I know firsthand that access to education has the ability to lift people out of poverty, and am committed to making sure everyone in the 13th district has access to top quality education, regardless of their zip code. As a member of the appropriations committee, I worked on a budget that provided the highest level of per-pupil funding in Michigan history. I also successfully advocated for $94 million specifically to improve literacy programs in Detroit. In Congress, I will fight to make sure all children receive a high quality education, regardless of what zip code they live in. I will fund pre-k and early education and work to ensure public universities are free for students whose families earn less than $200,000 per year. I will also undo all the damage the Betsy Devoss voucher program has done, by writing a bill to ban for-profit charter schools.
Taking Care of Our Teachers
Schools need funding, for smaller class sizes, for research based school improvement strategies and for staff. Our schools do not have enough teachers, largely in part due to working conditions that are causing teachers to leave the profession altogether. They need policies to address barriers, rooted in poverty, to academic success and support from parents and the community. Teachers spend almost $500 each annually to pay for school supplies, and this number continues to rise while their salaries do not. Our teachers need the right to bargain collectively, to be included in educational decision making. They need safe and healthy working conditions and securely funded retirement pensions to attract more qualified teachers to the field.
I am committed to increasing the staff of guidance counselors, social workers and psychologists in Detroit area schools. These professionals help to identify students’ needs and provide essential services to help them succeed. In 2018, the Detroit Free Press reported, “In Michigan, on average, one counselor is assigned to as many as 732 students. That’s the third-highest counselor-to-student ratio in the country.”
And Michigan is one of only 15 states without class size laws. Neither our students nor our teachers will succeed in an overcrowded classroom. We have a lot of work to do, and our children deserve no less from us.
Universal Early Childhood Education
Educational programs must start during early childhood. When education begins earlier, we know that outcomes improve. Even before kindergarten, young children have a tremendous capacity to absorb knowledge. We must develop pre-school programs to nurture their abilities. Michigan has two programs currently: Head Start and MSRP, but due to financial criteria there are gaps in these programs. Research shows that early childhood education is important for several reasons: it teaches social and emotional skills, it increases the likelihood of graduating high school, leads to higher grades, and can actually improve health outcomes as adults. We must provide early childhood education to every child, regardless of financial status.
Undoing the DeVos Damage
The DeVos charter school scheme is destroying our education system in Michigan and has hit Detroit the hardest, contributing to the closure of half the public schools. Betsy DeVoss spends millions of dollars annually lobbying Republicans to support her agenda. Voucher programs are funneling millions of dollars of funding away from public schools annually. Since their inception, test scores have dropped dramatically. Hazel Park actually switched from public to Charter Schools in 2012, and lost their high school as a result. Charter schools are not subject to the same oversight as public schools and are not required to provide the same accommodations to students with special needs. The bottom line is that schools are meant to educate children, not increase profits for investors.
Fully Funding IDEA
In 1975, Congress passed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which ensures that children with disabilities receive free and appropriate public education. At the time, Congress promised to pay for 40% of the cost of special education, but is nowhere close to fulfilling that promise. In Congress, I will fight to fulfill the promise to fund 40% of IDEA.
Funding IDEA would ensure that children with special needs receive the appropriate education needed to excel. When schools can fulfill the needs of students with disabilities, the entire student body succeeds. Furthermore, federal funding of IDEA would ensure that school districts can use their budgets to fund other needs, like hiring and training teachers and support staff or keeping programs and extracurricular activities that benefit children.
Investing in infrastructure
I am appalled when I see the dismal conditions in some Detroit schools: forty or more students packed in a classroom, rainwater on gym floors, teachers paying for supplies from their own pockets, no art or music classes, no science or chemistry labs, teachers and students afraid for their safety, and kids wearing winter jackets in the classroom for lack of adequate heating. This is completely unacceptable and has to stop. We must fix our failing school infrastructure, to ensure our children have the right environment to learn and succeed. As a State Representative, I was proud to work on a budget which included the largest funding for education in Michigan history. Billions will be going to rebuilding facilities and renovating schools. In Congress, I’ll fight to bring more dollars to our school districts, so we can continue to help our kids thrive, regardless of their zip code.
Higher Education and Skills Training
I know firsthand the value of a good education. Education was key to helping me overcome poverty, build successful businesses and create hundreds of high paying jobs. I want to ensure everyone has that same opportunity. That’s why I support free public college. I also know that college is not the right path for everyone and there are other ways to find good, high paying jobs. The skilled workforce is the backbone of our societal infrastructure and should be treated with such respect. Apprenticeships are often funded, paid, provide hands-on training & experience, don’t result in debt, and provide an actual pathway to employment. That’s why I also support free skills training and vocational schools.