Devers, Rivera and Gonzalez said they supported the takeover, but said creating the need for it is among the worst of Lantigua’s failures.
“Let’s be clear – the school system was not given away. It was taken away,” Gonzalez said at a mayoral debate last week.. He said he supported the takeover but said he would want to restore the mayor “as captain of that ship” if he is elected.
Devers and Rivera want the state to stay.
“I didn’t support it at first because I was upset with the current mayor and the former school committee’s derelict behavior, which led to state control,” Rivera said. “Now that they are here, I believe that if the state and (state overseer Jeff) Riley can help us get ahead of the curve on making significant change, I support it.”
“The state takeover of our city schools was essential given the fact that the current mayor was incapable of presiding over a school committee that was dysfunctional,” said Devers, a former educator. “We are seeing some positive results but it is still too early. I will be ready to evaluate the effectiveness of the reform initiatives during the school year 2015.”
All four candidates agreed that attracting development and the jobs it brings is a first step toward reversing some of the city’s bleak economic data, including unemployment and poverty rates that stubbornly remain among the highest in Massachusetts and property values that are among the lowest.
Unemployment has edged down from 17 percent to 15 percent of the city workforce under Lantigua, but 40 percent of Lawrence children still live in poverty, according to the U.S. Census. Single-family home values dropped 5 percent in the four years following the nationwide housing crash in 2008, to an average of $167,77, according to the city’s Board of Assessors. At least 40 percent of the city’s homeowners owe more on their homes than they’re worth, according to a recent study by Zillow Inc.