Friday, July 12, 2024

In this year’s lively City Council race, eight of the 25 candidates are current members of either the council or the Cambridge School Committee. I’m voting for four of them Nov. 5: Denise Simmons, Minka vanBeuzekom, Craig Kelley and Leland Cheung. My other votes will go to five of the 17 candidates who are not members of either elected body.

I’m not supporting these four incumbents because I’m 100 percent happy with their past votes. I’ve disagreed with each of them on important issues. But of the eight council candidates currently on either the council or the School Committee, these are the only ones who seem to understand that the school budget is the city’s largest departmental budget and our school system is the city’s largest potential asset. Kendall Square should be looking to our schools for good ideas, not vice-versa. The school department budget is the foundation, the backbone and the blueprint for Cambridge and its future.

Until this past spring, the council passed the annual school department budget by tradition. The council was supposed to ask questions, but not too many. This past budget season though, councillors vanBeuzekom, Kelley, Cheung and Simmons voted for an additional hearing so they and the public could ask follow-up questions. (They received indirect support from Tim Toomey and Ken Reeves.) A simple request, but guess what happened: the four were publicly and histrionically attacked, most vociferously by some of their own colleagues on the council and School Committee. It was the first time I’ve ever seen Cambridge elected officials attack their own colleagues in print, and it wasn’t pretty. (Raising the question of who is able to work well with colleagues they disagree with!)

I’m excited about having five “non-incumbent” candidates on our next City Council: there’s a lot of talent in this race. But I want to re-elect the four members of our current council who have shown that they will not accept the council’s “we’ve-always-done-it-this-way” and “the-schools-are-not-our-business” politics. That’s why I’m supporting Kelley, vanBeuzekom, Cheung and Simmons. I want to be sure the next council understands that approving the school department budget is the council’s most difficult and important responsibility.

Emily Dexter

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Emily Dexter is an educational researcher and public school parent serving on the Cambridge Rindge & Latin High School Council and on the Citywide School Advisory Group.