EQUAL ACCESS TO QUALITY EDUCATION. In the United States of America, your ZIP code shouldn’t determine your destiny.
We have a responsibility to provide every child with the opportunity to live happy, meaningful, fulfilling lives. That starts with building a world-class public education system for everybody, regardless of income and ability.
I am a product of the Holyoke Public Schools. As the first member of my family to attend college, I know how a quality education can shape the course of a person’s life. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the love and support of teachers and administrators who believed in me and made me feel like I mattered. But part of the reason I ran for mayor in the first place was that I’d seen too many of my peers fall through the cracks. I saw how the systemic injustices of homelessness, poverty, and unemployment affected my school district; I saw students and teachers alike fight to overcome these barriers.
So when I became mayor, we got right to work, re-imagining our school district and working to correct for the injustices that left too many students behind. We established support teams for at-risk students, expanded student options, and built positive relations between students, families, and community stakeholders. We developed a dual language program, the first of its kind in western MA, to support Holyoke’s Latinx community, which constitutes almost half the city’s population. Thanks to the determination of people throughout the city, Holyoke’s graduation rate has increased from 49% to 73%.
But for true education justice to take root in this country, cities like Holyoke need a strong partner in Washington. That’s what I intend to be.
Education Justice: Our public education system is not working for low-income communities and communities of color. I will fight to end the school-to-prison pipeline by ending zero-tolerance discipline policies. I’ll also work to allocate federal resources into HBCU and HSI teacher training programs, increasing diversity in our country’s educators. I will bring what I’ve learned in Holyoke to Washington, pushing for dual-language programs and deeper cultural education.
Supporting our Teachers: Teachers are American heroes, and should be paid accordingly. I support raising teachers’ salaries to at least $60,000 per year, and I unequivocally support teachers’ collective bargaining rights.
Make Public Colleges and Trade Schools Tuition-Free: Every single student deserves the right to go to college or vocational school. I support free public colleges, universities, and vocational programs. Moreover, I support the cancellation of all student loan debt.
Implementing Universal Pre-K: High-quality pre-K is directly linked to long term outcomes like high school graduation and income levels. We must work to implement universal pre-K that ensures a national standard for high-quality child care and caters to the needs of local communities.
Adequately and Equitably Fund Public Education: We must ensure that schools have adequate funding and that it is distributed fairly. Right now, funding for school districts is tied to local property taxes. This should change. Further, I support the quadrupling of Title I funding to ensure that low-income families have the resources they need. I will also fight to double funding for special education and to guarantee federal funding for year-round school meals for students who face food insecurity.
Invest in Students of Color: Historically Black Colleges and Universities are an integral part of our higher education system. HBCU graduates account for 40% of African American engineers, 50% of African American professors at non-HBCUs, and 80% of African American judges.
Hispanic Serving Institutions have full-time equivalent undergraduate enrollments of at least 25% Latinx students. In 2017, only 523 institutions met the federal enrollment criterion, yet they enrolled 66% of all Hispanic undergraduates. Right here, Springfield Technical Community College is one of 3 HSI’s in the entire Commonwealth, receiving only 68 cents for every dollar going to all other colleges and universities from federal funding.
In Congress, I will fight not only to make HBCUs, tribal colleges, and many HSI’s tuition-free, but I will also fight for significant increases in federal funding to these institutions for scholarships, research grants, classrooms, and labs.
Rebuilding and greening our school buildings: Across the first congressional district, many of our schools are housed in antiquated, and some cases unsafe, buildings. I will advocate for federal funding for rebuilding, modernizing, and greening our public schools.
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