In Quincy campaign stop, Coakley pushes for expansion of early education
Neal Simpson // September 23, 2014
QUINCY – Crouching low to talk with preschoolers and reaching through the crowds to shake hands with teachers, Martha Coakley sought Monday morning to highlight differences between her and Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker over the future of public education in Massachusetts.
With Gov. Deval Patrick and state Rep. Ronald Mariano at her side, the state attorney general and Democratic candidate for governor touted the success of Quincy’s Rosemary & Archie Wahlberg Early Learning Center and called for an additional $150 million in annual state funding to provide similar programs for some 16,000 low-income children currently on a wait list for subsidies. She criticized Baker, who won the endorsement of Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch last week, for failing to see the essential role early education programs play in improving the academic success of low-income children.
“What we’re trying to do is level the playing field to make sure that all kids have the same opportunities in early education, in kindergarten,” she said, standing in the parking lot outside the school. “We’ve all said, and I believe everyone here believes, that the quality of your education should not depend on the zip code you live in.”
Coakley says her plan would eliminate the early education waiting list in the next four years by starting with low-income children in “gateway communities,” a term that refers to Quincy, Brockton and 24 other mid-sized Massachusetts cities that are seen as regional economic anchors. At Monday’s appearance, Gov. Patrick declared that Massachusetts would see “universal” pre-kindergarten education under a Coakley administration.
In contrast, Baker has repeatedly questioned the effectiveness of early education programs and points to studies that suggest that the benefits of children receiving early education are lost when schools are not prepared to support them as they grow older. Baker has said he favors reforming entire school systems and using early-education programs only as a tool to help children in schools that are failing, rather than focusing on low-income children specifically.
“It is not surprising that the attorney general would choose one of the most expensive but less effective education policies to push,” Tim Buckley, a Baker spokesman, said in a statement Monday.
In Quincy, Coakley and Patrick accused Baker of failing to see the impact that poverty has on children as they enter school. They pointed to programs, like those at Rosemary & Archie Wahlberg, that identify children with dental and nutritional issues before they interfere with their education and create greater learning problems later in their school years.
“A difference between Martha Coakley and Charlie Baker is that Martha Coakley is thinking about ways the government can help average people help themselves and not just focus on the people who are well connected,” Patrick said.
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