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New poll shows voters disapprove of SRC and Corbett's education policies

By Ron Whitehorne on Apr 16, 2014 11:09 AM

In the wake of Gov. Corbett’s budget cuts in 2011 and the release of the Boston Consulting Group’s school transformation blueprint in 2012, which promoted school closings and expanded private management, many in Philadelphia have aggressively challenged the School Reform Commission’s leadership of city schools.

Using the tactics available to social movements, hundreds of activists have worked to educate the public about the issues facing our schools. Protests have demanded full and equitable funding, opposed mass school closings and charter expansion, and decried attacks on the District’s unionized workforce.

A new poll, commissioned by the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and conducted by the Democratic polling firm Hart Research Associates, suggests that this work is having an impact. 

Among the 554 Philadelphia voters surveyed, three-quarters are dissatisfied with Corbett’s handling of education, with nearly two-thirds saying they are less likely to support him for re-election because of this issue. That figure includes more than half of respondents who are not registered Democrats. The survey also found that 59 percent of voters and 64 percent of public school parents disapprove of the SRC’s decisions and policies.  

These results were remarkably consistent across demographic groups. Significantly, the dissatisfaction with the governor was almost as high among whites as with blacks, about 75 percent. Although dissatisfaction was higher with parents (79 percent), it was high among non-parents (73 percent) as well.  

The survey shows that more than two-thirds of voters would prefer that the SRC be replaced by a school board. Voters will most likely have a chance to express themselves on this question this fall with the Working Families Party and the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools (PCAPS) petitioning for a ballot question on the local control of schools.

Poll respondents also weighed in on the negotiation between the District and the PFT, taking the teachers’ union’s side by a 4-1 ratio. Support was even stronger among parents. In the African American community, support was twice as high as among whites, a significant shift from the past.

Here’s how the respondents saw the two sides on four areas related to public education and the contract.

Respondents, by a nearly 6-1 ratio, were against imposing a contract. Even the minority who favor the SRC’s position in the negotiations favor continuing negotiations rather than imposing a contract. These results too were consistent across demographic groups.

Of course, the SRC, as it has done in the past, may simply ignore the groundswell of opposition and continue on its present course, including imposing non-economic contract provisions. But what this poll indicates is that a price may be paid for these actions in November: The Democratic candidates for governor have all indicated they would support returning Philadelphia's schools to local control. Should the Democratic nominee win, the school-takeover law that created the SRC could be repealed.

Three weeks ago, more than a hundred people went out canvassing in the rain to get registered voters to sign a pledge to vote for candidates who support full and fair funding, charter school accountability, shutting down the school-to-prison pipeline, and restoring our schools to local control.

This campaign, started by PCAPS, aims at getting 25,000 voters in the city to sign this “education voter” pledge, followed by an effort to get them out to vote. The response to this campaign, like the results of this poll, demonstrates that there is a growing base among the electorate in our city for a progressive alternative to the free-market-driven education policies pursued by the School Reform Commission.

Ron Whitehorne is a retired teacher and a coordinator for the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools (PCAPS).

