Larry Feinberg believes that “public education is the foundation of our democracy,” and he has walked that talk for 20 years as a tireless advocate for quality schools in the township, the county, the commonwealth, and Washington, D.C. He broadens our school board’s vision with the knowledge he has gained as Chair of the Delco School Boards’ Legislative Council, co-chair of the Keystone State Education Coalition, member of the Board of Governors of the PA School Boards Association, and active participant in the National School Board Association’s Federal Relations Network. His experience teaches him that we are “blessed” not to have the serious resource deficits he sees in touring other districts and alerts him to the immediate, local impact of the current “assault” on public education from both state and federal governments.
Larry was honored with the Media Area NAACP’s Foot Soldier for Justice Award in recognition of his commitment to universal public education and his advocacy for that cause. He brought honor to the township when he was included in a group of Pennsylvania education leaders to meet with senior education policy advisers at the Obama White House.
Looking ahead to what he hopes will be his sixth term on the School Board, and his second term as president of the board, Larry sees mentoring of newer board members as a key responsibility. When the new, nine-member School Board convenes in 2020, it is likely that Larry will have more years of experience than all of the other members combined. He knows that a board charged with spending $117 million “of our neighbors’ money” on labor contracts, facilities, and curriculum must be collectively informed on the “thousands of pages of rules and regulations governing what a local school board is allowed to do.” Larry sees his role as “the reality check,” reminding board colleagues, parents, and taxpayers that our ambitions for local schools must coexist with the “boring” limits of law and finance. So while he advocates fiercely for more education funding, Larry knows that we have a state legislature that imposes all sorts of mandates on local schools, won’t raise state funding, and then limits local districts’ taxation options. He is a model for how to persevere in that political climate.
Under Larry’s leadership, the School Board has taken assertive action to expand and upgrade school spaces because our school population has grown from 6,000 to 6,500 in just the past few years, and Larry knows that our township will continue to attract a diverse array of young families. Plans are underway, using $63 million in bond issues, to build a new Lynnewood School, add 11 classrooms at the high school, and upgrade Coopertown and Chatham Park elementary schools. Larry argues that an expanding, more diverse school population demands that our School Board “shepherd” capital projects to successful completion while also ensuring that the district’s integration of new students “is as smooth and welcoming as possible.”
As Larry sees it, the challenges ahead for the School Board include partnering with township commissioners and stakeholders to create public-private partnerships that meet our residents’ various childcare needs – while, he adds, complying with the school district’s legal and financial realities. Reminding folks of those realities does not always make Larry Feinberg the most popular guy in the room, but it does make him highly valuable.