Democratic gubernatorial candidate Juliette Kayyem used a visit to a Brighton public school this morning to underscore her newly released education plan, which includes a push for universal access to pre-kindergarten as well as building stronger connections between high schools, colleges and the private sector.
At the Thomas A. Edison K-8 School, Kayyem nodded her head in time with the beat as about 15 elementary-aged students belted out a spiritual.
Smiling widely, she broke into applause as music teacher Deejay Robinson’s class finished its up-tempo rendition of “Children, Go Where I Send Thee.”
“That was amazing!” said Kayyem, a former state and federal homeland security official.
Standing outside, Kayyem said, if elected, she would continue Governor Deval Patrick’s so-far unsuccessful drive for universal access to pre-kindergarten in Massachusetts.
“You keep pushing,” said Kayyem, who served in the Patrick administration. “Other states are en route to universal pre-K, so we are falling behind.”
Bill de Blasio, the newly inaugurated mayor of New York City, has made universal access to pre-kindergarten a centerpiece of his agenda.
Kayyem, who announced her bid in August, said she would also work on expanding high schools’ ties to other educational and private sector organization in an effort to keep kids interested in school and boost graduation rates. She said the third big part of her plan was the longer-term goal of closing the “opportunity gap,” between the affluent and those who are struggling economically.
“Schools are a reflection of the ills of society. So, we’re not going to solve the challenges unless we begin to solve the income inequality and the economic challenges that so many of these families face,” she said.
While none of her proposals appeared to break significant new ground, today’s rollout is part of the Cambridge Democrat’s effort to show her policy passions expand beyond homeland security, her area of expertise.
In the interview, Kayyem also weighed in on perhaps the most controversial education policy issue being debate in the state today: Whether to increase the number of charter schools.
She said she is “receptive to increasing the cap” on the number of charter schools allowed in “ those urban areas that have those long” waiting lists for students to get in to charters.
She added she was a strong supporter of public schools and that charters could help make public schools better.
Kayyem has three children. Two are in public school in Cambridge, while one goes to private school.
She is among the Democrats running to succeed Patrick, who has pledged not to run for a third term. Her opponents for the party’s nomination are: Attorney General Martha Coakley; Treasurer Steven Grossman; Donald M. Berwick, a former Obama administration health care official; and Joseph C. Avellone, an executive at a bio-pharmaceutical research firm.
On the Republican side, Charlie Baker, the 2010 GOP gubernatorial nominee, and Mark R. Fisher, a political novice from Shrewsbury who aligns himself with the Tea Party, are running.
Two independent candidates have also launched bids: Evan Falchuk, an attorney and former business executive; and evangelical christian pastor Scott Lively.
Venture capital investor Jeffrey S. McCormick, an independent, is seriously considering a run as well.