Eichelberger Comments on Inner City Schools Stirs Controversy

Eichelberger2013-colorState Senator John Eichelberger faces strong blowback after comments on the state of education in the “inner city. State Senator Vincent Hughes and the Pa. Democratic Party have both described the comments as racist.

“They’re pushing them toward college and they’re dropping out.  They fall back and don’t succeed, whereas if there was a less intensive track, they would,” Eichelberger said in a town hall meeting.  

Senator Hughes took to Twitter after the article was posted, classifying the comments as racist and questioning Eichelberger’s education policy.

Eichelberger says his remarks were taken out of context, and he was talking about the poor education students receive.  

“They are [dropping out of college] because of their academic background.  They aren’t because they’re black. It doesn’t matter what the color of their skin is. It matters that they had 12 years of very poor school,” Eichelberger said in an interview with the Inquirer and Post-Gazette.

Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairman Marcel Groen agreed with Hughes that the comments were racist. Groen then tried to stick the controversy on state Senator – and gubernatorial hopeful – Scott Wagner (R-York), calling on him to use his influence to get Eichelberger removed as Chair of the Senate Education Committee.  

“Senator Wagner counts Eichelberger as one of his closest allies in Harrisburg, and these racist comments are shameful. We can’t have people leading our state’s education policy who believe minority students do not deserve the same opportunities and tools to succeed as everyone else.”

Hughes supports the call from the Party to have Eichelberger removed as Chair.  

“I support that a thousand percent,” Hughes said in an interview with PoliticsPA.  

Groen called on Wagner to use his influence to force Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre) to remove Eichelberger as Chair.  

Corman’s office argues that Groen’s understanding of Senate procedure is wrong.  

“The Majority Leader’s office has nothing to do with committee chairs. That responsibility falls to the president pro tempore,” Corman spokesperson Jenn Kocher said in an email.  

“Senator Corman does not see any reason remove. Instead of outrage, let’s have an open and honest conversation about the needs of all students and the value of vocational education,” Kocher continued.  

PoliticsPA reached out to Wagner’s office for comment.

23 Responses

  1. “inner city” is standard code for “black”. He’s advocating for pushing minorities into vocation programs rather than higher education.”

    Not so fast here, Mr Diano.

    Since our urban areas are disproportionately inhabited by minorities, and blacks dominate minorities, yes, it does follow that when the term “inner city” is used there is a very high probability that blacks are the primary group involved. This is not “text-book racism”, whatever that is, but simple demographic reality.

    Eichelberger made a reasoned, and reasonable, critique of failed school systems in Pennsylvania’s urban areas. And in doing so he proposed a means by which those whose school systems have failed them may still do something with their lives, rather than remain poorly educated and unemployable.

    The unavoidable reality here is not that blacks or anyone else in the inner cities should not go into higher education, but rather that the failed educational systems there have not given them the means to do so.

    A further reality is that those in our government who represent these districts, such as Senator Hughes, and those in his political party that runs the machine responsible for the poor quality of governance, including education, in our innner cities, are always quick to deflect any criticism of their abysmal record with charges of “racism” or the like.

  2. From the article:

    “He then moved into a critique of Pennsylvania’s “inner city” education programs, positing that money was being misspent on pushing minority students from high school into college instead of into vocational programs.”

    “inner city” is standard code for “black”. He’s advocating for pushing minorities into vocation programs rather than higher education.

    That’s pretty text-book racism, so it’s not shocking that he’s in a district that is 72-to-1 white to black. He can pretty much use the n-word in his campaign lit and get reelected in a place like that.

  3. “They are [dropping out of college] because of their academic background. They aren’t because they’re black. It doesn’t matter what the color of their skin is. It matters that they had 12 years of very poor school,” and “They’re pushing them toward college and they’re dropping out. They fall back and don’t succeed, whereas if there was a less intensive track, they would.”

    Hmm. Nothing here that a rational observer could construe as racially discriminatory. It is rather a statement of fact. Taken out of context or not, State Senator Eichelberger’s statement is pretty self-evident as a criticism of sub-standard educational results and failed policies in certain urban areas of the state. But it seems that State Senator Hughes and State Democratic Party Chairman Groen claim that it is “racist”, although they fail to explain exactly why what he said is so. They and their peers are always quick to condemn and short on credible explanations as to why they are upset, or why others should be upset.

    Mssrs. Hughes and Groen seem to believe that splattering Eichelberger with the attack term “racist” will justify what appears to be some patently phony outrage on their part. The Pennsylvania State Senate leadership is justified in treating their hyperbole with the amused contempt it deserves.

  4. “Corman’s office argues that Groen’s understanding of Senate procedure is wrong.”

