WILMINGTON, MA — Wilmington Apple is asking weekly questions to the seven candidates running in contested primaries for the Wilmington/Tewksbury State Representative seat (19th Middlesex).
Below, in her own words, are the responses to this week’s questions from candidate Erika Johnson (D-Wilmington).
#13) The Massachusetts education funding formula hasn’t been updated in 25 years. This Chapter 70 formula fails to provide the funding needed for school districts to fund core expenses. The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center published a report last week (“Building An Education System That Works For Everyone: Funding Reforms To Help All Our Children Thrive“) detailing the problem. The Wilmington & Tewksbury School Committees have long advocated for the State House to update the Chapter 70 formula. Do you commit to fighting for an updated formula? What else will you do as State Representative to help our public schools?
Education is the key to the future, therefore, our public schools deserve to be well-funded if not, fully funded. The current formula, Chapter 70 is outdated and absolutely needs to be updated. The formula, as it stands, is stacked against students in low-income communities.
I have heard from several teachers along the campaign trail who tell stories of how much they’ve spent out of pocket to be able to provide their students the best education possible, it’s eye-opening. Our teachers need better support and the resources needed to provide a world-class education for all students.
I was a strong proponent of the Millionaires tax, a ballot initiative that was recently struck down by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on a legal technicality (not the substance of the bill). This tax would have increased taxes for those receiving an annual income of over $1 million and all revenue would fund public education and public transportation. Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to hear Democratic Gubernatorial candidate, Jay Gonzalez speak at an event hosted by the Burlington Democratic Town Committee at which Gonzalez expressed that he would support a bill along the lines of the Millionaires tax that taxed the richest in Massachusetts to fully fund our public schools and public transportation, a measure I would be happy to champion if elected.
There is currently a bill “S. 308: An Act Strengthening and Investing in our Educators, Students and Communities” that would update the Chapter 70 funding formula, mandates a moratorium on and replacement of the state’s high-stakes testing regime, promotes community collaboration in improving schools, and provides services critical to student academic and social-emotional development, such as recess for grade-schoolers and appropriate bilingual education services for non-native speakers (Summary provided by the Massachusetts Teachers Association). I fully support this bill as I believe it will vastly improve our public education system in Massachusetts for all students and urge our Legislature to act on this bill.
I am also supportive of keeping the cap on charter schools, as I proudly voted “No” on Question 2, one of the ballot initiatives in 2016. Charter schools take taxpayer dollars yet are run by nonprofit or for-profit organizations and are exempt from regulations put forth by state and local boards of education in curriculum and hiring practices. Raising the cap or funding for charter schools takes away money and resources for our public school children with no accountability.
Every child living in Massachusetts has the right to a quality public education that prepares them for current and future job markets. With that said, we must be sure that with any update to education funding, we are advocating for every child – regardless of their zip code, household income, if they are English Language Learners (ELL), if they require special education or Individualized Education Program (IEP), etc.
#14) Define “negative campaigning.” Do you pledge not to engage in any negative campaigning during this election? Why or why not? When responding to an attack, will you follow the “when they go low, we go high” Michelle Obama mantra or the “when someone attacks me, I always attack back… except 100x more” Donald Trump mantra?
I do not plan to engage in negative campaigning during this election. With so much on the line for our district, it is important to stay focused on the issues not personal attacks.
I will be taking Michelle Obama’s approach, “When they go low, we go high”.
(NOTE: Do you have a question for the candidates? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and it may be asked in a future Q&A or in a debate.)
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