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CLARK: School Choice Provides Opportunity for PA Kids

I believe in school choice for Pennsylvania because I am a product of school choice. I attended private and public schools through the 70s and 80s. Also, I appreciate the high-quality education my children and grandchildren have received at public brick-and-mortar charter schools, cyber public charter schools, traditional public schools, and private schools.

It has been amazing to choose for each of my children and grandchildren which schools met their unique needs. I am proud to say that my adult children all contribute positively to our society from the skills and knowledge they acquired at Pennsylvania Schools.

They have cultivated the entrepreneurial spirit into their work lives directly from education choices. My oldest granddaughter has been accepted to six universities here in Pennsylvania due to her public charter school and private school education. Also, arduous work on her part. She credited her success to the charter school, giving her a sense of community, and her private school gave her coursework that excelled her learning. Would these outcomes be the same if my zip code had dictated the schools?

The ongoing debate around funding school choice in Pennsylvania has damaged our national and local reputation as a state that doesn’t value education.

It has hurt how teachers feel about teaching. It has impaired young people’s desire to become teachers. It repels teachers from moving to or staying in our educational system. Over the course of the last 10 years, teachers applying for certification went from over 15,000 to teachers to less than 6,000 in 2021.

It has caused division in our communities when the authorizing district approves and funds the charter school. It is not in their interest to support or allow charter schools to expand. The authorizers impose enrollment caps that limit the number of students who can enroll in charter schools. It also blocks students’ enrollment in public charter schools. It is hard to believe that there is even a debate when all the funds come ultimately from taxpayers like you and me.

It is time to put all differences aside. It is time to see ourselves as a state that values high-quality education for all children and adults from kindergarten through post-high school studies, regardless of where they attend school.

We must declare that we value our students, parents, teachers, and leaders. We must train and empower our school boards to make appropriate decisions on the future of our schools and always maintain in sight that the parents, grandparents, and communities are paying for our schools.

Everyone’s voice is needed, matters, and will allow all schools to create opportunity, innovation, and unity for all children of Pennsylvania. Finally, we must recognize the positive effects school choice has on all schools and our economy.

The Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools will continue to be the catalyst for educational excellence through opportunity, innovation, and unity.  Also, please join us with millions of school choice supporters across the Nation during National School Choice Week by sharing your story on social media.

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PA Public Schools: Fewer Students But More Spending

Public school enrollment is dropping in Pennsylvania, but education spending is at an all-time high, according to a state watchdog group. And that trend appears likely to continue as Democrats, including Gov. Josh Shapiro, have signaled support for increased spending on education.

At the same time, the state awaits a decision in a landmark case that could transform how public schools are funded.

According to the Commonwealth Foundation, public school enrollment has dropped by about 120,000 students since 2000. And a recent report from the National Center for Education Statistics, first reported by Axios, showed the trend isn’t isolated to Pennsylvania.

Public schools across the country lost more than a million students between the fall of 2019 and the fall of 2020.

In the commonwealth, the Center found that the losses were particularly acute, with public school enrollment dipping about 5 percent over the same period, a downward spiral projected to continue through 2030.

Meanwhile, as enrollment declined, taxpayers were asked to spend more on public schools. As a result, Pennsylvania’s per-pupil costs soared to nearly $20,000 in the 2020-21 school year, the Commonwealth Foundation found, citing the most recent available data from the state Department of Education. That figure, ranking Pennsylvania eighth in the U.S., is about $4,000 more than the national average.

In some Delaware Valley communities, taxpayers are spending more than $30,000 per student.

Per-pupil figures for the 2021-22 school year will be available in April, a state DOE spokeswoman told DVJournal.

Most recent figures show per-pupil costs swelled in the Bensalem school district by nearly 25 percent since the 2011-12 school year, up from $16,975 to $20,921.

In the wealthier New Hope-Solesbury district, they jumped from $20,216 to $31,217 over the same period. The Philadelphia school district, by comparison, saw more modest increases, from $13,166 to $18,753, the data shows.

Representatives from the Pennsylvania State Education Association didn’t respond to a request for comment on school spending.

Why is it costing so much more to teach $100,000 fewer students? Nathan Benefield, vice president for the Commonwealth Foundation, pointed out that over the same period enrollments declined, the number of employees working at public schools rose by nearly 9 percent.

The state added about 20,000 employees over that period and saw a 40 percent growth among administrators.

Data previously reviewed by DVJournal showed the number of full and part-time teachers employed for the 2020-2021 school year increased to 123,461 from 119,790 in 2015-16.

