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Teacher challenges Byron for seat

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By John Barnhart

    Katie Cyphert, a Lynchburg middle school teacher, is challenging Delegate Kathy Byron for the 22nd District House of Delegates seat.

    Education is an important issue for Cyphert.
    “Education is workforce development,” she said.
    According to Cyphert, education is a question of whether there will be a workforce ready for future jobs. She believes education helps foster entrepreneurship and draws business to the state.
    She wants the state to spend more on special education. Cyphert said that the more independently people can live, the less they cost in state services. Some can hold jobs.
    She said the opportunities for the families of people with intellectual disabilities to apply for Medicaid waivers to get money for day services and modifications to their homes needs attention. Cyphert said these families face a six year waiting period because there are not enough slots for them. She said the number of people waiting for these slots far exceeds the number the General Assembly opens and results in a heavy burden on the families.
    Cyphert would like to see a variety of options available for intellectually disabled people; now that the state has to close its residential training centers it’s important to make sure resources are available for community-based solutions.
    Transportation is another important issue for Cyphert. She said the transportation bill, which the General Assembly passed this year, is not perfect, but she was glad to see it pass because “roads, bridges do not repair themselves.”
    “It was a bipartisan bill, that passed, that addressed primarily secondary roads,” Cyphert said. “It’s going to help our roads. So much of our infrastructure is aging.”
    Cyphert does not like unfunded mandates on local governments.
    “They have been passing the buck to localities,” she said.
    Cyphert called for adjusting the state individual income tax brackets upwards to adjust for inflation. She said inflation has been bumping people to higher rates since the last time the brackets were adjusted.
    “Inflation has changed quite a bit since the 1980s,” she said.
    Cyphert said the General Assembly needs to look at state tax incentive programs and get rid of anything that isn’t working. She said any family or business under economic pressure has to look for efficiencies.
    The interview this story is based on was conducted just before HealthCare.gov went live and she was asked about ObamaCare.
    “It’s the law of the land,” she said. “We are going to move more into preventative care, which is fiscally responsible.”
    She believes Virginia should expand Medicaid enrollment.

    “I do feel that the Medicaid expansion is critical,” she said. Cyphert said if Virginia does not expand Medicaid, it will lose out on federal funding for the 400,000 people who would be added to the Medicaid rolls.
    She said she wants to make sure people are not driven to abortion due to economic pressure. Cyphert calls for comprehensive sex education, with a parental opt-out, in public schools and access to birth control coverage through insurance. She said prevention is the best way to reduce the abortion rate.
    “I’m in favor of responsible gun ownership,” Cyphert said. She also said she supports the NRA’s Eddie Eagle program which teaches children how to react if they find an unsecured gun.
    Cyphert said she owns guns and shoots at a range. She said the gun she uses belongs to her husband and he loads it and hands it to her to shoot.
    Cyphert said she is concerned about recent changes to the Virginia Retirement System (VRS) which pays pension benefits to public employees, including public school teachers, in the Commonwealth. She said the changes will result in a lower initial benefit when public employees retire  and lower cost of living adjustments as time goes on.
    “I don’t think all those changes were necessary at all,” she said.
    Cyphert, a Lynchburg College graduate,  teaches sixth grade life science. What will she do when the General Assembly is in session? Cyphert said that she would take a leave of absence and the class would have a long-term substitute.
    “This is a citizen legislature,” she commented.