State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Schwartz unveils education platform

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Sep 26, 2013 11:55 AM

Photo by U.S. House of Representatives website

One of the expected front-runners among the eight Democratic candidates for governor is unveiling the beginnings of an education plan that focuses on early learning.

Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz said in a conference call with reporters Thursday that, if elected, she would build on state and federal programs in place to encourage pre-kindergarten for all four-year-olds and expand access to full-day kindergarten.

"It would not be a mandate," Schwartz said. "It would be universal access but it would be voluntary. So, there is an infrastructure in place now, in Head Start and in Pre-K Counts, so we will be looking quite [quickly] to both having public schools expand them potentially to do this."

According to advocacy group PA Partnerships for Children, statewide enrollment in full-day kindergarten was about 68 percent in 2010. The same group found in a 2012 report that fewer than 17 percent of Pennsylvania's three- and four-year-olds have access to high-quality, publicly funded pre-kindergarten.

Schwartz' announcement comes within days of State Treasurer Rob McCord entering the Democratic race with a call to put more money towards education.

The congresswoman said she would allot a decade to make pre-kindergarten universal throughout Pennsylvania. When a reporter suggested that seemed like a long time, Schwartz agreed.

"Maybe I will be even more successful -- I'm trying to practical," Schwartz said. "I'm trying to understand the responsibility of having to balance this budget."

She also listed plans to reduce class sizes in kindergarten through third grade, adopt a funding formula for schools, and reverse cuts made to education under Gov. Corbett, an effort, she said, that would take four years.

To pay for additional schools investment, Schwartz said she would put less money toward cyber charter schools and place a five percent severance tax on natural gas production in Pennsylvania. The levy would be on top of an impact fee on gas drillers.


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Comments: 2

  • Susan Spicka img 2013-09-26 13:23

    This is disappointing and full of platitudes, which don't tell anyone much about where she stands on the important issues in public education. Everyone loves the idea of more pre-K, so that sounds great.However, Pennsylvania's children can't wait 4 years to have Corbett's funding cuts restored to public education. In addition, I'd like to hear more about Congresswoman Schwartz's views on charter school funding and oversight. Cyber schools are an easy target with few defenders these days, but PA's brick-and-mortar charter schools also receive double pension payments, are run by for-profit companies and many do not do a good job educating children.

    In addition, Congresswoman Schwartz has been strangely silent on the Philadelphia education crisis. Philadelphia is mandated to pay more than $700 million in charter school tuition each year. What would she propose to solve this problem that is bankrupting the school district? Mandating that Philly folks pay for 2 parallel systems of public education isn't working. It pits children in traditional schools against children in charter schools and there are no winners when funding is taken from one group and given to another. What is her proposed solution? I look forward to hearing more.

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