Benefield juxtaposed those jumps with more students “increasingly looking for alternative options” to public schools.

“Instead of continuing to fund buildings and bureaucrats, Pennsylvania taxpayers should directly help students,” he said. “If students leave their assigned school for better educational opportunities, their portion of education funding should go with them.”

Across the country, U.S. school enrollment fell from 50.8 million students in 2019 to 49.4 million in 2020, while enrollment in private and charter schools rose, Axios reported. And the number of homeschooled students doubled to about 5 million.

Advocates for increasing taxpayer spending on shrinking classrooms argue that more money will improve educational outcomes. However, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test scores in Pennsylvania have been flat or falling for nearly a decade — a trend exacerbated by the failure of the remote education strategy used during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2019, 81 percent of Keystone State students scored at or above the basic benchmark. By 2021, that number had fallen to 76 percent.

So will school spending decline to match the ongoing trend of falling enrollment? Not likely. During last year’s campaign, Gov-elect Josh Shapiro pledged to spend more money on K-12 education in the future.

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Point: Education’s Future Depends on Parent Power

For another viewpoint see: Counterpoint: Too Much Parental Involvement Hurts Kids

If there’s one thing the last three years have taught American parents, it’s that they need to take control of their children’s education.

Despite massive infusions of additional federal cash after COVID-19 hit the country, on top of K-12 education spending tripling since 1970 to a record $751.7 billion per year, most U.S. school districts are unable to address the basic educational needs of our youth.

The recent National Assessment of Educational Progress reading and math tests confirmed this and did not surprise parents who’ve witnessed educational neglect firsthand. The results, released in October, showed that two-thirds or more of fourth- and eighth-grade students tested can neither read nor do math proficiently. Even Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, a friend of education unions and a defender of the traditional system, described the scores as “appalling.”

But rather than recommend a bold change, Cardona asked Congress for more money, without any accountability, I might add.

Contrast that to what really works for kids: education personalized to their needs, designed with learning in mind, and able to engage students actively. That’s real innovation, and its presence is a game-changer in students’ lives.

So is fostering “parent power,” providing parents with the right to choose what works best for their family and the information and resources to do it.

As the Center for Education Reform’s new 2022 Parent Power Index shows, however, this only exists robustly in fewer than a third of the states. Florida leads the pack, followed by Arizona, Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Minnesota. Overall, more than half of the states (28) — including California, Michigan and New York — earned grades of D and F. No wonder education achievement is so low, particularly for children with special needs and those who were being poorly served by the change-resistant education system even before the pandemic struck.

Parents are fighting for more power today, and more education innovators are stepping up to fill their needs.

This was apparent in the competition for the $1 million Yass Prize, awarded Dec. 14 to Arizona Autism Charter Schools, with millions more awarded to other exemplary organizations.

“I was just a mom,” said Diana Diaz-Harrison, founder of the Arizona schools. “As an autism mom, I don’t want my kid to be seen as disabled. I want him to be seen as a doer, intelligent, productive, and so these charter schools that we are starting across America will help our children be neurodiverse, be who they are and be fulfilling, productive citizens.”

Kenisha Skaggs tells a similar story about SOAR Academy, the micro-school and tutoring center she founded in rural Georgia: “Imagine being an eighth grader on a first-grade math and reading level … in the public school system. … That was Keanna’s story when she met us last year and attended our school.”

These are only two of the 2,700 education entrepreneurs from 49 states who entered this year’s Yass Prize competition. Many organizations were founded by parents, some by educators who value parents and understand that many children have unique needs.

In Phoenix, for example, Janelle Wood launched the Black Mothers Forums during the pandemic, a first-of-its-kind urban micro-school network that operates small group learning centers for Black moms and their children. Nearly 2,000 miles away, in Detroit, another Black mom, Bernita Bradley, started an organization called Engaged Detroit, which coaches Black moms on home-schooling their children, provides them with curriculum tools, and advocates on their behalf to make it easier.

Only some parents have the ability, energy, fortitude or resources to become  hands-on educators or educational entrepreneurs. They shouldn’t have to be heroes and fight the system to deliver what’s best.

We can no longer afford to wait as traditional public schools awash in cash deprive children of their right to a great education. It’s time for state leaders to follow the example of Florida and Arizona, support parents like Diana, Kenisha and Janelle, and provide them with the freedom, opportunities and resources to drive their children’s education.

McGARRIGLE: Why Voters Should Vote For Republicans

EDITOR’S NOTE: For another view, see “Valyo: Vote for Democrats to Preserve Democracy.”

