All good things must come to an end. Welcome to the final week of Broad + Liberty’s Candidate Spotlight Series!

Each week throughout the election season, we’ve reached out to candidates all across the Commonwealth up for election to public office — an equal number of Democrats and Republicans; incumbents and challengers. We’ve asked one question per week about public policy pressing to you. Those who chose to respond had their answers shared on our website. (Please see a special statement from the editors about unresponsive candidates.)

The twelfth and final installment of our series will focus on the strengths and weaknesses of our public education system. Our candidates for GovernorU.S. Senator, Lt. Governor and U.S. Congress have already weighed in. Let’s see what our candidates for Pennsylvania’s General Assembly have to say.

This week’s question: What is the greatest strength and greatest weakness of our public education system, and what will you do when elected to address that weakness?

Broad + Liberty thanks the following campaigns for their participation. Click a link below to jump to the response from your district’s candidate!

Nichole Missino, R, Running for State House, District 165

The greatest strength of our education system is our resilient and amazing children, as well as our teachers.

We have children who have suffered greatly since the disruption of in person learning that are starved for normalcy. They are working so extremely hard to catch up at a huge emotional and intellectual deficit.

We have teachers that are devoted to their growth, and also working extremely hard to bridge the gap.

The greatest weakness of the public school system is that, from the top down, they are greenlighting progressive policies, advocating for a small percentage of teachers who are actually activists in disguise, going soft on discipline, and completely stifling parents who want transparency and the ability to make decisions on their kid’s behalf. This, in turn, is distracting our kids from the fundamentals of learning.

We cannot take our eyes off of the ball. As a state representative, I will never advocate for lock downs, I’ll vote for full transparency of curriculum and parental rights, I won’t accept mandatory vaccines for students, and I’ll completely embrace school choice.

Nichole Missino’s opponent, Jennifer O’Mara, chose not to respond.

Ilya Breyman, D, Running for State House, District 178

American public education’s greatest strength is its universal access — it’s available to everyone regardless of their income, race, creed, disability, etc. The promise this system provides is equal access — equal access to opportunity, employment, and, ultimately the pursuit of happiness and the American dream. Every high-income nation has a strong public education system and that is no coincidence. Our system is different from that of many developed countries, though, because it is highly decentralized — it’s governed by locally elected school boards and funded by local taxes. This would be a strength if it resulted in more teaching and learning innovation and differentiation, which is what private schools, catering to specific groups of students and lacking excessive bureaucratic oversight, are often praised for. In some cases it does, but there is certainly room for growth, especially when it comes to students from low-income backgrounds, special education, gifted education, and multilingual students. 

However, as the last several years have demonstrated, the main result of this decentralized model was the politicization and polarization of these governing bodies that are supposed to be nonpartisan. That’s a big weakness. Instead of discussing how to make our students more competitive globally by investing in science, technology, arts, foreign languages, and figuring out what skills they will need in the uncertain future, our school board meetings became battlegrounds for culture wars and stepping stones for aspiring politicians, whose votes are now often informed by their future political aspirations rather than what students and parents really need.

As our schools become gripped by this problem — out-of-touch politicians laying waste to the core tenets that once made our public education system the best in the world — we should remedy this problem the same way we would remedy a political failure in any other arena: by giving more power to “we, the people.” We should get dark money out of school board elections and impose limits on both direct and independent expenditures. School board regions are small — one can easily knock on every single door, call every single voter, and discuss what’s important to them. That is what we should expect candidates and incumbents to do: actually talk to their constituents, win votes, and build coalitions the way they had to before SuperPACs started caring about school board races. In addition to this, we should do something I have been advocating since the beginning: we should repeal closed primaries and encourage independent voters to participate.

Only by putting power back in the hands of the people can we fix the problems of public education in America and ensure we preserve the American Dream for all future generations.

Ilya Breyman’s opponent, Kristin Marcell, chose not to respond.

Broad + Liberty is a nonprofit media endeavor dedicated to sharing voices and stories that are shut out of other media outlets. @BroadAndLiberty

One thought on “General Assembly Candidate Spotlight: Education”

  1. Kudos to the two candidates who took the time to provide a response to the question. Agree with them or not, they at least showed the voters the respect that all candidates should exhibit towards their bosses.

Leave a (Respectful) Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *