STATE REP RACE Q&A: Mark Kratman Discusses Education Issues, Negative Campaigning

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 his own words, are the responses to this week’s questions from candidate Mark Kratman (D-Tewksbury).

#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?

When the formula was first enacted in 1993, it was supposed to be evaluated each year by a Foundation Budget Review Commission. That commission did not have its first meeting until early October of 2014, 21 years later. It’s been a struggle for districts, particularly Tewksbury and Wilmington, to fund education at the level the residents want for their children when health insurance costs have risen, typically, far beyond the rate of inflation accounted for in the foundation budget. Increases in special education in-district costs are also rising and those rates of increase are not reflected in the foundation budget. The foundation budget formula is a generation old and does not take into account changes in educational cohorts, real-life increases in health insurance, as well as increases in English Language Learner instruction.

Tewksbury and Wilmington, with the strong financial leadership provided by Town Managers Richard Montuori and Jeff Hull, and School Superintendents and Business Managers, have worked extremely hard to keep rising costs for health insurance down and manage other required spending. Both towns strongly value education – with investments in school buildings, teachers, curricula, fields, arts, and more. However, rising costs in health care of other required spending, and the lack of a foundation budget formula that actually funds at the levels the state wants to see – combined with the underfunding of the Special Education Circuit Breaker, means that education costs crowd out other expenditures at the local level. Particularly concerning is that even when the economy is booming, state reimbursements in real dollars (accounting for inflation) are still too low. These shortfalls undermine the goals of education in Massachusetts and are a disservice to middle income districts as well as low income districts.

The School Committees in both towns work exceptionally hard with the Superintendents to present budgets to Town Meeting that balance the needs of students, families, and the resources the community can provide. Vigorously supporting their work on Beacon Hill to improve the Foundation Budget Formula makes fiscal sense for our communities. Striking the right balance at the state level to manage other contributing costs – like keeping health insurance affordable – can create a formula that lifts districts across the state, including our own at home.

A well-educated workforce is the best way to keep Massachusetts growing and ensure a secure future for our kids. Failing our students leads to increased unemployment, substance use, and poor outcomes that affect whole communities. Our children cannot afford further delays in tackling the foundation budget.

#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?

Negative campaigning or mudslinging is when a candidate or a political committee supporting a candidate deliberately spreads negative or false information about another candidate. There is no place for such actions in this campaign where this should take place. Voter turnout in both town’s has been very low during the last few elections and I know the voters want to hear what are you going to do to make our communities better place rather than listen to attacks about your opponent . I have been working hard to meet and talk to as many people as I can about why I am running and how I want to make changes for the better. It is my hope that each and every candidate is running for the same reason. I believe they should be congratulated for having the guts for taking the time and put themselves out there. Each and every one running including their friends and family and supporters took time and energy and money and applied it toward the democratic process. I for one applaud their efforts and consider a number of the other candidates as friends.

(NOTE: Do you have a question for the candidates? Email and it may be asked in a future Q&A or in a debate.)

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