Friday, August 29, 2014

MA 6th Congressional District Q&A: Seth Moulton (D)

Salem resident Seth Moulton (D) is running for the MA 6th Congressional District seat currently held by incumbent John Tierney. Moulton is an Iraq War veteran who received an Master's in Public Administration (MPA) from the John F. Kennedy School of Government and an MBA from Harvard Business School. 

Here he answers a few education related questions:

The term ‘failing’ has been used a great deal to describe the state of the traditional public education system in this country. Do you believe U.S. schools are ‘failing’?

The vast majority of public schools are providing an excellent education to our children. There are so many wonderful teachers, like many I remember from my grade schooldays, who are inspiring and instructing our young people. My sister is one of these wonderful teachers; she teaches high school history at a Massachusetts public school.Unfortunately, however, there are many schools that are, in fact, failing our kids. Too often, both in the 6th district and across the country, the zip code in which a child is born determines his or her educational opportunities.
To close this opportunity gap, we need more federal and state funding going directly to schools, and accountability amongst teachers and administrators; we need to support our teachers by providing them adequate compensation for their hard work, and we need to diversify our national standards beyond testing metrics. We need to educate the “whole child,” and not just “teach to the test.” Communities with struggling schools must not be ignored or ostracized for their past performance, but must be embraced by the local community and federal government to make for a better educational environment for tomorrow’s students.

While we are not failing across the board, we are also not living up to the high standards of educational equity that we should set for ourselves. 

Proponents of the federal Race to the Top program believe that the competitive grant program will serve as a powerful catalyst for education reform while others criticize its focus on high stakes testing. Are you in support of the Race to the Top program?

I support Race to the Top as a program; I believe that it incentivizes teachers, schools and states to perform at their best. However, I firmly believe that it should not be the only major grant program offered to states by the federal government. In academic communities – both at the local and state level - where students are at a competitive disadvantage already, the answer is not to turn away students, eliminate funding opportunities, or turn to charter schools.

We need to promote answers that empower local leaders to do whatever is best for their school, not just what is best for the test.

One of the criteria for Race to the Top funding is to ensure “conditions for high performing charters and other innovative schools.” What is your opinion of the growing charter school sector? Do charter schools, particularly in urban districts, have a place in U.S. public education?

I believe in letting parents choose what is best for their children. That said, charter schools are not the solution to the opportunity gap that exists in this country. The Harlem Children’s Zone, KIPP, Match Education and others, have provided a valuable service to kids growing up in poverty, but the selectivity and resources necessary to make these schools successful cannot come at the expense of other struggling public schools. We cannot be funneling large amounts of federal dollars and resources to charter schools. Our public school system is the backbone of this nation, and with some effort, thoughtful legislation, significant federal appropriations, and creative thinking, we can close the education gap and turn our entire educational system around.

In part, the Bank on Students Emergency Refinancing Act introduced by Senator Elizabeth Warren would allow eligible student loan borrowers to refinance high interest loans down the rates offered to new borrowers under the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act. Do you believe this to be an effective way to deal with the student loan debt situation?

The struggle to afford student loans is very personal to me. At 35 years old, I’m still paying back the loans I took to afford my college education. Allowing students to refinance their high interest student loans is one piece of the puzzle in ensuring students leave school with manageable debt. However, the more fundamental problem is the soaring cost of tuition, which has risen 90% since 1998, on the backs of students and our loans.
I believe in providing consumer protections to ensure student loan practices are not usury in nature. Colleges, universities, and the federal government should not be making money off student loan defaults. Meanwhile, limiting the use of student loan financing to go towards only direct educational needs is another way to limit soaring college tuition rates. Solving the student loan crisis will be necessary to ensure our education system helps foster successful generations of American workers in the future as it has in the past.

Part of President Obama’s plan for higher education includes the goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by the year 2020. Do you believe that this is something the U.S. should specifically be striving toward? Why or why not?

When President Kennedy spoke, in 1961, about sending a man to the moon within the decade, people laughed. Eight years later, we accomplished the feat. As a country, and as a government, having goals is a good thing. By the metrics with which the Western world defines success, high college graduate rates symbolize prosperity. That said, I look at things a bit differently. In today’s world, where student loan debt has hampered a generation, where we have bifurcating narratives for students of lower socioeconomic means and those in the middle and upper classes, we cannot predict what will best suit
future generations. We need to provide access to opportunities for all Americans. Higher education will certainly be one route, but providing viable alternatives must also be a priority.
While I will always support those who wish to pursue a college education, we also need to look at empowering vocational schools, community colleges, and other institutions with the funds and tools needed to train and equip workers for a 21st century economy.


Moulton is one of five candidates running as a Democratic for the 6th Congressional seat. The primary election held on Tuesday, September 9th will decide who will face Republican Richard Tisei in November's general election. 

For more information on Moulton

Monday, August 11, 2014

11th Essex State Rep Q&A: Brendan Crighton

Lynn Councilor At-Large Brendan Crighton is one of three candidates running for the 11th Essex District State Representative seat vacated by Steven Walsh (D) this January. The 11th Essex consists of Wards 4-3, 5-1, 5-4, 6 and 7 in Lynn as well as the Town of Nahant. 


