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Fri Apr 13, 2012, 10:21 AM

Are Pro-Voucher Forces Using the PA. Legislative PRIMARIES to try to buy the Legislature???


Apr. 12, 2012

"Big corporate money in support of school vouchers hits primary races statewide. Will it tip the scales in Philly?

The names on the fliers candidates for state office like upstart Fatimah Muhammad and anointed Philly insider Jordan Harris may look and sound like homegrown legislative hopefuls. But follow the money and a different picture emerges: that of a statewide campaign, funded by wealthy donors, to stack the Pennsylvania primary battles on April 24 in favor of those supporting school vouchers, which allocate taxpayer funds for private and religious school tuition. The pro-voucher political action committee (PAC) Students First funded by Pennsylvania hedge-fund managers and American Federation for Children, a Washington, D.C., pro-voucher group headed by Amway heiress and major right-wing donor Betsy DeVos emerged on the state's political scene with a bang for the 2010 elections. And they are back to spend big in 2012.

"I see a move by essentially a handful of very wealthy people who want to privatize public education for a wide variety of reasons," says Lawrence Feinberg, co-chairman of the anti-voucher Keystone State Education Coalition. "Not the least of which has to do with crushing labor unions, but they also want tax dollars going to private and religious schools."

As City Paper first reported online two weeks ago, homes in West Philadelphia's 188th House District have been sent glossy mailers attacking state Rep. James Roebuck, the ranking Democrat on the House Education Committee and a leading opponent of vouchers.

"James Roebuck blocked kids from attending the schools of their choice," is printed in red letters on the first mailer, above an unflattering photo of Roebuck. The mailer blames him for the enrollment cap at the prestigious University of Pennsylvania-supported Penn Alexander public school. The second mailer is unquestionably misleading, blaming Roebuck for former Superintendent Arlene Ackerman's ruinous tenure, dropout rates, cheating, crowded classrooms and school violence. The word "vouchers" does not appear."

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