Education is a civil right and a human right. As a mom of two kids, including one in a Haverhill public school, I personally understand the critical role of high-quality teachers on the front lines making those rights a reality, and I understand that leadership at the local and state level is paramount. However, the federal government must serve as a guarantor of these rights, which are denied to so many children, especially children from working class families and communities of color, children living with disabilities and special needs-- including some in my own family-- as well as LGBT children. As that guarantor, the federal government can and should use standards, communication of best practices, and targeted resources to foster excellence and equal access for all children in the United States.
Education throughout our lifetimes is also critical to unlocking individual potential and expanding our economy. And yet, we have disinvested in public higher education for decades, and burdened Millennials and Generation X with a higher educational system that all but demands debt that our parents’ generations never faced, while closing off the option to many people. And people wonder why the American Dream is fading for so many. This doesn’t just affect student loan borrowers, it is holding back consumer-led growth in our entire economy. Congress has put the profits (and donations) of student loan lenders above students and graduates, blocking common-sense reform and the debt relief they so readily gave Wall Street. Working and middle class people of our generations, who have student loan debt-- like my wife and me and many of you-- are not at the table, therefore we have not been on the agenda. Let’s change that, now.
My initial proposals:
At least one year of universal pre-kindergarten in Massachusetts and America: I support a partnership between federal and state governments to make at least one year of high quality pre-K accessible to all working and middle class families. This is a critical investment in our next generation and our economy, which easily pays for itself in the long term with better student outcomes as well as immediate benefits to working and middle class incomes and quality of life.
Expand Title I funding: Title I funds are the federal government’s most effective tool in guaranteeing the human and civil right of education to vulnerable kids. I was a parent and a PTA Vice President at a Title I elementary school, and understand the power of these resources to transform schools and communities. Increasing Title I funds and expanding the flexibility for how they are used will improve both instructional time and critical supporting services— expanded free school meals throughout the calendar year, expanded before and aftercare programs and supportive services for parents to keep students in an enriching, safe environment in and out of school.
Federal infrastructure funds and national service corps to assist in upgrading and retrofitting schools: Many schools in the 3rd District have decades of deferred maintenance or improvement needs, from new roofs to structural repairs to HVAC to expanding instruction spaces. I will advocate for 3rd District communities in competing for federal infrastructure grants for these improvements, as well as the use of national service corps members labor and expertise to get this done.
Resist and rollback attempts to privatize our public schools: Donald Trump, Betsy DeVos and the GOP Congress want to plunder the public money supporting our public schools and vulnerable kids in order to funnel more money to charter schools run by for-profit corporations, as well as vouchers to support private and religious schools. I support properly regulated public charter schools as an important tool to test innovative practices for the benefit of the entire public school system, but they should not replace our public school systems or drain funding from the public school system. As a product of public schools, with a child in our neighborhood public school in Haverhill, and the former PTA Vice President of a Title I neighborhood public school, I will be a leader on this issue.
Finally fulfill the federal government’s promise to children with disabilities, and fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): For decades, the federal government has shirked its legal responsibility to provide a full 40% of the cost of providing children living with disabilities a high quality free public education in the least restrictive environment possible and appropriate. I will support fully funding this mandate that has been left to state and local governments for too long.
High standards, empower teachers: We should articulate national educational standards free from partisanship, and enforce them through incentives rather than punitive use of testing metrics. I support experimentation with funding grants to support teacher pay-for-performance programs in partnership with labor.
Clarify and reinforce civil rights protections for all students, especially transgender and gender expansive students recently under attack by the Trump Administration: I will call on the Trump Administration (DOJ and ED) to restore the guidance to schools on Title IX. I will vote to increase funding for the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights and rigorously oversee their activities so they will have the personnel, tools, and will they need to investigate civil rights violations in our schools and to enforce our nation’s civil rights laws.
Create alternative paths to working and middle class prosperity with federal support to apprenticeships: This old idea that combines education, mentorship and an income can be refreshed for the Automation Age and supported with tax credits.
Support tuition free community college for all and debt free public universities: The ability of Americans to work their way through public colleges and universities with little or no debt helped create the once-booming American middle class. This has not been a reality in most states-- including Massachusetts-- for decades. It’s time for revolutionary investment in higher education to open up community colleges for tuition-free lifelong learning and make public colleges and universities debt-free for working and middle class families earning up to $125,000, with a modest personal and family contribution and student work study. These goals will be achieved by robust federal funding and a highly incentivized match of state funds.
Relieve the student loan debt burden by expanding interest deductions, refinance options, and stabilizing the public service loan forgiveness program: I will vote to expand the existing student loan debt interest deduction from $2,500 to $5,000 a year, and incorporate a refundable tax credit provision to ensure individuals and families of the lowest income levels also benefit from it. I will vote to expand the ability for student loans to be discharged in bankruptcy, to stabilize and expand public service loan forgiveness programs, and to expand the ability to refinance student loans through the Federal Direct Loan Service program
Reduce public student loan interest rates, because the government shouldn’t profit off of student loan debt: I will vote to change the formula that Congress uses to set student loan rates, currently set from 2.05 to 4.6% above the 10-year Treasury rates. I will support reducing these rates by 1 to 2.3%.