Candidates for the State Senate seat vacated by former Senator Anthony Petruccelli shared with the community their plans for addressing the need for more high quality education options and increasing safety in the district’s neighborhoods. The event – co-hosted by Excel Academy Charter Schools, Brooke Charter Schools, and the Salesian Boys & Girls Club – drew over 100 community members, Excel and Brooke students, and parents.
Six of the seven candidates participated: Joseph Boncore, Lydia Edwards, Diana Hwang, Representative Jay Livingstone, Dan Rizzo, and Paul Rogers. Steven Morabito was unable to attend.
On the topic of the charter cap lift that is consuming a lot of energy on Beacon Hill and across the Commonwealth, candidates differed on their positions.
Dan Rizzo, who has been endorsed by Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), was the most vocal supporter who pledged a clear commitment to increasing the cap and referred to the bill introduced by the State Senate last week: “I don’t think the proposed legislation went far enough,” the former Revere Mayor proclaimed. “There are 37,000 kids on waitlists in Massachusetts. Who are we, as legislators, to tell parents where they can send their kids to school, especially when they feel like the traditional public schools are failing them? I want to give parents and kids the educational options they deserve.”
Other candidates, including Representative Livingstone and Paul Rogers, are open to a cap lift but only after certain financial commitments have been made to ensure district schools are more fairly funded.
Despite their acknowledgment of the strong records and results of Excel Academy and Brooke Charter Schools in East Boston, Lydia Edwards and Joseph Boncore expressed opposition to a cap lift at this time.
According to Edwards, “Charter schools do need to be at the table but at this time, when charters are siphoning funds from Boston Public Schools, I support the cap. I am open to one day lifting the cap, but for right now, I am transparent, and that’s the type of leader I am.
In addition to his opposition of the cap lift, Boncore expressed worry and doubt about the proposed ballot initiative that may go before voters in November if legislation is not passed by the Senate and House and signed by the Governor in early July. He believes the legislature should deal with this problem.
The candidates were also asked questions about the role of a State Senator, what policies they would promote to support undocumented immigrants, and how they would address recent gang violence in the community.
Moderating the event were Rafael Ulloa, Editor of El Planeta, and Cary Shuman, Editor of The Independent Newspaper Group. A group of 20 9th grade students from Excel Academy Charter Schools were in attendance and one student asked the final question of the night about neighborhood violence and security. Twenty students from Excel Academy’s founding 9th grade class attended the event.
The primary vote to choose the winner of the Democratic nomination for the First Suffolk and Middlesex District that includes East Boston, Winthropy, Revere, parts of Cambridge, parts of Back Bay, and Beacon Hill will take place Tuesday, April 12, 2016. There are no Republican or Independent candidates publicly running for the Senate seat.
About the Co-Hosts
- Excel Academy Charter Schools is a network of three public charter middle schools and one public high school dedicated to closing the opportunity gap and preparing students from East Boston and Chelsea for college. Founded in 2003 in East Boston, Excel currently educates 790 students in grades 5-12 with plans to grow to serve 1,350 students by 2020. Excel has been one of the top-performing public middle schools in Massachusetts for nearly a decade. Over 75 percent of Excel’s students identify as Latino and 80 percent qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Nearly all of Excel’s middle and high school students are from East Boston and Chelsea. For more information, visitwww.excelacademy.org. CEO: Owen Stearns
- Brooke Charter Schools, a network of three K-8 public charter schools and a high school (to open in 2016), was founded in 2002, with the mission of providing high quality college preparatory public education to underserved youth in the cities of Boston and Chelsea. Named after Senator Edward W. Brooke III, the first African American popularly elected to the U.S. Senate, Brooke is committed to preparing each student for success in college and beyond. In 2015-16, Brooke Charter Schools is serving 1,500 students; Brooke students are 90% black and Latino and 76% qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. For more information, visit www.ebrooke.org. Co-Director: Jon Clark
- The Salesian Boys & Girls Club is a key resource for East Boston families, who face tremendous challenges including unemployment, crime, drug abuse, low high school graduation rates, and under-performing schools. Cut off geographically from the city of Boston, and facing increasing economic challenges, these residents have a growing need for resources – especially for its large population of at-risk teens and pre-teens. Approximately 40% of the Club’s members live in single parent households and 71% qualify for the free or reduced-price lunches at school. With few affordable options for these families, many East Boston teens are not getting the support and opportunities they need to overcome these barriers and be successful. For more information, visit www.salesianclub.com. Executive Director: Father John Nazzaroa