Monday, June 27, 2016

9th Essex State Rep Q&A: Jennifer Migliore

In this year's 9th Essex District State Representative race, there are three candidates running to represent an area that includes Precincts 1 and 2 of Ward 1 Lynn, Precincts 1, 2 and 4-9 in Saugus and Precincts 1, 2, 3, and 7 in Wakefield: incumbent Donald Wong (R) and two challengers Saritin Rizzuto (D) and Jennifer Migliore (D).  Saugus native Jennifer Migliore is a 2014 graduate of Wellesley Colllege whose previous experience includes working as an intern for US Senator Elizabeth Warren and more recently for US Congressman Seth Moulton. Migliore has been endorsed by several organizations including the Mass Alliance, North Shore Labor Council and the Massachusetts Teachers Association. Here, she shares her positions on issues related to public K-12 education in Massachusetts. 

As 9th Essex District State Representative, you would be representing an area that includes parts of Lynn and Wakefield as well as the town of Saugus. What is your understanding of the issues facing public education in each of these places? Do you foresee any challenges in representing a district with very different student populations and in turn very different needs?

I am running for State Representative on a platform of opportunity. Without the excellent educational opportunities I had, I would not be the person I am today. I am fighting for ALL students in the 9th Essex District to have access to the highest standards of education the state can offer.

While knocking on doors, I am constantly hearing that folks want stronger schools. Families are worried that their kids are lacking many of the opportunities that higher-achieving districts enjoy. While Wakefield, Saugus, and Lynn are three entirely different communities, the lack of funding for education is a challenge amongst all three. Our schools need more funding; which is why I am such a strong proponent of the Fairshare Amendment, which would increase funding for our schools.  I would like to see funding increases for STEM lab programs, extracurricular activities, and early childhood education.

Much of the discussion around public education at the state level has been regarding the expansion of charter schools. First, what is your position on charters and the push to raise the charter cap? Second, do you think too much focus is being placed on this particular aspect of public K-12 education?

I am not against choice: I chose to go to a private high school.  However, I do not support funding charter schools with public taxpayer dollars to educate a select few. When describing the most effective method for educating our students, I live by the mantra “a rising tide lifts all boats.” Increasing funding for ALL of our public schools will lift all of our educational standards.

I am strongly opposed to lifting the charter school cap. Instead, we must focus on improving public schools. For example,  Saugus Public Schools are currently rated Level 3-- the lowest level assessment for Massachusetts public schools-- and are facing a $500,000 deficit, largely due to the diversion of public school funding to charter schools. Saugus Public Schools are losing a much-needed $1.7 million to charter school reimbursements, and as a result, the education of the children of Saugus is suffering.

That being said, I don’t think there is too much focus being concentrated on this issue-- I’m glad there’s a heightened and spirited debate about charter schools. The main point of contention isn’t about expanding charter schools, but how do we fund education so that ALL students receive a quality education? We need to be more creative and innovative about educational investments.

Aside from charter schools, another major issue in Massachusetts public education is funding. What are your thoughts on the most pressing needs in terms of updating or revising the way that schools are currently funded in the state?

Currently, Chapter 70 is funding public schools in Massachusetts. I view the Chapter 70 formula as detrimental to public education because it is an outdated formula that adversely affects communities such as Saugus and Wakefield. We need a new formula that funds BOTH our gateway cities like Lynn, but also funds our middle of the road communities like Saugus, which is unable to supplement major educational investments through property taxes.

Also, In the 9th Essex District there are major problems associated with how we fund the Northeast Metropolitan Regional Vocational High School. I am a major proponent of vocational schools. My father is a vocational high school teacher. Nevertheless, the current formula to fund the voke disproportionately affects Saugus.  Saugus, a level three school district, shouldn’t have to spend millions to subsidize other communities that enroll students at Northeast Metro.

Should 'college and career ready' be the standard or goal of K-12 education?

While it is essential that students be ‘college and career ready’ upon completing their K-12 education, it is also important that our children’s social and emotional needs are met as well.  Education must go beyond academics. Our children must learn to think critically and solve problems and be able to adapt readily to new situations and information.

What does the term "quality education" mean to you? What do you believe needs to be done in order to provide that to all students both in the 9th Essex District and statewide?

The term “quality education” is one that is not easily defined. However, the core of any solid education is the perception of value. For all students to obtain a true “quality education”, it is essential that schools foster a sense of worth and importance amongst their students and teachers. This sense of value is not something that can be derived by administering frequent tests or defining students based off scores from these exams-- a practice I am strongly opposed to. Value is created by making sure that students and teachers understand their innate worth.  

We must invest in modernizing school infrastructure, because it serves as a physical reminder that these students are valued, while simultaneously promoting meaningful relationships between students and teachers. One of the most profound classes I have taken was an education policy course at Wellesley. This class highlighted the importance of treating students as human beings, rather than statistics. I will always remember the lessons I have learned in that class, and I will fight to provide that sense of value to all the students in both the 9th Essex District and statewide.

For more information:

The State Primary this year will be held on Thursday, September 8, 2016; the general election is on November 8, 2016

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