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Democrats discuss education, jobs and other issues at candidate forum

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Four Central Bucks-area Democratic candidates for state representative and senate all seem to agree: Pennsylvania needs to invest much more in publicly funded pre-kindergarten education.

Speaking at a forum Sept. 20, organized by Child Care Voters, a project of the Children First Action Fund, Ilya Breyman, Ann Marie Mitchell and Brian Munroe also touched on the economy and other issues at the event held at the Jolly Toddlers Nursery School in Upper Southampton Township.

Also there was Brendan Delaney, campaign manager for Democratic House candidate Tim Brennan, who was unable to attend. Delaney spoke for and represented Brennan’s views at the event.

Libertarian House candidate Brittany Kosin did not attend in person but submitted written responses to questions that were read by moderator Dekia Smith, interim dean of students at Bucks County Community College.

Kyle McMillen, early childhood civic engagement coordinator for Children First, said that Republican Senate candidate Frank Farry and GOP House candidates Todd Polinchock, Diane Smith and Kristin Marcell were all invited to the forum but only Smith responded, saying that she had another commitment.

Farry, a long-time state representative, is running against Mitchell for the Senate District 6 seat held for a long time by Republican Tommy Tomlinson, who decided not to run for another term. Munroe is running against longtime incumbent Polinchock in House District 144.

Brennan is vying with Smith for the House District 29 seat held by Republican Meghan Schroeder, who opted not to run for reelection. Breyman, Marcell and Kosin are running in House District 178, where Republican incumbent Wendi Thomas decided not to run for another term.

Speaking before an audience of about 20 at the Sept. 20 forum, the four who attended in person found little to disagree about. All said that more and equal access to early childhood education should be a priority.

“Pre-K is one of the best investments we can make,” Breyman said.

“I come from a family of teachers and I can’t understand why there hasn’t been a greater investment in early education,” added Mitchell. “It’s mind boggling to me why we don’t have more education and offer more to students.”

Munroe said dollars spent on early childhood education are “dollars that will pay for themselves.”

In her written response read by Dekia Smith, Kosin noted that publicly funded early childhood education will “improve the lives of children and their families, and parents can worry more about their children’s learning and less about how to pay for it.”

Munroe reiterated throughout the event that he favors an extraction tax on natural gas companies and other energy providers he said would provide about $450 million annually for pre-K and other programs.

“Children are our future and setting them up for a good future is imperative,” Delaney said.

All five emphasized that pre-K teachers and day care employees need to be paid better to attract and retain high quality people.

“We must provide good livable wages,” Delaney emphasized.

On the issues of jobs and the economy, Munroe said steps need to be taken to slow the move of young people out of Pennsylvania.

“The current economy has left too many people behind,” Kosin added. “We are taxing our small businesses out of existence.”

Mental health issues need more attention, all five agreed.

“It was a problem before the pandemic, and the pandemic just added to it,” Breyman said.

“We don’t treat it like other health care in Pennsylvania,” Mitchell noted. “We need to make care of mental health issues accessible and affordable.”

McMillen said it was unfortunate that none of the Republican candidates were at the forum.

“We wish we could have had all perspectives and political viewpoints represented here tonight,” he said. “When some candidates don’t participate, it’s a disservice to the community that wants to hear from them.”


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