Senate hopeful John Fetterman cast himself as a champion of Pennsylvania public schools, telling voters he “will make sure our public schools have the funding they need.” But his tax records tell a different story. In fact, as mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania, Fetterman failed to pay tens of thousands of dollars in taxes to his local school district, one of the poorest in the state, on time.
The Woodland Hills School District, which serves Braddock, placed nearly three dozen tax liens against Fetterman totaling $18,692 for unpaid property taxes from 2006 to 2019, according to records reviewed by the Free Washington Beacon. The district sued Fetterman twice for the unpaid bills, resulting in default judgments against Fetterman totaling $3,769. Fetterman has since repaid the liens, but in some cases it took him more than six years to settle the debt.
Delinquent tax payments undermined Fetterman’s claim to be a champion of public schools. In 2018, he said he opposed school vouchers, saying they would divert funds from public schools to charter and private schools. Fetterman says on his campaign website that he will fight for public school funding if sent to Washington so that “teachers don’t carry such a burden.” He recently called state lawmakers to “invest more” in Pennsylvania public schools.
By failing to pay taxes to Woodland Hills, Fetterman deprived funding for one of the poorest and most academically disadvantaged districts in Keystone State. All three elementary schools in the district are in the bottom 15% of academic achievement tests. Seventy-one percent of Woodland Hills students in the 2021-2022 school year were low-income, one of the highest rates in Pennsylvania, according to data from the state Department of Education. This year, the state legislature awarded Woodland Hills $1.4 million in “upper-tier” funding, which goes to school districts with a “higher-risk student population.”
In total, Fetterman’s Alleghany County agencies placed 65 liens totaling $30,463 against Fetterman and Braddock Redux, the nonprofit he founded with funding from his wealthy father. Woodland Hills placed $6,422.11 in tax liens against Fetterman and an additional $12,250.38 against Braddock Redux, according to court filings. In Pennsylvania, tax authorities such as school districts, counties, and waste management providers issue separate tax bills to property owners.
Woodland Hills has filed multiple lawsuits against Fetterman after months of failed attempts to collect outstanding tax debts. A lawsuit filed in September 2008 shows the school district’s efforts to collect the money before suing Fetterman.
Woodland Hills sued Fetterman on September 9, 2008, for $1,278.38 he owed in taxes for the 2006 tax year. unpaid debt, and the sheriff’s office served a lawsuit on him at his home on Sept. 25, 2008, records show. The court entered default judgment against Fetterman on August 11, 2009, for $2,442.67. The debt was “satisfied” on October 18, 2012, records show.
Fetterman gave several explanations for not paying his taxes on time. He said in 2016, when the issue surfaced during his first Senate campaign, that the liens “were never substantial” and involved properties he “saved for the community.” He said some of the taxes “shouldn’t have been paid” due to clerical errors, while others “just fell through the cracks”. He said some of the properties were vacant homes which he had renovated and donated to the people of Braddock.
Fetterman’s delinquency did not sit well with some residents of Alleghany County.
“It’s not very responsible, especially for someone in a political position like that,” Lisa Musta told a news station in 2016. “It’s not a good example for others , and that doesn’t suit me.”
Fetterman has previously been accused of hypocrisy on the issue of public schools. The progressive sweetheart supported school closures and other shutdowns during the pandemic in 2020, but took a family vacation to the Jersey Shore with a taxpayer-funded safety detail.
Fetterman since 2015 has sent at least one of his children to Winchester Thurston, a private school in Pennsylvania where tuition is $34,250, the Free tag reported. David P. Hardy, the founder of a charter school in Pennsylvania, accused Fetterman of hypocrisy for opposing school vouchers in poor neighborhoods, telling the Free tag that “the poor there are forced to go to these schools, and [Fetterman] gives them no way out. »
A spokesperson for Fetterman confirmed that the liens were placed on properties Fetterman purchased through the nonprofit he started with his father’s money, which, according to the spokesperson, “was helping to revive Braddock”.