I grew up in the rural South, and our local schools were chronically underfunded. Yet, I was blessed to have teachers who cared deeply about me and their other students. School became my second home, and I worked hard to do well in the classroom. My family couldn’t afford to help pay for my college, but I was determined. I cobbled together tuition by earning scholarships, working part-time jobs, qualifying for a Pell Grant, and taking out subsidized student loans. With hard work and a lot of help, I became the first in my family to graduate from a four-year university. Education has the power to change people’s lives and put them on new paths, but we have a lot of work to do to ensure everyone has the chance to succeed.
Most of us believe that every child, no matter their color, background, or Zip code, has the right to learn in a professional, loving, and supportive environment. Deep state budget cuts have taken away millions from Ohio public school districts. Together, we can ensure that our neighborhood schools can keep their doors open and their classrooms innovative so we can train the next generation to become the leaders that we need them to be. We specifically need federal investment in community schools, connecting neighborhood public schools to community partners to provide all the opportunities and support students and their families need.
The biggest challenge facing public schools in Ohio right now is the rapidly increasing reliance on local property taxes in the wake of decreasing state investment. We need to increase state funding, but we also need additional federal investment in our schools. The reliance on local property taxes entrenches unconstitutionally unequal funding, especially harming students in poor neighborhoods and rural school districts. Congress should invest in large-scale infrastructure projects to repair, renovate, and build schools in Ohio and across the country, which would create almost two million jobs.
Congress must also face the issue of college affordability head-on, and I believe that expanding community college affordability, increased funding for our universities, programs to make college graduation attainable, and addressing the $1.7 trillion student debt crisis should be a priority. I also strongly support investments in vocational and trade workforce training programs to provide Ohio’s next generation with alternatives to college and the resources they need to be highly skilled and job-ready.