Beaver County Blue

Progressive Democrats of America – PA 12th CD Chapter

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Bernie Sanders Lights a Fire under Pennsylvania Democrats at Keystone Progress’s Annual Summit in Harrisburg

Posted by carldavidson on February 10, 2015

By Carl Davidson

BeaverCountyBlue.org

Feb 8, 2015, Harrisburg, PA. If the vote were taken for the Democratic presidential candidate at the Harrisburg Hilton on Saturday, Feb. 7, Senator Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont, would likely have won by a landslide.

That was the spirit in the hotel ballroom as Sanders addressed the 800 people gathered for the PA Progressive Summit. The annual meeting, sponsored by Keystone Progress, brought together progressive activists—community and trade union organizers, women’s right and civil rights groups, hopeful candidates and door knockers—all of whom made up the democratic wing of the Democratic Party, from all across the Keystone State.

“I’m going to try something a little different this morning,” said Sanders to start things rolling, “I’m going to tell you the truth.” He got a wave of laughter and cheers from people who often got something else from politicians.

Sanders with Tina Shannon

Sanders with Tina Shannon

Sanders started off with the ‘Citizen United’ Supreme Court decision taking limits off the superrich in funding elections and candidates. “It will go down is history as one of the worse ever made in modern times” Sanders said by way of description. “By a five-to-four vote, it undermined the very foundations of democracy. I know you think the situation is bad, believe me, it’s worse than you think it is.” Billionaires are not satisfied with owning the economy, he explained. They were buying government as well.”

The Koch Brothers, with 85 billion in wealth, were taken as the case in point. Sanders explained that they alone intended to spend over 900 million dollars on the 2016 election—more than the combined total of Obama and Romney in 2012. This meant these “counter-revolutionaries with a far right agenda” would wield more power than both political parties in the recent past.

Turning to the economy, Sanders said while the economy was clearly in better shape than when Obama, first took office, it was still clearly in bad shape. He explained the different meanings of official unemployment figures, with 5.8 percent being the most common number cited, but double that, near 12%, was more accurate.

Then he broke it down further: “We talk a lot about Ferguson, as we should. But we also need to talk more about Black youth unemployment, which is 30 percent. Nobody should be satisfied with where we are today. We have 45 million people living in poverty, another word we need to talk more about today.”

For those worried about deficits, Sanders noted that they had been reduced under Obama. But he also insisted that if they were truly concerned about deficits, they would have stood up against the Iraq war. This remark got wild cheers and everyone out of their seats.

Unfair Impact of Technological Change

Sanders went on to examine ‘the explosion in technology,’ not only i-Phones and i-Pads, but robotics in factories. “All of this has led to a tremendous growth in productivity on the part of American workers.” Such changes logically might suggest workers were paid more or worked shorter hours, he added, “but all of you know, tens of millions of Americans today are working longer hours for less pay.”

This meant anger and stress among workers—impacting both men and women, even if in slightly different ways—needed discussion as a national issue. There was a time, “ancient history” said Sanders, when one worker could work 40 hours and support a family reasonably well. Now women were working along with men, sometimes at two or three jobs, at long hours and low pay, to hobble together enough to support a family. “This causes a lot of anger, and often it’s being angry at the wrong people for the wrong reasons,” he added. “The average male worker, right in the center of the economy, now makes $800 a year less in inflation adjusted dollars than he did 40 years ago. The average female worker in the center makes $1300 a year, even less. They have a lot to be angry about. They want to know why, and our job is to explain it to them.”

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Posted in 2016 Election, Harrisburg, PDA, Right Wing, safety net, Wall Street | 2 Comments »

Memo to Tom Wolf and Harrisburg: An Eye-Opening Description of Pennsylvania’s Failed School Funding System

Posted by carldavidson on December 14, 2014

By Valerie Strauss
Washington Post

Dec 11, 2014 – Many school reformers today like to say that “money doesn’t matter” in making schools work and that holding students and teachers more “accountable”   — largely through standardized test scores — is what is needed.

Certainly a great deal of money can be used poorly but that is not the same thing as money doesn’t matter. It is, however, a good mantra for people who want to ignore the severe and consequential funding inequities that persist in the U.S. public education system across the United States.

According to this 2013 report on school funding by the Education Law Center:

    In fiscal year 2010, the most recent year for which data is available, state governments, on average, funded 43.5 percent, or $259.8 billion, of the total amount spent on public education. School districts and other local sources were responsible, on average, for almost 44 percent of all public school spending or $261.6 billion. The federal government, on average, provided almost 13 percent of the total revenue received by public schools, or $75.9 billion.

