(Pittsburgh) — The Democratic candidates for governor met at the Barack Obama Academy of International Studies 6-12 in the Highland Park neighborhood of Pittsburgh to discuss how they plan to confront the issues facing public education if elected governor — a hot topic thus far in the campaign.
From the beginning, one thing was made abundantly clear: Each candidate plans to do exactly the opposite of what Tom Corbett has done while in office.
When asked how each candidate would fund their public education initiatives, former DEP Secretary Katie McGinty and Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz talked about how they would prioritize education above all else — something that Corbett has neglected to do, they said.
State Treasurer Rob McCord took it one step forward.
“I will do whatever it takes to fund public education,” he said.
McGinty was clearly using the incumbent Governor’s policy blunders to her advantage, going back to how she would fix the mistakes of the current administration in almost all of her answers.
“We are one of the only states in the country that does not have a fair, objective and transparent funding formula — and it wasn’t always this way. We had an effective and fair formula before Tom Corbett. He made it a matter of political deal making,” McGinty said.
McGinty also peppered in personal stories that seemed to be aimed at the audience of parents and children present.
McCord used a different approach, speaking off-the-cuff and matter-of-factly about the issues, even taking a shot at businessman Tom Wolf’s support of certain charter schools. He touted his proposed 10% tax on natural gas companies as a necessity to fix the inequality in the Pennsylvania public education system, and he discussed radical changes to the state’s testing approach.
In regards to the Keystone Graduation tests, McCord said succinctly, “I’d scrap ‘em if elected.”
Schwartz was the only candidate to fully support the Common Core curriculum — provided that changes be made when necessary — and the Keystone Graduation tests. Schwartz also sported the highest number of supporters, who were loud and boisterous after all of her answers.
Wolf had a quiet debate, oftentimes agreeing with his fellow candidates and heavily emphasizing more funding for education. He got into a little hot water when he dismissed the importance of recess for children — an issue McGinty and McCord swiftly called him out on. Wolf apologized when he took the mic again, saying, “Let me just say that I do support recess for children.” The crowd laughed in response.
All the candidates called for more charter school accountability and an end to the charter school system that siphons off funds that would normally go to public education. In addition, the voucher system that allows families to choose to send their children to private schools was also universally berated.
“I oppose any initiative to support the privatization of public education,” Schwartz said.
But questions dealing with the inequality in education amongst minority groups and the safety of children while at school were mostly skated around, with none of the candidates truly addressing the issue head on.
In her closing statement, Schwartz said, “You have heard a lot of agreement on this stage tonight.”
Most who attended would have to agree with Schwartz.