Make Education Accessible to All
Even though our children are citizens of the United States, because they are under eighteen and cannot vote, they lack any representation in our government. And because they do not work, they lack financial leverage as well. Our children are not fully empowered United States citizens, and thus it is our collective responsibility to ensure their full rights.
We have let them down.
We’ve become a nation filled with schools that are underfunded and overcrowded, with broken facilities, and inadequate supplies. We are not giving the children of our nation the best education and care that we can.
The meager salaries we pay teachers only add to the dysfunction. Teachers become tired and less focused when they are busy worrying about how to make ends meet, or working another job to do so on top of being a full-time teacher. All of this must stop.
If we love our children, then our actions must show it.
Thus, universal quality education for all of our children must start with pre-school and extend through higher education. It should be available to all of our people, in every neighborhood in America. That means free pre-school, and free public colleges, universities, and technical/trade schools. That means making big reforms to the student loan programs, payment plans and rates that we currently have while also putting in place legislation that protects our students from predatory, unconscionable and impractical student loan practices, plans and rates.
Roughly every 100 years, the United States expands its public education system to match its increasingly advanced economy. And now, it’s time to expand our national education system to include tuition-free public college and trade school. In fact, we’ve had this system before: The University of California system offered free tuition at its schools until the 1980s.
We need to honor our children and ensure a bright future for the generations after us.
And the way to help our people and country thrive is by unleashing the creativity, power, potential and spirit of the American people, starting with those fresh out of school.
At the end of WW2, the GI Bill helped build America’s great middle class – the same middle class that has been decimated by corporate-driven economics over the last forty years. A GI Bill level of investment in educating America’s youth would help bring the middle class back.
Why We Need It
Education is a form of empowerment, while under-education is a form of oppression. Our country is the only country that funds our public education through property taxes, ensuring that children from poorer neighborhoods receive a poorer education, thus deepening the roots of wealth inequality.
Many of our American children go to schools that lack the minimum supplies necessary to teach a child to read. A child who cannot read by the age of eight is less likely to graduate from high school and more likely to one day be incarcerated. This is more than an “educational issue”. It is a humanitarian crisis. In the richest country in the world.
The high cost of higher education is putting college out of the reach for many students unless their parents are wealthy. With a graduate leaving school anywhere from $10,000 – $250,000 in debt, our student loans now total over $1.5 trillion. And then on top of this, we let our government officials, like our current congressman pocket money from these student loan debt collectors? Isn’t this crazy? Why do we keep on electing officials who have no interest in investing in our children and future generations? It’s no wonder, then, that student loans are the only loans and form of debt that you cannot discharge when filing for bankruptcy in America – because politicians like our current Congressman take money from these corporate interests and are tainted. Our own politicians seem to support raising a generation of indentured servants who will spend decades – if not a lifetime – paying off banks, who then pay politicians like our current Congressman. I’m not lying.
What We Are Fighting For
In addition to fighting for free public school higher education for all (i.e., 2-yr, 4-yr, trade/vocational school), much can be done the area of student debt and finance reform, be it cancelling all current student debt on a one-time basis, extending federal student loan and tuition assistance programs to all forms of technical/trade school programs (i.e., coding bootcamp, music production, etc.), extending the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program to ALL students and graduates so that all of our students and graduates aren’t required to pay more than 10% of their annual income on student loans, and beyond 120 monthly payments, making student loans dischargeable, banning elected officials from pocketing money by student debt collectors and banks, or enacting legislation that restricts student loan companies and debt collectors from engaging in predatory practices. And I will make sure that we do not fall behind, and that no community is left behind because there isn’t equal access to good education.
In addition to major student funding and debt reform, we have the opportunity of really investing into our children and education system, where our children and all of us are actually learning, and not just memorizing and reciting back facts and pieces of information. I’ll push for legislation requiring a far more expansive array of educational approaches, including social and emotional learning; the development of conflict resolution skills; restorative justice (schools who implement such programs have seen up to a 65% reduction in violence and disorderly conduct); meditation and mindfulness; comparative religion (for the sake of spiritual enlightenment and to help ease religious strife); anti-bullying programs; and the fostering of other practical life skills to help prepare children for a meaningful life. We need a whole-person educational system that addresses the heart and soul as well as the intellect. And with this includes reforming out of control testing as we need to reduce the amount of high-stakes testing required and the associated value added model that unfairly associates teacher and school performance with the results of those high-stakes tests, and pushing for legislation that provides more teacher training programs and teacher retention, along with investing in teacher education programs that provide best practices and developmentally appropriate models of education for our future teachers, because by doing so, we give our teachers adequate preparation, support, leadership, autonomy, and compensation (pay) that reflects their professional stature – we need to ensure that teachers face classrooms of a manageable size – and that means hiring more teachers overall. Student/teacher ratios must shrink.
Universal pre-school must be provided to all children, while also ensuring that our children and students are able to pursue non-traditional opportunities in education as well, be it in the trades or technical areas. We must restrict the influence of corporate money on our education system, while also ensuring the safety of our children and students in school so they don’t have to worry about being in harm each day – and that means requiring very thorough background check and gun control and safety measures.
All of these things done together, with the focus really being on the overall health and well-being of our children and students, on all levels, including mental and emotional, is how we empower and unleash the spirit of our people and generations to come, to their full and greatest potential.
What It Will Do
Education is not only a gateway to a better job, but also to a more empowered life. Good universal education is essential to a democracy because it gives the tools to all citizens to think, and to act, with the power that is necessary for self-governance.
Without trained minds, we are less prepared for engaged citizenship. A more conscious sense of citizenship is imperative if we’re to right the ship of our democracy. Democracy bestows more than rights; it bestows responsibilities as well: the responsibility to understand what is happening to our country and communities from within, to make carefully considered decisions regarding who we elect to represent us. Education gives us a greater ability to direct our own lives, and a greater ability to direct the fate of our nation.