Karen Smith has been actively involved in public education for more than 20 years because she believes in the power of public education.
“I love public schools. I think they’re really a foundational part of America and we are highly regarded across the world for our schools,” she said. “The creativity that American kids end up with because of our schools, the freedoms that we have within our schools, and the freedom to think and learn in a number of different ways.”
With more than a decade of experience, Smith, who is running for a third term for Central Bucks School District school board in Region 1, brings a lot to the table – including eight years as executive director for the Pennsylvania School Public Relations Association and six years as the public relations director in the Central Bucks school district. Additionally, Smith was a featured writer in the Pennsylvania School Board Association’s magazine The Bulletin and she is also a Pennsylvania Education Policy Fellow.
Winning her first election for school board director in 2015 provides Smith with a unique overview of the Central Bucks School District both before and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Smith notes that the district changed dramatically after the 2021 school board elections, and not for the better.
Smith’s voice, along with two other board members, were largely silenced when far-right candidates, promoted by a local militia and a PAC, funded in part by Paul Martino, were successful in capturing two seats that ultimately slanted the board toward an extreme agenda that has included banning books and prohibiting Pride flags.
“I feel like we’ve really lost our way, we’re not focusing on the students anymore,” said Smith.
“I used to work for the district. I’ve been going to school board meetings since 2002 or 2003,” she added, further noting that buzz words such as “indoctrination,” made popular by groups such as Moms for Liberty, are insulting.
“Parents and families who are engaged in their schools, they know their teachers. And they know the school staff that works with their kids. And they know they’re not doing that. They’re not indoctrinating their kids,” she said. “We need to just get back to the real work of the district. We’re way off track.”
The foundation of the incumbent’s platform is student-focused to deliver an excellent education, including advanced placement coursework, to prepare graduates for a successful future.
Smith is also focused on the emotional needs of students. “I think there’s still a lot that could be done to address mental health issues. We have a lot of kids that are struggling with anxiety and depression,” she said, adding that Covid exacerbated those issues and data from the PAYS survey substantiates that assessment.
Adding appropriate counseling services takes money and Smith believes that some of the funds needed to hire professionals to help students have been misappropriated by the board’s majority to defend against policies that resulted in the filing of a formal complaint by the ACLU.
“They’re paying all this money to defend their actions. They were warned if they moved forward with those actions it would result in a lawsuit. And they did it anyway,” she said.
“I believe I’m on the right side of this issue,” Smith added, and then referred to public comment sessions during school board meetings. “I don’t know how you sit there in that room with those kids and vote against them.”
Smith has been endorsed by PSEA PACE, Asian Pacific Islander Political Alliance and CBSD Neighbors United. Additionally, she participated in an interview with the League of Women Voters of Bucks County.
“I’m here for all students,” said Smith. “I’ve been here and I want to continue to be here for all students and that’s why I’m running again. Public education is really important to me.”
Pennsylvania’s primary election is scheduled for May 16. Registered voters may apply for a Vote-By-Mail ballot until 5:00 p.m. on May 9.