NANTICOKE — State Treasurer Rob McCord was impressed Friday when one young student at Greater Nanticoke Area Elementary Center said of a recent PSSA test: “The only thing I liked about the test is all the hard questions.”
McCord, who is hoping to win the Democratic nomination in his bid for governor, was visiting with students in the school library. Later he toured classrooms in that school, where third-, fourth- and fifth-graders attend, and at neighboring Kennedy Elementary, which is for second-graders.
It was a campaign stop on his tour of schools across the commonwealth to talk about his plan to invest $1.3 billion in early childhood education and kindergarten-through-12th-grade classrooms, funds he plans to raise with a 10 percent natural gas driller’s tax. Those plans encompass two criticisms he has of Gov. Tom Corbett, whom McCord accuses of making “disastrous education cuts” and who has refused to tax drillers.
McCord, of Montgomery County, who is backed by the Pennsylvania State Education Association, toured the schools and met with administrators to learn their concerns. Acting district Superintendent Mariellen Scott, Ed.D., led the tour, joined by state Sen. John Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township; Nanticoke Mayor Richard Wiaterowski and his wife, Wendy, a school board member; fellow school board member Megan Tenessen, and interim city administrator Donna Wall.
McCord clearly enjoyed himself as he met and chatted with students, teachers and school officials and talked with students about his struggles with reading as a child. He sat in a tiny chair at a student desk among second-graders in Leslie Ginocchietti’s classroom in Kennedy Elementary and pulled up a yoga ball in Ed Grant’s fifth grade at the elementary center to interact with students and learn what the teachers were teaching.
There, the candidate was even more impressed by a question from a girl who asked if he had plans to increase state funding for education. McCord then explained his position that he plans to restore funding that Gov. Corbett reduced for investing in education.
He also explained to the class how his mother went through a tough divorce when he was young and how he was in a slow reading group when his mother moved to Pennsylvania for a job and a good school district.
In teacher Kelly McCabe’s fourth-grade classroom next door, he told his background, but with the additional detail that his dyslexia was not diagnosed when he was 8. But, he said, to encourage students in the class who have trouble with reading, he got help and eventually went on to Harvard and success in business.
Later, he and Yudichak met with Scott, District Principal Mary Ann Jarolen, Special Education Director Dan Burkholder and Educational Center Principal Joe Long to talk about what educators and the district need.
Jarolen expressed concerns that the district receives nothing in return for payments made toward charter schools. McCord suggested cyber and charter schools should have massive re-certification requirements “to make sure they are not a scam.”
The group talked about after school and summer programs, and the fact that many students don’t take part in after-school activities because they ride the bus.
Later, McCord told reporters he didn’t want to over-promise on property tax reform, but, “I think we can reduce property tax and offer rebates for seniors.”
McCord is facing York businessman Tom Wolf, U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz and former Environmental Protection Secretary Katie McGinty in the May 20 primary.