 

This November, voters in Delaware County, and all across Pennsylvania and the United States of America, should choose the Republican candidates when they cast their vote in this year’s General Election. The Republican candidates are the only ones who have been consistently focused on the issues that are impacting our day-to-day lives; inflation, energy cost, crime, education, and restarting our economy. Additionally, many of these issues we are facing can be directly tied back to Democrat-championed policies and initiatives.

For example, the steadily-rising crime and murder rates we are seeing in Philadelphia are a direct result of Democratic officials, like District Attorney Larry Krasner, choosing to embrace criminals and turn their back on crime victims. We also saw many Democrats who hold local, state, or federal offices calling for policing to be “reimagined” and for the police to be defunded.

As a result of that, criminals now feel emboldened and empowered because they know there will be little-to-no consequences if caught. We have also begun to see the crime begin to spill over into Delaware County from the city of Philadelphia, something that Republicans have warned about for years.

If you’ve been to the grocery store lately, you’ve probably noticed you are paying more for fewer items. Inflation is hitting everyone’s wallets, and without electing fiscally-responsible Republican candidates inflation will only continue to grow worse. The Democrat’s belief that “if we spend more money, inflation will go away,” has been proven wrong time and again. Once again, inflation has not gone away, and without a change in how we address the problem, it will only continue to get worse.

The increased cost of gasoline and other energy sources can be directly tied to the Democrats’ unwavering war on energy. Democrats believe that this is a zero-sum game: you can either have a clean and healthy environment, or you can have a society that depends on fossil fuels. Republicans on the other hand understand that we can use fossil fuels while also protecting our environment, with the use of sensible regulations and incentives for using alternative energy, not burdensome regulations and fees for using fossil fuels.

Republicans are also committed to ensuring that every child gets a quality education, and most importantly, that they have the choice to attend a school that best suits them. Education is not a “one size fits all” issue, which was made even clearer by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our children are still feeling the negative educational, developmental, and social impacts of the lockdowns, and numerous studies have been released detailing the true impact of these closures.

The issues at stake in this year’s election are too important for voters to stay home. If you are tired of paying high prices for gas and food, feeling unsafe in your community, and being concerned about whether your child is getting a quality education, then I implore you to find out about the Republican candidates in your area and to get out and vote for them.

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New Children First Report Paints Mixed Picture of Delco Kids’ Condition

It took Delaware County Council Chairwoman Monica Taylor Ph.D. a year to find childcare for her nearly 2-year-old-daughter.

“Last year we were on a waiting list for quite a while and she got in,” said Taylor. “We were going to start in September…And they had to close the baby room and the young toddler room because they did not have enough staff. And our daycare was not able to re-open that room. She did not get back into daycare until the end of May of this year.

“During that time we were on several other waiting lists and we were not able to get into any other daycare center,” said Taylor. She and her husband cobbled together childcare, relying on her mother, mother-in-law, other family members, and friends.

The problem is a dire shortage of childcare workers, according to Donna Cooper, Children First executive director, discussing the child advocacy organization’s new report about how Delaware County’s 123,94 children fared during the COVID-19 epidemic and its aftermath. There are 52 fewer childcare programs and 540 fewer staff members than before the pandemic.

Childcare workers typically make 23 percent less money than people employed in stores, such as Wawa, she said. And the lack of childcare is a factor keeping women from returning to the workforce.

The report found that while 1,900 adults succumbed to COVID in the county, no children there died of COVID. And many families took advantage of the federal child tax credit and other government funds so that more than 3,000 children were no longer in poverty. Some 29,000 Delaware County families received over $50 million because of the child tax credit.

However, many students fell behind or further behind in school, more are suffering from mental health issues such as suicide and anxiety, and fewer children are vaccinated against communicable diseases.

”Pennsylvania’s statewide Safe2Say hotline fielded more suicide-related calls from students across the state during COVID, yet the number of these calls from youth in Delaware County jumped by 43 percent,” the report said.

“The children faced extraordinary anxiety,” Cooper explained. The closure of the Crozer-Chester Health System left a big hole in mental health services, she said, “so entirely new networks have to be built in the county. Estimates are that 14,000 teenagers in Delaware County still are suffering from some remnants of the stress, the anxiety, and the isolation and depression that COVID imposed on their lives.”

Students in some school districts fared better than others, the report said. But some 38 percent of the kids were not testing at grade level before the pandemic.

