As a former educator, there is no issue closer to my heart than public education and support for our incredibly important and successful public school districts. From Lewisburg and Selinsgrove to MiddWest, Mifflinburg, and SUN Career and Technology Center, our schools, teachers, and students are among the best. That quality isn’t an accident and can’t be taken for granted. To preserve these strengths and expand educational quality for all, no matter who you are or where come from, I see three priorities
Early childhood education is critical to the development of our district’s children. Every family needs access to quality and affordable pre-K education and child development. Study after study shows nothing has the same return on public investment dollar as expanding pre-k. As a mother and grandmother, I know this is also crucial to help young families manage work and family.
We have a collective responsibility to make pre-K accessible and affordable to every single family in the Commonwealth. In cities across the country, programs of universal early childhood education have been implemented with great success and there is no reason the same services shouldn’t be provided in our district. While our community is fortunate to have many quality daycare and pre-K options for families, increasing the affordability of these options is one of my key areas of focus. The Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Pre-K Counts Grants have led the way, providing grants for at-risk three and four year olds. Whether through a tax credit program, direct state-subsidization of these critical facilities, or tax credits for businesses that establish in-house quality daycare for their employees’ children, we must expand the reach of this program. If we claim to truly care about the future of our children, universal access to affordable, high-quality early childhood education is the only answer.
Our public school districts are vital to our communities. Not only do they educate nearly every 5-18 year old in the 85th, but they are also large employers in the district. The vital services they provide must be supported. In order to adequately support our districts, we must rethink how we fund our schools. Pennsylvania has the 2nd highest disparity in funding for public schools and the state share of funding has decreased over the years. The current formula causes local residents to make up the costs through local taxation. All too often, some districts are forced to lay off staff while others expand their budgets. If elected, I will support and sponsor bills designed to fix these inequities and fairly fund our school districts.
While most of us love football, no one wants to keep watching the game of “pass the ball” on the challenging question of changing how we fairly fund schools. Too much reliance on the property tax hits older people harder. Too much reliance on income taxes pushes the cost on working families; moreover, when we see unemployment spike, like now, then schools will have less at exactly the moment they need more. I am ready to lead the effort to more fairly fund schools through Pennsylvania doing more to fund local schools so as to help lower the property tax burden. Paying for this will come from a fair tax plan that will ask the wealthiest people in Pennsylvania to pay more of their fair share by taxing wealth instead of wages more and closing the Delaware loophole that allows big companies to pay no PA taxes even as they hitch a free ride on the education system the rest of us support.
We have no shortage of dedicated teachers and administrators in our district, we thank them and I promise to continue my work as an educator who will fight to expand equal opportunities for all our students.
We are incredibly lucky to have two excellent private universities in the 85th: Susquehanna and Bucknell. They are both community leaders and good business partners for many local efforts. However, the question facing most young people in our district is how to afford higher education anywhere. There are too many families and young people forced to make harder and harder choices between investing in their future and paying the rent now.
This is why, regardless of this election’s outcome, I join others in our area and investigate the feasibility of a local and cost-effective community college. Giving our recent high school graduates the opportunity to stay close to home and receive a high-quality education isn’t just a pipe dream— it is a step that must be taken to reduce the brain drain and keep our highly educated residents in the district.
In Harrisburg, I will fight for state college and university tuition control to reduce costs for students across the commonwealth. Pennsylvania is among the worst states in terms of the proportion of tuition that the government subsidizes. This is not a gift- it is a smart investment in the future of our people. And we have gotten away with pushing that investment onto the backs and wallets of our working families instead of collectively sharing it for too long.
I also recognize that not everyone wants or should enroll in higher education. There is an arrogance in our culture sometimes of assuming that everyone must go to college. We need to let that go. Vocational schools and other career preparatory ladders to employment are valuable and should be expanded and supported. Career preparation and training can take many forms inviting employers, unions, and community organizations into the process. In all of these programs, I encourage us all to fold in humanities education- art, literature, culture, and history- and so on. Our education systems should always invest in workforce development and also feed the soul. Education, at its best, is more than just job training.