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Congressional Candidates Discuss Education, Achievement Gaps

To help readers make a choice in the congressional election on Tuesday, Patch asked the candidates about the federal government's role in education.

To help readers make a choice in the congressional election on Tuesday, Patch asked the candidates about the federal government's role in education.
To help readers make a choice in the congressional election on Tuesday, Patch asked the candidates about the federal government's role in education.
By Susan Petroni

Tuesday voters in the 5th Congressional District will decide which individual will be the district's newest U.S. Representative. The person will replace former representative Sen. Ed Markey.

Patch asked each of the candidates a series of questions. Candidates who responded to the questions were Democrat Katherine Clark, a state senator who lives in Melrose, Republican Frank Addivinola, a Boston lawyer and Independent James Hall, an attorney from Arlington.

Today's focus is on the the federal government's role in education.

Patch asked: "America's education ranking continues to slip compared to our world neighbors. Here in Massachusetts, we are doing better than the rest of the country, but there is a large achievement gap in many schools in the district. What can the federal government do to close that achievement gap? And what will you do as a U.S. representative to help school districts deal with unfunded federal mandates in the schools?"

Addivinola: "The more involved the Federal government has gotten in education, the farther our national standards have fallen. Education is best managed as close to the classroom as possible. This is strictly a community issue and the federal government should respect the local school district to be most effective in addressing the educational needs of its students."

Clark: "Equal access to excellent public schools can be one of the great equalizers. Children’s ability to access such an education should not depend on their zip code or family’s income. The most important role of the federal government is in increased funding for public schools and full funding of any mandates placed on states and local school districts.

"Specifically, access to high quality early education is our most effective tool for closing the achievement gap. The data clearly shows that when children are proficient readers by third grade it leads to higher graduation rates and future earnings. Universal full day preschool would not only put our youngest learners on a path to success, but it would give families the reliable, safe preschool option they need so they can go to work and provide for their families. Instead, through sequestration and the shutdown, what we see is the federal government cutting off funding to Head Start, nutrition programs and other vital services for our kids.

"Throughout my career, as a School Committee member, General Counsel for the Office of Child Care Services, and as a state legislator, I have worked to expand safe, quality childcare and education options for all families. As a mom of three boys in public school, I see the impact of government on education every day and providing access to great schools for every child will be a priority for me in Congress."

Hall: "I believe that education should remain primarily a local and state concern.  However, the federal government can have a role in helping under-achieving schools, which are mainly in poorer communities. close the “achievement gap” by developing and funding special programs designed to improve those schools.  Indeed, this might be an area where a national perspective and expertise could be put to good use to find and promote the best programs being used around the country.  The federal government should fully fund all federally-mandated education programs."

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