In the weeks leading up to the Sept. 24 primary, mayoral candidates looking to replace longtime Boston Mayor Thomas Menino have participated in several debates. In yet another debate hosted by Boston.com on Tuesday and Wednesday, the site featured three candidates each day to talk about issues dealing with diversity and college students.
On Wednesday, former Mass. Rep. Charlotte Golar Richie, former Boston School Committee member John Barros and Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley focused on issues of diversity in Boston.
“I’m more proud to be a Boston resident now than before this race because we can put forward really good candidates,” Barros said. “We need to celebrate that we can put forth different kinds of leaders.”
In 2003, school districts across Massachusetts launched the English Immersion Law that forced students with poor English skills to spend a year learning almost exclusively in English before being moved in to mainstream classrooms.
“It’s an example of a one-size fits all approach that doesn’t work,” Conley said. “I want to reform our system of education because one of the greatest tragedies to happen is for a kid to fall behind at school. It leads to dropouts and to a lack of participation in the work force and to poverty.”
Barros said having teacher accessibility for parents who do not speak English is important to keeping kids in school.
“We need to move swiftly to provide teachers with training so that they can train any child in any classroom and make sure the system is more readily accessible to parents who may not speak English,” he said.
Richie said teachers should be more cultural and should understand that many children in the public school system are bilingual.
“Boston is a city of immigrants and our public schools system is the ecosystem reflecting the diversity of this system,” she said. “We need to understand that our kids are more marketable to work if they speak another language. We want teachers who are respectful of cultural differences and culturally competent.”
On Tuesday, City Councilor Felix Arroyo, Mass. Rep. Martin Walsh and Community Organizer Bill Walczak debated on student partying and problems students have with off-campus properties.
“I was over in Allston on Linden Street when kids where moving in and there are big houses with dozens of students living in each,” Walsh said. “That is unhealthy living. We have to crack down on student partying particularly on streets where residents live. We have to crack down on landlords that are putting kids into these problem apartments.”
Arroyo said the problem is that college students do not have places to go party and, if they did, public transportation does not run late enough to accommodate them.
Walczak focused on issues students have with off-campus housing and landlords. He said many problems have to do with landlords and the housing effort to make sure every property in Boston is registered and inspected should help.
“One of the [problems] in neighborhoods are landlords — there are so many trashy absentee landlord properties,” he said. “I know there’s an effort to register every property and to have it inspected, but there are problem properties in every neighborhood.”
Arroyo said students should be encouraged to vote because the next mayor of Boston will make decisions that will change their lives.
“The next mayor of Boston will create more affordable housing, advocate for a better transportation system and will play a role in job creation so that when they finish school, they [college students] have work,” he said.