Corbett Lifetime Achievement Award Hits Sour Note with Some

It seems that no one is singing the Pittsburgh Opera’s praises in its decision to present Gov. Tom Corbett with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

An April press release from the opera stated that, “Gov. Corbett will be honored for his early work as a teacher as well as his long-standing protection of the public interest as Pa. Attorney General. Additionally, as governor, he has recognized the economic, educational and social value of the arts.”

The opera is also honoring Susan Corbett, “as First Lady, has championed greater participation in the arts in her role as Chair of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.”

The decision has led to online outrage, with hundreds of comments being posted on the opera’s Facebook page and 1,200-plus signatures on a change.org petition that calls on the Pittsburgh Opera to “Rescind the Tom and Susan Corbett Lifetime Achievement Award.”

The controversy also prompted a response from a local blog entitled Yinzercation (a portmanteau of “Yinzer nation” and “education”), a site run by Jessie Ramey, ACLS New Faculty Fellow at Pitt and parent to two students attending public schools there.

The blog began in December 2011 in response to those “outraged by the $1 billion state cuts that are now hitting our schools.”

What started as a group of Pittsburgh Colfax K-8 parents “has quickly grown into a region-wide movement as folks from across Southwest PA have joined the fight to stop this attack on public education,” according to the site.

Ramey said in a Post-Gazette interview that the only opera that comes to mind when she thinks of Corbett is “The Beggar’s Opera,” because of the lengths to which public schools must now go in order to save their arts curriculum.

While some members of the public may not agree with the opera’s decision, their marketing and communications director Debra L. Bell said in the same Post-Gazette interview that Gov. Corbett intervened this year to prevent a 70 percent cut to the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts budget

She also said the council gave $73,000 to the opera this year, bringing the total to $2 million since 1998.

Even so, arts and arts education supporters have been saying that it ain’t over until the fat lady sings, and they plan to hold a demonstration outside of the Saturday event, when the Corbetts are to receive their award following the opera’s annual benefit gala.

It is expected that some are planning to take the opera-tunity to show their love for the arts by donning Viking helmets and staging a protest outside opera headquarters.

Additionally, in a move Yinzercation calls “Singing it to the Legislators,” activists have called on their fellow incensed parents and arts supporters to contact their state representatives and senators, along with Pittsburgh Opera’s board members, to demand better support for education.

There’s also a practical benefit for the opera to share good will with the Governor.

Like many of the well-connected opera board members, Chair Michele Fabrizi has history with Gov. Corbett outside of the opera.

Fabrizi has a couple ties with state politics – having donated to the campaigns of the governor, House Appropriations Committee Chair Rep. Dwight Evans as well as Dan Onorato, who lost to Corbett in the gubernatorial race.

Her connections are typical. General Director Christopher Hahn, President John E. Traina  and Treasurer Robert C. Denove all donated to state political campaigns within the last cycle. Hahn donated to Corbett, while the latter two donated to state Minority Leader Jay Costa Jr. and Onorato, respectively.

May 10th, 2012 | Posted in Front Page Stories, Top Stories | 13 Comments

13 thoughts on “Corbett Lifetime Achievement Award Hits Sour Note with Some”

  1. Teacher from Alleg Co. says:

    What Tom Corbett is doing is just plain wrong. He is cutting EVERYTHING that makes Pittsburgh different from other places on the map! He is cutting the very programs that keep children safe, lead them to better lives, and give them hope to be productive, responsible citizens. He has cut education TREMENDOUSLY. Look at http://www.pde.state.pa.us. Look at “his” program to invest in PA students. Quaker Valley SD gets a 14% increase in funding over last year. NA gets a 9% increase, Mt. Lebo gets 8% increase. I bet is is well used, but do they desperately need it? Probably not. Other districts, such as Pittsburgh Public got a 2% increase. Duquesne got a .7 (that is seven tenths)% increase. Jeannette got a 2% increase. School districts that have high refugee enrollment or high percentages of students considered low socio-economic status, are left with little increase. I can’t believe that the public has not explored that his cuts affect a particular “demographic”. It could be construed as racism in its highest form. He is hurting the schools that need the most help with the students who statistically struggle the most. His politics are just backwards. Help the children/schools who need the MOST- not the schools that have the most.

  2. limejello says:

    I also heard a rumor (that maybe someone could investigate?) that Michele Fabrizi’s husband’s company recently was given a major government contract. Could those events be related?

    Again, nothing to back up my claims, but it is worth further investigation.

  3. Armstrong Co Resident says:

    Oops. Clarification. White and Pyle sent a letter to Tomalis unbeknowest to the Armstrong School District Regarding more public input.

