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Rep. Ajello focuses on education, health care

Edith Ajello, D-Dist. 3, deputy majority leader of the state House of Representatives, is running unopposed for the third time for reelection to the General Assembly.

Ajello said running unopposed reduces the need to go knocking door-to-door and formulate a formal campaign. Having served in the General Assembly since 1992, Ajello said she feels that voters have been exposed to her long enough to know her and her stances on major issues.

"Having a contested race is healthy for democracy," said Ajello, whose district includes the University and other parts of College Hill. But she added that it was not her responsibility to recruit an opponent for herself.

Ajello said she is a strong supporter of increasing funding for education. "I don't see how you can have a future without an educated populace," she added.

Ajello has been working on legislation that would distribute state funds to public schools based on a formula that takes student need for resources and property tax capacity into consideration, she said, noting that students who live in poorer communities and those who face language barriers need more resources.

She also cited the need to support public higher education, expressing disappointment that tuition increases at the University of Rhode Island, the Community College of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College may have caused many students to forgo attending.

Ajello's political beginnings are rooted in education. She first became involved in politics at the local school level, serving as a tutor and mentor for Providence area students and raising funds to support after-school programs.

"I got involved in politics as a result of being a very supportive parent and an advocate for the schools," Ajello said.

In light of the current economic crisis, Ajello said she hopes to keep the focus on education.

"There are some things that I'd like to see happen that, maybe, have to be put off for a while, so that we can stress education," she said. State grants for the arts, for example, could possibly be cut in order to divert funds toward supporting schools, she said.

But Ajello emphasized that she would oppose cuts on state health insurance to trim the budget.

"Health care is just too important," she said.

Named a Civil Libertarian of the Year by the Rhode Island American Civil Liberties Union, Ajello said she recently supported legislation - with the ACLU, Common Cause and various media advocacy organizations - to expand access to public records for citizens. The bill sought to prohibit government offices from limited access to certain public records.

Though the bill was vetoed by Gov. Donald Carcieri '65, Ajello said she hopes the General Assembly will override the veto when it reconvenes in January.

Ajello said she has supported Brown students' efforts to engage with the community.

Recently, she worked closely with Democracy Matters, a campus advocacy group, to push a group of bills that seek to reform campaign financing.

Ajello said she has no interest in running for higher office.

"I've enjoyed working with my colleagues in the General Assembly and think I've been pretty effective at that," she said.


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