party -- writ large. All 17 members of City Council voted last Thursday to delay the tax relief for low-wage working people that was pushed through by Councilman David Cohen before he died. It would have given the working poor a 2% cut in their wage tax, phased in over a six year period, starting in 2007. As a result of this new legislation, a maximum 1% cut will be phased in, starting in 2017. No one believes it will ever actually take effect since this is the third deferral of Cohen's tax cut. What is actually going to happen is that it will be deferred into infinity.

Not one word was uttered about any of this in the mainstream press. It's a total conspiracy of silence about a further trashing, mainly by elected officials of the Democratic Party, of the interests of those who are the backbone of that very same Party.

It's Big Business Taxes That Should Go Up to Fund Our Schools

It’s pretty sad that Councilmembers and the mayor are thrashing about trying to find a way to fund the schools when the answer has been in front of them for years at the website of the Coalition for Essential Services. The answer is to raise the gross receipts tax and to transfer the proceeds over to the School District, subject to terms and conditions that would require the School District to use the funds appropriately.

As has been noted by Councilmembers Sanchez and Green, Council could raise substantial funding from such a tax increase even if it exempted most small businesses from the GRT entirely. That’s because most of the tax falls on large businesses that evade the net income tax, and from out of City businesses.

Thus raising this tax could be a win/win. It would raise money for the school district at the same time that it made the tax more progressive.

Here's the Jobs Commission Charter Change Proposal

There's been a fair amount of blather about this recently, so I thought someone ought to post the actual proposal. I've looked at it and been underwhelmed. Here are the best job-building proposals on the ballot tomorrow: Sherrie Cohen, Jeff Hornstein, Greg Paulmier and the rest of the Neighborhood Networks ticket.

A majority of this latest distraction from real life would be appointed by the Mayor. That means it will become another tool of the Chamber of Commerce headed by former Republican State Senator Rob Wonderling. You want to guess what its recommendations would be? Just look west at what's happening in Harrisburg. If we want progressive job policies in Philly, we're going to have to elect progressive people to make the laws, and we're going to have to get ourselves in motion. Period.

Three Council Candidates Who Will Fight Corporate Power: Cohen, Hornstein and Paulmier

Let me start by saying Neighborhoods Networks has a great slate of candidates to recommend in the Democratic Primary tomorrow. And here they are:

Kathryn Boockvar, Commonwealth Court, ballot # 102
Stephanie Singer, City Commissioner, ballot #169
Blondell Reynolds Brown, Council At-Large ballot # 179
Sherrie Cohen, Council At-Large, ballot # 180
Andy Toy, Council At-Large, ballot # 187
Jeff Hornstein, City Council, 1st District, ballot # 194
Maria Quinones Sanchez, 7th district, ballot #191
Greg Paulmier, 8th district, ballot #190

Want to Know What Progressive Lawyers think of the Judicial Candidates?

The Philadelphia Chapter of the National Lawyers' Guild, the bar association for progressive lawyers and legal workers, has done a survey of its members relating to the judicial candidates on the ballot next week. The NLG makes no recommendations, but presents the information to help voters make informed decisions. Click above to download it.

Surprise! The Inky Still Won't Endorse Cohen for Council

The Inky may have changed ownership a few times, but what hasn't changed is its attitude toward the fighting progressive tradition that was personified for so many years by the late Councilman David Cohen, and that is now inhabited by his daughter Sherrie as she runs for the same office. The Inky never wanted to confess how completely steeped in the arms of the elites it was, and so it rarely stated openly its disdain for David Cohen's steadfast opposition to the agenda of those elites. Instead it just buried Cohen and his views in silence. It failed to report on what he did, or what he stood for, or what he called for. Even in failing to endorse him for re-election, it rarely acknowledged that, as an incumbent, he even existed, except for an occasional dismissive line or two. But the Inky's efforts to make him into a nonperson failed miserably.

The Chamber of Commerce is A Collection of People Right? Then Why Isn't the Chamber Crying for Our Kids?

