School 'reformers' want Corbett to use Philly crisis for political gain


You have to wonder if the corporate school reformers are overplaying their hand. Daniel Denvir is reporting tonight in the City Paper that a major "education reform" group called PennCAN hired a leading GOP pollster and commissioned a secret report urging Gov. Corbett to attack the Philadelphia teachers' union  and use the current schools crisis to whip up political support going into the 2014 election.

The report commissioned by PennCAN urges Corbett to use the school situation -- which has already caused considerably anguish for 3,900 workers who've been handed pink slips and for parents and kids watching their schools close for good this week -- as a "wedge" issue to rally his voters.

Here's part of Denvir's report:

The poll suggests that Corbett, a governor who has long suffered from low public-approval ratings, condition state aid to Philadelphia schools on major union concessions and kickstart his hobbled reelection campaign with a high-profile fight against the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.

The poll, which City Paper obtained last night, was conducted between April 30 and May 2 and reported a margin of error plus or minus 4 percent statewide and 4.9 percent for the Philly suburbs, where an extra sample was taken.

"With Governor Corbett's weak job approval, re-elect and ballot support numbers, the current Philadelphia school crisis presents an opportunity for the Governor to wedge the electorate on an issue that is favorable to him," the poll concludes. "Staging this battle presents Corbett with an opportunity to coalesce his base, focus on a key emerging issue in the state, and campaign against an 'enemy' that's going to aggressively oppose him in '14 in any case."

You can learn more about PennCAN -- made up of those hedge-funders and some of the other usual suspects who have thrown literally millions of dollars at Pennsylvania politicians to win support for school vouchers -- in this story.

This kind of confirms the worse suspicions about the corporate reformers here in Philadelphia, that in your kid's crisis, they see a crass opportunity.

But like I said, it may be backfiring. The more sunlight that's cast on what is happening with the school layoffs, closings and drastic program cuts, the more pressure that Corbett and lawmakers seems to be feeling to actually do something to avert the worst impacts. Ironically. a widely read, hard-hitting story in the New York Times seemed to change the tone of the conversation. Tonight, after the City Paper revelations, Corbett actually issued his first public statement on the crisis.

“As governor, I am committed to finding a long-term solution for the Philadelphia School District that is focused on students and is fiscally responsible for taxpayers," he said. (You can read the entire statement here.) What really talks, a wise Philadelphian once said, is money -- and the somewhat more hopeful thing is talk of $100 million in new money from Harrisburg, albeit with a lot of strings and with no guarantees that they can get it together in the next 11 days.

At the end of the day, there's only a few things that politicians actually respond to. Public disclosure is one. Public pressure is another. Keep it coming, people.

DDN Members Only: Corbett eyes $108 million debt for Philly school funding.