Black Leader Survives Teacher Union Attack

Published June 1, 1998

The president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, Ted Kirsch, orchestrated a $150,000 campaign of direct mail and radio advertising against Pennsylvania State Representative Dwight Evans, whose leadership led to the passage of a takeover bill for the Philadelphia Public Schools system.

The union effort, however, failed to blunt popular support for Evans, who won the May 19 Democratic primary handily, taking 75 percent of the vote.

Evans clearly represents the views of his constituents, according to a recent poll of 1,000 African-Americans in Philadelphia. Only 25 percent wanted to send their children to public schools, and only 3 percent thought their child’s academic achievement could get worse if their child left the public schools.

The poll, conducted by American Viewpoint for the Harrisburg-based Commonwealth Foundation, reported that “a super majority of 64 percent are in favor of vouchers,” including a majority of union households (56 percent). Respondents also thought private schools do a better job than public schools of using money efficiently, involving parents, school safety, and discipline.

A declared mayoral candidate for next year, Evans also supports–and the union also opposes–school vouchers.

“Evans believes that a system that punishes kids no longer deserves to be rewarded,” notes Philadelphia Daily News editor W. Russell G. Byers. “That may infuriate his former allies in the union, but the parents–whether they carry a union card or not–are clearly on his side.”

George A. Clowes is managing editor of School Reform News. His email address is [email protected].