On Kittanning visit, candidate for governor stresses schools
KITTANNING – John Hanger, Democratic candidate for governor, made a campaign stop in town Wednesday morning during a multi-county tour in a school bus decked out in patriotic colors.
Discussions on the street with area citizens focused on schools and jobs, he said.
“I'm here campaigning from a school bus,” said Hanger, “Which is a symbolic statement about our public education.”
Hanger said he is committed to saving public schools.
He is critical of policies which he says have increased local school taxes and placed more of a burden on taxpayers while decreasing the amount funded by the state.
Those local school taxes also fund cyber and charter schools.
That, he said, “is an impossibly expensive thing to do.”
According to Hanger, 70 percent of charter students are not meeting reading and math score standards.
And although he supports charter schools that perform well, Hanger said he plans to stop $700 million of taxpayer spending being funneled into supporting failing charter schools.
Hanger said local school taxes are increasing in many districts across the state even as many programs have been cut, including the elimination of some full-day kindergarten classes, tutoring programs and extra-curricular activities.
“People are paying more for less,” he said, adding that he plans to move state funding back to the 50 percent spending level.
“Why am I putting schools first? Because you can't create jobs when you have lousy schools. Jobs are created when you have educated, trained and healthy people,” he said.
Part of Hanger's job creation plan includes redirecting the $700 million from failed charter schools back into rehiring some 20,000 recently laid off teachers.
His plan also includes increasing job opportunities through bridge and road repairs within the state's infrastructure and increasing jobs in hospitals and health care facilities through Medicaid expansion.
According to his website: www.hangerforgovernor.com, Hanger was born in Nairobi, Kenya, and came to the U.S. in 1970 after living in Ireland. He became a U.S. citizen in 1977 and attended public schools before studying public policy and history at Duke University and earning a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania.
Hanger worked with Community Legal Services in Philadelphia, served as the public advocate for Philadelphia Gas and Water, was appointed commissioner of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission in 1993 by Gov. Robert Casey, and in 2008 became the secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
Hanger lives in Hershey with his wife, Luanne Thorndyke, and announced his candidacy in November. He has been campaigning on his bus tour since June.
Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.