University of Pittsburgh
March 15, 1999


Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH, March 16 -- Experts, including Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Eugene Hickok, will debate "The Future of Public Schools in Pennsylvania" at a forum sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh William Pitt Debating Union (WPDU) Tuesday, March 23, from 7 to 9 p.m. in the William Pitt Union (WPU) Assembly Room, Oakland.

A media availability session with the speakers will be held at 6:15 p.m. in WPU Dining Room B.

In addition to Hickok, other participants arguing for school vouchers include David Kirkpatrick, senior research fellow, Allegheny Institute and Denise Olczak, Pitt undergraduate debater. Those opposed are Reverend Thomas E. Smith, senior pastor, Monumental Baptist Church; Melissa Butler, Pittsburgh Public Schools teacher, and Bianca Huff, Pitt undergraduate debater.

Hickok became Secretary of Education in 1995. In 1980, he taught political science at Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA, and served as director of the college's Clarke Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Contemporary Issues. He has also served as a special assistant in the Office of Legal Counsel at the U.S. Department of Justice.

As well as being a pastor, Smith serves as chairman of the Center for Family Excellence, Inc., the Thomas Merton Center and the Religious Task Force on the Economy. In 1985 as chairman of the Pittsburgh Crusade for Voters, Smith challenged the at-large voting system which, after changing in 1987, resulted in the election of two African Americans to Pittsburgh City Council.

Kirkpatrick, a career public educator, was a high school history teacher and social studies department chairman. He has been a consultant or staff member in Pennsylvania to a governor and auditor general, the Senate Education Committee, the Senate Agricultural & Rural Affairs Committee, the State Department of Education, and the State Board of Education. His publications include "Choice in Schooling" and "School Choice: The Idea that will Not Die."

Butler, a first grade teacher, also works for the Pittsburgh Council on Public Education as a parent/teacher organizer. She has taught previously in the Chicago Public Schools and has published several pieces on Afrocentric education, curriculum influenced by cultural studies, and the importance of schools as public spheres.

Olczak, a Pitt freshman, is an outstanding debater and scholar who will be making her public debating debut. Huff, a senior, spent last year as an intern with the Labor Party in Britain and is an experienced public debater for the WPDU.

Gordon R. Mitchell, Pitt assistant professor of communication and director of the William Pitt Debating Union, will moderate. The debate is free and open to the public.