“The higher a school district’s poverty level is, the more the kids were behind,” Cooper said. “As your poverty rate goes up your assessment score goes down. Not because the children aren’t smart enough. But they are the same school districts that have the least amount to spend per child, so they have swollen class sizes, they have less instructional support…We have a gap of $150,000 per classroom between Radnor and Upper Darby or between Radnor and William Penn.”

Schools that have the greatest risk of children falling behind are the schools that were closed the longest, she said.

“They were also the schools that had the least resources,” Cooper said.

Critics of the extended closed-classroom policies say these numbers add to the evidence that the approach taken by many public schools in Pennsylvania and across the U.S. was flawed. A report released earlier this year by the left-leaning Brookings Institute found nationwide “test-score gaps between students in low-poverty and high-poverty elementary schools grew by approximately 20 percent in math and 15 percent in reading primarily during the 2020-21 school year. Further, achievement tended to drop more between fall 2020 and 2021 than between fall 2019 and 2020, indicating that disruptions to learning have continued to negatively impact students well past the initial hits following the spring 2020 school closures.”

The Delaware County report recommends the county prepare for a future public health emergency by having a person whose job is to think about kids and to create a manual of lessons learned from the COVID pandemic. County districts received substantial federal support in pandemic funding and the state also put $1.1 billion toward education this year, according to Cooper. But they need to do more to make sure the kids caught up.

To make sure there is not a spike in poverty, the Senate needs to reapprove the child tax credit, she said.

Upper Darby High School student Tanveer Kaur said many of her friends had trouble with mental health problems. She joined a support and affinity group at her school and also volunteers as an assistant teacher at one of the elementary schools.

Those students have “missed out on crucial learning blocks that build up,” Kaur said. “And that missing of crucial education has really impacted them.”

“Because class sizes are so big even at the elementary level, it’s hard to have that one-on-one time,” Kaur said, even with two adults and a teenager in the classroom.

Seda Gok, a middle school counselor in the William Penn School District, said she supported students online during the pandemic. They felt isolated, had trouble with the virtual curriculum, and were falling behind, leading to anxiety. Some students were helping younger siblings with their schoolwork. And they worried about their parents getting sick.

“Now we’re in our first semi-normal school year…They’re so behind now. They’re just now starting to play catch-up. There was that anxiety of (taking the) PSSAs (standardized tests) that was a big concern, too.”

She said it was hard for them to learn math in virtual learning.

The students need access to more mental health support staff, she said. She is responsible for 355 8th grade students “so it’s really hard to give each student that time.”

There are also “huge waiting lists” to see an outside therapist.

While William Penn has 25 to 30 students in a class, for kids to need remedial help, class sizes should be no more than 17 to 30 percent, said Cooper.

 

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PA Governor’s Race May Hinge On Parental Rights, ‘Mama Bears’

Republican lieutenant governor candidate state Rep. Carrie DelRosso knows her running mate, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, is getting outspent by a huge margin. But she told a Montgomery County Moms for Liberty meeting in Lansdale Monday the GOP ticket is counting on a grassroots army of “mama bears” to take them to victory.

“Shapiro has a $16 million TV buy. What else can he say about a 30-year colonel in the Army, who knows strategy, who’s brilliant, he’s got his doctorate in history?”

While the event was billed as a discussion of Mastriano’s education plan, the conversation was open-ended. Many attendees expressed their worries the Nov. 8 election will be stolen through mail-in ballots and drop boxes. DelRosso encouraged them to sign up to be poll watchers and to turn off the TV and knock on doors and make phone calls.

Mastriano, who recently voted to increase state funding for education by $800,000, has noted the average Pennsylvania school district spends $20,000 per student.

Carrie DelRosso (center rear) with Montgomery County Moms for Liberty in Lansdale. Josh Herman, Mastriano campaign deputy campaign manager, front right.

As governor, his proposals include strengthening and enforcing statewide curriculum transparency requirements and working with the legislature to establish a universal “parental rights” statute, according to Josh Herman, deputy campaign manager, who also came to the Moms for Liberty meeting.

Mastriano believes schools should teach children how to think, not what to think. On day one, Mastriano will ban Critical Race and Gender Theory studies. He also opposes biological males using girls’ locker rooms and restrooms and would ban biological males from competing in women’s sports, Herman said.

Mastriano also supports school choice. He believes every child is entitled to a top-notch education and that, when schools compete, it promotes excellence. He will make sure public schools continue to receive level funding but will also back competition that will improve them. And Mastriano plans to work with the legislature to bring school choice to Pennsylvania families to prevent children from being trapped in failing schools, Herman said.

