It’s a lot of chilly heads as eight Democratic candidates for Pennsylvania governor have already tossed their hats in the ring. All eight are eager to take on Governor Corbett, whose latest approval rating is so far in the tank that only 20% of registered voters think he deserves re-election. With 61% of those surveyed a few weeks ago saying the state is “on the wrong track,” even Republicans are calling for Corbett to step aside (44% think he should let someone else run). [Franklin & Marshall poll, 10-31-13]
Not surprisingly, that same poll found, “Nearly one in four (22%) registered voters believes unemployment and the economy is the state’s most important problem, followed closely by schools and school funding (21%).” With education consistently rated as Pennsylvania’s #2 concern, right behind jobs and the economy, candidates for the state’s highest office need to be talking about what they will do for our public schools. A few have started, but the conversation needs to get much louder and deeper.
To give them a boost, the education grassroots community has developed this handy guide. Here’s the list of Democratic candidates for Governor and what they should be saying about public education:
John Hanger, former Secretary of the PA Department of Environmental Protection
Jo Ellen Litz, County Commissioner of Lebanon County
Rob McCord, Pennsylvania Treasurer
Kathleen McGinty, former Secretary of the PA Department of Environmental Protection
Max Myers, businessman and former pastor
Ed Pawlowski, Mayor of Allentown
Allyson Schwartz, U.S. Representative
Thomas W. Wolf, businessman and former Secretary of the PA Department of Revenue
What Democratic Candidates for PA Governor Should be Saying about Public Education
Public Education Funding
- I believe that public education is a public good. Public education is an investment that we as taxpayers make together to benefit students, parents, and communities. Public schools play a vital role in building strong communities throughout the Commonwealth.
- Adequate, equitable, and sustainable funding of public education will be a top priority of my administration.
- I will reverse the more than $1 billion in state funding cuts to public K-12 schools and public higher education.
- I will enact a fair, accurate and transparent formula to allocate state tax dollars to school districts. This formula will take into account the actual number of students living in poverty, students learning English, and students with a disability. It will also take into account the fact that some school districts lack the overall economic ability to raise adequate revenue to fund their schools. State dollars will be allocated based on those differences.
- I will close tax loopholes that harm our public schools, such as the “89-11” real estate transfer mechanism that diverts desperately needed funds from school districts.
Keeping public education public
- I oppose vouchers.
- I oppose parent trigger laws and other efforts to privatize public education.
- I oppose any expansion of Pennsylvania’s current controversial education tax credit programs (Education Income Tax Credit-EITC and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit-OSTC) and will work with PDE to address serious deficiencies within the programs to bring them more in line with norms in other states.
- I oppose school closures on the basis of test scores and mass school closings, which have been shown to be enormously disruptive to students’ academic and personal lives. School closings should be approached with prudence and with the end result being an improved academic and quality of life and public options for children.
Charter school reform
- I recognize that the current way that PA pays for charter and cyber charter schools is structurally flawed, fiscally unsustainable, and weakens traditional public schools. The current law mandates that taxpayers fund two separate and duplicative systems of public education by taking money from one group of children (in traditional public schools) and giving it to another (children in charters).
- I will work with the legislature to craft a sustainable charter school funding formula that will create efficiencies for taxpayers, relieve the overwhelming financial burden on our school districts, and help strengthen Pennsylvania’s entire system of public education.
- I believe charter school payment rates are not accurately calculated. I will work to reform the charter school funding formula for special education so that charter school payments are capped at the actual costs of providing children with services. I will also work with the legislature to revise the funding formula for cyber charters to account for the fact that they do not operate a full brick and mortar school building.
- I will work with the legislature to pass a charter reform bill that holds all charter and cyber charter schools accountable to the public, ensures transparency in their finances and operations, and holds them subject to Pennsylvania’s existing Right to Know laws.
- I support the authority of local school districts to authorize charter schools in their own communities. I will not support a law that allows an outside entity to authorize a charter school in a community nor will I support a state-wide authorizer.
Early Childhood Education
- I will work for good prenatal care for every pregnant woman in Pennsylvania, because the risk of learning disabilities and other challenges to learning begin in the womb.
- I will increase supplemental funding to Head Start so thousands of low-income children on waiting lists will have the opportunity to receive a high-quality early childhood education that will prepare them to enter kindergarten ready to learn.
- I will enact mandatory kindergarten that is responsibly funded throughout the state.
Teaching and Learning
- I value experienced, professional teachers and reject rhetoric that disparages teachers and the craft of teaching.
- I believe that every public school should offer a full, rich curriculum with the arts, science, history, literature, world languages, and physical education. I will work with the Pennsylvania Department of Education to make sure that our policies, including testing requirements, support this.
- I support smaller class sizes, especially for low-income, high-poverty districts with high needs.
- I oppose the expansion of costly high stakes testing in Pennsylvania and in particular the current Keystone exams. I will call for a full review of the impact of Keystone exams on disaggregated student populations within each school district in order to determine whether these exams best serve the needs of students and families as well as improve accountability measures within school districts.
- I support efforts to build healthy school climates such as evidence-based restorative justice programs and de-criminalizing minor offenses that contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline.
- I recognize that poverty and racial segregation are serious social problems and that we must address these root causes that affect the academic performance of far too many of our children.
- I will seek capital investments in school facilities to improve and modernize Pennsylvania’s school buildings.
Helen Gym, Parents United for Public Education, Philadelphia
Rebecca Poyourow, Ph.D., Parents United for Public Education, Philadelphia
Jessie B. Ramey, Ph.D., Yinzercation, Pittsburgh
Susan Spicka, Education Matters in the Cumberland Valley, Shippensburg