SALEM — Attorney General Martha Coakley says Massachusetts is in “terrific” shape to grow its economy.
The biggest challenge, said Coakley, a Democratic candidate for governor, is recovering from the recession while encouraging business development and workforce growth, she said. At the same time, the state needs to invest in education, transportation and housing.
Coakley spoke yesterday to about 100 business people at a North Shore Chamber of Commerce breakfast at the Hawthorne Hotel. Republican Charlie Baker spoke in April, and Democratic state Treasurer Steve Grossman will speak June 11.
Coakley fielded a wide range of questions on everything from the gas tax to the minimum wage.
Education: Coakley said charter schools and traditional public schools should work together to share best practices. She supported universal pre-kindergarten, and longer school days to focus on math, science, technology and engineering.
She said she supports lifting the cap on charter schools, but also argued for greater accountability and equitable funding between charters and school districts. She said some charter schools are “terrific,” while others have failed.
“We shouldn’t be warring for funds between public schools and charter schools; we should be financing our schools,” she said.
Business issues: Coakley said her philosophy is to listen to consumers and businesses who might be affected before taking a stand on proposed laws or regulations. She said regulations need to be imposed fairly, but officials also need to know “when to be involved” and “when to step back.” She supports raising the minimum wage.
Child welfare: The Department of Children and Families is overburdened and needs to be restructured, she said, arguing that it’s a mixed message to say “keep families together, but keep kids safe.”
“If you’re a young social worker with too many cases and you walk into a family with lots of problems and you are told keep this family together, but keep the kids safe, we’re going to make the wrong call. We know that, we’ve been doing that for 25 years,” Coakley said, pointing to the recent cases of child deaths.