Politicians, parents, community leaders, and business people all agree that education is a top priority. Not just our primary schools but also our schools of secondary education. The world we live in is constantly changing and becoming more interconnected every day. Creativity, personal responsibility, and innovation are in greater demand now than ever before and we need to prepare our children, and our citizens, with the skills and tools they need to succeed. The ultimate test of our democracy is what kind of nation we leave to our children.
No matter what you want to do in life, you are going to need an education of some kind. You cannot drop out of school and drop into an excellent job. You must train for it, work for it, and learn for it. In addition to improving our public primary school system, we also need to expand the options available to those who are completing high school. The traditional axiom of needing to go to college and obtaining a degree to get a decent job is not totally true; and has been causing the middle class in America to dwindle for decades.
Staffing agencies have said for years that the most difficult segment of the workforce to staff with talent has been the skilled trades. Machinists, electricians, and welders for example, which are the core of the manufacturing and construction industry in our nation. The average age of employees in these fields has slowly been increasing, due to the shift of focus in American schools to prepare students for four-year colleges after high school instead of providing them with a broad set of options to choose from. If we do nothing to remedy this situation we will soon be at a point where companies will have no choice but to move these good paying manufacturing jobs out of the country because of a lack of high-skilled American employees.
At the same time, nearly every state is also dealing with a shortage of teachers in public schools, especially in the subjects of math and science. A drop, in teacher education enrollment, and many teachers leaving to pursue higher-paying private sector employment; are the symptoms of the problem. The causes are a stagnation in teacher’s already low salaries, increased demand on teachers in the classroom, and a reduction of school budgets which ultimately reduces school resources available for students. Every dollar we spend on education will not only increase opportunities for individual advancement, but also contribute to long-term economic growth, more productive citizens, savings on social services, and an overall reduction of prison costs.
Improving the public primary education and higher education systems in our country is a multi-faceted issue which will require effort on multiple fronts; yet it must be our top priority, because our future as a nation depends upon it. In the words of John F. Kennedy, “Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream, which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength of the nation.”
As your representative in Congress, I will support the following initiatives and policies, which are aligned with the Michigan Democratic Party Platform.
Teachers and Faculty:
* Provide equitable compensation and benefits for teachers.
* Allow teachers to deduct all continuing education expenses, and classroom related expenditures, on their personal income tax returns.
* Implement a national system of teacher certification, versus state-by-state. Enabling teachers to seek employment in other states, without requiring them to pass another state’s certification requirements before job searching.
* Ensure schools are fully staffed with the necessary teachers, support staff and faculty.
* Promote smaller class sizes to help teachers spend the time they need to educate our children, so that our children can fully realize their potential.
* Ensure Funding so that every school has the minimum basic supplies and technology needed to educate our children.
* Increase funding to supply schools with the latest technology and resources; and enable them to repair aging schools and modernize school facilities.
* Raise arts support in the Public School System, growing band, theatre, and fine arts spending.
* Develop a national school grading and audit system which will provide the data needed to identify under-achieving schools that need more of our attention than others.
* Reinstate the nutritional value standards that were in place through the efforts of Michelle Obama.
* Maintain our schools so they are safe and secure for our children to attend. Instead of arming teachers, guarding schools like a prison, or creating “gun-free zones” in schools; we need to assign dedicated law enforcement officers within our schools to be the first line of defense in active-shooter situations. The Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 is a good start, but there are details of the act which need to be addressed, especially the clause concerning the scope of a school zone.
* Ensure that every child in America in the public-school system is provided with the adequate educational funding necessary to give them all an equal prospect for future success.
* Support and expand after-school programs and pre-school opportunities for our children.
* Improving literacy expectations and expanding the standards of basic education so that we are “raising the bar” by a little bit year after year.
* Promote an inclusive curriculum and increase the resources available to schools to address racially sensitive issues through education and dialogue.
* Fully fund special education programs.
* Develop programs to teach young adults the personal finance skills they will need to know when they are living on their own.
* Augment resources for basic job skills training and build a system of incentives for businesses to implement continuous job training programs to benefit themselves, the community, their employees and their families.
* Introduce legislation to provide a tax credit to businesses that hire union apprentices and implement tuition reimbursement programs for employees who are continuing their education.
* Work to find solutions to alleviate the burden of student loan debt that so many Americans are currently struggling with every day.
* Ensure that a secondary education is easily available to all Americans.
* Introduce legislation to provide all Americans the chance to achieve a two-year degree from a community college tuition free, as long as they are responsible students (modeled after similar programs implemented in Tennessee and Chicago).
* End subsidizing for-profit and cyber schools with funds that have been diverted from the public education system. For-profit schools, according to their business model, are doing poorly if they require a subsidy from the government in order to keep their doors open.
*Cyber schools, while helpful to some people in specific circumstances, should not be, and are not, an adequate substitute for the basic education available within the public-school system.
* Require that charter schools be held accountable if they want to receive funding from public dollars. School choice is not a bad idea, but before these schools receive any funding we need to hold these alternative schools accountable to at least the same standards and requirements which our public schools are legally obligated to maintain.
* Prohibit private, religious-based schools from receiving money intended for use in the public-school system. While there is nothing inherently wrong with a private and/or religious school, they essentially help to separate our American society into divided groups and should not be funded by the people.
I had never thought of running for office, even at a state level, until I watched the campaigns during the 2016 elections and their outcomes. I have been a lifelong Democrat and I have typically voted for Democratic candidates in prior elections; but after the last presidential election I realized that, we the people, need to find common ground on issues. I feel compelled to represent regular people, who for so long haven't had a seat at the table. People who have to work two and three jobs just to make ends meet, who because of these long hours rarely get the opportunity to even vote. People who may never see this blog, because they can’t afford the internet or are just plain worn out, due to overwork, and are too tired to “get into it”. I get it.
