by Rep. Kristine Howard (D-167)
Just when you think Republicans have reached the outer boundaries of extremism, they surprise us with even more radical nonsense. Take Christian Nationalist Republican candidate for Governor Doug Mastriano, who just proposed jaw-dropping education reforms so radical you will need the Hubble Space Telescope to see the outer edges of his rightward trajectory.
A formula for disaster
Here is the core of Mastriano and his Republican enablers’ education agenda:
- For all intents and purposes, eliminate property taxes as a source of public education funding.
- Cut the per-pupil financial support of educating our children, currently at an average of $19,000 per student, to a paltry $9,000 per student.
- Do not give the $9,000 directly to public schools, but instead, give vouchers to the kids’ parents and let them use the vouchers at schools of their choice – public, private, charter or religious.
This is a formula for destroying public education in Pennsylvania. Cutting approximately $12 billion from education funding is so extreme on its face, that no further debate or explanation is needed to demonstrate how it disqualifies Mr. Mastriano and those who support him as people who can be taken seriously for public office.
Blame the teacher
According to Mr. Mastriano, the real problem is over-paid teachers and their unions. If it is true that teachers are making too much money, then please explain why, in a free market economy, there is a massive teacher shortage in Pennsylvania and throughout the United States?
Doug Mastriano and Republicans of his ilk are quick to point the finger of imagined blame at public school teachers. However, for them, the real boogieman is not the teachers themselves, but their unions. Here is some breaking news for the extremists, the teachers’ unions are the teachers themselves. The teachers’ unions are merely the collective voice of rank-and-file teachers who have proven themselves time and time again to be the strongest advocates for providing our kids the best education possible.
I am here to tell you when it comes to education policy and practice you can put far more trust in what little Johnny’s second grade teacher says than anything coming out of the radical right-wing ravings of Doug Mastriano and his chorus of complainers.
The myth of charter schools and vouchers
Republicans are often quick to embrace the alternative of charter schools (see my Republican opponent’s social media content). While the debate is ongoing as to the cost and educational effectiveness of charter schools, one point is universally clear – charter schools drain traditional public schools of critically needed tax dollars.
Mr. Mastriano would have us believe that the competition from charter and private schools forces public schools to become more cost effective and offer better educational opportunities. It is hard for me to imagine how public schools become better when education tax dollars are siphoned away from them and poured into alternative schools with less regulation and oversight.
It is also a stretch to see how less-regulated charter schools are more cost effective than public schools. Case in point, my Republican opponent, Gail Newman, is hosting a fund-raising reception for her campaign “In Support of School Choice” featuring Dr. James Hanak, founder and former CEO of PA Leadership Charter School.
The charter school Dr. Hanak founded enjoyed an enrollment of approximately 2,200 students and he earned a salary of $377,000 as its CEO. Compare that to the Great Valley School District, arguably one of the best public-school districts in Pennsylvania with a student population of 4,500 and a superintendent who is paid $239,000 per year. This anecdotal evidence belies the efficiency argument for charter schools.
Mr. Mastriano and the Republicans who embrace him have earned an F for their extremist school funding scheme simply because there are no lower grades available to give.