“It’s time that we empower the parents and not these institutions,”  Mastriano said recently.

DelRosso, who grew up in Scranton, was upbeat about the chances for the Republican ticket, despite being outspent massively by their opponents.

After going to college at the University of Pittsburgh, she stayed in that area.  The divorced mother of three children, who served on the Oakmont Borough Council, was running her own public relations business when she decided to run for a seat in the state House, mostly because she saw what was going on behind the scenes in her local school district.

She flipped her Allegheny County district and beat the state Democrat minority leader by working hard and going door-to-door. She said she believes the Mastriano/DelRosso campaign can use those same grassroots tactics to win in November.

She was going to lose her seat this cycle due to redistricting, so she decided to run for lieutenant governor “to serve the people.”

“The Democratic old boys’ regime tried to sideline me,” she said. “I was the last person in the (lieutenant governor’s) race and I ended up winning by 120,000 votes.”

Her oldest son, Vincent, 14, asked her what she was going to do when he learned about redistricting. She said she would find a job.

“He told me, ‘Mom, you don’t retreat.’” When her son was in 8th grade he did a presentation for his public speaking class on the person he admired most. He chose his mom. He gave her the speech that he had written for Mother’s Day and she framed it. Her other children, Domenic, 12, and Mia, 11, are also onboard with her campaign.

And, she said, all three kids know not to believe all the negative campaign commercials now running against their mom and Mastriano.

“My kids get it now. Even the negative ads now, (her son says), ‘Watch this one, Mom.’ He knows it’s propaganda.”

Herman said he first heard about Moms for Liberty because of a Libs of TikTok tweet about a North Penn School District teacher making White kids apologize to Black kids because of their skin color during a “privilege walk.” He talked to Mastriano about it and got involved, even though it was not his district.

“A lot of other politicians would have said, ‘It’s not our district, it’s another senator or representative’s issue,’” said Herman. “That’s not the kind of guy Doug Mastriano is.”

“There’s other stuff going on in every school district across Pennsylvania,” said Herman. “There’s a very clear contrast in this race.  When you look at what (Gov.) Tom Wolf’s Department of Education has done in this state, the results are pretty clear. The last test results statewide showed that only 22 percent of 8th graders were proficient in either math or reading, 22 percent.”

“It’s time to rethink education here in Pennsylvania,” said Herman. “Josh Shapiro stood with Tom Wolf in supporting the mask mandates, he supported the school closures, all the horrible things the pandemic brought in 2020, the school shutdowns, the escalation of these woke ideologies, whether it was CRT, gender theory, all kinds of this nonsense that has crept into our schools across Pennsylvania. One of the most encouraging things we saw was a grassroots movement that rose up.

“It was led by angry mamma bears,” he said. That led to elections in 2021 across America where parents elected new school boards, including the Back to School PA movement. In Virginia, it led to the election of (Gov.) Glenn Youngkin. “That election was mostly owed to parents saying, ‘Enough is enough.’  (Defeated Democrat) Terry McAuliffe is just basically a Virginia version of Josh Shapiro.”

“Doug Mastriano, as a state senator, his record is clear,” said Herman. “He is always going to stand with parents. He is going to stand for freedom…He is going to increase transparency.”

Wolf vetoed a bipartisan bill that said curriculum had to be posted online.

“Doug Mastriano will sign that into law,” said Herman. “The number one priority is going to be empowering the voices of parents.”

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Haverford’s Matthew Crater Named PA’s Outstanding Assistant Principal

Haverford Middle School Assistant Principal Matthew Crater has been named Pennsylvania’s outstanding Assistant Principal for 2022 by the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP).

Crater, a graduate of West Chester University, took the news in stride.

“I was never one to apply for awards,” Crater told Delaware Valley Journal. “I do appreciate it. I’m a little humbled about it. When people talk to me about it, I kind of brush it off.

“My wife is like 10 times more excited than I am,” he confessed.

Crater, who has been Haverford’s sixth-grade assistant principal for five years, started on the path toward his career early in life. In high school, he worked with the YMCA and helped with their camps dealing with children from all backgrounds, including those in the special needs community.

“At that time I knew I wanted to work with kids through that experience,” Crater said. “I started to run the YMCA day camps over the summertime, so that’s kind of where my passion for leadership grew. Supervising other people and working directly with kids, that’s where that all started.”

Crater also has a personal interest in helping special needs students.

