by Chris Potter
After being elected as governor last month, Tom Corbett pledged to emulate the model of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Judging from roster of his transition teams, Corbett is going to keep that promise -- at least as far as putting the screws to public-school teachers goes.
Christie is waging a running battle with educators in his state, and teachers in Pennsylvania may well end up sitting in the corner too. For while there's plenty to be concerned about with all of these committees -- state Democrats have denounced the heavy representation of natural gas-drillers on the teams, for example -- the makeup of the education team stands out.
For starters, it includes Tea Partier Ana Pugh, who Democrats are denouncing for saying the kind of crazy stuff you expect from Tea Partiers: Liberals are working alongside the terorrists to undermine capitalism, Obama is a socialist, etc. etc.
And a fuller examination of the committee shows up Corbett's claim that he nominated "a wide spectrum of people" to the committees. When it comes to higher education, that may be true: The roster includes representatives from Catholic universities, trade schools and not-for-profit colleges alike. But at the public-school level, I can't find a single person who represents or advocates for school teachers or public school administrators. By contrast, I've found 20 commitee members -- including one of its co-chairs -- who have ties of one sort or another to charter or for-profit schools.
That's more than half the committee. And there may be more ties I'm unaware of: The connections I've outlined below are based either on personal knowledge, or the results of some websearching. So it's not definitive by any means.
Some of those connections are stronger than others: One committee member's only tie (that I'm aware of) is being a partner at a law firm who does legal work for a charter. And it's possible that there might be a committee member whose allegiance to public school teachers has escaped me. But overall, the ties to alternate education are deep and extensive. You've got politicians who've espoused charters and other alternatives to public schools. You've got people who make their living running such programs. And you've got people who spend their days espousing their cause.
Obviously, Corbett has made no secret of his position on school choice, and elections have consequences and all that stuff. And I guess if you're teaching at a college level, things don't look so bad. But if you're teaching at a public school, well ... the handwriting is on the chalkboard.
As for the individual committee members, let's see ...
One of its co-chairs is Pitt chancellor Mark Nordenberg. Which is perhaps no surprise, in September, the Pitt News reported that Corbett apparently had a mysterious meeting with university officials.
The other co-chair is Joel Greenberg, of the Susquehanna International Group. Greenberg and other Susquehanna execs were big funders of a long-shot gubernatorial campaign by state Senator Anthony Hardy Williams. Don't let the fact that Williams was a Democrat fool you; his principal distinguishing characteristic was his willingness to champion alternatives to public schools.
As for the rest of the committee, we've got: