Cindy Friedman Questionnaire

1. Arlington's growing school enrollment has strained the town budget. At the same time, the 2015 Foundation Budget Review Commission found the state was underfunding its constitutional obligations to public education by more than $1 billion per year. Affluent communities like Arlington resorted to higher property taxes and proposition 2 ½ overrides, while lower-income communities have simply gone without. How do we reverse this trend?

Simply put, reversing this trend requires more investments in public education at the state level. As state senator, investing in our schools will be one of my top priorities. Statewide education funding has steadily declined for nearly two decades, forcing communities like ours to make tough decisions like raising property taxes, cutting school programs or further shifting funds from local priorities. As a former public school teacher and parent, I am committed to fully funding our public schools (as recommended by the Foundation Budget Review Commission), because I understand that access to quality, free, publicly-funded education allows all of our children to reach their full potential.

Fortunately, there are concrete steps the state can take right now to generate additional revenue to be invested in public education. In particular:

Pass the Educational Opportunity for All Bill – On behalf of Sen. Donnelly, I worked with SEIU to draft and file the Educational Opportunity For All bill, which would place an annual 2.5% excise on private university endowments in excess of $1 billion. This would only affect the 9 wealthiest higher education institutions in the Commonwealth and would generate more than enough revenue to subsidize the cost of early childcare and public higher education for all lower-income and middle-income families in the state.

Eliminate Special Business Tax Breaks & Redirect the Revenue toward Public Education – Since 1996, the cost of special business tax breaks in Massachusetts has ballooned from $370 million to over $1 billion annually. We have a responsibility to study the efficacy of these tax breaks and eliminate those that are not achieving their intended goals. While some are beneficial to the Commonwealth and its residents, there are countless others that are ineffective and enormously expensive. Any tax revenue that is recovered from the re-evaluation or total elimination of certain tax breaks could then be re-directed to fund our public education system.

Pass the Fair Share Amendment – Allowing Massachusetts to tax our highest earners who make more than $1 million per year would create a more equitable tax system and generate an estimated $2 billion per year for investments in our public education and transportation systems.


2. Where do you stand on the "Fair Share Amendment," which would allow Massachusetts to tax the portion of a resident's income that is above $1 million at a rate 4% higher than income below $1 million, with the new revenues earmarked for education and transportation infrastructure?

I believe that every person should pay their fair share and that our state tax system (which is regressive) should be reformed so that the largest financial burdens are not disproportionately placed on those who are least able to pay. I fully support the "Fair Share Amendment" to our state constitution because it would create a more equitable tax system and generate an estimated $2 billion per year for investments in our education and transportation systems. I believe it’s very reasonable to ask that the highest earners in our Commonwealth who make more than $1 million per year pay their fair share of taxes.


3. Compared to other states, Massachusetts ranks high in overall achievement but low in equity, with a substantial achievement gap between low-income and high-income students. How do we close that gap?

Closing the achievement gap between low-income and high-income students requires a multifaceted policy approach. There is no "one size fits all" solution to this challenge. If our state is going to succeed in closing the gaps in the opportunity to learn, achieve and access a better career path, we must undertake a wider assessment of the problems that contribute to achievement gaps and then dedicate enough resources to addressing those problems. For starters, as state senator, I would look toward the following reforms:

More Early Education Opportunities – While there is no single moment in life where intervention would guarantee success, research shows that having greater access to high-quality early education opportunities often leads to more academic and social success for students in later school years. Increasing access to high-quality early education programs – like after school and summer learning opportunities or free, publicly funded preschool – would provide significant benefits to children and are effective tools for closing the achievement gap. As state senator, I would search for opportunities to support and expand these types of programs.

Additional, Targeted Investments – Low-income students in poorer school districts have fewer academic resources and supports inside and outside of school in comparison to middle- or high-income students that live in wealthier school districts. We cannot expect to close the achievement gap and level the academic playing field when a large portion of our school districts lacks sufficient funding and resources. We need to reform our public school funding formula or explore new ways to generate additional state revenue in order to provide more equitable and consistent funding to the schools that need it the most.

More than just Education Reform – There is a well-established correlation between the student achievement gap and socio-economic disadvantage. In addition to education reform, increasing support services available to students and their families is critically important. Great teachers and abundant school resources are crucial, but it does little to help a student who arrives at school on an empty stomach because there’s not enough food at home or whose family is constantly moving or homeless. We need to do a better job of offering our most vulnerable students and their families access to safe and affordable housing, better healthcare and more job training and job development opportunities.


4. Our current school "accountability" system, heavily focused on standardized test scores and with severe punishments for schools that have low scores, was created to meet the requirements of obtaining federal funds. Now that Congress has significantly loosened those requirements, what changes would you make, if any?

Our current school "accountability" system is too heavily focused on standardized test scores and the need to improve those scores for improvement-sake. As a former public school teacher, I strongly believe that we need a set of objective standards in place to accurately assess how our children are learning. However, I am confident that we can develop an assessment system that holistically evaluates our students and takes into account the multiple factors that contribute to student well being and achievement.


5. Is there anything else you’d like us to know about your views on education issues, your accomplishments in this area, or your legislative priorities? Please also feel free to provide links to campaign websites and social media.

Education policy has been a long-time passion of mine. After earning a bachelor's degree in Education and a master’s degree in Special Education, I worked for several years as a public school teacher at the kindergarten and elementary school levels. It was there that I learned first-hand the obstacles facing public schools and the role that government can play to enhance our education system for students, teachers and parents alike. As state senator, I will work tirelessly to ensure that our schools have the tools they need to allow every student to succeed: small class sizes, high-caliber teachers, well-rounded curricula, and opportunities for active involvement by parents and the community. I will also champion additional education reforms to improve our public school system, including universal pre-K.

If you'd like to learn more about my positions on education policy and other issues, please visit my website at https://www.cindyforsenate.org or call our campaign headquarters at 781-316-0104.

Or better yet, please come discuss these issues with me in person at one of my upcoming "meet & greets" at a neighbor's home in Arlington (on June 2, 4, 7, or 10, just to throw out a few). To find out more about these events and others, please visit https://www.cindyforsenate.org/events/.

Also, feel free to find me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.