“I have a sister with Down Syndrome,” Crater explained, “so I was involved with Special Olympics and Special Olympic swimming. So that was more exposure to kids and adults with special needs.” He also worked at the West Chester Y.

“Obviously, (it’s) a much different demographic in socioeconomic status but I still loved it. I was the director for camps there at West Chester. As I went through my experience at West Chester in elementary education, with that came internships and practicums and student teaching and all of that. So I really just fell in love with working with kids. With my leadership experience with the Y, I had a growing interest in being a leader in general. I graduated from West Chester, and then I went down to Maryland to teach.”

After a stint in Anne Arundel County, Md. (“My school was just minutes away from the Naval Academy”) Crater landed a job at Haverford Middle School and has been there ever since. He began as a 6th-grade science teacher and kept that role for two years before accepting the assistant principal job.

“My favorite part is that every day is different,” Crater said. “I’m not a routine type of guy. I don’t like the professions where you show up and do the same exact thing every day. Even as a teacher, for the most part, your day is the same.

“But as an assistant principal, as much as you plan, I’d say 25 percent of the time I’m able to follow my schedule. The other 75 percent of the time the day takes me in different directions. And I love that,” Crater said.

Beyond anything else, helping children grow into mature human beings is what Crater enjoys about his job.

“Guiding them through good decision making is another part of what I like doing,” Crater said. “Helping the kids and steering them in the right direction.”

Asked what winning the honor meant to him, Crater said it was the feedback from parents of kids who have gone on to high school that means a lot.

When asked what he thought about being named Pennsylvania’s 2022 Assistant Principal, Crater said that he doesn’t like big recognition.

“Getting emails and calls from them just saying, ‘Hey, I always knew you were the greatest. Now the whole state knows!’ That’s the part I like about it. Just hearing from families, hearing from kids. You know, there are kids in the hallways that stop me and say congratulations. That’s the cool part.”

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SCHILLINGER: Survival Mode is Not Sustainable

Across party lines in urban, suburban, and rural communities, we have all suffered as a result of the Wolf and Fetterman administration. The budget has nearly doubled, taxes are higher than ever, businesses are boarded up from unnecessary lockdowns and looters, children are severely behind in academics, and police are left with locking up the same criminals time and time again.

This same administration should also be recognized as one of the worst states in terms of handling the pandemic. It sent COVID-positive patients to nursing homes, shut down businesses, and closed our schools. At the same time, the three most powerful elected officials in Pennsylvania took care of themselves before helping the constituents who elected them to office. The governor granted a special essential business exception for his own cabinet business. The lieutenant governor continues to illegally hang flags outside of the state capitol, and  Attorney General Josh Shapiro stands on the sidelines while allowing this unconstitutional behavior to happen in the executive branch.

Citizens across the commonwealth were so disgusted with the current administration and its handling of the pandemic that two constitutional amendments were passed last year to prevent the governor from acting unilaterally. Despite those amendments, the administration continues to enact illegal policies that are not supported by the Pennsylvania constitution. The administration wasted taxpayer dollars by issuing a statewide mask mandate for all schools and taking it all the way to the state Supreme Court, only to have it struck down.

Regardless of political affiliation, constituents across the state are weary of living in survival mode and weary of this administration. Survival mode is not sustainable nor preferable. While we might not agree with Jeff Bezos on many issues, I fully support one of his quotes and believe that it is the right direction for Pennsylvania: “We can’t be in survival mode. We have to be in growth mode.”

It is well past time to get out of survival mode and move to growth mode in our commonwealth. The good news is we have the chance to make some serious changes in 2022. Elections for the next governor, lieutenant governor, and U.S. senator are on the ballot and should not be taken lightly.

I believe the top five priorities of any candidate should include: Getting everyone, especially parents, back to work; a world-class education for every student regardless of ZIP code; making Pennsylvania the most dynamic economy in the country with good-paying jobs; strong communities where every Pennsylvanians feels safe in their homes and business; and election integrity where voters trust our system, and ballot harvesting is a crime that met with serious punishment.

None of these important issues have been addressed by Democratic attorney general and candidate for governor, Josh Shapiro. Instead, he has identified the following top five priorities if he is elected:  Legalizing marijuana, alleviating student debt, protecting a woman’s right to choose, fighting climate change, and protecting your right to vote.

From my perspective, these priorities are truly unbelievable. As residents across the state scrape pennies to keep up with surging inflation, Shapiro publishes his top five properties that have very little benefit to Pennsylvanians. How can he ask to lead the state when he is unwilling to address the recovery from the pandemic, skyrocketing unemployment, severe learning loss, and a soaring crime rate?

