Before I asked a question, Bennett explained to me that her "civic engagement" started in the Allentown school system. As she explains it, the local PTA was in danger of dissolving, so she volunteered her time even though she was making a two hour daily commute at the time.
According to Bennett, the dilapidated condition at William Allen High School created a "perception" about it being bad news even though "in many ways, Allentown School District is better than the others." Because the school district had no money to renovate, she helped form a nonprofit and enlisted the help of others to try and improve that "historic old building."
Question: Can a school district like Allentown EVER be successful under No Child Left Behind. As a congressperson, what changes would you propose? Can you please give your view on the specific educational needs of our local public schools, instead of just painting a broad picture of the public schools on the national level?
"The goals of NCLB are admirable. Every child has the right to a quality education. [Bennett repeated this statement several times over the three hours I met with her]. Our global competitiveness depends on this. The federal government must have a will to ensure the same amount of money is spent on each child. Whether you live in Allentown, East Penn or Alabama, the same amount of money should be spent on each child. That really hurts school district like Allentown."
Question: What will you do to ensure that ANY qualified student can receive advanced education using INTEREST-FREE loans?
"Any qualified student should be entitled to a loan. Nothing is more important. This should apply to advanced degrees as well. Robber baron Republicans are taking things that should be regulated, like student loans, and are turning them into profit opportunities for their cronies. Privatization. Charlie Dent has a terrible record on this. What could be a better investment than education? Students who become doctors or teachers should be able to pay off those loans with some form of public service."
Bennett also spoke about crime without any prompting from me. "Unless you take care of crime, you can do all the economic development you want and it won't matter." Later, when speaking about what's wrong with the country, she returned to what's wrong with Allentown. "It's the crime," she stated in a matter-of-fact style.
Question: What exactly are you "creative approaches" to fighting crime in our district?
"This is my hall mark. A congressional representative has a critical and collaborative role to play here. It is not an Allentown issue: it is a district issue. First, we need to fight for whatever is needed to increase the boots on the ground here at home. Second, we need healthy neighborhoods that have a proper balance of all ranges of incomes. My eighteen years at Properties of Merit has been a testament to that. It is a simple, strategic approach.
"I will fight for more resources that we need to solve this issue, from graffiti removal to more officers to increased education. Crime is a symptom and we need to cure the disease that causes it."
That does it, folks. Tomorrow, I'll post a summary with links to each blog generated by this revealing Bennett interview.