Friday, March 27, 2015


Conservative think tank calls public schools "hellholes" and Philly state Sen. Vince Hughes takes exception as the voucher debate goes on.


The fiery voucher debate threw off another spark yesterday as Philly state Sen. Vincent Hughes went off on an email from the conservative Commonwealth Foundation that refers to underperforming public schools as "hellholes" that prepare pupils for "future jail stays and welfare."

The email says the foundation bought 4,300 white roses to send bouquets of 17 to each state lawmaker as a symbol that the legislature should "wave the white flag" to surrender in the battle to free kids from "violent, failing schools."

It went on to say "you and I are stuck paying for these hellholes – not to mention for future jail stays and welfare for the students whose lives are ruined in them."

It was signed by foundation vice president Charles Mitchell.

Hughes took to the Senate floor, demanding an apology, and followed up with a press release asking Mitchell how he'd feel if the school he attended was referred to as a "hellhole" and that the only purpose of the school was to prepare students "'for future jail stays and welfare’?”

Hughes also said Mitchell should come to his office to retrieve the roses because “assuredly, the bloom has come off.”

No word yet from Mitchell on any scheduled rose-retrieval.

The exchange reflects the level of heat in the battle over vouchers as Republicans push for what they claim is a way out of bad schools and Democrats fight against what they claim will only make bad schools worse.

That battle, currently stuck in a Legislature that can't seem to agree on anything more complex that extending hours for the Sunday sale of beer, is likely to rage for a long time to come.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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