Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Keystone Progress Joins with Allies, Activists for Planned Parenthood Day of Action

KP Organizing Director Brenda Barron on far right (the only time she has ever been described as such).
Yesterday, Keystone Progress, along with a number of other PA partners and allies and over 200 activists took part in a Planned Parenthood Day of Action in Harrisburg.  The day included message training, panel discussions and vital legislative visits to talk to lawmakers about the importance of protecting women’s health and moving bills like those that are part of the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health. 

Participants in the Day of Action also took part in letter writing for constituents to draft letters to their state Representatives and state Senators about issues that are important to protecting women’s health and reproductive rights. 

Women's reproductive health care is under constant attack here in Pennsylvania. Right now, there are two dangerous bills sitting in committees at the state legislature - an effort to defund Planned Parenthood and an effort straight out of Texas to require abortion providers to have restrictive staffing arrangements at specific hospitals. The good news is that a package of bills that would actually protect and promote women's health -- The PA Agenda for Women's Health -- has been introduced to counter these malicious attacks.

Women’s health, along with economic security for women is a priority issue for Keystone Progress.  From our work with allies like Planned Parenthood and the Pennsylvanians for Choice coalition to our work in helping to put together a Women’s Economic Summit in Harrisburg at the end of May, Keystone Progress is committed to moving important conversations like this forward.

Ready to work for a progressive candidate?

(From our friends at Progressive Change Campaign Committee)

Ready to work for a progressive candidate? 

You're invited to apply for our finance training in Philadelphia on May 24 and 25, which will teach the nuts and bolts of fundraising for progressive candidates -- how to research donors, plan fundraisers, manage a budget, and more. After the training, we'll help connect you with a progressive campaign where you can put your skills to work. 

The training is free, and we even provide breakfast and lunch on both days to keep the energy up!

Every year, thousands of great progressives run for office. But a lot of times, they don't have enough money to get their message out. You've probably seen it locally -- wonderful candidates who run for school board or state legislature, who simply couldn't raise enough money to compete.

This training teaches the fundamentals of campaign work using easy, step-by-step guided exercises. It's appropriate for everyone from volunteers on their first race to seasoned activists. Students, candidates, union members -- all are welcome.

Here is what past graduates said about the finance program:

"The P100 Training help me hone my campaign skills and learn new tactics to make me not only a better Field Director but a better all around campaigner.  If you want to make a career in politics this training is a shouldn't miss for anyone wanting to work in progressive campaigns".
-- Ben Young

"When I was considering a run for Congress, I spoke to the PCCC about my fear of fundraising. They suggested I take their Finance Training. So I spent the weekend honing my campaign finance skills with their talented trainers who gave me the confidence to pick up the phone!" 
-- Barbara McIlvaine Smith

After you apply and submit your resume, we'll follow up right away to interview qualified applicants. The deadline is Monday, May 5  -- click here to sign up.

Thanks for being a bold progressive.
-- Lacey Connelly, PCCC Training Director

P.S. Can't make it to Philadelphia, but want to join us for a future training? Sign up here and click "Interested in Future Sessions" to be kept in the loop.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Do Poor Kids Deserve Lower-Quality Education Than Rich Kids? Evaluating School Privatization Proposals in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