Brendan Crighton is a lifelong Lynn resident and product of the Lynn Public Schools. He attended Lincoln-Thomson Elementary School, Breed Junior High, and Classical High School before earning his Bachelor’s Degree in Government from Colby College and Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Suffolk University. Crighton was elected to the Lynn City Council in 2010 as Ward 5 Councilor, which he served for two terms before being elected to Councilor-at-Large in 2014. Crighton has worked for State Senator Tom McGee for the past nine years, the last four as his Chief of Staff. In Senator McGee’s office, he has had the opportunity to work on a number of issues including budgetary and legislative matters, Transportation, Labor and Workforce Development, Public Service and Veterans Affairs Committee work, and most importantly, constituent services. Crighton serves on a number of boards including the Gregg House and My Brother’s Table Boards of Directors, as well as an active member of the Lynn Democratic City Committee, North Shore Young Democrats, Friends of Ward 5, Ancient Order of the Hibernians-Division 10, Friends of Lynn Woods, Friendly Knights of St. Patrick, and Friends of Lynn and Nahant Beach. Crighton currently resides in West Lynn with his wife Andrea. 

Here Brendan answers a few education related questions: 

 What is your understanding of the major education related issues facing Lynn? How does this compare to the issues Nahant is facing?

I believe I am uniquely qualified to be a strong advocate for education issues in the 11th Essex district because of my proven commitment to supporting and strengthening public education during my 9 years working for State Senator Tom McGee and 4.5 years on the Lynn City Council. One major issue facing Lynn is the conditions of the school buildings. I voted to fund the new Marshall Middle School in Lynn and worked hard to make sure it passed a city wide referendum. We need to continue to work with the Massachusetts School Building Authority, and advocate for other Lynn school building upgrades and replacements. Our young people have so much to offer and that is why I started the Lynn Youth Council to give students a voice in their government and to encourage civic participation. Most importantly, I meet regularly with parents and students to hear their ideas on how to improve the public school system based on first hand experiences.

As State Representative, I vow to push for Chapter 70 funding increases so that they continue to be reflective of the student population increases. Two other education related priorities are universal pre-kindergarten and increased after school funding and programming. Children who participate in high-quality early education, develop better language and social skills, test better, and have fewer behavioral problems once they enter school. Currently 80% of children and youth in Massachusetts do not have access to affordable, high quality after school and expanded learning opportunities. I was fortunate enough to be able to take advantage of some of Lynn’s after school programs during my youth, and I believe that every young person should have that same opportunity. Both of these education programs are in high demand and are critical in closing the achievement gap.

In addition to Chapter 70 funding, one of the biggest education issues facing Nahant is reimbursement for circuit breaker special education which has a tremendous impact on their overall budget. For small towns like Nahant, the state needs to provide direct funding for special education to ensure that every student is getting the high quality education services that they deserve.

    The current Massachusetts school funding formula was originally developed in 1993. Do you believe the formula to be outdated? In what sense?

As State Representative, I would support legislation to revive the Foundation Budget Review Commission to examine and report on the resources needed for all students to achieve success and identify operating efficiencies that can be made by school districts.

    According to the latest Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education reports, there are 1,026 students from Lynn and Nahant that are pre-enrolled in a charter school for school year 2014-15. What is your stance on charter schools? Do they have a place in public education, specifically in Lynn?

I am a proud product of Lynn Public Schools K-12, where I learned so much from the hard working teachers and faculty. I am against raising the cap on charter schools. I do not believe that public tax dollars should be diverted to charter schools because of the adverse impact it has on the students and educators in traditional public schools. Public schools need every dollar of dedicated funding they can get.


  In an article titled ‘A fairer test score measure’ Jack Schneider and Massachusetts State Senator Pat Jehlen (D) write: “Standardized test scores, which constitute the lion’s share of how we evaluate school effectiveness, are highly problematic. Standardized tests capture a narrow slice of life in schools and reflect only a fraction of what the public values. …And they are subject to gaming.” What is your opinion on standardized testing and the use of test scores to measure school quality as well as teacher effectiveness?

Though I believe there must be some measurement we use to evaluate our public school system, I have concerns about the use of standardized test scores to primarily measure school quality and teacher effectiveness. Every school district is different and faces unique challenges when it comes to educating students.

Standardized test scores are the tool that is used to measure schools effectiveness, yet it is not always reflective of the progress a student has made year to year. That is why it is important when analyzing our schools’ quality that we don't narrowly focus on test scores for a single year, but rather look at how students have improved year to year. I believe growth model assessments are important in order to comprehend a student’s preparedness and college readiness throughout their school career.

  If elected, in what ways will you advocate for better public education for the students and families living the 11th Essex District?

If elected, I will work hard to make sure our communities get the education and special education funding they deserve, along with access to pre-kindergarten and after school programs. I have already fostered relationships with education advocates and agencies through my legislative and budgetary work in Senator McGee’s office. Just recently, I earned the endorsement of the Massachusetts Teachers Association. The future of our state depends on our hard-working teachers and a strong public school system. Education must always be a top priority and I look forward to working hard to make sure the resources are there for our teachers and students.

Thank you for your time in reading this post. To keep up with the campaign, please check out, find Brendan Crighton for State Representative on Facebook and Twitter. Also, please feel free to email us at

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