Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Liquor and Learning

Booze and schools are in the news and it makes you wonder what Pennsylvania's public policy makers are thinking.

Liquor and Learning

Just two obsevations.

First, the bipolar state House is again wrestling with whether or not to sell off State Stores. They'll vote it. They won't. They have the votes. They don't.

The lesser (in soooo many ways) chamber appeared ready to act this week. Then it didn't and now, who knows?

The Inky questions whether the issue -- which I've many times said is dead in an election year -- is losing steam.

For those anxious to end the the state's long-running booze monopoly this is but another round of legislative teasing. For those for whom buying hooch isn't a top priority, it's but another question mark -- as in what are our policymakers thinking?

This latter group gets some support from the lead editorial in Wednesday's New York Times.

The newspaper notes that Reading, the poorest city in America, just laid off 110 public school teachers and is ending some special-education and early-learning programs because, in part, of Gov. Corbett's fondness for business tax cuts.

None of this is simple. States like ours devoured federal stimulus money when Congress made it available then cried poor-mouth when Congress ended the stream. That is not the fault of teachers or the kids, families and other workers reliant on public schools.

Nor is it productive, helpful or, in the long-run, intelligent to blame school boards, unions and public pensions for worsening conditions in districts such as Reading and, as always, Philadelphia. They are what they are. Now what?

As the Legislature and the governor finalize a new state spening plan and continue to tease the State Store issue, my second observation is this: a state that focuses on liquor over learning runs the risk of handing its future over to ignorant drunks.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
About this blog
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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