So the Chamber of Commerce-elected Governor and Legislature are bound and determined to kill all-day kindergarden in Philadelphia. Of course, the Chamber won't say it that way. But that's the effect of its actions in demonizing public spending, public employees, and, especially, public schools that have the temerity to . . . of all things . . .employ teachers. Its massive spending in the last cycle was all about electing Republicans everywhere whose overriding mission would be the destruction of the public sphere, except in those cases where the public sector could be given away . . . to members of the Chamber of Commerce.

Earned Sick Leave Campaign Website -- It's Great, Check it Out!

I think most of us here support the bill now before City Council to require businesses to allow their employees a reasonable amount of paid time off when they're sick. It's a public health issue, a family issue, a simple human decency issue. There's now a great website where people can go for the latest information on the campaign, check out who's participating in it, join it, blog about it, and generally use it as their campaign-central portal. So, without further ado, here it is.

Neighborhood Networks Endorses Six

Neighborhood Networks has endorsed an impressive and inspiring group of candidates in the Spring primary, all of whom care about social justice and global sustainability in ways that their track records tell us is real.

Two of these candidates are incumbents and four would be newly elected, but they all share a commitment to progressive values. Here is the list, and a capsule summary of what is special about each of them.

City Council At-Large -- Challengers

Supporting Sherrie Cohen for City Council --- Intensely

This weekend Neighborhood Networks will be surveying its members and its friends to see whom we should endorse for City Council at Large. We will be surveying not only who people support, but perhaps more importantly, the intensity of that support. Everyone who returns a ballot will be able to vote for five candidates, and will also be able to show the depth of support they feel for those candidates, by giving them anywhere from 1 to 5 points.

I’m giving 5 points to Sherrie Cohen, and 1 or 2 points to several other candidates. I’ll explain my vote more in a moment, but first why are we using the point system at all?

Grace Aims "Union Bosses" Smear, Hits Himself

I've supported Jeff Hornstein in the First Councilmanic race from the beginning because he's just an outstanding candidate who gets what the issues are without anyone having to go back to first principles with him. He's keenly smart, and more importantly, he's walked the walk and talked the talk to advance the interests and needs of poor and working class people during a long activist career that has had many successes. We need someone like Jeff who is an unabashed progressive, from the guts up, in City Council and who doesn't think that the Chamber of Commerce = God. That's who Jeff is (along with Sherrie Cohen, running at-Large, but that's going to be another post.)

Guv sez: Drop Dead, Mayor sez: Keep smilin'

Sub-Headline: Sorry, Can’t Really Sugarcoat This Stuff Folks.

There’s no doubt that Philly’s in a heap of trouble from budgets being torturously made, as we speak, in Washington, Harrisburg and Philadelphia. It seems we’re assured of two years of bad news, first from service cuts, then from tax increases on working people and homeowners. With a little bit of bad luck we could face a mix of both. The moral? We’d better organize ourselves a lot better than we did in 2010 if we don’t want a third and fourth year helping of the same thing. And also, if you pass a corporate exec in the street, keep your hands in your pockets.

Calling All Candidates for Council, City Commissioner and Sheriff

If you would like to be considered by Neighborhood Networks for endorsement, you will need to fill out and return our questionnaire. You can download the one appropriate to you here. Please return your questionnaire by March 20. We will be surveying our members shortly thereafter and if you'd like to have your name listed on our ballot, we'll have to have your questionnaire in hand before the ballot goes out. Also, there's no need to wait for the 20th. The sooner you get your answers to us, the sooner they will be posted on our website. As you'll see, 8 candidates have their responses on our website right now. We hope many of you will join them soon.

Don't Miss the PROGRESSIVE Council Forum March 21 at the Free Library, Central Branch

Well, there are forums and then there are Forum EVENTS. On March 21, we're having a Forum EVENT. And the reason it will be special is this: WE are going to ask the questions, that is the progressive community. We've all heard how the City has to keep trimming the workforce, give tax breaks to everyone except working people, and rein in the greedy public workers and their unions. And betcha there will be plenty of forums in which candidates will be well prompted to adopt that agenda. We have another agenda, though, and it's people and planet oriented. And that's what WE will be asking about on March 21. So, if you think this Forum will truly be an EVENT, and you want to help make it so, here are two things you can do:

First, come to the first ever City Council At-Large Progressive Forum. Details on the flip.

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