Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Corbett's Transition Team

Governor-elect Tom Corbett has announced his transition team, and, as might be expected of any elected official, not everyone is happy with it. There are 17 committees with a total of 400 people involved. The full list of people on the various subject oriented committees can be found at http://www.philly.com/transitionteam

Angela Couloumbis of the Inquirer noted in "Corbett names huge cast to transition panels," (12/01):

In choosing the group that will advise him on education, Corbett included several staunch charter school advocates. They include Vahan Gureghian, a Gladwyne lawyer who operates the state's largest charter school, Chester Community Charter School in Chester.

Gureghian contributed $250,000 to Corbett's campaign and donated heavily to other Republican campaign funds as well, state records show. Gureghian was also named to cochair Corbett's working group on transportation and infrastructure.

Also on Corbett's education committee: State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, the Philadelphia Democrat who is one of the most vocal proponents in the legislature for charter schools and school choice, and David Pollard and Joel Greenberg, both with Susquehanna International Group.

Susquehanna International's executives - Greenberg among them - gave an astonishing $5 million to Williams' unsuccessful campaign for governor in this year's primary because they liked his stance on school choice, particularly his support for the use of publicly funded vouchers to enable more families to pay for private education.

"When I look at the list of people he's chosen for education, no one jumps out who is an advocate for traditional K-12 education," said Lawrence A. Feinberg, a Haverford Township school board member and cochair of the Keystone State Education Coalition, which advocates for public education.

Also on the education team is a Bucks County woman who leads a tea party group. According to the Pittsburgh Tribune ("Transition team member irks Dems," by Mike Wereschagin, 12/02). She is quoted as calling President Obama a Marxist and saying liberals are in league with radical Islam. According to the article she was chosen because of her home schooling advocacy work.

The Delaware County Daily Times reports ("Corbett under fire for advisers' links to industry," by Marc Levy 12/06):
The head of another citizen advocacy group, Barry Kauffman of Common Cause Pennsylvania, said he saw nothing wrong with including people from all walks of industry, as long as the perspective is balanced. But he criticized Corbett's team as being light on public interest viewpoints.

Kauffman gave Corbett credit for reserving a transportation committee slot for AAA, the consumer-oriented nonprofit travel club with millions of members, but noted that the health and welfare committees lack AARP representation. There are no student associations or parent-teacher organizations on the education committee, Kauffman said.

The energy and environment committee does not include the Sierra Club or Audubon, and the veterans' committee includes a representative of Veterans for Corbett, but not any of the various veterans groups in Pennsylvania, he said.

Just to take one example, here is the membership list for the education committee:

Co-Chair – Joel Greenberg, Susquehanna International Group
Co-Chair – Mark Nordenberg, Chancellor University of Pittsburgh

* Jim Agras, CEO of Triangle Tech and State Board of Education
* Jeanne Allen, President of Center for Education Reform
* Chris Bravacos, President, Bravo Group
* Matt Brouillette, President, Commonwealth Foundation
* PA State Rep. Paul Clymer
* Marie Conley, Chair of the Human Resources Committee, Board of Governors
* Bill Donahue, Treasurer of Donahue Family Foundation
* Carolyn Dumaresq, Partner, Dumaresq Consulting
* Dan Fitzpatrick, President/CEO, Citizens Bank
* Amy Foerster, Saul Ewing
* Don Francis, Independent Colleges & Universities
* Dennis Giorno, Malady & Wooten
* Vahan Gureghian, Chester County Charter School
* Larry Jones, President of Charter School Association
* Michael Karp, President of University City Housing
* Ruth O'Block Grant, Member, Board of Trustees, Seton Hill University
* Pat O'Connor, COB, Temple University, Cozen & O'Connor
* PA State Senator Jeffrey Piccola
* David Pollard, Susquehanna International Group
* Ana Puig, Co-Chair of Kitchen Table Patriots
* Father Ed Quinlan, Secretary of Education, Harrisburg Diocese
* Cynthia Richey, Director of Mt. Lebanon Library System
* Richard Sand, Managing Partner of Sand & Saidel Law Firm
* Dave Schulik, Shulick Law Offices
* Carl Singley, Counsel, Ciardi, Ciardi and Astin
* Karen Stout, President of Montgomery County Community College
* Bob Taylor, Trustee, Slippery Rock University
* Paul Taylor, Executive Director Archabbey, St. Vincent's College
* Ron Tomalis, Director of Dutko Worldwide
* Dennis Tulli, Cyber Charters
* PA State Senator Anthony Williams
* Charles Zogby, K12 Inc. (Knowledge Universe).

There aren't any teachers listed and no one is identified as being part of any pta or pto or parents' association. Other than someone on the state board of education I don't see any representation of public k-12 schools at all. Granted some of the people are the listed are likely parents but their identification is business related and none of those businesses are related to public k-12 education.

Transition team members are asked to sign ethics and confidentiality agreements. Their duties include coming up with recommendations for the new administration by mid-January. Corbett is not obligated to follow their recommendations. Appearances do matter, though, and, as a parent and former pta board member, I'm a little concerned about the absence of a representative of public education on that committee.

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