School Board Budget Questions, Roger Buchanan, April 11, 2004
School Vouchers, Clark Moeller, September 29, 2003
Rendell Invites the Public, Hon. Pedro A. Cortes, July 22, 2003
Articles of Impeachment, Clark Moeller, June 9, 2003
Interfaith Working Group Correspondence on Gay Rights, Reproductive Freedom, and Church/State issues
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School Board Budget Questions
April 11, 2004
To the Editor:
The first meeting of the _________ School Board budget discussion degraded into the wrong question. It was the usual wrong question and heard every year at every school board meeting from now until the budget is passed. True to form, the broken record was played again: "Do you know how many of my neighbors will lose their home if this proposed budget is passed?"
Before the question could be answered, a fellow traveler of this hang-dog mentality, a wealthy landlord, held up a newspaper showing all the properties on the sheriff's sale. She has the right idea of course. The game plan is clear. When school budgets are based on the ability of the very poor to pay their taxes, then folks with massive real estate holdings can laugh all the way to the bank.
It is time for concerned citizens to attend budget meetings and demand that the School Board ask the right questions: Will this school budget enable every student to take whatever the modern world dishes up? Will we turn out graduates who will survive and thrive in a world of outsourcing and downsizing? Will those who ought to go to college acquire what they need to make good? Will the marginal student graduate and no longer be marginalized?
We can no longer afford to have some youth with low motivation who waltzed through the grades and accomplished very little. We can no longer afford to turn out underachievers, only to have them join the ranks of the underemployed.
We need graduates who will do well in the modern world, and that doesn't happen with a bare-bones minimum school budget. We have a history of wealthy landlords attempting to subvert the school board for their own greed. This era must end.
Schools exist for the next generation and not for the protection of a few self-serving whiners who have everything money can buy but lack one thing: a vision for the future.
(Please feel free to copy/paste this letter, sign, and send to YOUR newspaper editor)
Roger Buchanan is a Board member of the Freedom to Learn Network (FLN), 2020 Downyflake Lane, Allentown, PA 18103, 610-797-7333, firstname.lastname@example.org. FLN is a nonprofit, all-volunteer, public education advocacy organization.
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September 29, 2003
The Daily Review printed an AP article (9/29/03) discussing the United States Senate's deliberation over a voucher bill to fund private and religious schools in Washington, DC, using tax dollars. The voucher, it is claimed, would economically enable parents to withdraw their child from a public school and place the child into a school of their choice. That is the idea in a nutshell.
In 22 referenda on vouchers over fifty years, voters have rejected school vouchers at the ballot box, because vouchers are a bad idea, that rests on false assumptions. First, funding religious institutions with public taxes would violate the Constitution of the United States, which says, "Congress shall make no laws respecting an established religion."
Second, those who complain about the cost of public education fail to explain how taking money from public schools and giving it to private schools is going to save money. The primary advocate for vouchers is the Catholic Church which runs the largest religious school system in the country. It is a system seeking public relief because its cost per student has gone through the roof as its student enrollment plunged from 4.5 million students in 1965 to 2 million in 2002, as its overhead costs have increased because low-paid teacher-nuns are no longer available and its school buildings have aged.
Third, some politicians now are calling their voucher proposals "school choice." However, vouchers are not about parental choice, but about choice for the administrators of private academic and religious schools. They are the ones who decide whether to accept or reject a child. Private schools have the option of expelling children without having to take responsibility for what happens to a child after she or he is gone. None of the religious schools must accept your child if you profess the wrong religion, you are from the wrong side of the tracks, or you once offended the religious leaders of these schools.
Fourth, perhaps one of the most disingenuous claims of pro-voucher advocates is the free market idea that "economic theory supports the notion that vouchers would deliver higher quality services, more customer satisfaction, and lower prices." However, a common survival strategy for companies competing in a free market is to downsize, lay off employees, and jump on the next consumer trend. Do you want under-funded public schools in our city centers be to close classes, kick children out, and start yoga classes for affluent young professionals?
Fifth, anyone who is spending citizens' taxes for schools, or for any other purpose, has a fiduciary responsibility to be accountable to the public for those expenditures. Yet private religious schools do not want to have public representatives on their boards of directors, or public audits.
Call our Senators Specter and Santorum and ask them to reject school vouchers for Washington, DC. Adequate public funding is what is needed.
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Hon. Pedro A. Cortés
Rendell Invites the Public
July 22, 2003
To the Editor (sent to Democracy Dispatches #35-National News):
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Articles of Impeachment
June 9, 2003
Dear Senators Spector and Santorum and Congressman Sherwood,
Democracies Die Behind Closed Doors
August 28, 2002
To: Kelly Powell Logan, Secretary
Department of General Services
515 North Office Building, Harrisburg, PA 17125-0001
Dear Secretary Logan:
Al Richardson |
Editorial on Voucher Shortsighted
June 30, 2002
To: Editor, Erie Times-News
The analysis of the Ohio tuition voucher ruling in your June 29 editorial was shortsighted.
As a parent, I don't question the value of educational choices. All four of my children received progressive education in a private elementary school in Pennsylvania. But no state or federal law gave me the right to have the government either subsidize my alternative school choice or absolve my civic obligation to pay taxes to the public school district where I chose to live.
That's one salient point missing from your editorial.
