Updated 6 hours ago
Investment in high-quality early education is a crucial component in the development of communities across the state. I commend Gov. Tom Wolf for his proposed expansion of pre-K with an additional $40 million investment that will serve 4,400 more children statewide.
Despite this gain, 100,000 Pennsylvania preschoolers are still left out of this essential educational opportunity. As the leader of a foundation dedicated to improving the quality of life for Westmoreland County residents, I am challenging our legislative leaders to go further. Focusing on giving children the best prospects for success in their formal education should be a top priority.
Research validates high-quality pre-K as the program to ensure children develop the skills needed for success in school and in life. It is particularly valuable for preschoolers at greatest risk. Without the foundation provided by high-quality pre-K, the opportunity gap faced by children from economically disadvantaged circumstances widens each year.
Pennsylvania ranks 18th of 30 states investing in high-quality, publicly funded pre-K. New Jersey spends five times more per capita than Pennsylvania. West Virginia has offered universal pre-K access since 2012. If Pennsylvania wants to compete, we must put our future first.
I urge our state Legislature to fully fund this $40 million investment and develop a plan to cover all the state’s preschoolers. What could possibly be a smarter investment in the future well-being of this state than providing every child a strong educational foundation?
Phil Koch, Greensburg
The writer is executive director of the Community Foundation of Westmoreland County.
Friday, April 13
Conor Lamb’s win shows weak Republican party leadership
It’s hard to believe a Democrat will be occupying a district Donald Trump won by nearly 20 points not even two years ago. I don’t believe this is an indictment of Trump or his policies, but an indictment of weak party leadership.
There were lots of games being played behind the scenes by local party chairs during the special election. Westmoreland County Republican Committee Chairman Michael Korns had several conflicts of interest and should have recused himself during the conferee process. Specifically, Korns’ campaign for the state House shared the same media consultant as one of the Republican candidates. Korns tried to hide behind a false curtain of “fairness.” When you hear that word in politics, it usually means you’re about to be taken.
Rick Saccone got only 58 percent of the vote in Westmoreland County; he also underperformed throughout the rest of the district. I think a popular Westmoreland County candidate would have gotten 60-65 percent, which would have resulted in a Republican victory.
Korns, by trying to pick winners and losers, cost the Republican Party almost $12 million and the loss of a congressional seat. As a leader of the party, he should be held responsible for this loss. As chair, I made a couple of bad decisions toward the end of my term. I recognized that. I certainly didn’t continue as chair or try to gain a promotion to the state House.
Perry Christopher, Unity
The writer is a former chairman of the Westmoreland County Republican Committee.
Sunday, April 8
Unions and Conor Lamb
I can’t believe the USWA and the UMWA chose to support Conor Lamb. The Democrats have done everything to crush the coal and steel industries in our country, and these overpaid union officials picked a candidate who will fight to close coal mines and steel mills in our country.
Is it just me? Or maybe I just don’t get it. President Trump is doing everything he can to reopen coal mines and steel mills. Mines and mills have reopened or are in the process of reopening, putting thousands of Americans back to work at good-paying jobs. Unions should be supporting a president who is putting their members back to work. But their union officials are trying to stop him.
Before I retiredm I was a proud member of the IBEW, but now I’m ashamed to say it also supported the Lamb/Pelosi ticket. If you’re paying union dues, maybe ask yourself why.
Thomas Cheman, Frazer Township
Monday, April 9
Comparing motorcycles to bicycles
Regarding Scott Bricker’s letter “Perpetuating myths about bikes & roads” : Having been a licensed motorcycle operator for 46 years, I have observed the following:
• Aside from Pennsylvania sales tax at purchase, there are no other fees or requirements associated with owning a bicycle.
• There is no mandatory vehicle insurance for bicycle owners.
• There is no annual registration fee for bicycles. (My trailer, however, though it does not have an engine, is also subject to Allegheny County’s $5 vehicle registration tax.)
• Bicycle owners are not subject to the tire tax for replacement tires.
• There is no requirement for an operator’s license for bicycle owners, even though they must follow the same roadway regulations as motor vehicles.
If the occasion arises and I see a bicyclist traveling in the correct direction on a one-way street or stop for a stop sign or red light, I may thank the operator and shake his or her hand.
John M. Figler, Tarentum
Tuesday, April 10
Tax cuts are paying off
Our state is seeing positive benefits from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Linwood-based Hudson Facades recently put $3,000 in factory workers’ 401(k) funds. Johnstown-based First Summit Bank announced $1,000 bonuses for its full-time employees. Philadelphia’s Beneficial Bancorp, meanwhile, raised base wages to $14 an hour.
The writing is on the wall: Tax cuts work. Lower rates and increased deductions work because they empower job creators to reward employees and increase private investment, growing communities across Pennsylvania.
But Washington’s job is not done. If tax cuts are not matched with spending cuts, then the economic benefits will be short-lived. Government spending funded by government debt wreaks havoc on the federal budget and sets us on an unsustainable financial course. Gains from tax cuts will be lost through diverting private savings away from productive investment and into the hands of government bureaucrats.
Limited government means lower taxes, but it also means lower spending.
Shawn Ritenour, Grove City
The writer is an economics professor at Grove City College.
Wednesday, April 11
Petty Republicans derailed Saccone
What should have been a slam-dunk victory for an ardent Trump-supporting candidate with a resume no other opponent could touch was derailed by shortsighted, divisive, uncooperative Republicans who once again snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
Inside bickering, petty power plays from Kim Ward and “cute” Guy Reschenthaler, along with their band of minions and supporters, left Rick Saccone a few hundred votes shy of holding a congressional seat and thwarting Democratic attempts to oust President Trump, his agenda and the prosperity we are now experiencing.
Saccone was not seen as telegenic or a prolific public speaker; however, his integrity, resume and accomplishments were a Republican dream. Instead, the silence heard on local conservative radio was deafening because there were others who had more personal appeal.
Learn from the Democrats. Get behind your candidate and support him or her. Please stop your childish grievances over superficial matters and selfish pursuits. Thanks to your pettiness, you just put a liberal in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Kris DeJeet, Penn Township, Westmoreland County
Thursday, April 12
Letter-writer Eugene Ceschini ( “The GOP puts NRA money over lives” ) appears to be sadly misinformed.
First he quotes an “old” saying, “Money is the root of all evil.” This is a misquote from 1 Timothy 6:10: “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evils.”
He also cites NRA donations to Republican lawmakers. In reality, the NRA has donated only $3.5 million to all current members of Congress since 1998, according to Politifact. And the National Institute for Labor Relations Research notes that organized labor contributed $1.7 billion to political activities and lobbying during the 2016 election cycle, with the majority going to Democrats.
Finally, as someone who enjoys the constitutional protections afforded to all responsible and law-abiding citizens of our country, I don’t think any of the guns secured in my gun safe meet the standard definition of weapons of mass destruction: “Nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons that cause indiscriminate death or injury on a large scale” ( Dictionary.com ).
Mary Myers, Ligonier Township
Saturday, April 14