During the past year, Wisconsin state legislators debated a series of bills aimed at closing low-performing public schools and replacing them with privately run charter schools. These proposals were particularly targeted at Milwaukee, the state’s largest and poorest school district.
Ultimately, the only legislation enacted was a bill that modestly increases school reporting requirements, without stipulating consequences for low performance. Nevertheless, the more ambitious proposals will likely remain at the core of Wisconsin’s debates over education policy, and legislative leaders have made clear their desire to revisit them in next year’s session. To help inform these deliberations, this report addresses the most comprehensive set of reforms put forward in the 2013–2014 legislative session.
Backers of these reforms are particularly enamored of a new type of charter school represented by the Rocketship chain of schools—a low-budget operation that relies on young and inexperienced teachers rather than more veteran and expensive faculty, that reduces the curriculum to a near-exclusive focus on reading and math, and that replaces teachers with online learning and digital applications for a significant portion of the day. Rocketship proposes that its model—dubbed “blended learning” for its combination of in-person and computerized instruction—can cut costs while raising low-income students’ test scores (Rocketship Education 2011).
The call for public schools to be replaced by such tech-heavy, teacher-light operations comes from some of the most powerful actors in local and national politics: the major corporate lobbies, including Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, Americans for Prosperity, and the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC). It is these groups, rather than parents or community organizations, that provided the impetus for legislators to consider proposals for mass school closure and privatization in Milwaukee.
In advocating school privatization, MMAC, allied corporate lobbies, and corporate-funded think tanks claim to be acting out of social altruism, motivated by the tragedy of poor children whose needs are unmet in the public school system. Yet—as is detailed later in this report—these same organizations have traditionally opposed what are typically considered two of the fundamental building blocks for improving education, particularly for poor children: adequate school funding and effective anti-poverty policies.
This report evaluates the “blended learning” model of education exemplified by Rocketship and seeks to understand how the “school accountability” legislation debated during the most recent legislative session would likely affect Milwaukee schools. This briefing paper also explains how such proposals might fit within the broader economic agenda of both local and national corporate lobbies. Above all, the report questions why an educational model deemed substandard for more privileged suburban children is being so vigorously promoted—perhaps even forced—on poor children in Milwaukee.
Upon examination, it appears that charter privatization proposals are driven more by financial and ideological grounds than by sound pedagogy:
  • National research shows that charter schools, on average, perform no better than public schools. There is thus no basis for believing that replacing traditional public schools in Milwaukee with privately run charters will result in improved education.
  • The “blended learning” model of education exemplified by the Rocketship chain of charter schools—often promoted by charter boosters—is predicated on paying minimal attention to anything but math and literacy, and even those subjects are taught by inexperienced teachers carrying out data-driven lesson plans relentlessly focused on test preparation. But evidence from Wisconsin, the country, and the world shows that students receive a better education from experienced teachers offering a broad curriculum that emphasizes curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking, as well as getting the right answers on standardized tests.
  • Blended-learning schools such as Rocketship are supported by investment banks, hedge funds, and venture capital firms that, in turn, aim to profit from both the construction and, especially, the digital software assigned to students. To fund the growth of such operations, money earmarked for Milwaukee students is diverted to national headquarters and other cities where the company seeks to expand. Furthermore, the very curricular model that Rocketship employs is shaped not simply by what is good for kids but also, in part, by what will generate profits for investors and fuel the company’s ambitious growth plans.
  • The proposed “school accountability” bill that Wisconsin State Senate Education Committee Chair Luther Olsen drafted in January 2014—which embodies the most ambitious version of corporate-backed school reform—measures school achievement in ways that are skewed against poor cities and that exempt charter schools from equal accountability. Such a bill would likely result in shutting a growing number of public schools and concentrating the city’s neediest students in a shrinking public system that is denied the resources to serve them. Eventually, this would bankrupt the public school district.
  • Some of the best options for school improvement are outlawed in Sen. Olsen’s draft bill. For instance, Milwaukee’s award-winning ALBA (Academia de Lenguajes y Bellas Artes) school is a publicly run charter school that outperformed every privately run charter in the city. Yet under the proposed legislation, this school would be banned from opening more campuses, while privately run schools with much worse performance would be encouraged to expand.
  • To truly improve education in Milwaukee, we must start with the assumption that poor children are no less deserving of a quality education than rich children. As such, the schools that privileged suburban parents demand for their children should be the yardstick we use to measure the adequacy of education in the city. This means subjecting all schools—whether public, charter, or voucher—to the same standards of accountability, including measurements that account for the economic and disability challenges their students face, and that recognize the value of a broad curriculum and experienced teachers who are qualified to develop the full range of each child’s capacities.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Keystone Progress PAC Runs its first-ever TV Ad: Erin Molchany the Only Real Democrat Running in HD 36

Keystone Progress PAC Runs its first-ever TV Ad: Erin Molchany the Only Real Democrat Running in HD 36

PITTSBURGH, PA – The Keystone Progress Political Action Committee, a group working to win progressive victories across the state of Pennsylvania, released its first campaign ad of 2014 today called “Choice” to highlight the stark differences between Democratic Representative Erin Molchany, a champion for working class voters and women’s equality and conservative Representative Harry Readshaw, who has supported extreme legislation on women’s health and taken large campaign contributions from Republicans.

