Friday, June 1, 2018

11th Essex State Rep Q & A: Drew Russo

With the election of former State Representative Brendan Crighton to the Massachusetts State Senate this spring, several candidates have announced their candidacy for the 11th Essex State Rep. seat. Democrat Drew Russo is one candidate running for the seat vacated by Crighton. Currently, the Executive Director of the Lynn Museum/LynnArts organization, Russo previously worked for former U.S. Representative John Tierney as well as in advancement for St. Mary's High School (Lynn). Here he answers some questions regarding his candidacy for State Representative. 

Tell us a little about yourself and why you are running for 11th Essex State Representative.

First off, thank you for the opportunity to share my views with your readers, Cleo!

My name is Drew Russo.  I grew up in Lynn. Having become increasingly
active in civic life as an adult, I bring a passion for public service.

If elected, I will work for social and economic justice, whether it is advocating for a $15 minimum wage, working to enact policies that reduce income inequality, and ensuring that all of our citizens have access to a quality public education, the right to organize for their rights as workers, safe and secure neighborhoods, housing that allows them to live with dignity in the community of their choice, the freedom to live without fear regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or immigration status, and a compassionate, proactive approach to the opioid epidemic that prioritizes treatment and recovery.

You previously worked in Congressman John Tierney's office. In what ways do you think that experience would be beneficial should you be elected State Rep? What are some of your other key qualifications?

As Congressman Tierney's District Outreach Director, I partnered with
community members, business leaders, educators, and elected officials throughout Lynn, Nahant, and the other thirty-seven cities and towns of the Sixth Congressional District.  The experience taught me that every community is unique and often brings a different set of priorities to the table. It will be important for the next Representative to work hard on a variety of issues affecting Lynn and Nahant, whether it is advocating for Nahanters who oppose the current expansion plans for Northeastern University at East Point or fighting to ensure that Lynn receives the maximum amount of state funding for our schools.

My past experience also includes leading the Lynn Museum/LynnArts, one
of the city's foremost arts and culture institutions, years of political activism including service as Vice Chair of the Lynn Democratic City Committee, and national service with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps.

Specifically in terms of public education, in what ways will you advocate for improved educational opportunities for students and families in the 11th Essex District? Further, what is your view on charter schools?

Investing in our public schools needs to be one of our highest priorities.

Through my work at the Museum, I have had a unique opportunity to observe students and teachers who visit us as part of an ongoing collaboration that brings hundreds of Lynn Public Schools
third grade students through our doors. With every new year, I am more and more impressed by the quality, intellectual curiosity, and depth of learning in our third grade classrooms.

I am encouraged by current legislation that would implement the recommendations of the Massachusetts Foundation Budget Review Commission.  I am in favor of increased state funding for districts with vocational education programs (like Lynn Tech), and increased state funding for districts with high numbers of special needs students and English language learners.

This is the primary reason that I am advocating for the passage of the Fair Share Amendment that would tax incomes (not assets) over $1 million and reinvest those funds into our public education system, as well as improve our transportation infrastructure.

For similar reasons, I oppose additional charter school expansion.  I
do not believe that funding should be diverted from public schools to charter schools. That's why I voted against, and publicly supported the campaign opposing, Question 2 which would have lifted the cap on charter schools in 2016.

Standardized testing has become a major part of the K-12 public education system. What are your thoughts on standardized testing in general and the value that has been placed on them?

While we need to find meaningful to assess educational performance, we need to also be careful not to over-test our students or force our educators to teach only to the test.  Building the entire learning experience around one series of tests can defeat the purpose of creating a holistic educational environment. Measuring achievement should not come at the expense of a well-rounded education. Additionally, with so many other variables at play, standardized test scores should not be the only measure of teacher or school performance.

Why do you want voters in the 11th Essex District to know about you?

I love our communities and would be honored by the opportunity to serve. That includes returning your phone calls, letting you know where I stand, and always respecting your opinion even if it differs from my own. 

Also, I am pretty decent at Karaoke, love baseball though I could never play it, and freely admit that a jar of peanut butter does not last very long when I am around. 

Thank you for the opportunity to answer these questions! I hope to earn your vote in the Democratic primary on Tuesday, September 4th. 

For more information:

[Editor's Note]: With multiple candidates running as Democrats for the 11th Essex State Rep seat, there will be meaningful primary held on Tuesday, September 4, 2018. The General Election will be held on Tuesday, November 6, 2018.