The handwriting is on the chalkboard with Corbett's education committee

Posted by Chris Potter on Fri, Dec 3, 2010 at 11:58 AM

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:

  • Jim Agras, CEO of Triangle Tech, a for-profit trade school
  • Jeanne Allen of the Center for Education Reform, whose mission entails "boldly advocating for school choice, advancing the charter school movement, and challenging the education establishment"
  • Chris Bravacos of the Bravo Group, a "public advocacy" firm whose clients include the Commonwealth Connections Academy, a cyber charter, and who has other school-choice ties listed below
  • Matt Brouillette of the Commonwealth Foundation, a liberatarian think tank, which advocates for increased alternatives to public education
  • Paul Clymer, a Republican state Representative who is the GOP chair on the House education committee -- and who apparently signed a school choice pledge proffered by Puig's Kitchen Table Patriots
  • Marie Conley Lammando, who has extensive GOP ties and serves on the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education board of governors.
  • Bill Donahue of the donahue Family Foundation, which focuses its philanthropic efforts on helping kids afford Catholic and private schools
  • Carolyn Dumaresq, a consultant I can't really say much about
  • Dan Fitzpatrick, CEO of Citizens Bank
  • Amy Foerster of the law firm Saul Ewing, whose practice areas include higher education
  • Don Francis, who heads the Association of Independent Colleges & Universities, whose members include numerous state institutions of higher learning
  • Dennis Giorno, who along with Donahue and Bravacos serves on the board of REACH, which backs school choice
  • Vahan Gureghian, who founded Charter School Management Inc., which does administration consulting for charter schools
  • Larry Jones, President of Charter School Association and CEO of the Richard Allen Preparatory charter school
  • Michael Karp, President of University City Housing, which as you might expect provides rental properties to Philly college students
  • Ruth O'Block Grant, a trustee at Seton Hill University
  • Pat O'Connor, who chairs Temple University's Board of Trustees
  • PA State Senator Jeffrey Piccola, a champion of school choice
  • David Pollard, another member of Anthony Hardy Williams supporting cast at Susquehanna International Group
  • Ana Puig, see above
  • Father Ed Quinlan, who as the secretary of education for the Harrisburg Diocese overseas Catholic education programs
  • Cynthia Richey, who directs the Mt. Lebanon Library System
  • Richard Sand, of the law firm Sand & Saidel, which provides legal services to the First Philadelphia Charter School for Literacy
  • Dave Schulik a lawyer and president of Delaware Valley High School, an alternative-education facility
  • Carl Singley of the law firm Ciardi, Ciardi and Astin
  • Karen Stout the president of Montgomery County Community College
  • Bob Taylor, a trustee at Slippery Rock University
  • Paul Taylor, an administrator at St. Vincent's College
  • Ron Tomalis, Director of Dutko Worldwide, a consulting firm that works with "education entrepreneurs"
  • Dennis Tulli, who heads the aforementioned Commonwealth Connections cyber charter
  • State Senator Anthony Williams himself
  • Charles Zogby, the state's Secretary of Education during the Tom Ridge administration, now an exec with K-12 Inc., a for profit online educator
I may refine this list further, but ... you didn't need to ace your civics exam to see what's going on here.

Comments (1)

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Nicely researched Chris. Education is now big business! Belittle public school teachers who make a living wage. Penalize those continuing on to higher education with terrible debt. Where will all those small business jobs come from if everyone has to work for the entrenched interests after school just to survive?

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Posted by Duncan Spencer on 12/05/2010 at 10:07 PM
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