Both Representative Molchany and Representative Readshaw are incumbents running in the newly-drawn state House District 36 in South Pittsburgh and the South Hills. 

Representative Molchany was the first candidate endorsed by the Keystone Progress Political Action Committee this election year. 

“Our ad makes it clear that voters in House District 36 have a real choice in the Democratic primary this May.  Erin Molchany is a true progressive who stands up for the Democratic values that voters in HD 36 care most about –equality, fairness, fighting for the working class and protecting women’s health and reproductive rights among many others,” said Michael Morrill, speaking for KPPAC.

“On the other hand, Harry Readshaw is a Republican in Democrats’ clothing.  He is against marriage equality, he supported Governor Corbett’s forced ultrasound bill, he has taken thousands of dollars from Republicans and, in his 20 years in Harrisburg, he has become a political insider of the worst kind – he isn’t concerned with the needs of his constituents.  Erin Molchany has showed that she is a forward thinker who values the needs of her constituents above anything else.  She is the right choice for HD 36 voters.”

Conservation Confusion: Do You Know How to Save Water?

Tom Joseph, Public News Service-PA

HARRISBURG, Pa. – There appears to be some confusion when it comes to water conservation. 

A new survey finds many people underestimate how much water they use in various daily activities.

Study author Shahzeen Attari, assistant professor at Indiana University-Bloomington's School of Public and Environmental Affairs, says most people believe curtailing their use is the best strategy to save water – but efficiency measures are more effective.

She says water is an essential but neglected resource and people need a better understanding of how to save it.

"We've experienced drought in the past two years and we need to know what actions are really impactful when it comes to decreasing our water use,” she stresses. “That would be important, especially in a short-term or long-term drought."

The survey found men and older people, and those who have a good understanding of numerical concepts, were more likely to have an accurate perception of water use.

But Attari says most people have no idea of, for instance, how much water is needed to produce everyday foods.

"A lot of water actually went into growing the coffee beans that went into making my coffee,” she points out.

“So how is it that people will adapt to the drought and climate change if we have no understanding about how much water goes into making our food?"

Attari says the goal of the survey was to correct perceptions, and encourage people to adopt more effective efficiency measures to save water at home.

"If you have the money, install a low-flow flush toilet, install a water-efficient clothes washer,” she says. “If you can, try to reduce the amount of time you spend in the shower. Only wash a full load of clothes, and then try to think about reducing the number of times you flush a toilet."

The research appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

According to the survey, a large percentage of people cited taking shorter showers, which Attari says does save water but may not be the most effective action.

Very few participants cited replacing toilets or flushing less, even though toilets use the greatest daily water volume.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Suit Seeks Shorter Timetable for PA Same-Sex Marriage Ban Challenge

Tom Joseph, Public News Service-PA
HARRISBURG, Pa. - Same-sex couples who want to marry in Pennsylvania, and others looking for the state to recognize their unions are hoping to speed up the process and get on with their lives.

Lawyers challenging Pennsylvania's same-sex marriage ban have asked a federal judge to decide the case based on legal briefs rather than holding a trial. The suit is from the ACLU of Pennsylvania and other parties, including volunteer lawyers John Stapleton and Helen Casale of the firm Hangley Aronchick.

Stapleton said the move is about preserving some core constitutional values of the plaintiffs in the case.

"What we're trying to do for our clients, and as well as all same-sex couples in Pennsylvania, is bring the freedom to marry sooner rather than later," he said.

Along with the motion, a report was filed outlining the disadvantages same-sex couples face in estate planning, taxes, health care and family law - as well as the economic impact on business in the state - because of the ban.

Casale said the motion in no way leaves the judge with less material to consider, especially since the state agrees that a trial is unnecessary.

"He's going to have all of the declarations, all of the testimony. He has all the information with respect to what our experts would have testified about," she said. "So, rather than him hearing that live in open court, he's going to have the opportunity to read those declarations and take that same information into account."

Casale said the plaintiffs in the case have made it clear how the situation affects them, including one man who married his longtime partner in Maine and says his "heart drops" when he returns home to Pennsylvania.

