I come from a family of teachers. My mother taught third grade for most of her 25+ years at Iuka Elementary School. My sister is a special education teacher and an administrator in Alcorn County. I’ve been a professor of chemistry for over 15 years in Oxford. I understand the struggle that educators go through in this state. Every year, the state cuts our budget and expects us to do more and earn less. Teachers provide critical services to the state of Mississippi and deserve worthy compensation for the important work they do. I will work for increased federal funding for professional development for teachers. I will work to make federal funds available to support innovative teaching models so that we can maximize the potential of our students. With the ongoing “brain drain” from Mississippi, it is important that children who stay in the state get the best 21st Century education possible. I will work to make that happen.
Since Betsy DeVos became Secretary of Education, over 550 workers have left the Department and more leave each day. The reason is simple: they can’t tolerate the way DeVos sees students. Her background is in for-profit education; she views that education of our children is a way to make money. When DeVos and the Trump administration look at students in a classroom, they see dollar signs (as in “Trump University,” which just agreed to a $25 million court settlement for fraudulent education). I couldn’t differ more from that DeVos/Trump worldview. I believe students are an investment in the future of the country. I am the product of a robust public education system in Mississippi, but the opportunities I had as a student are continually being eroded. We need to stop the erosion now. We need high quality public schools. There is no reason students should have to attend private or charter schools to get a quality education in Mississippi.
It all starts with early childhood education, including affordable childcare and pre-K services. We need to fund Head Start. We need to equip our K-12 schools with 21st Century technologies, without which we will never prepare students for 21st Century jobs. We need access and protection for students with disabilities, an important area where my sister has worked for decades. We need to train a 21st Century workforce and prepare students for college. As a college professor myself, I know firsthand that this isn’t currently happening in the state of Mississippi. And we also need to understand that college is not necessarily the path that all students should be on. There are high paying jobs for people with vocational skills, and there is a shortage of people with those skills. I strongly support high school and community college vocational training for students. If you want to grow aerospace and other hi-tech jobs in North Mississippi, you have to have an educated and well-trained workforce. Education is also the way to end the school-to-prison pipeline that afflicts much of the least-affluent parts of the district.
Higher education is where I’ve spent the bulk of my career, including three years as an assistant professor of oncology at the Johns Hopkins school of medicine and then 15 years as a professor of chemistry at the University of Mississippi. The costs of going to college have skyrocketed over the last decade, and student debt is an ongoing financial crisis in the US, estimated to be at $1.4 trillion. Best estimates suggest as many as 40% of students with outstanding student debt will default on their loans, ruining their credit for the rest of their lives and resulting in them being hounded forever by debt collectors. College debt relief is sorely needed in the US to prevent financial chaos. If we can bail out the banks on Wall Street, we can bail out college graduates who actually work for a living.
My opponent voted for a bill in the U.S. House that would have taxed tuition waivers for graduate students in order to make up for tax breaks for millionaires. You can’t even make that stuff up. Let me draw a contrast for you. On higher education, I not only support tax-free funding for graduate students but also support reinstating, and making permanent, Pell grants for summer school. I support Second Chance Pell grants for incarcerated students so that they can get a job once they are released. I strongly support the role of community colleges in Mississippi, which help families with limited financial means get their children a college education. I support debt relief for graduates working in high-needs fields and geographic areas, like the need for doctors in most of rural Mississippi. And of course I support federal funding for basic and applied research at all of our Mississippi universities.
If education is your number one priority, I am your number one candidate.