"I love this job.
I love trying to help individuals with their problems, and then trying to solve those problems for everyone. I love listening to people's ideas and giving them a voice.
I am grateful to the people of Medford, Somerville, Winchester, and Woburn for giving me the opportunity to represent them, for sharing their opinions and concerns, and for letting me work with them to make Massachusetts a better place."
— Submitted by the candidate
The Mass. Taxpayers Foundation recently recommended that local officials be given the power to design their own health plans without having to negotiate with the unions, and that state retirees use Medicare for their primary health care coverage. Do you support these proposals?
"Changing plan design unilaterally is unfair, since it usually involves shifting costs to the employees.
I support the Senate plan to allow unilateral changes to bring the community to a benchmark equal to the GIC spending level, but requiring sharing of the savings, and coalition bargaining."
The foundation also proposed changes in state and municipal pensions, such as increasing the retirement age and capping annual pensions at $100,000. Do you agree?
"We don't need to increase the retirement age, since the system is fully funded and new employees pay for the entire cost of their retirement.
I voted for the recent Municipal Relief law, which caps pensions at 63% of the federal cap, or about $125,000, adjusted by inflation.
On the other hand, I encourage people to continue working, at least part-time. Our economy needs older workers, and working at a job you enjoy is good for your health."
Do you believe in keeping the requirement that a student must pass the MCAS or an MCAS-like test in order to graduate from high school?
Extensive scientific research proves that high-stakes standardized tests do nothing to improve student achievement or to close achievement gaps.
That's why the nation's leading researchers and research organizations, including the American Educational Research Association and the National Research Council, consistently oppose high-stakes standardized tests.
The proof includes the eight years of No Child Left Behind, which has had no impact on national achievement as measured in the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The reason is probably that no test can measure more than a small subset of what we want students to learn.
Teachers emphasize what is tested on the specific, high-stakes test that their students must take, and they de-emphasize what is not tested. Net effect: zero. There were many studies even before NCLB proving that high-stakes testing just doesn't work.
If we believe in using scientific evidence to guide education policy, this would be a good place to start.
There are other approaches to improving achievement that do work, ranging from reducing economic inequality so that we have fewer students from desperately poor families, to upgrading teacher preparation. Let's try something that works."
Should the state Legislature be exempt from the state's public records law?
"What I think should be exempt is communications from constituents, who may have very personal problems."
Cite any votes (if an incumbent) or positions (if a challenger or newcomer) you have taken that disagree with the stance taken by your party's legislative leadership.
"Expanded gambling and subsidies for particular industries.
Articles on these two issues are in my newsletter archives at www.patjehlen.org under 'Casino Debate' and 'Dissent on Life Sciences.' "
Will you make public any questionnaires you fill out in pursuit of the endorsement of unions or other groups?
"I would be happy to share these upon request."
Should the Legislature be subject to a full audit?
"I'd like to hear who would do the audit, but I have no objection in principle."
Is the Legislature holding enough full formal sessions?
"I don't think the number of formal sessions is the limiting factor when it comes to legislation. The real question is when bills are released from committee and when they are scheduled for debate and for a vote."
Should there be term limits for the jobs of House Speaker and Senate President?
"I have voted for the Senate rules, which limit the President to 8 consecutive years. I supported term limits for the Speaker as a House member."