"What we're trying to do is hope that our client, who said that can feel like when he drives back into Pennsylvania that he's coming home, and that his home is going to recognize him for who he is just like in any other state," she said.

Pennsylvania is the only northeastern state that does not recognize same-sex marriages.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Help us re-elect Rep. Erin Molchany- a true progressive champion

Despite what some of the pundits say, 2014 is going to be a year of huge victories for progressives in Pennsylvania.
I believe that to the core of my being.  But it will only be true if we work our asses off this year.
That means knocking on doors, making phone calls, talking to our neighbors, and yes, it means giving money.
If we really want a progressive Pennsylvania, we need to do all of these things as much as we can. And if we do, we can change the face of politics in PA.

The GOP wanted to get rid of Erin, so they redistricted her to face a far-right, anti-LGBT, anti-choice, DINO ALEC member who proudly votes with the Republicans on key issues. That makes this race the most important legislative primary in Pennsylvania.

Who do you want to see in the House of Representatives?

To us, the choice is clear. That’s why the Keystone Progress PAC made Rep. Erin Molchany our first-ever endorsement this year. 
Let’s make this the first of many progressive victories in Pennsylvania in 2014.
Together we will win,
Michael Morrill
for the Keystone Progress PAC

Contributions or gifts to the Keystone Progress PAC are not tax deductible.
Not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.

PA Public Schools Facing Gaps Left by Loss of Charter School Reimbursement

Tom Joseph, Public News Service-PA

 HARRISBURG, Pa. - Educators say the loss of state funding for helping communities in Pennsylvania accommodate the financial effect of charter schools is translating to larger class sizes, and less money for staff, programs and textbooks. 

According to Susan Gobreski, executive director of the group Education Voters of Pennsylvania, the situation highlights a fundamental problem with the state's education funding formula.

"One of the things that we believe is that the state should be looking at restoring some of the cuts that have been made, so that districts are able to provide the services that they were able to provide, until we get a good funding formula put into place," she said.

Gobreski said the charter school reimbursement could act as a stopgap, in terms of giving school districts more resources to work with.

"It's not the districts' fault, it's not the charter schools' fault: it's a flaw of the funding formula," she said.

Gobreski said the charter school reimbursement line is a reasonable and fair way to distribute money to provide some immediate relief to districts that have been hit extraordinarily hard by state cuts and until a funding formula is adopted, the line item should be restored.

A review of state allocation changes shows that many districts across the state lost more than $1 million due to the cuts in compensation for charter school expenses. In the 2010-2011 school year, the York City School District, for example, received $4.5 million from the state for its students who attended charter schools. Erie got $2.5 million and Allentown, $2.1 million. School districts in Coatesville, Bethlehem, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have seen their charter school reimbursements cut completely.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Tom Corbett repeats as “March Badness” champion. Wins title of “Most Radical Right-Winger” in national contest

Corbett outdistances WI Gov. Scott Walker in final round. Also beat MN Rep. Michele Bachmann in contest of the most outrageous, radical, out of touch right-wingers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – ProgressNow announced this morning that Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett won the national title of “the most outrageous, radical, out of touch right-winger” of 2014.  “The competition was stiff this year,” said the ProgressNow statement.  “Governor Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania had tough competition from a strong field, from finalist Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin to radical Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.”

Corbett also won the competition last year.  Last year’s competition was the first March Badness competition, which is organized by ProgressNow.  ProgressNow is a network of multi-issue, perpetual advocacy organizations in the states. Keystone Progress is the Pennsylvania affiliate of ProgressNow.

“This is further evidence that Corbett doesn’t understand or care about Pennsylvania’s working families,” said Ritchie Tabachnick, chair of the board of Keystone Progress.  “Corbett’s outrageous statements and actions made him the clear choice as the nation’s most radical, out of touch politician.”

Corbett won over a field that included some of the nation’s best-known right-wing politicians, including Walker, Cruz, Rep. Michele Bachmann (MN), Gov. Rick Scott (FL), Rep. Darrell Issa (CA), and Texas gubernatorial candidate Atty. Gen. Greg Abbott.  PA State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe was also in this year’s contest.  After winning the first round, Metcalfe lost to Rep. King in the “Not-So-Sweet Sixteen.”

