Since you asked about it

A teacher wrote to me, saying "I was very disappointed to look at your record of voting on public education issues. In the Westfield Evening News you wrote an article on how you support public education but unfortunately your record does not support your views.

"The MTA gave you a 56/100 rating in support of public education. If this were a Legislator's test on public education you would have failed. Please support public education we need your votes."

Although the letter was critical of my MTA rating, I do appreciate the fact that she took the time and cared enough to contact me.

It also made me review my votes and educational issues covered in the past three years, the period that the MTA looked at in assembling its ratings

First, I spoke with Jack Flanagan from the MTA, who explained that several of the votes included in the rating were actually labor issues, not education issues, and tax cuts, not directly related to education.

So, in defending my record on public education, I will also defend my vote for tax cuts to benefit all taxpayers in the Commonwealth. These tax cuts did not take away from the quality, or quantity, of education here--our state budget is two billion dollars more than last year, due to the strong economy which brought in so many more tax dollars over the past year.

And, yes, I did vote for charter schools, and Horace Mann schools, part of this state's total education reform package, because I believe that some children need a choice in where, and how, they are educated. According to the last statistics I saw, charter schools take less than $10,000 out of our Westfield Schools annually. And, as part of ed reform, I've voted to put huge increases in our budget to fund our public schools.

If you will check with the MTA, you will also find that I have led the battle for some educational issues that have not been made public, due to their confidential nature (retirement inequities, for example). I also was one of the first supporters of the teacher retirement bill, the so-called Rule of 90. I fully back the MTA's decision to support teacher testing for new teachers.

My files in the State House include numerous letters of "thanks" from people who know that I have taken the lead on several educational issues--letters from people like the Preschool Enrichment Team, the School to Work and Career Center Initiatives, the Mass Corporation for Educational Telecommunications, STCC, St. Mary's Elementary, Holyoke Community College, Westfield State, students from the schools that I and my staff read at each year, backers of the student loan tax cut, Mass Society of Professors, the regional education alliance, even members of our own Westfield Education Association and MTA, just to name a few!

If you take a look at the MTA Today edition which included the legislators' ratings, you will see a summary of state budget increases for our public schools, increases that I'm proud to say I voted for. Increases like a 6.5 percent increase for state colleges, and an increase of $269 million for K-12.

And, if you look carefully at the MTA's ratings, you will see that I supported your access to medical care and, in fact, voted to override the Governor's veto of legislation to provide children's health care; that I voted to increase UMass funding by $26 million; that I voted to reconsider a failed amendment to increase minimum school aid; that I voted to increase METCO funding; that I voted to increase minimum school aid; that I voted for major budget pieces supported by the MTA; that I voted to support a deficiency budget to improve teacher retirement benefits; and that I voted to keep teachers' share of health insurance payments at just 15 percent, not 25 percent.

In summary, I have worked hard to increase funding for our schools, and school buildings, for education technology and the related bond issue, increased funding for ed reform; I have made school to work and vocational education one of my main educational issues; I did not back testing for career teachers.

Finally, I note, in the MTA paper's September 1 edition, that the MTA recommended only 24 candidates for Senate and House in Massachusetts. Just 24 out of 200. In fact, only nine of 160 current representatives, and three of the 40 senators, received the MTA endorsement.

Which makes me wonder if, perhaps, the MTA is out of step with the electorate and the House and Senate.

But, the bottom line is, I do care about our public schools and about public education and will continue to support them with my votes.

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