With most of the money coming from state and local sources, disparities are inevitable, especially because in most places local sources are dependent on property taxes, meaning that poor areas have less money to spend on schools. Federal money given to low-income areas doesn’t close the gap.

So how inequitable can school funding be within a single state? Let’s look at one of the most troubled in this respect, Pennsylvania.

Here’s some testimony from Michael Churchill of the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, given to a public hearing of the Basic Education Funding Commission in Pennsylvania about school funding:

    Pennsylvania’s system of funding schools is a failure by every criterion: equity, adequacy, predictability, fairness. Too many students in too many schools are unable to meet state standards of what children should know and be able to do. Too few are going on to college or are prepared for well paying jobs. No one is responsible to calculate how much it will cost districts to provide the necessary instruction and support. The inequity of the system is glaring: the amount of public resources spent on preparing a child to succeed in the adult world varies from $9,000 to $27,000 a year, which is a quarter of a million dollars difference over a school career from K to 12th grade. But it is not only unfair to children, it is unfair to taxpayers where the tax burden can vary from the equivalent of 8 to 36 equalized mills of tax effort for homes with the same value. And in the ultimate insult, the districts bearing the highest tax burdens frequently have less dollars to spend on their students than districts with tax burdens half the amount.

    The reasons for these multiple failures are simple:

    1. Too few state dollars result in too high reliance on local dollars;
    2. The system does not take into account how much it costs to educate children.
    3. State dollars are distributed on a basis which does not reflect the tax effort of the district.

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Posted in Education, Harrisburg, Youth and students | Leave a Comment »

Labor’s Campaigns and Action in Harrisburg Win a Round

Posted by carldavidson on October 19, 2014

Photo: Tartaglione with union allies

Senator Tartaglione Rises to Defeat ‘Paycheck Protection’ in Statehouse

HARRISBURG, Oct. 15, 2014 – State Sen. Christine M. Tartaglione today helped to quash a backdoor attempt to weaken unions by joining a bipartisan push to defeat an amendment that would have prohibited employers from automatically deducting membership dues from a worker’s paycheck.

Called “paycheck protection” by proponents, Tartaglione said the proposal, introduced by Sen. Scott Wagner (R-York) as an amendment to a bill designed to help children with food allergies, was not democratic.

“The only thing Sen. Wagner’s amendment would do is eliminate unions’ abilities to choose who they want to represent them in government,” Tartaglione said. “It would eliminate the voices of the men and women who work hard day-in and day-out to put food on the table for their families, just because they belong to a union.

“Union members can already decide whether or not they want to contribute to union political spending. The law protects them if they choose not to contribute.  And, she said, for every hour worked by a teacher, the money they earn for that work is no longer the state’s money; it is the employee’s.

“So, I ask you: why do we call this measure ‘paycheck protection?’” she said on the Senate floor.

Tartaglione added that voting in favor of the Wagner amendment would have handed control of the commonwealth to corporations “and their one-sided political agendas.”

Posted in Harrisburg, trade unions | Leave a Comment »

The Right Wing’s ALEC Takes a Hit in Harrisburg

Posted by carldavidson on October 19, 2014

Preserving Democracy in Pennsylvania

By: Ellen Bravo

Beaver County Blue via FireDogLake

Oct. 17, 2014 – It had all the trappings of an ALEC-backed attack on democracy:  Push out a bill prohibiting local governments from passing workplace protections in their own communities. If all else failed, tack the measure onto some popular bill as an amendment and hope the supporters of that bill would want it badly enough to allow the hostile amendment to stand.

Only this time the strategy didn’t work, thanks to the strong stand of progressive legislators and the smart organizing of a broad coalition – particularly the leadership of anti-violence advocates.

In this case, the state was Pennsylvania. The preemption attempt was aimed at stopping future passage of a municipal paid sick days ordinance. And the popular bill held hostage was one to aid those who experience domestic violence.

First Rep. Seth Grove, a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council or “ALEC,”  tried to pass a stand-alone bill that would take away the right of local units of government to pass laws ensuring workers could earn paid sick days – or even unpaid leave. Other legislators added multiple amendments to the bill that would have required every elected official to take votes that might have been unpopular with their constituents. The measure didn’t move.

So another ALEC member, John Eichelberger, decided to try a different tack:  stick the preemption provision as an amendment onto a bipartisan bill to help those experiencing domestic violence.  HB 1796 was written to exempt victims of domestic violence from “nuisance ordinances” that allow landlords to evict those who call 911 more than a certain number of times within a given period. The bill had passed the House with broad bipartisan support.

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Posted in GOP, Harrisburg, safety net | Leave a Comment »

 
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