Voters made their choices using social media.  A Facebook “Like,” or Twitter “Tweet” from the page counted as one vote.

Here is Corbett’s winning entry from the website:

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett

Last year’s March Badness champion, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, has come back with a strong case for back-to-back victories.

Corbett’s attorneys, in a filing to stop Montgomery County from issuing marriage licenses, compared gay marriage to allowing 12-year-olds to get married.  After being chastised by equality advocates and editorials across the state, Corbett doubled down, comparing the marriage of same-sex couples to incest.

When asked about his lawyers’ comparison of gay marriage to 12-year-olds, Corbett said, "It was an inappropriate analogy, you know," Corbett said. "I think a much better analogy would have been brother and sister, don't you?"

Unfortunately, Corbett’s words have been matched by his actions.  He has consistently opposed marriage equality, supporting court cases and legislation that keep Pennsylvania as the only state in the northeast that does not have same sex marriage or civil unions


Pa. lawmakers urge passage of pay-equity bills as Equal Pay Day nears

Women make 54 to 83 cents as much as men, depending on their Pa. county

HARRISBURG, PA– Looking ahead to Tuesday's observance of Equal Pay Day, state lawmakers sponsoring bipartisan pay-equity bills today joined with advocates at the Capitol to call for action on the legislation.

"This year, April 8 will be Equal Pay Day because it takes the average Pennsylvania woman one year, three months and eight days to make as much as a man. More than half of the population is female – we are not a 'special interest.' Equal pay is an issue everyone in Harrisburg needs to take seriously," said Rep. Erin Molchany, D-Allegheny.

Rep. Brian Sims, D-Phila., said: "Pay-equity laws have been around for 40 or more years, but Pennsylvania women on average make only 54 to 83 cents for every dollar men make, depending on which county they're in. Clearly it’s time to strengthen and update the law to bring about real pay equity for the many working women in Pennsylvania who are still shortchanged."

Sen. Rob Teplitz, D-Dauphin/York, said: "Wage inequality and pay secrecy are not only a detriment to working women, but to families. When employers underpay equally qualified female employees, they shortchange our wives, our mothers and our daughters. Our legislation would help close loopholes and prevent this discriminatory practice to protect Pennsylvania workers and their families."

The bills are H.B. 1890 and S.B. 1212. They would update the conditions under which employers could pay different wages because of a factor other than sex. These factors would include specific, job-related attributes such as education, training and experience. The bills would also strengthen anti-retaliation protections for employees attempting to bring a pay-equity lawsuit against their employer and those who share information about their pay.

Each bill is in the Labor and Industry Committee in its respective chamber.

The lawmakers were joined at today's news conference by state Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny; Deborah D. Vereen of Harrisburg, founder and principal, Vereen Group, which specializes in diversity and inclusion strategies; Betty Hooker of York, public policy co-chairwoman, American Association of University Women-Pennsylvania; Dr. Daria Crawley, associate professor of business administration, Robert Morris University; and Sue Frietsche, a senior staff attorney in the western Pennsylvania office of the Women's Law Project.

The pay-equity bills are a part of a larger package of bills supported by the bipartisan, bicameral Women’s Health Caucus of the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

An image of the map showing the average pay gap for each of 67 Pennsylvania's counties is available at
The other graphic displayed at today's event, showing a calendar with three extra months and eight extra days, is available at

Winter's After-Effects Cast Big Chill on Some PA Consumers

Tom Joseph, Public News Service-PA
HARRISBURG, Pa. - A long, cold winter has taught many Pennsylvanians about some of the harsh realities of shopping for electricity.

According to Sonny Popowsky, the former state consumer advocate, now a member of the AARP Pennsylvania Executive Council, many residents have signed on to variable-rate plans rather than the more-consistently-priced default service and found out just how volatile the electricity marketplace can be.

"Prices where the regular default service customers were paying eight or 9 cents a kilowatt hour, some of these folks were paying 30 or 40 cents per kilowatt hour or more, and seeing bills that exceeded $1000, and in some cases even $2000 for one month's worth of electricity."

Popowsky said lawmakers should explore a better formula for their constituents who have variable-rate electric plans.