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

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Comments (10)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 16, 2014 1:07 pm
A well written summary of the polling data. As you clearly stated, who knows if the SRC will take note of this....but at the very least it's good to see the public on the side of the teachers and against the SRC and their talk of "reform."
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 17, 2014 5:48 am
This is Philadelphia voters. Corbett and the SRC clearly don't care about the Philadelphia voters--or students, for that matter.
Submitted by Morrie Peters (not verified) on April 16, 2014 1:25 pm
Schools are not meant to be jobs programs for members of the community. In fact, the farming out of basic school responsibilities such as libraries and discipline hurt children and is in direct violation of the State Code (law). Hite's initial response, through Gallard, to the Bartram chaos was the canned, paid for Restorative Justice Program. Essentially admitting that he and his minions have no idea how to administer discipline... so we will pay this group to sing kumbaya until somebody dies then we'll fire them and hire another group to do the job that all of our suburban counterparts handle first and foremost. This is intellectual genocide being committed on the daily to the children of this once great city. How far we have fallen? Make no mistake, the "White Devil" exists. The tragic part is that she or he has invaded the body and minds of Mike Nutter, Bill Green, Bill Hite and Barack Obama. Money, money, money......MONEY:-(
Submitted by gloriaendres (not verified) on April 16, 2014 4:27 pm
Morrie, well said. Outsourcing and privatizing everything is the ultimate goal. Doing things on the cheap after all helps the bottom line. Whether it is school discipline or Teach for America, putting amateurs in the system is one way to turn the whole process over to the oligarchs.
Submitted by Taxpayer (not verified) on April 16, 2014 4:25 pm
Commissioned by the PFT? That in itself makes it suspect. I don't see the question if these parents are aware that the PFT wants to shut down their precious charter schools. At any rate, it will be up to the state's voters, not Philly's. If the people of Philly had their way, they would keep voting for free stuff for everyone until we are another Detroit.
Submitted by gloriaendres (not verified) on April 16, 2014 4:24 pm
Where do you get your information. The state takeover was accomplished by a vote in Harrisburg not by state voters. The SRC was formed supposedly to put the district's financial house in order. That was 13 years ago and it has only gotten worse. That is because putting the house in order was not the purpose of the takeover but making it easier to privatize the system. There is nothing wrong with the concept of charter schools, as long as they are not run by interstate and international companies who are only interested in profit. Did you know that one charter school company is run by a Turkish organization that siphons our tax money back to Turkey to fund an Islamist movement?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 16, 2014 5:04 pm
Well, there's the black - footed ferret. Then there's the type pollcat who finds this garbage credible.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 17, 2014 1:14 pm
Corbett maybe unpopular now. Anyone want to bet he is re-elected. People don't vote for the proper candidate anyway. They have some weird methodology and my prediction is he will be re-elected.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 17, 2014 3:48 pm
Was it the stars or the entrails of a chicken that told you this?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 17, 2014 3:56 pm
This is old news (below) but a reminder that Corbett can't keep his own house in order.He is such a double talking, hypocrite. Corbett has relatives who went to Phila. traditional schools already.And another younger grandchild of Gov. Corbett that may also in the near future.You think he would be more understanding of Phila. traditional Schools. I heard it's a payback (the turmoil with the SDP) to his son -in-law and daughter since he didn't agree to the bi-racial marriage she has with Gerald Gibson. See story below . Source: Pittsburgh Post Gazette The son-in-law of Gov. Tom Corbett, a narcotics officer with the Philadelphia Police Department, is under investigation by the FBI and was removed from the street today, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The Philadelphia Police department confirmed that a narcotics officer was taken off the street and placed on administrative leave Thursday, following the results of an FBI and Internal Affairs investigation. The department said it would not identify the officer because he had not been arrested or formally charged. The Philadelphia Inquirer, citing anonymous sources, identified the officer as Gerold Gibson, Mr. Corbett's son-in-law. Mr. Corbett, attending a Chamber of Commerce event in Philadelphia late Thursday, left without speaking to the media. Officer Gibson is married to Mr. Corbett's daughter, Katherine, who works as a deputy attorney general in the Philadelphia office making $69,700. She started in March of 2012, and as of late last year she was assigned to the office's Drug Strike Force section. Read more: According to law enforcement sources, Gerald Gibson is a narcotics officer with the Philadelphia force. Sources tell us Gibson was caught on hidden camera, taking money out of a car he was told to search. What Gibson didn't know, according to sources, is that that the was money planted in the car by investigators. Gibson has been placed on administrative leave, according to sources. How ironic, former PA. Attorney General, now GOP Governor Tom Corbett has the woman that he appointed Attorney General, hire Corbett's daughter to work on the Drug Strike Force, but the Philly police & FBI arrest her police narcotics officer husband in a sting operation. Let's all sing another chorus of Family Values.

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