    By the way, after weeks of no response from the dept of Ed, the district forced the issue and was told verbally about the letter. The dept of Ed ignored requests from the district to provide the letter. After eight days, the local newspaper ( the Leader Times) wrote an article about it. They had the letter and quotes from White. When the board president was contacted by another newspaper ( the Indiana Gazette) regarding said letter she had never seen it to comment. The Indiana Gazette then obtained a copy and faxed it to the board’s president and solicitor. That’s how the district got a copy of the letter! And that’s how the current administration disrespects our public schools!

  4. Armstrong Co Resident says:

    The Corbett administration is an enemy to the public school system. And what are the first things schools cut when budgets are in crisis? It’s usually the arts! If Corbett accepts this honor, he really does have no shame!

    His administration is responsible for much more than budget cuts in the Armstrong School District. The rural district is a sprawling 436 square mile mess with four high schools and kids on buses some for thirty miles to school. After forty years of civil war among the ” one high school in our area” consolidationisys and the ” community school” supporters the district elected a board to reasonably renovate schools and actually lower costs by small consolidations keeping the schools in each community. And the entire thing could be paid with no tax increase.

    The projects were moving along with the act 34s and plan cons in order. The district had 60 public meetings in a year. The Elderton High School project was at bid stage and approved by the democratic department of Ed

    Then Corbett took oath, tomalis was put in as acting sec of Ed and all of a sudden projects were halted! Senator Don White and Representative Jeff Pyle sent a letter unbeknowest to Tomalis saying they felt there should be ” more public input”! Apparently sixty meetings weren’t enough!

    Tomalis forced a fourth act 34 hearing. White and Pyles wealthy contributors assured to pack the hearing with consolidationists. Pyle himself mocked the people of Elderton ( who fought vehemently to keep their school) by talking like a hillbilly in his public testimony

    The result? The Projects got stopped, the Armstring school district taxpayer got stuck with $8 million in professional fees with nothing to show and thanks to Pyle and Whites offices interfering in school board elections, a new school board was elected

    Now these new board directors began plans for a new high school after one month in office. Pyle and White are silent. The new board ran denying they would build a new high school and now they’re building it on land owned by one of whites wealthy contributors!

  5. Sally Li says:

    I think Corbett will back out of accepting this award. He knows that it will create a political white-heat lightning rod photo op which his detractors will rally around. He will bow out at the last minute. This will be the high water mark of his failed administration, and from here on in it will be all downhill, until resignation or impeachment. He was ahead of the game when he was in France. He should have stayed there. This would have resolved all the investigations quickly and spared his thousands of victims more heartache and pain and expense.

  6. David Darby says:

    seems like Ms. Cabrizi was looking for some currency with the Governor to help her clients

  7. Karel Minor says:

    You have it all wrong! This is the perfect award for him from the perfect organization in the perfect city! Pittsburgh’s arts origins owe in good measure to the largesse Mellon, Carnegie, a other robber barons. Corbett’s gutting of the budget is simply helping us to return to the era when the arts were paid for and owned lock, stock and barrel by the super wealthy. Truly an apropoh award- sorry, I mean “fitting award”- with the education cuts French class might not be available to the masses, either.

  8. John says:

    Sarah said ” It’s outrageous what is happening to our public school budgets and the more people who know, the better”

    I could not agree more. Labor, benefits and pension costs are consuming a greater percentage of school budgets each year and will continue to in the foreseeable future. It seems when cuts occur it is on the amount that directly affect programs for the children. The path is unsustainable.

    Jay said, “What kind of noise to parents have to make in order to get Harrisburg to recognize the public school crisis in PA?”. People don’t understand the crisis. They don’t understand the model is antiquated and broken and needs serious reform to be able to compete both nationally and internationally. The special interests voices in education are among the strongest in the country and has nothing to do with the children, other than to use them as a pawns.

  9. ILikeSmith says:

    @Jay and Sarah,
    I am a teacher and originally come from Ohio, and the budgeting here is more generous and less attached to popular vote (which tends to mean, there is more money in PA). Comparative to most states, PA is probably doing well.

  10. Sarah says:

    Thanks for covering this important topic. It’s outrageous what is happening to our public school budgets and the more people who know, the better! Only collectively can we get OUR state legislators to act in the best interest of our children.

  11. Jay says:

    Where are our legislators? What kind of noise to parents have to make in order to get Harrisburg to recognize the public school crisis in PA? Our kids are competing against those in states that actually are funding public education responsibly, not funding parties, galas, Lottery contracts, and political groups. Good grief

  12. Rex says:

    That picture may be the best thing ever posted on PoliticsPA.

  13. Fran Huber says:

    They could have found a more deserving recipient. The protesters are right to stage a peaceful demonstration.

Comments are closed.