I am passionate about education. I spent seven years as an elementary classroom teacher and thirteen years working side by side with teachers all over the country. I’ve taught in a coal mining town in Virginia, a segregated school in Mississippi, several first nation schools in the southwest, and even close by, in Flint.
I also taught for four years in East Grand Rapids. I saw the stark contrast between well-off schools and families and those that endured the hardships of generational poverty and income inequality.
I often felt frustrated that the families who needed educational support the most were the ones who put up with broken-down buildings, large class sizes, fewer support services, and often less experienced teachers. I worked with teachers to develop methods that would increase learner engagement. But they often didn’t have the funds to purchase the needed materials or to take field trips. Many times, the teachers used their own money to support their students, even buying food for hungry children.
Support for Teachers
Our teachers have one of the most important jobs of all. Our future is literally in their hands. We need to treat them well, or we will continue to lose them. It is a crisis in some states, where class size is growing and temporary substitutes are hired with no background in education. In Michigan, teachers have had pay reductions every year for the last five years. Is this what we want for our country?
When I’m in Congress, I will push for a Department of Education that is responsible for ensuring equity in education; holding states accountable for the support of all students and providing the necessary resources for success.
Promoting Early Childhood Education
The first five years of a child’s life are the most critical for healthy emotional development and a solid foundation for success in school. If we want children to grow up and be productive, contributing adults, we must invest in high-quality early childhood education. Research shows that for every dollar invested in high-quality early childhood education, there is an $8.60-$12.90 return on investment. This means higher graduation rates, more careers, better health, less incarceration, and less government support. This is what I want for our children.
I founded The Creative Learning Center, an early childhood center in Grand Rapids, because I knew how important a high-quality early childhood program would be for the community. We served over a thousand Grand Rapids families over fifteen years. Yes, high quality early childhood education is expensive. It requires small child-to-teacher ratios, small group sizes, clean and safe environments, well-compensated staff, nutritious food, access to nature, a variety of learning materials and books, and family support. We have a choice….we either pay now or we pay a whole lot more later. I say we invest now for our future!
Investing in early childhood education would not only set our young children up for success, it would give families the peace of mind and opportunity to get an education and join the workforce.
Expanding Career Education
The young adult years should focus on preparing students for the responsibilities life. There are unlimited paths students may take, and a variety of educational options must be available to support them. The federal government must assist states with adequate funding as they develop affordable educational choices, including public-private partnerships, and ensure a qualified workforce for current and future needs.
The knowledge and skills needed for tomorrow’s West Michigan jobs will be ever-changing, and workers will need to update their education to stay current. We must be ready!
By investing in high-quality public education, no family should go into debt. We cannot leave our country’s future in the hands of the free market, where the motivation to make a profit supersedes the quality education of our children.