"They can see their prices basically rise to whatever that variable rate contractor decides to charge them that month, and that's the problem," he declared.

AARP supports limiting increases in variable rate plans and making the process more transparent, Popowsky said.

"A lot of people have variable-rate mortgages, but they know up front what the variable rate of the mortgage will be based on, what the maximum change could be at any given period, so those are the kind of protections I think you need."

Pennsylvania's Public Utility Commission has received thousands of informal complaints and phone calls in recent months as customers' bills skyrocketed during a time of the year when electricity demand is near its peak.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Mending the Leaks in Clean Water Act in PA

Tom Joseph, Public News Service-PA

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Some very important bodies of water in Pennsylvania are being left unprotected because of loopholes in the Clean Water Act. 

Ed Perry, Pennsylvania outreach coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation, says the gaps in protection have come about as a result of court rulings and agency decisions under the George W. Bush administration that excluded many waters from protection and placed unnecessarily high hurdles to protecting others.

Perry says the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers are proposing a rule to fix that loophole.

"What the rule does is to restore protection for these small headwater streams that often flow only after a rain event," Perry says.

And, he adds those streams, while small, are crucial to protecting water quality and provide clean cold water to downstream fisheries.

The loophole, which took effect in 2003, eliminated protection for nearly 60 percent of Pennsylvania's wetlands and left over 45,000 miles of small, headwater streams in Pennsylvania unprotected.

Perry says when added up, the scope of water affected in Pennsylvania is massive.

"There's 80,000 stream miles in Pennsylvania, and over half of those are considered to be headwater streams," he points out.

Perry says the loophole essentially took us back to the days when we only regulated pollution pouring into large rivers and ignored pollution in the headwaters, which is why so many water bodies were unfishable or unsafe for swimming.

He says the rule being proposed specifically excludes many man-made ditches, ponds and irrigation systems and honors the law's current exemptions for normal farming, ranching and forestry practices.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Keystone Progress PAC announces second round of endorsements

(HARRISBURG, PA)—The Keystone Progress Political Action Committee (KPPAC) announced its second round of endorsements today.  This included seven candidates running for seats in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
  • Rep. Ed Gainey (D, HD 24, Allegheny County)
  • Rep. Mike Schlossberg (D, HD 132, Lehigh County)
  • Vince Rongione (D, HD 163, Delaware County)
  • Billy Smith (D, HD 164, Delaware County)
  • Rep. Mike O’Brien (D, HD 175, Philadelphia)
  • Rep. Brian Sims (D, HD 182, Philadelphia)
  • Liz Forrest, (D, HD 189, Monroe, Pike Counties)
KPPAC previously announced endorsements of Rep. Erin Molchany (D, HD 36, Allegheny County) and Linda Small (D, SD 28, York County).

“All of these candidates have shown clear support for progressive values, including civil rights, workers’ rights, voting rights, protecting our environment, supporting public education and affordable health care,” said Ritchie Tabachnkick, the chair of KPPAC. “These are the values that our members want to see championed in Harrisburg”.

Each of the endorsed candidates is a strong supporter of quality public education for children; supports a raise in the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour; will fight to close corporate tax loopholes; supports a woman’s right to control her reproductive choices; supports marriage equality; and will work to protect our environment, our economy and our democracy.

“Keystone Progress has grown to be one of the most powerful progressive organizations in Pennsylvania.  Our board of directors has recognized that we can have an impact beyond our usual issue-based work by getting actively involved in electing progressive candidates,” said Michael Morrill, speaking for the PAC. “We can’t win on our most important issues if we keep electing people who don’t share our values.”

Keystone Progress has hundreds of thousands of members who frequently take action on a variety of progressive issues.  Keystone Progress members will be encouraged to support endorsed candidates through their votes, volunteering for campaign work and by making contributions.

ProgressNow Launches Multi-State Executive Accountability Project

Watchdog Seeks Communications Between Governors and Chiefs of Staff 

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today ProgressNow announced a first-of-its-kind effort to root out corruption in state administrations with the unveiling of a multi-state Executive Accountability Project. ProgressNow, through its state affiliates, has made freedom of information act requests seeking transcripts of email conversations between the Governors of Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida, and their chiefs of staff.