Our beautiful Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is struggling and is in desperate need of elected officials who are unafraid to stand up for me and you.  It cannot be someone who publishes National far leftist agendas on the Pennsylvanians who have been in survival mode for far too long. Pennsylvania needs a leader who understands the real life needs of real people. You have the power to decide the direction of Pennsylvania, and I hope that you will not take it lightly. Let’s get out of survival mode, and allow our parents, children, business owners, and taxpayers to grow and thrive.

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Meet The Other Doctor in PA’s U.S. Senate Race

Currently, four physicians are serving in the United States Senate, and TV celebrity Dr. Oz has made headlines with news that he hopes to join them.

But another local physician, Dr. Kevin Baumlin, has also thrown his stethoscope into the ring. Baumlin, a Democrat who works in a Philadelphia emergency room, hopes to change healthcare and society as a whole.

“I wasn’t really planning on running for Senate,” Baumlin told Delaware Valley Journal. “We started a not-for-profit just before COVID. That was going to be our legacy project. We’ve been very successful in our lives and we wanted to do something good to give back as we transition to the next part of our lives and careers.”

What pushed Baumlin to run for Senate are his concerns about issues like healthcare. As a physician, one of Baumlin’s top priorities is reforming Medicare and improving the care older adults receive.

“The issues I want to work on are federal-level issues,” Baumlin explained. “So, from a health care perspective, I want to work on fixing Medicare. Number one is to get homecare services included as a benefit. So you get at least four hours of care [for your older adult family members]. My parents are in their 80s and I’m 57 and my mom has some health problems and getting her homecare so my dad can go to his golf game is a big topic of conversation. It’s $25 an hour, out of pocket, and it’s not covered by Medicare.”

According to a Genworth survey, between now and 2030 more than 10,000 people will turn 65 every day. In addition, seven out of 10 people will need long-term homecare and, according to Medicare’s website, that type of long-term care isn’t covered.

It’s not just Medicare and older adult care that Baumlin wants to improve. He hopes to tackle the cost of healthcare for all Americans.

“I want to work on legislation to make healthcare portable and affordable,” Baumlin said. “By that I mean have no copays and no deductibles. Because that’s what makes young families go broke. Literally.

“If you make $34,000 a year and you have a $9,000 deductible, that’s 20 percent of your income. How can you budget for that? Because all of that money has already been budgeted out. There’s no extra $500 a month hanging out so you can pay your minimum for your $9,000 deductible. It’s just not in anyone’s budget. And that’s not okay and we need to fix that.”

Ending fracking is also a big concern that Baumlin hopes to address. He sent a letter to one of his opponents in the Democratic primary, Montgomery County Commissioners Chair Dr. Val Arkoosh, urging her to join him in opposing the practice that has created thousands of jobs and millions of dollars of revenue for the state.

“As medical health professionals, we have both seen first hand the dangerous impacts fracking has had on Pennsylvania families living within a one-mile radius of a fracking site,” Baumlin wrote to Arkoosh, an anesthesiologist. He said that he will “make it a priority to end fracking on day one” if he’s elected.

Senators do not have the power to end policies like fracking.

Baumlin also wants to raise the minimum wage.

“All the parents deserve to have a job where they make $15 to $20 an hour so they can work one shift instead of two. So they can be home to help with homework and things like that,” he said.

And, Baumlin says he believes changes to the education system are needed to bring about fundamental changes to our society.

“We need to work on how education is funded,” Baumlin said. “So that we decrease the inequitable society we have and fund urban areas and urban schools so that we can raise people up with a good education and give them the foundations they need so that they can succeed and right the wrongs of the past. To me, that’s social justice.”

 

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During Bensalem Stop, Corman Touts ‘People First’ Campaign for Governor

Senate Pro Tempore Jake Corman, a Republican who is running for governor in 2022, came to the Nottingham Fire Company in Bensalem Wednesday to speak with first responders.

“Volunteer fire companies save the state billions of dollars,” he said. “The pressure of getting more and more volunteers is difficult. It’s important for me to hear from them what they’re facing, what their challenges are.”

Corman, 57, who represents Centre, Mifflin, and Juniata counties, is the son of a state senator and has spent 22 years in Pennsylvania politics.

“This is not something I wanted to do growing up. I was a journalism major, believe it or not,” Corman told Delaware Valley Journal in a podcast interview. “And I wanted to be in sports broadcasting. And in 1994, my good friend, Rick Santorum, ran for the United States Senate.”

