George announces run for 16th Congressional seat

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Dr. John George

Dr. John George, a Lancaster County Democrat and an advocate for public education, announced his candidacy Wednesday for Pennsylvania’s 16th Congressional District.

George is currently the executive director of the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit. He previously served as the superintendent of the Warwick School District and the executive director of the Berks County Intermediate Unit. He was also chosen to serve as the acting superintendent for Reading School District, where he was widely recognized for his leadership in righting the then troubled district.

George is seeking the seat of freshman Congressman Lloyd Smucker, a Republican from Lancaster. It is widely expected that George will have company in the Democratic primary with Christina Hartman, who ran a strong race against Smucker in 2016, expected to run again. Rumbles suggest other Democratic candidates may also be looking at a run in what is widely perceived to be a favorable cycle for Democrats.

In his announcement, George laid out his priorities.

“A skilled workforce, a robust economy, and a strong national defense depend upon a robust public education system,” George said. “I know that education is the doorway to opportunity for those who are willing to work hard, and it is the key to a brighter future for our country. In recent months, we have seen our schools attacked through Donald Trump’s appointment of Betsy DeVoss as the Secretary of Education. Our elected officials, like Congressman Smucker, have failed to stand up for us, for our communities, for our children and for our country. Congressman Smucker refuses to even face us, the community he is supposed to represent, to discuss his votes and talk to his constituents.”

In making his announcement, George pointed to a need for real leadership representing the district in Washington. He noted that as a longtime resident of Lancaster County and a leader of education in communities throughout the district, he feels that he understands local values, and said he is proud of his proven track record and for standing up for what matters most.

“We need to stop the divisive rhetoric and work together to create solutions that benefit all citizens; the solutions to our country’s problems start with education,” George said. “I will use my experience to be a voice for the health, education, and general well-being of all children and adults. I am convinced that we can make people’s lives better and increase the efficiency of our Federal Government at the same time.”

George said he believes that citizens are discouraged and dissatisfied with partisan politics. He is committed to working across political parties and has a history of doing so. As the chief executive officer for organizations with budgets upwards of $200 million, he notes that he has successfully worked with elected officials from both political parties to improve education for children.

In 2014, he worked with both Republicans and Democrats to design and implement an unprecedented turnaround initiative to ensure that the Reading School District remained under local control rather than state control while redesigning the school’s bloated and ineffective budget and increasing the quality of education. As part of the plan, George became the acting superintendent and led the district out of financial distress. Subsequently, the state Senate and The Reading Eagle, which named him Educator of the Year, recognized his leadership.

Today, he notes, Reading School District is not only viable, but is making academic and financial progress.

George argues that he is a strong advocate for children and for those living in poverty.

Under his leadership, hundreds of young children from economically disadvantaged homes in Berks County and Montgomery County now have access to high quality pre-K education programs.

Early in his career, he served as special education director at the Lancaster–Lebanon Intermediate Unit. He also served as policy advisor for the PA Department of Education and as Assistant Director of Governmental Relations for the Washington, D.C. based National Association of State Directors of Special Education.

George began his career as a special education teacher. He earned his doctorate and master’s degrees from the University of Pittsburgh and a bachelor’s degree from the George Washington University. He completed post-doctoral studies at Temple University.

George was born near Pittsburgh in the steel mill town of McKeesport, but has been a resident of Lancaster County since 1997. His parents were welfare recipients who relied on food stamps to feed their family of eleven, despite being hard working. This is the same public assistance that President Trump and Smucker are trying to eliminate, George notes.

He says that his parents taught him that integrity, character, perseverance, and humility are one’s greatest attributes.

George said he believes that “Honesty, integrity, and ethics still matter, and our elected officials should be held to a higher standard.”

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