PBOC announces its intent to endorse John Hanger for Governor.
It is a choice to believe we can turn back the tide on the privatization of Public Education.
It is a choice to take on the monied interests that infect even our own party.
It is, at its core, a choice to recognize that we deserve better, to believe we can achieve better, and to seize the opportunity in front of us.
From public education and public sector union-busting to corporate tax breaks and mass prison expansion, the privatization agenda out of Harrisburg threatens the future of the vast majority of Pennsylvanians – this is a Governor’s race with the highest of stakes.
And the Corbett-backed “Voter ID” laws threaten to suppress the political will of the majority, preventing us from fighting back against economic policies that benefit only the wealthy few.
Walter G. Smith school in Point Breeze closed as a result of Governor Corbett’s cuts to the state education budget.
Point Breeze community members have also watched the Corbett administration deliberately defund Cheyney University – the country’s oldest African-American Higher Education institution. School closings in Philadelphia happened in majority African-American and low-income neighborhoods.
Taken with the Cheyney effort, this suggests that, much like Ronald Reagan, the Corbett Administration hopes to use targeted attacks against the African-American community and public education as a way to set the stage for the privatization of everything, undermining the public infrastructure necessary to have real democracy.
“Funding shortages are only the symptom – not the root cause – of our public education problems… We must recognize that the crisis in our schools has been largely manufactured by those with ideological and financial interests in destroying them. Unless we accurately diagnose the problem, we won’t come up with the solutions needed to correct it, and our public schools’ problems will persist. We are facing a well-financed and organized privatization movement whose money has bought support in Harrisburg, not only on the Republican side of the aisle, but on the Democratic side, as well… I am the only candidate for Governor who is willing to expose the cynical strategy of the privatization interests to damage and destroy public education so they can divert more and more taxpayer money into the privatized schools they operate.”
Hanger has publicly criticized the school-to-prison pipeline. And, “in Philadelphia,” he says, “where a decade of state control has not improved the city’s schools, it is time to restore direct local control and abolish the School Reform Commission.”
On marijuana reform, the Hanger campaign has stressed, “Pennsylvania’s marijuana laws are being enforced in a racially discriminatory manner against African Americans… prosecuting and jailing people for the non-violent offense of using marijuana ruins lives, stresses our judicial system and strains our prisons.”
These are the words of those who speak truth to power, and yet if the people come together, and exert power, they could also be the words of our next Governor.
When we found out that the John Hanger for Governor campaign was touring the state with a Save our Schools initiative, we reached out and asked to meet with his campaign staff. Mr. Hanger asked to be there himself.
We were surprised to find that he was one of us. He attended public schools and took out federal student loans to complete law school. He lived in Philadelphia for 12 years and worked at Community Legal Services for 4 of those. After working at CLS, his work consisted largely of advocating for low-income consumers in the world of energy and public utilities, fighting to keep gas and electric bills low for working-class households. He has also been a proud union member.
During our meeting with his campaign, he pointed out that he was the most progressive candidate in the race; however, with the exception of eliminating the death penalty, all of his positions are majority positions in Pennsylvania. A sign of the times, is it not?
The will of the people – of the majority, subjugated so that the top 1% of income earners can have more money and more power.
And yet, people in Philadelphia have not been willing to go down without a fight. Student safety staff, along with students, teachers, organizers and clergy, fasted for two weeks to win their jobs back after budget cuts. Thousands of young people have organized student walkouts. Hundreds of parents are filing complaints with the State Department of Education claiming Philadelphia’s public school conditions are unconstitutional.
As we look for leadership from those who have stood up, and as we gain clarity that our vision is shared by the majority of people across this state, the words of the poet June Jordan, could not be more a propos:
“We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”
The Point Breeze Organizing Committee will join with NORML, the families of Dimock, PA, and others across the state, to stand up – not just against Corbett, but for strong public infrastructure, high quality public education, and democracy.
We are in fact the only ones who can build a Philadelphia and Pennsylvania that we deserve. Join us, and let’s wait no more.
Check out this video from a few months back of PBOC members interviewing John Hanger: