None of us are under the delusion that our canvassing, phone banking, fund-raising, etc., have made a bigger impact upon changing the political landscape in Pennsylvania over the past year than the events that have occurred at the national level. Yet the outrage that many of us have felt against the Federal Government pales against the wrongs what we have suffered at the hands of our State leaders. Consider, for instance, the case of Betsy Devos. There has probably been no cabinet appointee who has created a larger uproar from the electorate than the Secretary of Education. Yet in Pennsylvania, Federal revenues account for only 13.6% of all State educational funding. Given the fact that Pennsylvania does the worst job of any state in how it distributes those funds among its 500 school districts should cause us to protest with at least as much fervor as we have shown for Ms. Devos’ appointment. And if you live anywhere in the Delaware Valley, your reaction should be even more acute, since the State shortchanges Philadelphia to the tune of $1,500 per pupil, while Pottstown receives over $2,000 less of its fair share per pupil, and Reading suffers 5,000 fewer dollars per pupil. And although Betsy Devos has become emblematic of the privatization of public education throughout the country, our elected State leaders are the people most responsible for turning Pennsylvania into the tenth largest charter school provider in the country. Over half of those charters are in Philadelphia, generally not in the districts where the Republican legislative leadership resides.
But education inequality is symptomatic of more systemic problems within Pennsylvania’s government. Many of us remember Speaker Mike Turzai giving the Pennsylvania House a six week summer vacation when they had not completed their constitutional duty of approving a balanced budget by the end of June. As a result, an analysis by U.S. News and World Report ranks Pennsylvania 43rd out of 50 states on its credit rating and 45th out of 50 states with regard to integrity. Such rankings must give businesses pause when they think about locating or expanding in the State. The same study ranks Pennsylvania 47th in job growth and 44th, with regard to low unemployment. During the next nine months, as we campaign for those important races for Governor, the U.S.. Senate, and Congress, we need to also convince the electorate why we need to change all those red seats in the General Assembly that are up for re-election to blue.