As a taxpayer, I object to government underwriting of tuitions to sectarian schools where young children receive religious indoctrination -- be it Christian, Islamic, Buddhist, Wiccan, or whatever. That would amount to a religious tax, which is still unconstitutional in Pennsylvania. That's another missing point.
If taxpayer money were used to help less fortunate families exercise educational choices, fairness would require a level playing field for the resulting "competition." This means at least two things --
Private schools that accept government subsidies must comply with public school regulations regarding admitting students with special needs, hiring accredited teachers on a non-discriminatory basis, health, safety and public reporting standards, etc.
Public schools must be provided with adequate funding to reduce class sizes in at least K through 3rd grades, to match the class sizes of their private school competitors.
In the last century, public education made a major contribution to a sense of national unity in our pluralistic society. By enabling more students to leave public schools, vouchers would foster undesirable polarization of children in our multi-faith, multi-cultural population, and they would detract from finding better ways to give ALL students a quality education.
State legislators should resist renewed lobbying efforts by those who desire a private education at taxpayers' expense.
Al Richardson, Erie PA
Floyd Cochran |
March 10, 2002
Dear Editor (Potter Leader-Enterprise):
In the last few months, Potter County, Pennsylvania resident Neo-Nazi August Keis has announced his desire to create an "all white homeland in Potter County, Pennsylvania." Kreis, the "information officer" for the Aryan Nations, has also declared that "non-whites should leave Potter County or they will be put to death." Currently, Kreis and his Aryan criminals are threatening to build a "Aryan church grounds and host racist rocks fests."
So far, the response from local Potter County residents has been both anger and silence. Angry that Potter County is being labeled "a homeland for Aryans", and silence in not knowing how to respond. Some residents are willing to take a visible stand against racism and Aryans, while others wish to ignore August Kreis and his Aryan criminals.
Many Potter County people don't view Kreis as a threat, they point out that Kreis doesn't have much of a following, that he lacks charisma, has no education, and that he is a "welfare Nazi." To underestimate August Kreis is doing him a favor.
We here in Pennsylvania have already experienced an "Aryan Nation church." Back in the early 1990's in the Allentown, Pennsylvania area, racist leader Mark Thomas announced that his home would become the "aryan nations of the east coast." Local Lehigh and Berks county residents didn't pay much attention, after all Thomas was un-educated, lacked charisma, lived in house without a roof, and collected food stamps.
For the first few years people choose to ignore Thomas and the Aryans, that is until the spring of 1995, when two racist skinhead brothers (Bryan and David Freeman), who received counseling from the Aryan leader Mark Thomas, killed their mom, dad and young brother. Shortly after this crime, Aryan Nations supporter Tom Blair was appointed to a local school board, this was followed by attacks on Pennsylvania synagogues; but it didn't stop there. Along the way Thomas did TV interviews, held racist rallies and planned bank robberies.
In 1997, Thomas was arrested, convicted and sent to prison for his role in robbing banks with the "aryan republican army."
It didn't take long for the people in the Allentown area to respond, but instead of responding to the Aryan Nation in a direct way, people organized, public officials spoke out, the issues of racism (organized and un-organized) were addressed.
People did something to offset the negative with a positive.
Recently local Potter County resident Jerri Miller suggested a "Diversity Festival." Excellent idea! While it may not stop August Kreis directly, it certainly is the first step in setting the tone and getting the message out that Potter County is not a homeland for nazis.
Pickering Will Chip Away Freedom
February 8, 2002
Dear Senator Specter:
We Need Reason to Trust
December 12, 2001
(Published in the Philadlephia Inquirer)
I was taken aback by Mark Bowden's defense of the detention of hundreds of people as part of the Justice Department's investigation of the criminal acts of September 11 (Inquirer, Dec. 9).
We just don't know what our government is really up to. That is why the American Civil Liberties Union and other organizations filed a lawsuit last week requesting the disclosure of basic information about individuals arrested and detained since Sept. 11.
Without such information, it is impossible for any of us to know whether the government is acting prudently or treating those who have been detained in a reasonable and nondiscriminatory manner. Maybe if we had some information about the number of individuals arrested, the charges, and their status, we would have better reason to trust what our leaders are doing.
Americans shouldn't have to demand that our government provide us with these basic facts. Surely, the United States can defend itself against terrorism without stonewalling its own people.
Larry Frankel, Executive Director, American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania
Compelling Prayer Undermines Religious Freedom
October 24, 2001
Dear Senator _____ (sent to every PA State Senator)
We urge you to oppose House Bill 592, which mandates unconstitutional religious observance by school children.
The pledge to the flag or other expression of patriotism, freely offered, resonates with the love of country felt by many. A prayer for comfort or guidance, offered sincerely and voluntarily, can be a beautiful expression of faith. But to compel these prayers and pledges, as HB 592 would, undermines the very essence of these activities and the respect for freedom of speech and religion which central democratic values on which our nation was built.
It is difficult to reconcile these requirements with the language in HB 592 specifying instruction in patriotism, including “instruction in the fundamental principles of our form of government, an understanding of the provisions of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Constitution of the United States of America, the values to be found in the freedom of speech, of religion and of the press.” One can only imagine the difficulty a teacher would have in conveying these values to students after compelling them to participate in speech with religious content.
Rather than demand acts of rote patriotism from our children, we should provide them with a government which respects their religious choices and those of their families. Should HB 592 come up for consideration in the Senate, we urge you to oppose it.
Liz Hrenda, Executive Director,
Pennsylvania Alliance for Democracy