Just call him Gov. Chicken

ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Gov. Corbett said yesterday that he canceled his visit to Central because of "theatrics." Or is he just chicken?
ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Gov. Corbett said yesterday that he canceled his visit to Central because of "theatrics." Or is he just chicken?
Posted: January 20, 2014

DEAR SUSAN CORBETT:

Well, here we go again.

Three months ago, I begged you to ask your governor husband, Tom, to release the $45 million he was withholding from the Philadelphia School District.

My impetus, back then, was that a child had died of an asthma attack that her family said began at school - a school that, because of budget cuts, had no full-time nurse on-site.

Ma'am, I don't know what you said or did to knock some sense into your husband's head (I'd have bonked him with a frying pan), but he released the funds the day after my column ran.

Did your wifely influence - honed over your 40-plus-year marriage - do the trick? If so, I'm hoping you'll exert it again and order Tom back to Philly.

Because he owes the kids of Central High School an apology.

What the hell was he thinking yesterday, when he canceled his scheduled visit to Central, where he was supposed to present the school with a well-deserved achievement award?

His appearance at Central was going to be historic, by the way, since it would have been the first time since he was elected governor that he'd actually stepped inside a Philadelphia public school.

Take a moment to digest the fact that the governor of this state has never visited any of the Philly schools whose kids are suffering the fallout of his draconian budget cuts. He has never seen firsthand the bursting classrooms, empty counselors' and nurses' offices and shuttered libraries.

If he's going to decimate the education of children, don't you think your husband should have the decency to look into their eyes, on their own turf, as he does it? Has he forgotten what makes a leader a leader?

Well, you can imagine the excitement Tom's impending visit generated in Central's students - a collection of some of the nicest, smartest, hardest-working kids you'll find anywhere. They're also some of the most engaged, the kind who grow into society's Big Somebodies. Notable alums include a governor (Leon Abbett), astronaut (James Bagian), comedian (Bill Cosby), Watergate lawyer (Sam Dash) and philosopher (Noam Chomsky), to name just a handful who've done themselves, their families and the school proud.

But at the last minute, your husband blew off his chance to meet these wonderful kids, to feel the school percolate with their energy, to see how 2,312 kids from countless cultures blend beautifully under one huge roof.

Your thin-skinned spouse backed out when he heard that his visit to Olney would be accompanied by - gasp! - protests. Please note that the protesters weren't planning to protest, say, Tom's stance on gay marriage, fracking or the newly defunct voter-ID law. They were going to protest the state's lack of funding to Philadelphia schools.

Oh, how dare they?

"Today wasn't supposed to be about politics, it wasn't supposed to be about contracts, it wasn't supposed to be about negotiations. It was supposed to be about the students," he said at a news conference downtown, adding that he decided not to engage in "theatrics" designed by adults.

What your husband doesn't get - and I can't believe I even have to explain this - is that politics, contracts and negotiations directly affect students; they're on the opposite end of the same stick. To dismiss protests about them as "theatrics" is despicable. And to expect students and those who care about them to act as if all is well, out of politeness to the visitor who is causing such angst - are you kidding?

That's the expectation of a dictator, not an elected servant.

What the guv also doesn't get is that Central's students are bright enough to organize such "theatrics" on their own. But he takes them for sheep who rely on grown-ups to tell them what to care about and how to do it.

He must think they don't have brains - even though the achievement he was scheduled to honor during his Central visit is a direct result of the students using, y'know, their brains.

Your husband missed an opportunity to show kids how to listen, how to show grace under fire, how to hang in there until the protests settle down because you represent the very people who are protesting.

It takes grit and courage to be a governor. But yesterday, your husband exhibited yellow-bellied cowardice by not facing engaged, angry and worried kids whose education is being upended by decisions he's making from 100 miles away.

He blew it, big time, and he needs to apologize. And then he needs to return to Central and face the music.

Before the school band gets axed for funding.


Email: polaner@phillynews.com

Phone: 215-854-2217

On Twitter: @RonniePhilly

Blog: ph.ly/RonnieBlog

Columns: ph.ly/Ronnie

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|