Education is, perhaps, the most important policy area given to state government. Right now, we are in a unique period for education reform. No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has put pressure on states and local school districts to ensure that every child, no matter of location, has the opportunity to obtain a K-12 education worthy of the 21st century. The state legislature constantly receives advice from many interests in regards to this area. However, when it comes to education, my focus will always remain on one aim: Academic achievement. As state representative, I will make education a top priority by proposing these policies:
- Missouri Healthy Schools Program: If we want healthy minds, we need to make sure that we have healthy bodies. Currently, our schools are not providing students with food options that support a healthy lifestyle. How can we expect students to make it through the day when chips and soda are consumed for breakfast and the cafeteria sells pizza and fried chicken nuggets for lunch? On a side note, this will help our health care crisis as well. Please read my health care position paper for more information.
The Missouri Health Schools Program will serve as a grant program run by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). DESE will work with participating school districts to develop its own wellness program. In turn, grant money will be made available to those districts as long as they continue to program. If elected, this will be the first bill I introduce on the house floor.
- Fighting the Privatization of our Schools: The Republican lead state legislature is currently attacking our schools. They are trying to divert state funds to private schools in the form of scholarship programs. This is nothing more than an irresponsible plan to starve the public schools of much needed money. As a state representative, I will vehemently oppose any program that takes funds away from our public schools in order to help the private sector.
- Expanding Access to Higher Education: In the 21st century economy, higher education is crucial. However, with the rising cost of obtaining a college degree, this opportunity is difficult to obtain for many Missourians. In the state legislature, I will fight to ensure all Missourians have access to college. Here are some key initiatives I plan to support:
o Expanding MOHELA's Services: Matt Blunt's policy of selling off MOHELA's assets is criminal. If MOHELA has more funds, it should give loans to more students and not fund private operations. We must ensure that MOHELA always serves its stated purpose of providing low interest loans to students who need it.
o Ensure Teach for Missouri's Success: I applaud my friend and supporter Senator Jeff Smith for creating Teach for Missouri. This program helps pay off outstanding college loans in return for teaching in low-income parts of the state, where our schools need teachers the most. The state legislature must fully fund this program, as well as promote it around the state.
o Pass 21st Century Scholars: 21st Century Scholars guarantee low-income students money for college if they pledge and succeed in seventh and eighth grade not using any drugs or alcohol and maintain at least a 2.0 G.P.A. in high school. I applaud the Democratic leadership in the state House of Representatives who have tried to push this program through, only to see it blocked by the Republicans. As a state representative, I will work with the leadership and future Governor Nixon to ensure this programs passage.