    LOL. Marcel doesn’t even understand proper procedures for running State committee meetings.

    This $&%^&$, Eichelberger, is up for reelection in 2018. Let’s see if anyone in the GOP is anti-racist enough to challenge him.

    His district is 72-to-1 white-to-black. So, I wouldn’t hold my breath on his constituents objecting to his racism.

  5. When America stops funding Middle Eastern wars with tax payers funds, they could educate their children. Arms and weapons for war could be bought with bake sales! That’s my 2 cents worth.

  6. Porter- you’re right, we are importing engineers and skilled laborers because we have too many people in this country with degrees in women’s studies, feminist dance therapy, and other useless things that only qualify you to work at Wal Mart.

  7. jmarshak – An oversupply of college graduates? Is that why we have to import engineers and other high-skilled workers from all over the world on H1B visas because Americans are just too educated?

  8. If all school tax collections, via PIC and sales taxes, are centralized in Harrisburg, how will the funds be redistributed and how will the inequality be rectified? if the Honorable State Senator was taken out of context or did not articulate himself adequately, I hope he thinks about what he said and how he said it for next time.

  9. I hope the 11:11am Robert Guzzardi is an impostor. I previously thought he was just a principled staunch conservative and had not realized he was in favor of Jim Crow laws, segregation, apartheid, etc.. If so, I suppose this is a sad result of the current Republican administration making racists feel like they can be open and out again.

  10. The problem here is the apparent suggestion that urban students are just not college material and so we should not even bother trying. Instead, I would encourage Sen. Eichelberger to look at the example in Boston where a 2008 report revealed a tragically low college-completion rate among Bostonian students, which prompted a new effort to ensure college readiness. Five years later, and Bostonians were completing college at rates in line with national trends, which include exurban students.

    While vocations are important and honorable work and should not be disparaged, that is an entirely different conversation from the one here. Focusing on improving college preparedness is what is necessary to improving college completion rates, not telling urban students that they are fundamentally different, inadequate, and should set their sights lower than their exurban peers.

  11. @ Sara Barron:

    As per comments from other “Eich”-supporters, he is truth-telling and…in the process…challenging inner-city schools to improve; don’t attempt to mind-read and, in the process, “kill the messenger.”

  12. “derail Scott Wagner’s campaign for Governor”. Well…Scott Wagner has no business running for Governor.

  13. I think the biggest problem with Eichelberger’s comment is that he’s essentially writing off Philly school students. He doesn’t want to make sure that they have better schools. Quality education, vocational or college track, requires an appropriate investment. Schools with out of date equipment in their shops, or no libraries, or school counselors, or up to date textbooks, or overcrowded classrooms stunt the growth of future taxpayers. This in turn will hurt our state economy. He is incredibly shortsighted an foolish. Does he want to have a permanent underclass that his grandchildren have to deal with? IDIOTIC! PA has the most inequitable school funding in the entire US. Eichelberger wants to keep it that way.

  14. This is why Democrats lose. Reading racism in any talk of underserved communities just damages our already tenuous credibility with bread and butter issues. And then somehow turning it into an attack on Wagner does nothing but transparently and shamelessly play politics. Party leadership needs to make good on its promise and talk to the average voter. This to for tat nonsense just dilutes the message and muddies the waters.

  15. Eichelberger is from little podunk Blair township, and is a lily white, rural community, in a lilly white county in the middle of nowhere. The biggest sin the legislature has these urban kids commit is sending them off to higher education and then making them taking out student loans. When they drop out, they are thousands of dollars in debt and little training, skills or edumacation to become employable.
    This guy talks like he’s an expert, but in reality knows jack. Too bad we have rubes like this on the payroll of the legislature and they get away with making bonehead commentary on the current state of affairs. He adds nothing to solve the situation so he should just keep his flap jaw shut. What a dickhead.

  16. When you’ve got nothing else, just say they’re racist. This is clearly an attempt by the PA Democrats to derail Scott Wagner’s campaign for Governor, since it’s clear that Hughes is only using Eichelberger to go after Wagner by proxy.

    I was at that town meeting and his comments were not racist at all. He’s absolutely right- we are pushing lots of kids toward college who really don’t belong there. So many college students today graduate and then can’t find a job where they actually use their degrees. Why? Because there’s an oversupply of college graduates in the labor market, and the degree has far less value than it once did since lots of mediocre students are getting them. Meanwhile, the kids who go to tech school or trade school often end up making better money because they’re in demand.

  17. Everyone who knows them personally knows that Wagner and Eichelboner are stone racists. As are most of their voters. They are from the Alabama section of PA.

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