Letters: Pa. Needs Better Education Funding; Climate Change Security Risk; Voter Suppression; Will PSU Leaders Speak Out on Casino?
Education Funding Needed in Pa.
Throughout my career working with educators, I’ve seen a worrying trend: many schools are unable to afford both critical repairs to infrastructure and basic supplies for students. I have spoken with administrators who struggle to keep buildings open, food service directors who strive to provide nutritious meals over weekends and summers, and teachers who spend their hard-earned paychecks buying classroom materials like notebooks and pencils.
We shouldn’t have to rely on teachers and staff to fund our schools. But because Pennsylvania’s education funding system is both inadequate and inequitable, our commonwealth ranks 44th in state funding for education. Decades of slashing the education budget, passing bad legislation and raising property taxes on struggling communities has created a crisis of inequity, with a huge disparity between the richest and poorest districts. Yet the GOP-controlled legislature continues to set aside billions in available federal aid.
A great public education can open the door to a lifetime of success for students and families. Schools provide safe learning environments for children and critical support for communities, including access to physical and mental health services, food security, and broadband access. Our dedicated public education professionals deserve not just our gratitude and admiration, but our government’s support.
As your state representative, I will put people first and work to ensure that every school has the resources it needs to prepare students for their futures and help our communities succeed.
The author is a candidate for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives 82nd District.
Climate Change Is a National Security Risk
In a March 3 CDT opinion piece, Pennsylvania’s House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff suggests we “marginalize Russia’s global influence” by producing, selling and burning more Pennsylvania natural gas.
While ending reliance on Russian oil (currently a small percentage of U.S. imports) is a reasonable way to retaliate against Russia for its tyrannical invasion of Ukraine, Benninghoff’s op-ed takes advantage of a humanitarian crisis for political purposes.
Energy independence IS crucial to our national security. Climate change poses an equally grave national security threat. According to a joint report by the U.S. intelligence community, climate disruptions exacerbate geopolitical tensions, social instability and the need for humanitarian aid around the world.
In the 25+ years since Benninghoff took office, climate scientists have only become more certain that “human influence” is the dominant cause of our climate crisis. The scientific evidence that burning fossil fuels is the primary human activity responsible for warming is unequivocal and undeniable.
For 25 years Benninghoff has ignored that inconvenient truth.
His answer to energy independence is another short-term fix that takes us one step forward and two steps back. Continued reliance on oil and natural gas, whether produced domestically or halfway around the world, exacerbates the real and widening public health and national security threats posed by a warming planet.
While Benninghoff offers that Pennsylvania’s natural gas assets “can be combined with other clean energy initiatives,” he has done virtually nothing in 25 years to move Pennsylvania toward that clean energy future—and toward true energy independence.
I Hold These Truths
In a country increasingly divided, uncivil and dangerously lacking in agreed-upon facts, I hold these truths to be self-evident:
No legislator should cheer any move to weaken minority rights.
Voting should be easy, convenient and fair—in every state in the Union. Democracy works best when all eligible voters can participate and have their voices heard.
The puppet masters of January 6th must be held accountable.
No one is above the law, including a former president.
In an effort to rewrite history, Republicans Gaetz, Gosar, Gohmert and Greene, called the jailed rioters “political prisoners,” doubling down on a series of lies:
The 2020 election was not stolen.
The rioters were not all unarmed or welcomed into the Capitol by police officers.
The FBI did not orchestrate the insurrection.
The January 6th attack was not “legitimate political discourse.”
Capitol Police Officers Harry Dunn and Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, and D.C. Police Officer Michael Fanone, describe the emotional toll of that day as TRAUMA.
Conservatives claiming to be pro-police, support the rioters, calling them “ordinary citizens,” while mocking the valor of the officers who defended the country.
Ordinary citizens don’t shatter windows, gouge eyes, break bones, erect gallows, chant death to the vice president, smear feces on walls or parade around the people’s house carrying a traitor flag.
Republicans have won the popular vote for president only one time in 30 years.
Is it any wonder why the GOP’s only real strategy to win elections has been reduced to voter suppression and voter repression?
Will Penn State Leaders Speak Out About Casino?
Dear President Barron,
On February 18, 2020, you conducted an interview about sports gambling on WPSU. During this interview (quoted comments begin at 22:28), you stated the following:
“Students are very enthusiastic about sports, and very enthusiastic about Penn State sports. So you worry about whether or not a student might get in trouble, that the tuition dollar just got placed on a bet and they don’t get to finish [their degree]. Hopefully it’s not a common occurrence. But what I learned from the two individuals that I interviewed is the addiction rate in the normal population is about 1-2%. So there’s sort of this sense that here’s this big revenue generator, and the problem part of it is 1-2% of the population. But they said in the college age population, the addiction rate is closer to 6%. So this suggests a certain amount of vulnerability with youth, or with the interest and the tie to our school or something like that, and so this is something to worry about I think.”
Additionally, you previously asked the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) to impose a two-year moratorium on sports betting because you were concerned that it would harm the integrity of college sports. According to The Morning Call, you stated that “Sources looking to influence or gain an unfair advantage in wagering on collegiate sporting events occurring in Pennsylvania will be overwhelmingly ‘local’ to Pennsylvania,” and “The absence of financial compensation for amateur athletes creates an opportunity for inappropriate influence…”
However, now that former Penn State Trustee Ira Lubert is proposing to develop a casino with a sports book at the Nittany Mall, your office has gone strangely silent about the issues of sports betting and gambling addiction. Multiple people in our community have privately reached out to the Penn State Board of Trustees requesting that the university take a position on the casino, but every request has been rebuffed. Subsequently, multiple open letters have been published on this topic ( ).
Youth is not the only risk factor for gambling addiction; those who live within 10 miles of a casino have twice the rate of gambling addiction as those who do not. The proposed location of the new casino less than 5 miles away from Penn State’s campus therefore makes this proposed casino an especially dangerous threat to our community. This is why nearly 40 letters to the editor have been published in opposition to the casino in the Centre Daily Times and on StateCollege.com since the beginning of 2021, and over 400 of the approximately 450 public comments submitted to the PGCB from our community oppose the casino.
Will you conclude your term as Penn State’s president by speaking out to protect our community from the harms that a nearby land-based casino would bring? Or will you and the Penn State Board of Trustees abandon your responsibility to protect the Penn State community because this casino’s developer is a former trustee?