The two State Representative candidates, Democrat Jerry Parisella and Republican Brett Schetzsle will debate for a final time tonight at the Cove Community Center starting at 7:00 pm.
This is a race that is of great interest to school advocates, because many of the budget issues that have plagued Beverly schools for the past several years have their source, or potential solution, on Beacon Hill. Municipal health care reform, Local aid cuts, Chapter 70 reform and MCAS standards, are all issues on which the next State Rep could have an impact.
The two held their first debate last night at the Memorial Building, and, compared to the previous week's contentious Congressional debate and the current tone of American politics, it was a dose of sanity—a generally intelligent and thoughtful debate about the issues.
As the Republican, Schetzsle is clearly much stronger in his criticism of Beacon Hill policies and the need for reform, but on some educational issues such as charter schools, the two seem to agree (both generally support the concept, but don't feel that a charter school would be good for Beverly at this point). On other issues such as the recent decision to adopt new Federal testing standards over the current MCAS system, their positions again diverge.
Some in the school community worry about Schetzsle's position on Questions 3, which most strongly oppose (Schetzsle states that he is undecided on how he will vote himself, but if elected will support the will of Beverly voters), and his blanket no new taxes pledge.
But most acknowledge the need for reform at the statehouse, and worry about the heavily Democratic legislature's ability to ever make any progress on municipal health care reform or "plan design" which the unions generally oppose. Many see plan design as the best way to get a handle on the spiraling health care costs that are paralizing the city and school budget. Parisella has seemed less that fully supportive of the concept at times.
The Boston Globe has posted a questionaire with answers from both candidates that further illuminate their positions on the issues.
Last night's debate, as well as hour-long interviews with both candidates will be running repeatedly on BevCam between now and the November 2nd election. Check here for the latest schedule.
All independent-mined voters who care about education should give both sides a fair hearing.
This site aims to inform and mobilize Beverly parents to take an active role in all issues related to the funding and operation of the city's schools. It was launched in the spring of 2008, when the city saw its first-ever override attempt fail, followed by the closure of a nearly-new elementary school. Subsequent years have seen further cuts that have led to larger class sizes across the district. While the opening of an impressive new high school and plans to replace the city's aging middle school give us reason to be optimistic, the school community must be ever vigilant in demanding appropriate school funding by city and state governments, and better community communications from the district and School Committee.