At the beginning of Thursday night’s Montgomery County DFA meeting, State Representative Steve McCarter delivered a personal endorsement to his former Lower Merion student Rob McCord. As a student of McCarter’s, the representative described McCord as someone who “took every opportunity, he took anything to learn anytime that he possibly could.” After the endorsement, McCord began to speak to the DFA members, and began with his experiences growing up in Montgomery County and how he benefitted from a strong public school district. McCord grew up in a single parent family in the Lower Merion School District, and had a strong support network that diagnosed learning disabilities. He went on to Harvard, became successful in the private equity sector, and is now a 2 term State Treasurer running for governor.
Because of the schedule, McCord only had a half hour to speak to the crowd, but he dedicated most of that time to public education and higher education. He told the crowd that Governor Tom Corbett’s attack on public was a motivating factor for his run for governor, and when talking about where education ranks on his list of priorities, he continued with “day one, job one, budget one, year one, it’s about investing in education.” If governor, McCord promised that he would play hardball with Republicans during the budget negotiations by not let them go on summer vacation until “they come to terms in and on public education.”
At the meeting, McCord addressed issues effecting the State System of Higher Education, which included: senate bill 1275, Governor Corbett’s attack on higher education, and using part of his 10 percent drillers tax, which I support, to invest in higher education. When speaking about the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, McCord explained the differences between state related schools and state system schools, and noted that the main difference is the mission of the State System of Higher Education, which is to provide access to affordable higher education for all Pennsylvanians. McCord stated that he was against the PASSHE secession legislation. He stated:
I worry about [Senate Bill 1275] because I think you’ll get well positioned schools opting out, like West Chester, in a way that will hurt the average middle middle class family in Pennsylvania.
When talking about his ten percent drillers tax, explained that the Pennsylvania market will be able to afford it because the natural gas isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon. He also took the time to criticize Allyson Schwartz’s proposed 5 percent severance tax because “if you start at ten and you have to go down to eight, that’s ok. If you start at five, it’s very hard to climb to eight if you’re a democrat.” McCord stated that he would support using revenues from the drillers tax for reinvesting in higher education. He told the crowd that the generated revenues would go towards covering pensions, implementing new programs from K through 12, establishing a funding formula and addressing college affordability.
When talking about public higher education, there was one area of concern. At the end of the meeting McCord mentioned that he would want to work with APSCUF – the faculty union representing professors at the 14 state schools – by reinvesting in and innovating in higher education through “cost containment and innovation that leads to stronger careers.” As an example McCord stated:
We want to invest again in state related schools, but we also want to have ever more realistic conversations about containing tuition prices, and, yes having an evolution, in faculty and so forth so that we are creating a faster graduation rate – too many students are dropping out before they finish their four year degrees – and a higher rate of employment once they graduate.
So when I send a kid to West Chester State University and he takes ‘phys ed,’ and becomes a phys ed teacher, there is a 90 percent chance he has to leave Pennsylvania or work outside the state. If they want to major in accounting or physics and they are willing to live in Pennsylvania, there is a 100 percent chance they stay in Pennsylvania. They’re going to pay for their education many times over with tax dollars.
It would be nice to hear what policy ideas that the McCord campaign has when it comes to public higher education investment and innovation because these two buzzwords were present during the last APSCUF negotiations when PASSHE and the state wanted to implement online education curriculums. Overall, McCord had a strong evening and addressed one of the largest issues that will drive a lot of voters out to the voting booths in November.