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6/25/2017

Education Policy Details

Monica supports true education reform. She opposes vouchers, standardized testing, and constantly increasing student debt. She supports affordable college and paying all educators fairly.

Complete Overhaul of Higher Education

I worked as an adjunct English professor lat the University of North Florida for over 5 years. Colleges now more than ever rely on “adjunct” professors to teach classes because they are so easily exploitable. I was paid less than half what a brand new full-time non-tenure professor with the same qualifications earned, with full positions being rare still extremely underpaid. I also had no benefits, no union representation, no path to full-time employment, and no job security between semesters. After I because politically active, my now-former boss told me to "go teach political science" and hired a different adjunct to abuse. I now have no desire to go back there.

Students, however, pay the same tuition regardless of whether their professor is an adjunct. Therefore, why do colleges keep raising the cost of tuition? That's simple. Administrators have inflated their own salaries and hired more overpaid bureaucrats. In essence, both public and private colleges are acting far like large corporations. Much of the budget also goes to luxury amenities on campus like opulent dorms and sports programs with highly paid coaches.

Federal and state governments, meanwhile, cutting public college/university budgets to give tax breaks to billionaires. However, large corporate interests like the Koch brothers contribute much to universities; this is why administrations will prioritize funding for business schools that teaching the lie of trick-down economics.

It may sound like I have a personal vendetta. Well, I do, but I also wholeheartedly want what's best for students.

I plan to introduce legislation to audit how public colleges and universities are spending their money, with public funds going to professors, programs, and materials, not inflated salaries and amenitites. Students need professors with time and energy to pass on their expertise, not adjuncts who need multiple jobs to just to pay off their own student loans.

Student Debt

The crisis of student loan debt is no secret. America also has a student debt crisis. Student loans are the only debt that cannot be discharged when declaring bankruptcy. The government even garnishes Social Security income to pay off student loans since they take so long to pay off, in part because the interest rates are much higher than what banks pay when borrowing money from the government, for some reason. In fact, the government makes a big profit on student loans.

I will support Democratic efforts to make colleges and universities free or low cost for all qualifying students. Funding will come from ending ridiculous tax-breaks for billionaires and adding a miniscule tax for Wall Street speculation and stock transfers above a certain amount, which are currently untaxed sources exclusive to the wealthy.

As for existing student loans, I plan to work with Democrats to find a way to lower interest rates, and, if possible, discharge a high percentage of that debt. I'm sure that ending billionaire tax breaks would help with this.

Improving K-12 Schools

As a public school student, high school teacher, and the daughter of a now-retired first-grade teacher, I've had a behind-the-scenes look at the stress teachers deal with. The stereotype of “lazy teachers who get the summer off and are just glorified babysitters” is a lie. It's an insult to me, my mother, and the many thousands of educators who reach into their own wallets and spare time to do the best for their students.

Teachers work hard and do not deserve the extra stress of low pay and poor benefits. Improving the quality of America’s schools starts with making the teaching profession more respectable and enticing. This will attract more new blood and better skills to the field. In short: Teachers deserve a serious raise.

Teachers should not be reaching into their limited personal finances for essential school supplies. This is a work expense, so work should pay for it, just like almost any other job. Schools need enough funding for supplies.

The government also wastes money on voucher programs to send some students to private schools. No reliable evidence shows that vouchers accomplish anything to benefit students since private schools have no accountability. By taking away high achievers from public schools, vouchers create the illusion that public schools are always lower quality. I propose spending that money on improving public schools.

As a high school teacher, I also propose an overhaul the school curriculum. Most students learn how to write a proof in geometry but never learn basic banking and skills. And last I checked, food is a necessary part of human existence, so why are nutrition/home economics mere electives? Furthermore, civic education is grossly lacking. Many students graduate not knowing how local, state, and federal governments work. Students need more than half of a course of government. To raise healthy, engaged citizens, schools should teach essential real-world skills and knowledge. Higher-level academic skills are great, but students need more everyday skills.

And don't even get me started on Common Core and No Child Left Behind. These are why we need more educators in the government.

Standardized Testing

The boom in standardized testing really began when I was in school. Even though I personally never had a problem passing them, they were still hellishly stressful. My joints never made cracking sounds until I hunched over my desk for the FCAT in 7th grade. They still crack to this day, even after seeing a chiropractor.

Large private corporations make huge profits from creating these tests and evaluate them based on grossly inconsistent rubrics. For example, graders may be told to see more essays that would earn a 3 according to the rubrics as 2s just so the test can have the corporation's desired results. Essentially, the state and federal governments are wasting gigantic sums of money on corporate profits whiles only hurting students.

Furthermore, these tests cause teachers to teach what is on the test rather than skills that students need outside of the test, lest they lose pay. Measuring teacher pay based on student performance may sound good on paper. However, the algorithms used for this are usually insane, assuming that a new group of students should somehow score higher than the previous year's students, that all students from low-performing to gifted should get similar scores, that students can somehow score higher than the maximum allotted points, and/or that all students have the same cultural background. I recall a story from my mom and a section on a reading test asking students in Florida to read a passage about how much kids like snow. Why should something so asinine determine a teacher's pay?

I would like to see standardized testing, at least in its current form, abolished and the introduction of new standards that measure students based on the skills they need to know, not what some corporation in another state thinks they should know for profit.

Stop De-Funding the Arts

Art is an essential part of the human experience. To an extent, it's what makes humans into humans. Furthermore, artistic skills are useful and huge variety of professions, especially in today's online economy. Art and music help with learning and remembering other subjects, like language arts, social studies, and even math and science.

Republicans may consider STEM and business as the only profitable fields for their donors, but that is far from true. It's also ironic considering that so many Republicans don't even believe in science like the truth of climate change.

Therefore, I oppose all further cuts to the National Endowment for the Arts and arts education programs. In fact, I will work for an increase in funding.

I also support preserving America’s national parks and museums to allow students to experience what they are studying firsthand. These are valuable learning tools and records of American history.

More Public Trade School Programs

As much as I support vast improvements to colleges and universities, one fact remains: Not every student needs to go to college.

So-called "blue collar" professions like welding, construction, maintenance, warehousing, shipping, firefighting, are sanitation are extremely important to a functioning society. They simply don't deserve the bad reputation that too many people give them.

That's why I will work to increase funding for public trade school programs, either through existing colleges and school districts or new institutions.

Final Thoughts

This post is rather long already. In short, the government and greed have broken public education, and I vow to work for a massive overhaul to address the real problems.

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