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DOEBLER: School Directors and Candidates: Will You Answer the Call to Protect Our Girls?

As the chair of Protect Bucks PAC, I’m deeply committed to championing a cause that strikes at the very core of issues facing Bucks County school districts – the fairness and integrity of girls’ sports and the safety and privacy of female athletes.

Our collective efforts have given rise to our Petition to Protect Girls’ Sports, a call to action for our school boards to safeguard girls’ sports and the privacy of our female athletes. This petition underscores why we believe this issue is of paramount importance. In a few weeks, we have collected 1500 signatures in support of this cause, and counting.

Protect Bucks PAC is 100 percent women-founded and women-led. Each of us shares a meaningful personal connection to girls’ sports. We are mothers, daughters, grandmothers, sisters, and friends, and many of us were once young athletes ourselves. These experiences have shaped our understanding of the profound importance of fairness in sports. We know that participation in athletics is key to developing confidence and independence for young women, and that excelling opens doors to opportunities that would otherwise remain out of reach. The advancement of women has come too far to allow girls to be held back by political ideologies.

Unfortunately, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA), responsible for overseeing school sports, has relinquished its responsibility to ensure fair competition in girls’ sports by deferring decisions about who can compete to each individual school district. This has resulted in a lack of consistency in policies across our county and across our state. It means that the rules might change depending on where a game, match, or meet is held.

The lack of clear guidance will only harm female athletes. Male athletes possess inherent biological advantages over female athletes. These advantages, such as physical stature, bone density, lung capacity, muscle mass, and wingspan, are well-documented, and they persist even with the use of puberty-suppressing drugs. Allowing biological male athletes to compete in girls’ sports not only endangers female competitors, but also creates an unlevel playing field in terms of roster spots, awards, scholarships, and other opportunities. This past spring, a high school track athlete from western PA was excluded from states when a biological male took her spot. Without solid policies, situations like these will become more common.

It’s also crucial that we implement policies to protect the privacy and dignity of our female athletes in girls’ locker rooms. We firmly believe that it is both unnecessary and unjust to compromise the privacy of female athletes to accommodate male students who may be grappling with identity-related challenges. Practical and fair accommodations, such as providing private changing rooms for students who prefer them, can ensure the comfort and security of all student athletes.

Fortunately, Central Bucks School District has taken an essential step by initiating discussions to establish a clear policy aligning with Title IX protections, intending to maintain separate sports categories based on biological sex. It is our hope that this policy will pass board vote and become district policy. In a similar vein, Pennridge School District introduced a local policy this year that respects sex-based bathroom and locker room access. That policy passed 8 to 1, with the lone no vote coming from the only Democrat on the Pennridge board, Ron Wurz.

But these policies, while commendable, are only the start for protecting girls in Bucks County. It is our hope that all Bucks County districts will implement similar policies, to preserve the fairness and integrity of girls’ sports, as well as the safety and privacy of female athletes.

Board Directors and Candidates for School Board— this issue is too important to ignore. Will you answer the call to protect our girls?

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NASCIMENTO: Dumbing Down Education Hurts Kids and the Country

As Yogi Berra once said, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”

Once again, across the country and here in the Delaware Valley, school aged children are being forced into virtual learning. And once again, it’s the very districts that can least afford to have their children outside of the classroom that are most impacted.

We know from experience that children do best when they are in the classroom; we also know from the COVID virtual experience that we all just lived through that there are many secondary impacts to children beyond being behind in learning. Many of our children are being unfairly burdened with mental, behavioral and health impacts due to prolonged time out of the classroom.

At the same time, school districts and local leaders across the country are deliberately pushing the “dumbing down” of America in the name of equity. From the principal in Minnesota that is eliminating failing grades, to the (thankfully) former mayor of NYC who unilaterally eliminated the city’s Gifted and Talented program, the very foundation of our education is under attack from those entrusted with its success. Just this week, I saw notice of the Methacton School District waiving midterms and finals for all classes this year – a dangerous trend.

In truth, all these actions hurt the very children that they propose to help. Pushing a child on to the next grade because we don’t give out “F”s is not “equitable.” It is, in fact, leaving them unprepared for the future challenges that they will face.

