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Conservative Group Threatens to Primary Wavering Republicans Over Vouchers Vote

By Laura Bonawits, Contributing Writer

After PA Senate Republicans showed they weren’t yet sold on a school vouchers program, the conservative organization Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania (CAP) today vowed to recruit and fund primary challengers to any Republican who votes against the bill.

According to CAP, Senate Bill 1, would improve education without increasing taxes by providing vouchers to allow low- and middle-income parents to send children to private, parochial and out-of-district public schools.

“CAP will target for defeat in the 2012 primary election any Republican Senator or Representative who bows to Pennsylvania’s entrenched teachers’ union and opposes Senate Bill 1,” the group announced. “CAP will actively recruit and fund candidates to challenge Republican opponents of SB 1.  To date, CAP has raised $1 million for this purpose, and this figure grows steadily each day.”

Joe Sterns, CAP’s Executive Director, says CAP won’t reveal its donors. However, lest anyone doubt the heavy campaign money on the issue, the Tribune Review reports that voucher proponents contributed $6.4 million to campaigns in 2010 (including $3.4 million to SB1 sponsor Sen. Anthony Williams).

“The long and short of it is that you have some career politicians who believe that appeasing the labor union bosses is the surest path to re-election, which is their top concern, not the taxpayers or children.  So CAP is here to change the paradigm by recruiting and funding primary opposition to these career politicians,”  Sterns said.

While CAP points the finger at career politicians kowtowing to unions, the bill is a bit more complicated for Republicans representing rural areas. With few private schools to choose from and a majority of students attending public schools in rural districts, those Republicans are being asked to vote for a bill that would ultimately serve little benefit for their constituents.

CAP says the act wouldn’t change anything for parents satisfied with their children’s current education, but would end “the costly death grip that unionized government schools have on our education system.”

“CAP is optimistic that SB 1 will be enacted into law,” Sterns said. “We recognize that the votes in both chambers are potentially close, closer than they should ultimately be with Republicans having their largest majorities in several decades, coupled with an electorate thirsting for an end to the labor union’s costly grip on our tax dollars, our schools, and our children.”

Keegan Gibson contributed to this report.

8 Responses

  1. “…the bill is a bit more complicated for Republicans representing rural areas. With few private schools to choose from and a majority of students attending public schools in rural districts, those Republicans are being asked to vote for a bill that would ultimately serve little benefit for their constituents.”

    The classic static view of economics: since a thing does not now exis, it will never exist. Do you think if there is money to fund students available that no educational entrepreneur will start a school to meet the need?

  2. Sterns and company seem to be the very definition of ‘thug politics’

    We aren’t getting our way because the senators are listening to their constituents. Now we’re going to attack anyone who doesn’t believe just like we believe

    This bill isn’t school choice. If it were it would pass.

  3. See an extensive report on Students First PAC and the affiliated national group American Federation for Children. This is an ongoing series, complete with extensive documentation. The first report is at ttp://

    The nationwide effort is led by Betsy DeVos, sister of Erik Prince of Blackwater notoriety, and the campaign is a classic example of astroturfing. Students First PAC was not founded until early 2010 and raised $6,519,400 during 2010 to promote SB-1. Most of the money came from three individuals.

  4. Don’t these people undertand that vouchers are unconstitutional in Pennsylvania(See Lemon vs. Sloan – public funds cannot be appropiated for sectarian schools), unwelcome(The Center for Opinion Research pointed out that over 2/3rds of Pennsylvanians do not want them regardless of race, region, age or political affiliation),untimely (how can you slash a billion dollars from public school budgets and use another billion to pay for vouchers), unproven (Studies,Wisconsin being the most recent,show voucher students scoring well below public school students) and unaccountable (No financial records,testing, See waste of taxpayer$ in recent ETIC study by Keystone Research Center).

  5. Obviously the money would come from the Susquehana Group on the Main Line of Philadelphia. So they would be funding Anthony Williams and Republican challengers. Hopefully the GOP Senate is going to grow some and be the adults in the room here.

  6. Please read SB 1.

    SB 1 does not, at this time, effectively include MIDDLE INCOME STUDENTS (not even the 27,000 middle income students currently attending failing schools).

    Middle income students are not covered by SB 1, in any form, until possibly the 4th year after the bill goes into effect–provided any funds remain (highly doubtful).

    Joe Sterns knows this and is misrepresenting the facts (see press release above), as are the other groups backing the current bill.

    Yet they’re the ones threatening lawmakers?

    How sad. Sterns, who supposedly represents a “citizens” alliance will stoop to any level to get a bad bill passed in the legislature–just to please wealthy donors.

    In this case, it doesn’t matter if a bill neglects middle income students who are also trapped in failing schools.

    BTW, where did CAP get their $1 million?

    Let me guess–Students First and/or The Susquehanna Group.

  7. CAP will actively recruit and fund candidates to… Proves the point. The best government money can buy (any level will do).

  8. If this and the article in the Tribune Review don’t drive home how powerful the organization, Students First Pa. has become, I don’t know what will. There is clearly a lot of money in them there hills and these guys are not afraid to move it around, all the way to a new law….the question is, what’s there next act??

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