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.