Pennsylvania Education and Politics Review – Week of 9/22/13


Any effort to turn around the funding challenges faced by Philadelphia and other urban districts in Pennsylvania has to include an effort to change the political dynamic in Harrisburg. In an effort to stay informed of the campaigns and other efforts to make that change happen, I am starting a weekly roundup of political news related to public education. There will be a heavy but not exclusive focus on the gubernatorial campaign. As events warrant I will also look at the legislature, legislative campaigns, Congressional activities, and even maneuvering for the 2015 Philadelphia elections. I will try to keep the editorial commenting to a minimum – or more accurately, I will save that for other posts.

With that out of the way, there are two major stories from this week, both related to the governor’s race.

Rob McCord enters race:

State Treasurer Rob McCord officially entered the race for the Democratic nomination for governor. McCord has won statewide election twice and has been making the rounds of the state for months. He is from Montgomery County and went to Lower Merion High School. Upon entering the race he said, “job one for the next governor is to reverse these horrible cuts in education. That’s job one, by any means necessary.”

His campaign website is still rolling out and thin on details.

McCord has answered Keystone Politics’ candidate questionnaire, which leads off with two questions on education. He stated a desire to move away from reliance on local property taxes as a funding source and a need for the state to commit to providing extra funds to districts that need it. He praised former governor Rendell for establishing a funding formula but did not commit to restoring it, instead saying that he wanted to look at all possible methods of ensuring equitable funding.

Allyson Schwartz announces education plans:

Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz spoke about her education plans in a conference call with reporters. She emphasized early education, planning to use existing programs to increase access to full-day kindergarten and pre-k for four-year-olds. These programs would not establish mandatory programs, but provide funding and incentives to get more districts to offer the programs.

Schwartz has criticized Governor Corbett for the cuts to education over the last three years but seems cautious in how she would undo them. She laid out a ten-year deadline for her preschool programs and said that it would take her a full four-year term to restore state education funding to prior levels. She said that the state could afford to put more money into education by redirecting some money from cyber charters and by enacting the severance tax on natural gas extractors that she recently proposed.