“From closed bridges in New Jersey, to favors for polluters in North Carolina, Americans are tired of watching governor after governor misuse their public office for personal and political gain,” said Arshad Hasan, Executive Director of ProgressNow. “It is time we shed a light on the egregious access that special interests and lobbyists have to our states’ top elected officials.  The public has the right to know how these elected officials, who serve at the behest of the people, are operating behind closed doors.”

The effort marks the first time that a watchdog has pursued these types of conversations in a systemic way for accountability purposes. It builds upon the work ProgressNow’s 22 state affiliates have been doing for years.

“This is an opportunity for these Governors to restore public confidence in their offices and actions as executives,” said Hasan. “We look forward to their cooperation.”

Each state varies in its legally mandated response times. ProgressNow expects to receive a response from these offices starting in the next three weeks and will be aggressive in seeking these records and making them available for public consumption.

Keystone Progress: Statement on the Ryan Budget Proposal

Paul Ryan’s budget crushes working families and the middle class, to benefit the super-rich and corporations that ship our jobs overseas.  Every member of Congress who votes for this budget will be voting to privatize Medicare, gut Medicaid, throw millions of Americans off their health insurance, take food from the mouths of children and cut tuition assistance from college students. A vote for the Ryan budget is a vote to give millionaires a $200,000 tax cut, while raising taxes on middle-class families with children by $2,000. By draining the economy of billions of dollars, the Ryan budget will derail any chance of economic progress, costing 4.5 million Americans their jobs in the next two years. A vote for the Ryan budget is a vote for a less hopeful America, where the super-rich get even richer while working families and the middle-class can no longer care and support their families. Instead, we urge members of Congress to vote for the Congressional Progressive Caucus budget’s vision of an America that works for all of us.”

Every member of Congress who votes for the Ryan budget will be voting to:
     Privatize Medicare and raise the age of eligibility for Medicare. And in the height of hypocrisy, keep the $716 billion in Medicare savings that Ryan and Republicans have railed against. 
     By repealing the Affordable Care Act, take health coverage away from the 10 million Americans who are now insured through the ACA, and return Americans to the days when insurance companies could turn them down because of a pre-existing condition.
     Gut the Medicaid program, cutting $732 billion, forcing states to decide which children, parents, people with disabilities or seniors to cut from Medicaid.
     Open up a huge new tax loophole to allow corporations to ship profits overseas and cut corporate tax rates, even as corporate taxes make up the lowest share of federal revenues ever.
     Slash basic food aid provided by SNAP (food stamps) by $135 billion and make states decide which low-income children, working parents, seniors and people with disabilities should go hungry.
     Make huge cuts in vital services, from education, to medical research, to job training while actually raising Pentagon spending by almost half-a-trillion dollars.
     By draining hundreds of billions of dollars out of the economy, cost 4.5 million Americans their jobs in just the next two years.

There is an alternative to the Ryan budget. The 75 members of the House Congressional Progressive caucus have written a budget that puts working families and the middle-class ahead of the wealthy and big corporations. Their budget will put 7 million Americans back to work modernizing schools and rebuilding roads, saves seniors on Medicare billions of dollars by stopping drug company price gouging, increases support for educating our children all while reducing the deficit by closing tax loopholes that allow the billionaires to pay less than their secretaries and corporations to ship their jobs overseas and raising money from Wall Street speculators.

We urge members of Congress to reject Ryan’s vision of an  America that works only if you are rich  and vote for the Congressional Progressive Budget’s vision of an America that works for all of us.
Resources on Ryan Budget:
·          Full text of the bill here:
·          NPP: Comparison of federal budget proposals: Rep. Ryan, President Obama, CPC
·          All budgets side by side compared with polling information on the issues!
·          Economic Policy Institute Analysis: By Ignoring Economic Reality, Ryan Budget Would Slow Recovery, Cost Jobs
·          FRAC Statement: Ryan Budget Recycles Failed Proposals for SNAP
·          Center for American Progress Reaction: The Ryan Budget is a Broken Record of Failed Economics
·          Citizens for Tax Justice: Ryan Budget gives Millionaires Average Tax Cut of At Least $200,000
·          Franklin Forum Messaging: Ryan’s Road to Ruin
·          CEPR: Ryan Budget is an April Fools Joke
·          Focus First: Children Lose with House 2015 Budget

Room for National Parks in Next Federal Budget?

