Board of Education member Ann De Lacy is running for reelection, she said, because she wants to serve the common good and promote equity in Howard County schools.
"I want to ensure that every child has the best opportunities — from a kid who is a prodigy to the lowest-performing student," she said.
De Lacy is facing eight challengers and two other incumbents in the April 26 primary. Howard County residents will vote for three candidates to narrow the field to six candidates ahead of the Nov. 7 general election, in which three seats on the school board are at stake.
Since her election to the board in 2012, De Lacy has been a vocal advocate for expanding universal pre-kindergarten programming, which she says levels the playing field for children from different socioeconomic backgrounds.
Several studies have shown that children who participate in pre-kindergarten are more ready to learn when they enter school, according to the Center for Public Education. One such study, the national Early Childhood Longitudinal Study — Kindergarten Cohort, showed that students who attended a pre-K program scored higher on reading and math tests than children who received parental care.
"It closes the gap at an early age," said De Lacy, 65. "It's universal, so it's not a poverty model. It acclimates kids to school and routines at an early age."
The Columbia resident volunteers at pre-K programs at Talbott Springs and Northfield elementary schools. In February she pushed for the inclusion of funding in the board's 2016-2017 operating budget request to expand pre-K programs in the Oakland Mills community. The request is currently under review by County Executive Allan Kittleman
"We have to fight to get our budget fully funded, to move towards universal pre-K," De Lacy said.
The North Carolina native said that she is tired of ongoing public criticism of the school board superintendent Renee Foose, which she believes is coming from a small minority of parents in the county.
"Do we try to do good for everyone, or do we try to meet the needs of a few people who are complaining?" she asked.
Attention should be focused on real issues in the county school system, especially that of inequity, De Lacy said.
"Why can't we just move forward and deliver the highest level of education to all our kids?" she said.
De Lacy served as the president of the Howard County Education Association from 2005 to 2011, and the union backed her in her last run for the school board. She did not fill out the teachers union candidate questionnaire this cycle and therefore could not be considered for an endorsement.
Often at the center of controversy, De Lacy recognizes she has a reputation for being combative.
"When you're in politics and you have a big mouth, someone's always going to be pissed off at you," said De Lacy, who taught at Owen Brown Middle School for 25 years before leading the Education Association.