As a teacher and a teachers’ union leader, I have had a front row seat to the triumphs and challenges of our public education system. One thing has been consistently clear: as our public education goes, so goes the economy and our communities.
Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s Secretary of Education, is systematically undermining public school education and placing barriers to student success. Devos is thwarting the federal government’s established role in fostering educational excellence and equal access for all public school students. In fact, her policies promote persistent income inequality and racial disparities. These policies must be reversed.
Student debt has become the greatest challenge for our current generation of graduates. Graduates are putting off getting married, buying a home, and creating a retirement fund because of the burden of paying off their student debt. This not only makes America an unhappier nation but also slows spending by an entire cohort, when we need their spending to stimulate the economy and their earnings to replenish our Social Security fund. I will fight for students by standing up to attempts to undermine loan forgiveness programs, and I’ll make sure that private companies and government agencies are not profiting at the expense of our young workforce.
At the crucial early education level, we must invest in resources to make sure that every child is developing with essential skills for growth — regardless of family financial constraints. I will work for greater representation of education professionals in policymaking positions. I will push for the appointment of a Secretary of Education who has a background in public education and has work experience in public schools, not one who sees education as a profit source. We should be giving the power to those who know the public education system best.
We need to make education an attractive profession once again and create pipelines for talent to come to our public schools from higher education institutions. This starts with paying teachers what they are worth and supporting school budgets that won’t force them to use their own money to pay for their students’ school supplies.
As a single mother of three, I remember having to do the math about which child should see a doctor or whether a problem was bad enough to see a doctor. As a teacher and elected official, I have also seen and had to address the impact of healthcare insecurity on our Kansas communities.
The Affordable Care Act. The ACA laid the groundwork for quality health care to be accessible to all. And while Susan Wagle does everything that she can to stop Medicaid expansion, and Roger Marshall believes that some people “just don’t want health care,” I will be a staunch defender of the ACA and its provisions, particularly its protections for those with preexisting conditions, the provision to keep young people covered on their parents’ plans, and its protections for women’s reproductive rights.
Medicare for All. Let’s be clear, health care is a human right. It’s time to think bigger and consider an idea that builds on the ACA instead of taking us backwards by protecting insurance giants, pharmaceutical companies, and the lobbyists and lawyers they pay to influence legislation. I support Medicare for All because it addresses each of our current injustices. We can pay less for medication, cut middlemen out of the payment system, and finally focus the structures of health care on the patient. We can say goodbye to premiums, deductibles, and co-pays, and we can welcome a system that will take care of our people from infancy into their golden years. We need insurance that encompasses dental care, vision, and women’s health care and treats substance abuse and mental illness, regardless of a patient’s income, job, age, or gender.
IMMIGRATION AND WORKFORCE
Let’s get one thing straight, people come to America for the opportunities it offers them and their children. If people are leaving everything they’ve known to be with us and become Americans, that’s a huge resource to our culture and our economy.
Although some like Kris Kobach would differ, the rest of us know our current broken immigration policies aren’t just, they aren’t moral, and they aren’t sustainable. And as an immigrant myself, these policies don’t represent the country that welcomed me.
I know very well from representing Manhattan that in Kansas, small businesses, research universities, and agricultural industries depend on the talent of our immigrants. Immigration is a workforce issue. We can have a rules-based immigration policy and effective border security at the same time. This includes a visa system that’s responsive to the labor markets of our local industries.
I support DREAMers, those who have received status through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. DACA recipients are earn college and university degrees, and become our doctors, our police officers, our soldiers and veterans, our neighbors, and our friends. They deserve a path to citizenship, and the U.S. Senate must do its part to make this happen. The House of Representatives has passed the DACA bill that’s needed. It’s time for Mitch McConnell to stop objecting and do the right thing.
Industries should expect to have a responsive visa system, DREAMers deserve to continue dreaming here, and Americans deserve to sleep well at night knowing our borders are being secured while our values aren’t being sacrificed in the service of xenophobia.
GUN RIGHTS AND GUN VIOLENCE
Guns are a part of the Kansas culture. As a teacher, I know that for many of my students’ families, hunting is part of their family tradition, but even they tell me that they are terrified by recent events. As a teacher, I have also had to pull my students into safe rooms during active shooter lockdown drills too many times.
No teacher should need to wonder how many children they can shield with their body. No parent should feel the helpless terror of news that their child’s school has a shooter at large. And every student should be spared the endless “what-ifs” of shooter drills and know instead that they are 100 percent safe and free to learn at school.
Kansas gun enthusiasts, hunters, and all people who practice their Second Amendment rights with whom I have spoken know that being responsible for gun safety shows respect for our rights. Sensible gun control has never meant undermining the Second Amendment. It is plain common sense to remove assault rifles from the market and strengthen pre-purchase licensure requirements and gun purchase reporting laws. Just as auto safety requirements reduce road injuries and deaths, these changes can help us reduce the danger students and all of us face from the plague of irresponsible and accidental shootings in America.