As they say, timing is everything, and it’s time to blog closer to home. Specifically, the 37th District where I live. I know and respect both the candidates running for the Virginia State Senate. Today, I’m going to focus on the challenger, Janet Oleszek, the Democrat who currently serves on the Fairfax County School Board. This is an introduction to her and her positions. Probably a lot of bloggers are already familiar with her, but for those readers who aren’t or who haven’t been focusing on elections until now (not everybody is a political junkie – a lot of people tune out during the summer), here’s some insight into her background and her campaign issues. This is the beginning of a series that will focus on one issue at a time.
Janet moved to the Washington area from California in the 1960s to work in the congressional office of John Moss (D-Calif). She later earned a masters degree in special education at American University and worked as a teacher. While raising her sons, she became active in her local PTA and in 2003, she ran for the Fairfax County School Board as an at-large member. She won the seat with 88,000 votes, a record number for any Democrat running for the school board. So, she’s a proven vote getter and seasoned campaigner.
And she brings years of expertise on education issues, something important to the residents of the 37th district, where voters recognize how crucial a quality education is for their children’s future. And they also are savvy enough to realize that good schools and educated employees are a key to economic development for Fairfax and the entire state.
If elected, Janet will work to see that the Standards of Quality, the minimum educational requirements for the school divisions in elementary and secondary education, are fully funded by the state.
Increasingly, education professionals are recognizing the importance of early education to get children off to a good start in school, so she’ll work for better funded full day kindergarten programs too. Currently, Fairfax pays for its full day kindergarten program with county money. The state picks up most of the costs for all day kindergarten programs in Prince William and Loudon counties. Janet points out that the funding formula is unfair to Fairfax County and she will fight to get more of our taxes back from Richmond to fund Fairfax’s education needs.
In addition, she favors investing in the public schools’ technology infrastructure to produce students able to compete for the high tech jobs this area hopes to continue to attract. And finally, she sees the importance of fighting to increase teachers’ pay. Currently, teacher salaries have stagnated and are below the national average across the state. Until something is done, we won’t be able to compete effectively for the best teachers coming out of colleges. Nor will we be able to retain experienced teaching professionals.
Although Janet Oleszek brings years of knowledge and experience to education, she’s hardly a one-issue candidate. My next post, probably next week as I'll be out of town starting Tuesday, will highlight her ideas on transportation, one of the most important issues facing Fairfax County and the state. In the future, I’ll also write about Janet’s ideas on the environment and health care.
Meanwhile, to find out more, you can go to her website . And while you're there check out volunteer opportunities to help her. Also, if you could contribute some money, that wouldn’t be bad either.