Corbett trip to D.C. sparks anti-voucher protest

Posted: May 09, 2011

Protestors from Philadelphia, Bucks County and Harrisburg made their way to Washington, D.C., this morning to protest at an education-related conference where Gov. Corbett was scheduled to speak.

About 200 demonstrators gathered shortly before noon outside the Washington Marriott Hotel, chanting "Save Our Schools," and holding signs, such as "Vouchers Aren't the Answer."

Corbett's remarks were expected to come about 12:30 p.m. at the American Federation for Children's second annual National Policy Summit. The Republican governor has proposed a state budget that slashes funding for public schools, and he is solidly behind a Senate bill to create a voucher system that would help Pennsylvania parents send their children to private schools.

Expressing fears for the future of public education, about three parents, students and teachers boarded a D.C.-bound bus about 8 a.m. at 16th Street and JFK Boulevard, outside the visitor center at Love Park.

Corbett's budget "is a sure-fire way to send the city back into more poverty," said former city middle school teacher, Lisa Haver, 55.

"Education is a human right, and this is an assault on public education," said Azeem Hill, 17, a student at West Philadelphia High.

Senate Bill 1, expected to come up for a vote soon, would "strip money from public schools," diverting hundreds of millions of dollars away from already hard-hit districts statewide, said Marc Stier, head of Penn Action, the group behind the protest.

Parent Tim Brown, waiting for the bus to D.C., said he saw vouchers as "cynical maneuvering" by "right-wing billionaires," who want to privatize all education in America.

"If they're complaining there's a budget problem, why are they turning around and subsidizing private schools?" he asked.

The American Federation for Children was founded and funded by conservatives "ideologically opposed to public education," said a Penn Action news release.

Evidence of the conference's conservative slant is that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker - "the most anti-public sector, most anti-worker governor" - also will be a speaker, Stier said.

Many of the Washington protesters directed criticisms at Walker.

One D.C. sign, though, said "Keep Wisconsin Out of Pennsylvania."


Contact the Inquirer Online News Desk at online@phillynews.com or 215-854-2443.

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