We’ve also previously seen the Attorney General of the United States, without documenting any specific threats, taking an unprecedented step to issue a memo likening parents attending school board meetings to domestic terrorists. All while a company founded and run by his son-in-law does work for various school districts across the country on the very topics that many of their parents are emotional about.

As a former school board president, I can speak from experience on how heated school board meetings can get when there is a topic that the community is passionate about, and no topics arouse passion more than those that affect people’s children. But parents must be made to be partners in the decisions that impact their children’s future.

Whether a child goes onto college, grad school, the military, or a trade, what they lean in primary school is foundational to their success, and to the success of our nation. Cheating them on an honest assessment on what and how they learn and cheating their parents out of their rightful and appropriate involvement, is cheating an entire country.

The Constitution is silent on education; it leaves these matters to the localities. However, when the federal government threatens and the local government abdicates its responsibilities, then Congress must act to ensure that future generations are educated properly. This can be done by passing legislation that calls for minimum standards in grading and curriculum in order to receive federal funding. Congress can also finally pass meaningful legislation to provide school choice to millions of families across the country.

From national security to economic prosperity, there is no greater challenge facing us today that the education of our children. As Jefferson has been quoted, “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.”


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STEIN: Looking Back at DelVal News for 2021

“There is a Chinese curse which says May he live in interesting times.’ Like it or not, we live in interesting times. They are times of danger and uncertainty, but they are also the most creative of any time in the history of mankind,” Robert F. Kennedy said in 1966.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic reached our shores, the country and the Delaware Valley have been living in “interesting times,” to say the least. Everything from shopping to education to sports has been seen through the lens of COVID, and whether it might lead one to contract it or would mitigate the virus.

Local and state governments collected numbers and issued mandates. Schools were locked down, reopened, and some locked down again. One of the biggest political stories the Delaware Valley Journal covered in 2021 was the rise of parent power. Parents objected to COVID lockdowns and masks at school board meetings, parents opposed to Critical Race Theory, and shocked parents asking school boards to remove what they deem as pornographic books from school libraries, along with school boards limiting parents’ free speech rights.

This also gave rise to election victories for school board candidates who promised not to shut down schools again and the successful statewide political strategy of Back to School PA PAC, which gave about $700,000 to back those candidates’ campaigns.

Another big story this year is crime and violence in Philadelphia, arguably driven by progressive prosecution—or lack thereof—by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office headed by DA Larry Krasner, who was re-elected in November. As of this writing, 555 people were victims of homicide in Philadelphia in 2021—a horrific new record.

At the state government level, voters sent a clear message to Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf in May when they approved ballot initiatives limiting his emergency powers. It was a also the year when amazing numbers of Republican candidates began vying for the governor’s seat in the 2022 primary, along with similarly large  fields of hopefuls of both parties seeking the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Pat Toomey. The Senate race, which may tip the balance of the Senate, could become one of the most closely-watched political contests in the U.S.

The 2021 election process in some DelVal counties also came under fire as delays, mistakes, and mail-in ballots caused consternation.  That has also been a huge issue nationwide since former President Donald Trump questioned the validity of the election process that resulted in his defeat in the swing states, including Pennsylvania. And a lawsuit was filed against Delaware County officials alleging malfeasance in the handling of the 2020 election there.

Another statewide issue in the DelVal Journal was Wolf’s unilateral plunge into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a move that will undoubtedly limit Pennsylvania’s job growth and drive up energy costs for businesses and residents.

RGGI is supposed to reduce greenhouse gases by an auction process for power producers and industrial plants in 12 states, which buy credits to offset emissions. But those other RGGI states are not energy producers like Pennsylvania, with its wealth of natural gas.

And we have closely followed the controversy over the $6.1 billion Mariner East II pipeline. Some residents who live in the vicinity of the pipeline along with public officials have fought the pipeline, while overlooking clear benefits from the pipeline for employment, safety over rail or truck transport, and reduced energy costs. Luckily, for the economy of the DelVal region those efforts appear to have failed and the project is on track for completion.

Locally, Hurricane Ida hit some DelVal areas hard with flood damage as streams overflowed their banks while tornadoes pummeled parts of Bucks and Montgomery Counties.

