As part of its efforts to educate the Jewish community about candidates running for office and their positions, OU Advocacy-PA reached out to the candidates for governor with questions about education and more general issues. The Orthodox Union is a not-for-profit organization and does not endorse any candidate.
Children cannot learn, and teachers cannot teach, in an unsafe or disruptive environment. What are your goals regarding school safety in general as well as specifically for non-public schools?
Gov. Tom Corbett: As the former Attorney General of Pennsylvania, I believe the safety and security of all Pennsylvania schools is of paramount importance. In 2013, working in partnership with the General Assembly, we expanded the Safe School Grant Program by $3.9 million. This funding supports the placement of resource officers and police officers in schools across Pennsylvania.
Rob McCord: I wholeheartedly agree that a safe environment is essential to a successful learning environment. Schools must have adequate planning on how to respond to emergencies, good working relationships with local law enforcement, and professionals on staff who are trained on how to deal with crises and disruptive students. To these ends, I will direct my secretary of Education, State Police commissioner, and director of Emergency Management to help school districts collaboratively develop emergency action plans, and I will push for legislation that requires every school to form a school safety committee. Additionally, by restoring Governor Corbett’s education cuts and investing new dollars in K-12 schools, my plan will dedicate a portion of those funds to professional development training in not only teaching, but also emergency preparedness and response and managing disruptive students. Lastly, school districts will be able to use their additional funding to ensure each school has a full-time counselor who is available to students who may regularly face bullying or problems at home.
Rep. Allyson Schwartz: Ensuring that our schools have healthy and safe learning environments is essential to enabling teachers to focus their attention on classroom learning and student achievement. Safe classrooms and school buildings are the product of teachers and staff who are well trained to intervene with difficult students.
As districts in Pennsylvania face increasingly difficult financial pressures, class sizes have increased and critical support staff have been laid off. As governor, I will ensure that the state provides districts with the resources and incentives they need to ensure safe learning environments. My administration will work to develop best practices for all schools across the Commonwealth.
In Congress, I have I cosponsored the Safe Schools Improvement Act to require schools ￼to have effective anti-bullying remedies.
Tom Wolf: I believe safety is a fundamental civil right, and nowhere is that more evident than in our schools. Students go there to learn and should be safe and protected. In order to create an environment where students feel comfortable testing new ideas and asking questions, there needs to be a positive school climate where students feel safe. Not only does the Commonwealth need to ensure that public school teachers have the knowledge and tools to prevent bullying but we also need to strengthen our anti-bullying laws so that there are real consequences.
In addition to addressing issues of in-school bullying, we also need to tackle the problem of cyber-bullying, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have referred to as a public health emergency. As governor, I will support legislation that strengthens our current laws to create serious consequences for bullies and provide school districts with the tools needed to properly address the problem.