Friday, June 23, 2006

My meeting with the PSEA

On Wednesday, I had a meeting with Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) Political Action Committee ( They invited me to be interviewed for a possible endorsement. I was hoping to record the interview for my podcast. Sadly, I made the mistake of asking if I could record the interview, and they said no. Maybe I should have not asked and recorded the interview secretly, but that seemed rather impolite, so I asked. I should have brought a reporter with me to help shine some light on these roaches. Although Libertarians would not be surprised by the interview, hearing their agenda from their own mouths was still disturbing. Here are some of my notes.

The PSEA has over 180,000 "members" in Pennsylvania. I use quotations because membership dues are not optional. Conscripts is probably a more accurate term. Government teachers, admins, support staff, school nurses etc are required to "join."

I let them know that in addition to answering their questions, I had some questions for them as well. I said "If you want my help when I'm elected, I'll need to know where you stand." Although about 10 of their board members were there, only one or two would respond to my questions.

I started by explaining my motives for running for office and detailed my personal pledge to strictly comply with the constitution, the Clean Sweep candidate declaration and the oath of office. This put the largest PSEA member to sleep, but the others seemed to understand what I was saying.

They asked me what I would like PSEA to do for me. I mentioned that I had heard that Ed Rendell had just received a sizable contribution ($235,000, his largest this reporting period) and that I would be happy to receive a similar contribution. I let them know that my commitment to improving education in Pennsylvania was at least as great as Ed's. They said state rep candidates usually receive $0 to $1,500 each.

After a few routine questions, they began to figure out that I was not going to help them expand their power, and that I was in fact, an ally of their worst enemy, the parents.

The ring leader took offense at the term "government school" preferring the term "public school." I explained that the Friends School is also open to the public. Funny that leaders of the STATE education association would take offense at the word government. I guess even whores prefer the term "lady of the evening."

I asked them to support my plan to remove the compulsory nature government schooling. This seamed to horrify them. The ring leader informed me that the Pennsylvania constitution guarantees a free (and presumably mandatory) education. When I read her the actual wording: (The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth.), the ring leader got very defensive and ended any discussion of the constitution. I tried to bring it back up by asking "Don't state employees have an obligation to perform their duties within the confines of our highest law?"

They expressed their concern about accountability proposals. They reject ALL merit based pay proposals. When I mentioned how I have always been paid according to my production, one lady snapped "We don't make widgets!" Evidently, our saintly government school workers and their legislative lap-dogs are beyond reproach, but parents must be thoroughly scrutinized. They informed me that they are internally evaluated. I asked how much their salary would be reduced for an unsatisfactory evaluation. The answer was zero, of course.

Later, I asked them point blank: "Who is the ultimate authority when it comes to my child's education?" They confirmed that the state is the ultimate authority, as parents just can't be trusted. They confirmed that criminal penalties were appropriate for a parent who refused to comply with government education policy. They were all ready to tell me their horror stories of bad parenting. I sensed a strong loathing whenever the subject of parents was discussed.

They really creeped me out when the topic of nursery school came up. I noted how many high quality, choices of nursery schools were available in my area, many of which are very affordable. They informed me that now that Rendell has delivered full day government kindergarten, nursery school will be their next conquest.

I gave the attendees a copy of my campaign brochure and also a copy of Jacob G. Hornberger's essay "The Separation of Education and State" (

Before leaving, I asked them "Can I have your endorsement?"

I won't hold my breath.


Mark Rauterkus said...

Thanks for the recap.

I'm just started a page on the PSEA at my wiki, Feel fee to visit there and/or flush out other reactions, insights.

And, from there, I link back to this posting.

James Babb said...

Russ Diamond just sent me this link for more info about the PSEA.