National issues of inflation and supply-side woes also affected the Delaware Valley region as the Biden administration’s energy and regulatory policies began to be felt here.

In Norristown, the DelVal Journal broke a story regarding Norristown Area School Board President Shae Ashe sending sexually suggestive messages on social media to an underage Norristown High School girl. In the wake of those articles, Ashe resigned from the board and, although he was re-elected, did not return to it.

In Delaware County, the new Health Department, promised by Democrats who were elected to a majority in the county council in 2019, is taking shape and expected to open in 2022. It will cost taxpayers an estimated $10 million its first year.

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Pro-Parent PAC Wins Big in PA School Board Elections, Predicts More Victories Ahead

A pro-parent organization had a blockbuster night in Tuesday’s school board elections, winning a majority of its races and with more victories to come when final tallies are released, organizers told Delaware Valley Journal.

“Sixty percent of our candidates won,” said Paul Martino, the Bucks County dad and venture capitalist who bankrolled the Back to School PA PAC. “What we did by showing up, we put the other team on notice we were here.”

Martino put in $500,000 of his own money and nearly $200,000 more came from other sources.  Martino’s vision was to give $10,000 to slates of local school board candidates statewide who supported parental rights and in-person education. Thanks to the additional funding Back to School was able to support 60 slates of candidates, 10 more than the additional 50 originally planned.

As of Friday morning, 113 out of 171 candidates backed by the pack were winners, bringing the percentage up to 65 percent. However, some races, particularly in Montgomery County, have not been called due to problems with 6,000 misprinted ballots. There are 30 still pending, Martino said. So that number could go even higher.

Horsham mom Clarice Schillinger, who founded Keeping Kids in School PAC, was also happy with the results. “I am thrilled that we activated parents throughout the entire state to be more interested in their (kids) well-being, for their kids and their education. And I don’t think this is a one-time thing.”

Schillinger has joined forces with Martino and is now the executive director of the Back to School PA PAC.

“Look at what happened in Virginia,” Martino said. “The exit poll in Virginia said that 70 percent of the people who voted in Virginia, the number one issue was related to schools, curriculum, etc.”

“What we did here in Pennsylvania, what happened in Virginia, etc., shows we are finally waking up parents as to how important school districts are and local races are,” said Martino. “Usually people only get this excited about the presidential elections. If people get this excited about odd-year school board elections, this is good. This is stuff that affects you and your kids. I know everyone gets animated about who the president is, but who your school board member is might matter more to your kids than who the president is.”

“The school boards in Pennsylvania have the right to authorize new taxes,” said Martino. “These are powerful positions, even though they are unpaid and sometimes below the radar. I am thrilled that we’ve now activated parents throughout the entire state to be more interested in the well-being of their kids and their education. I don’t think this is a one-time thing. I think these parents are now woken up and they are going to pay attention to these elections for years to come.”

Asked about the pushback he received since getting involved in local school politics, Martino said, “I am disappointed by it but I am not surprised,” said Martino. “Make no mistake. I knew this would happen.”

“I told my wife and kids, ‘If we go do this, they’re going to paint us to be the villains.’ It’s amazing, with all the money that’s in local school board races, from local C-4s [non-profit organizations], unions, etc.,  somehow all of that money is okay, but when Paul Martino, a concerned dad,  shows up at bat, it’s a problem,” Martino said.

“That’s what really galls me a little bit. They have every right to write those checks. I have every right to write those checks. Why was I the bad guy and they were the good guys… (I’m) disappointed with the villainization I got.”

Martino says the education issue breaks down partisan barriers.

“Even though I am a Republican, a lot of our candidates were Democrats and a lot were Democrats who switched to Republican because they couldn’t get endorsed by their own party,” said Martino. “This was a bipartisan group we created…a good 30 percent of our candidates were Democrats, they still try to paint us as right-wing villains…Unbelievable! You can’t make it up.”

But that’s not going to stop him.

“We haven’t figured out what we’re going to do next but Clarice and I are going to keep Back to School going,” Martino said. “We’ve not built a statewide, grassroots organization. We know there’s going to be a second act…We managed in six months to have candidates in a third of the state. We’re thrilled with what we did.”


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