Following a town hall meeting with constituents in Lower Merion, U.S. Representative Dwight Evans answered questions regarding issues important to high school students such the future of education, the cost of college, standardized testing, and the direction of the democratic party. The congressman, serving in his first term, represents Pennsylvania’s second district which includes Lower Merion as well as parts of North and West Philadelphia.
During the 2016 presidential election, many high school and college students found themselves supporting Bernie Sanders, whose liberal ideas on social and fiscal issues resonated with young americans. When asked if the future of the Democratic party was moving farther to the left, the congressman said,”thats a good question. I don’t know if it is, but whats most important is that Bernie ideas, like Hillary Clinton ideas, like Tom Perez and Keith Ellison, that we all come together, because were better and stronger together when we work together.” The congressman continued, “we need to have young people. I think its important for folks like yourself to be involved either in the media, public office, run for office whatever because this is your democracy, this is your future, and this is what were fighting for. We’re fighting to have a society that is inclusive that has everybody, everybody has a chance. And thats what we want to have, a better society.”
Another issue critically important to high school and college students is the price of college. The total cost of going to a public college or university has risen 10% in the past five years, according to the College Board. Evans said that the way the government could curb the cost of going to college is to make the first 2 years of community college free. Evans explained that “the way you can try to pay for that is through a financial transaction tax, through transaction, that would pay for it.”
Evans stressed the importance of education in a democracy where the citizens are knowledgable.”Education is extremely essential to move the country forward but also to protect our democracy because a educated voter is extremely important as we try to have a better society,” he explained.
Another topic that affects high school students is high stakes standardized testing. In 2015 the Lower Merion School Board took a stance agianst standardized testing in a resolution, specifically calling on legislators “to strive to minimize the amount of mandated testing and the use of standardized testing for teacher and school evaluation” That same year, 272 students opted out of PSSAs in Lower Merion School District. When asked about his views on the issue of high stakes standardized testing, the congressman responded, “I think it should be more than just testing, it should be all around, testing should be one part of it, but testing should not be the sole determining factor in terms of if a student moves forward.”
The congressman spent much of the Town Hall talking to constituents about effects of Donald Trump’s proposed policies, most notably healthcare. Donald Trump’s education secretary, Betsy Devos, was confirmed only because of a Mike Pence tiebreaker vote. Devos was criticized for having a lack of public school experience and for supporting school vouchers which could take money from public institutions. When asked about the future of education in the country even with Betsy Devos in office, the congressman said, “I belive that we have to make sure that we make sure that that education, particularly pre k school, elementary school, Kindergarten, those are extremely essential. Public education is the best idea that as a country we have come up with, cause you don’t have to pay for the education. I think its important that we maintain a system that works for everybody and we have everybody included no matter what your zip code is we have to make sure everybody is included.”
Ricky Sayer is a Harriton High School senior who will be attending Syracuse University in the fall of 2017.