I am here today in Harrisburg to question the true agenda of the leadership of PSEA , the Pennsylvania State Education Association, with respect to its political endorsement process, and comment on the duplicitous conduct of one of my opponents, Josh Shapiro.
For the past few years, PSEA has made choices with respect to its political endorsements which are suspect. They are based on personal friendships between board members and certain political candidates that have not advanced the real interests of our state's teachers or other members of PSEA.
Let me be more specific. In 2008, when I was the Democratic candidate for AG, I came to PSEA in good faith with a longstanding record of supporting public education and protecting teachers. PSEA leadership sat there quietly and listened to my record . They were told of my background:
* Endorsed by PSEA for District AttorneyDespite a 100% record of supporting the entire agenda of PSEA, the leadership voted to endorse Republican Tom Corbett. When I asked at that time how PSEA could endorse Tom Corbett , a man who was so opposite the interests of public education, opposite my pro- union, pro public education record, I was told by PSEA leadership that there were personal relationships on the board that were developed with Corbett because he had attended quarterly meetings of PSEA . In short, PSEA leadership put aside the interests of its own members, and endorsed and funded a person who wanted to bring public education to its knees, and who always said that he would make Pennsylvania a right to work state if the legislation was brought to him. Tom Corbett devastated public education and he did so with the help of PSEA who helped get him re-elected AG and propelled him to the Office of Governor 2 years later.
* A life time of being a pro-union, Democrat- endorsed by many labor unions on numerous occasions
* A labor background- My dad a life time union member with AFL/CIO/Operating Engineers/ Teamsters
- My mom- a union garment worker
* The fact that prior to being DA, I represented a labor union
* The fact that as DA, I was praised editorially for standing up for teachers right to use reasonable force in our schools to protect themselves from unruly students.
* the fact that I opposed vouchers, was a product of public schools and had family members who are teachers
Now, here in 2016, PSEA has ignored certain facts about their endorsed AG candidate Josh Shapiro. In a debate a few weeks ago, I exposed the fact that Josh Shapiro accepted a $25,000 campaign contribution from Students First, a charter school advocacy group that is hurting public schools. That contribution was in March of 2015. It was later determined that Josh accepted an additional $25,000 from Students First PAC in 2012. Who knows how much more he may have received from them that has not yet surfaced. In my view, Shapiro is duplicitous in his conduct telling both sides what they want to hear behind closed doors. This is not consistent with his so-called "integrity" campaign.
The Students First web site says this about public education: "Statistics reveal that education offered by public schools in America is increasingly failing to meet the expectations of students..... According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP 2012), “three out of four eighth-and 12th-grade students cannot write proficiently.. Statistics also show that nearly 1.1 million students in USA drop out of the education system every year."
There are many unanswered questions about why Josh Shapiro would accept $50,000 from a group that condemns public education:
* Why is Students First PAC giving these large contributions to Josh Shapiro?These are not nominal contributions. $50,000 represents a huge contribution from a special interest group that takes dollars from our public schools. And the largest question: How can PSEA endorse a candidate who is in bed with the Charter school folks? This would be like someone being funded by both the NRA and CeaseFire- inconceivable!
* What do they expect of him with respect to their agenda?
* Why is Josh seeking funding from a group that is hurting public schools with the proliferation of charter schools?
* What has Josh promised them?
* Why won't Josh address this? What is Josh telling 2 different , opposing groups behind closed doors?
* Why won't PSEA address this?
* Why haven't all of you, the media , asked him about this?
And the contributions from Students First PAC to Josh is not the only issue. In 2006, Josh Shapiro filled out a Project Vote Smart questionnaire and was asked his position on national standards. Here is the question, and here is his answer:
Indicate which principles you support( if any) regarding education:So, here we have PSEA, endorsing a candidate for AG who is funded by the folks that oppose public education. Here we have an endorsement of a man who said he supported national standards, another issue opposed by PSEA. So what is the rationale for this endorsement?
X Support national standards and testing of public school students
Mr. Dan Wittimer of PSEA contacted my campaign and told us that Josh was endorsed, because of personal relationships Josh developed with board members. This is now the second time I have heard this rationale for a PSEA endorsement. Once again, personal friendships, like the Corbett endorsement in 2008, takes precedence over the interests of the membership of this union. In my opinion, the leadership of PSEA is morally bankrupt.
Despite the PSEA endorsement, I am taking my pro union, pro labor, pro teacher record directly to the folks of Pennsylvania and the rank and file membership of this union. I am asking every teacher and member of this union in Pennsylvania, and particularly in the LV to ask themselves if they believe that the best person for AG is a person with absolutely no prosecution or legal experience, who takes money from charter school special interests and supports national standard, or a career prosecutor who has stood up over and over again for our teachers in the class rooms. I am also asking all PSEA members to contact their main office in Harrisburg at _717 255 7000 and demand an explanation about what their union leadership is really doing to protect their interests.