Regardless of which party we identify with or where we align ourselves on a particular issue, if we do not find common ground to begin a discussion of solutions, we will end up being bogged down in arguments with each other instead of working together to improve our country for all of us, including those sidelined due to income or opportunity. I was... no, I am still one of those people. The only reason I can run now is because I'm using my entire savings to do this, to get a seat at the table. A lifetime of setting aside a few dollars a week working in various jobs, Retail Worker, Caregiver for the Developmentally Disabled, Restaurant Worker, Housekeeper, Bookkeeper, and Tax Preparer, all while continuing my education, as I was able to financially. So if you’re struggling. I get it. I attended my first candidate forum last week and I realized that I was the only POC, Veteran, and extremely likely the only person who would still be considered “low income”. Because of these factors, I realized the current seat at the table I have may be short lived. But while I’m here, I will speak for the sidelined. I had to take the chance for those, whose voices are often overlooked, and very often discarded.
The only way we can move forward is to find the political center in our current maelstrom of government and politics; and return the representation of the people in this country back to them, instead of allowing a small number of high dollar donors and lobbying groups to have undue influence on the people elected. Those Representatives sent to D.C., work for all of us. We must return back to the original ideal of civil discourse within Congress, instead of obstructionism and lack of action from the most powerful of the three branches of our government.
Although I am a Democrat, and my private opinions on issues tend to align with the policies of my party, I also understand and respect the opinions and viewpoints of reasonable conservatives. If elected to represent Michigan’s 6th district I will not go to Washington, D.C. to push my own opinions on issues; I intend to work to benefit all the residents in my district. Regardless of their political affiliation or if they voted for me during the election. We must come together as Americans, and restore our democracy, in a way that allows all people from all backgrounds to share equitably in our public discourse, our individual rights, and the prosperity which was bequeathed to us by our Founding Fathers. We must resist temptation to allow demagogues to use our ideals against us, by sowing hate, discontent and discord among the good people of my district and America as a whole.
"Issues" blogs coming shortly
I was born in Texas into a middle class family due to the hard work, dreams and determination of my mother and father. He owned a furniture shop and she owned a flower shop. Unfortunately, when I was five years old my father suffered a stroke and our family lost everything. While he was in the hospital our house was broken into and we were robbed, which was the start of a lifelong struggle for all of us.
My mother moved my sister and I, up to Detroit when I was seven, into an area known as “Mexican Town”. Growing up in this beautiful, thriving, family-centered community, rich in culture, where neighbors still act like neighbors and look out for one another, was a wonderful experience. This taught me the importance of community and kinship, that for a community to prosper, everyone needs to stand up for each other and invest back into their own neighborhoods and businesses.
After graduating high school I chose to serve my country and enlisted in the Marine Corps. Serving as an active duty Marine for nine years I had the opportunity to see the world and show the people of the world, the pride I had as an American citizen. My time overseas in the service also highlighted many of the issues and struggles which the people of America, and the world, are still facing.
Whether I was stationed in Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm during the 1st Iraqi War, seeing first-hand the effects of the normalization of the oppression of women; or in Japan for two and a half years, noticing the differences and similarities between their culture and ours, every experience was a learning experience. Even while participating in exercises in Thailand and the Philippines, I was able to see the rampant poverty and disregard for their fellow citizens which prevails in a country run by an oligarchy, this is something WE must guard against.
Following my time in the military and returning to civilian life, like many other veterans, I faced the daunting task of reconnecting with the community and adjusting back to a “normal” life, in my case my “culture shock” lasted almost as long as my service. The anxiety and depression I experienced at the time, which I learned later; developed because I was experiencing PTSD, cut me off from the world; and led me down a path of self-destruction. It seemed like every day was worse than the last.
Luckily, I met a veteran at a free clothing distribution center who told me about innovative programs at the Detroit VA. While it took me several months to build the courage to ask for help and stay there long enough to see someone, it became a turning point in my life. Benefiting from the newly developed female support and addiction support groups at the VA, I was able to enter the VA’s CWT (Compensated Work Therapy) program, which helps veterans through mentorship, teaching soft skills, and training to overcome job stressors.
Eventually this led to a full-time position at the Battle Creek VA. While the work itself was not very glamorous, it was extremely rewarding, and I loved going to work every day. Being able to interact with veterans at various stages of their treatment allowed me to give them hope, and the belief that they could get through it too. Giving me the opportunity to give something back to my fellow veterans, helping to catch my “brothers and sisters” when they were in trouble, and making sure they got help before it was too late.
My compassion and desire to help others has led me to become a community and political awareness volunteer, a GED math tutor, and a volunteer with the IRS VITA program (which provides free tax return preparation for low income earners). It has also compelled me to enroll at Western Michigan University to complete an accounting degree; not just for my benefit but also for the benefit of the Veterans whom I still see as my family.
I have always planned after my graduation to return to the VA in some capacity and continue to serve my fellow veterans, to utilize my skills to make a positive impact on them and the community as a whole. Yet, with the current partisanship in Washington, D.C. and the number of representatives who speak for their party’s voters only and special interest money instead of, all of their constituents; I have chosen to run for the office of US House representative for Michigan’s 6th district. To fight for the rights and welfare of all the district constituents, not just for special interest groups or a select group of individuals; so that all of us can work together, towards a future of better days.