Sen. Jake Corman (center) meets with first responders at the Nottingham Fire Company.

After Santorum won, Corman “got the political bug” and went to work for him as state director in central Pennsylvania.

With the slogan “People First,” Corman is running to get things done to help people.

“I’d like to think I’m the excitement candidate. I’m someone who believes in putting people first. Someone who believes in protecting our freedoms.”

He took some swipes at Democrat incumbent Gov. Tom Wolf, who is term-limited and will not be running again, for his handling of the COVID pandemic.

“He was wrong when at the beginning of the pandemic he shut down our healthcare facilities,” said Corman. That caused many people to forego needed tests like mammograms or have surgeries like hip replacements, according to Corman.

“And I said, ‘Governor, you know, this is a healthcare crisis. Hospitals were full of very smart people who are experts in the healthcare industry.’”

“Our Founding Fathers decided to put the power in the people, and not the government,” he said. “The last 18 months, we’ve watched a lot of our freedoms come, not under attack, but under assault. We had a governor tell us who could go to work and support their families, and who could not. Who could go to school and get educated, and who could not. Who could get healthcare and improve their lives, and who could not. Who could congregate, who could protest in the streets, and who could not.”

Corman quoted Wolf, saying, “’The government will do everything it can to make you feel comfortable.’ When I heard that, it sent a chill up my spine. Because, really, what the governor is saying to you is, ‘We’re going to make you comfortable giving up your civil liberties.’ … Not on my last breath will I ever feel comfortable giving up my civil liberties. Because when you get comfortable giving up your freedoms and your civil liberties, the government is going to get comfortable taking them. And there may come a day when they never come back.”

Corman also accused progressives of attacking the “very people who protect us,” citing Philadelphia’s surging homicide rate with more than 500 deaths this year. That trend, he said, is reflected in other parts of the state and across the country.

“And what did our governor do when all this was going on? He participated in a march and stood in front of a sign that said ‘Blue Lives Murder.’ That’s the type of leadership he chose to provide during this very difficult time. … The people of Pennsylvania don’t support that agenda. They don’t support defunding the police. They don’t support attacking the heroes of our community. I will stand with our men and women in uniform.”

Corman counts jobs and quality education as key parts of his platform.

“Economic security is the key component of family-sustaining jobs, family-sustaining communities,” he said. “You’ve got to have economic security if you’re going to have a successful community. The way you get those good, blue-collar jobs is developing good economic policy which this governor doesn’t want to do.”

“And I’ve led the charge against his policies and created better policies that have created jobs in the energy sector, which has created blue-collar jobs.”

Corman pointed to a new $6 billion natural gas to gasoline plant that will be built in Lucerne County that he supported but Wolf opposed. That plant will create about 4,000 temporary construction jobs and several hundred permanent jobs.

“I want to get things done,” he said. “We can all stand for certain things. We can all be for certain things. But if you don’t accomplish them then, really, what good are you?”

Corman also blasted the progressive Democrats’ push to defund the police.

“The people who live in this community want policing more than anybody,” he said. “If you don’t stand up and say, ‘we need safe streets. We need to support our men and women in uniform,’ then you’re sending out a message that’s it’s not important. The crime that went on in some of our cities and no one prosecuted any of these people …You’re sending a message that what they’re doing is OK.”

Corman added, “We can support our men and women in uniform and still deal with the social concerns that drive some of those values,” he said. “I believe that we can have good energy jobs and still protect our environment. It’s a false choice to say it has to be one or the other. You can do both. You just have to be clever, you have to be creative.”

Education was a big issue driving many parents to the polls in the 2021 election cycle, as parents saw what their children were learning online during the pandemic.

“First of all, we have to be fighting back as a nation, not just a state, as a nation against Washington, D.C. and new Biden administration, sending the FBI out after parents who go to school board meetings and to have voices heard. That’s the most outrageous thing I think I’ve ever heard in my entire career, my entire life that our own country would be trying to silence voices.”

“We have to be encouraging parents to be involved in their children’s education,” he added.

Corman is competing in a large field of GOP candidates, including former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, Montgomery Commissioner Joe Gale, GOP strategist Charlie Gerow, Chester County Chamber of Business & Industry  CEO Guy Ciarrocchi, Former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain, former Delaware County Councilmember Dave White, and surgeon Nche Zama.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro is the only announced Democrat in the governor’s race.

Reporter Isaac Avilucea contributed to this article.

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