Tom Joseph, Public News Service-PA

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Fans of Pennsylvania's national parks are watching carefully as Congress puts President Barack Obama's budget under the microscope in April. 

The president is proposing a small increase of $55 million in the National Park Service budget for 2015, including $10 million as a Centennial Initiative to get the parks ready for the agency's 100th anniversary celebration in 2016.

John Garder, budget and appropriations director of the National Parks Conservation Association, says it's a promising start after 25 years of budget trimming have taken a toll on park maintenance and staffing.

"It's a modest increase over last year,” he says. “It doesn't get parks back to where they were just a few years ago, before damaging cuts, to ensure that people can have a really inspiring and a safe experience out in our parks."

National parks, monuments, trails and historic sites are pumping more than $444 million into Pennsylvania's economy each year.

Numbers from the National Park Service show more than 9 million visits to National Park Service sites in Pennsylvania in 2013.

Garder says additional park funding is much needed, for a system that has put off about $12 billion of maintenance in recent years.

From historic resources to water and sewer systems, visitor centers, roads and trails, he says many are in disrepair.

"The main cause for the growth of the deferred-maintenance backlog is the decline in Congress' investment in the construction account, which creates so many jobs,” he explains. “In today's dollars, the construction account for the National Park Service has been cut nearly in half, just in the last four years."

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Keystone Progress PAC Endorses Billy Smith in the 164th Legislative District

(HARRISBURG, PA)—The Keystone Progress Political Action Committee (KP PAC) announced today that it is endorsing Billy Smith in the 164th Legislative District.

KP PAC is the political action committee of Keystone Progress.  Keystone Progress is a multi-issue progressive organization with over 200,000 members.  This is only the third endorsement by the progressive organization since it began making endorsements earlier this year.

The following is the endorsement announcement from KP PAC:

We are honored to announce that the board of directors of the Keystone Progress Political Action Committee (KP PAC) endorses Billy Smith for State Representative in the 164th district.

We are proud to be able to make this endorsement because of Mr. Smith’s clear support for progressive values, including civil rights, workers’ rights, voting rights, protecting our environment, supporting public education and affordable health care.  These are the values that our members want to see championed in Harrisburg.  We believe that Billy Smith is the best candidate to assure that working families in the 164th Legislative District will have a strong, progressive voice in the House of Representatives.

We look forward to working with Billy Smith as the next State Representative from the 164th district.

Report Uncovers Major Obstacles for PA's Kids of Color

Tom Joseph, Public News Service-PA 

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Pennsylvania is falling far short when it comes to giving children of color the resources they need to succeed, according to a new study.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation's "Race for Results" report compares how children of different races are faring in areas including reading and math scores, high school graduation rates and poverty levels.

Joan Benso, who heads Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, said the report shows non-white children in the state face challenges that could persist into adulthood.

"Particularly African-American and Latino children, who are facing very serious obstacles, particularly around their education outcomes," she said, "which speaks very clearly about their likelihood of graduating from high school, college and career-ready, and going on to be able to earn a family-sustaining wage."

The biggest gaps, Benso said, surface in fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math proficiency, the rate of African-American and Latino kids who earn degrees and the general economic conditions where these children's families live in the state.

Laura Speer, an associate director with the Casey Foundation, said the findings involving non-white students are especially important considering that the Census Bureau projects that by 2018, children of color will represent a majority of children in the United States.

"We think it's a really critical time for the country to focus on improving outcomes for these kids," she said, "since they really are going to be the future success of the country."

By 2030, she said, the majority of the U.S. labor force will be made up of people of color.

Central to closing the achievement gaps are greater investments in education, Benso said. Pointing to major funding cuts in the past few years, she said that in the years just prior to the recession, when funding levels were higher, so was student achievement.

"When we were consistently increasing resources for education, we were seeing test scores go up every single year at the exact same time and watching test scores go up for children who are African-American and children who are Latino and children who live in high-poverty communities," she said. "We were closing the education gap."

The report, "Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children," is available online at