A ROADMAP FOR 21ST CENTURY EDUCATION, ECONOMY AND VALUES
Our society is more divided than I can remember – systemic racism is killing members of our black and brown community, the climate crisis worsens by the day, and the income and education inequality gap continues to widen. Education is both one of the underlying causes and the solution to these and many other significant issues in our society. That is why I will fight for providing access to a high quality, affordable, accessible, and interconnected education system that covers ALL students from pre-school to higher education and adult education.
A strong education system is the first step in combating and eliminating systemic racism, disparities and inequalities, hatred, prejudice, and bias. A strong education system can give our students and workers the skills and training to enter and transition into jobs that can lift them and their families out of poverty and lift their living standards. A strong education system can prepare our workforce for a clean energy economy to combat the climate crisis. A strong education system will arm our students with the tools, mental characteristics, and knowledge they need to thrive in our society and in life in order to make their dreams and ambitions become a reality. A strong education system is also the antidote to criminal justice reform, mental health challenges, and the opioid crisis and substance use disorder.
We need an education system that works for EVERYone because education is and has the power to uplift EVERYone. A strong education doesn’t just help individuals and their families, it helps neighborhoods, communities and our entire society progress further.
Growing up in a middle-class family and being the first person on my mom’s side to attend a 4 year college, I know firsthand the importance of a high-quality education. I am the proud product of the Braintree, MA Public School system, Middlebury College, Hebrew University of Jerusalem (my Junior Year Abroad) and American University, Washington College of Law and Kogod School of Business. I am also the father of 4 young kids (rising 9th grader, 7th grader, 5th grader and kindergartner), currently in the Brookline Public School system. I am also the proud son of a father, who upon retirement, taught as a substitute teacher for almost a decade at Braintree High School.
Combating Racism, Hatred, Bigotry, Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism
In order to eradicate systemic racism and the prejudices and biases that exist in our society, we need to attack its underlying causes. In an OpEd I wrote for Commonwealth Magazine, I laid out a roadmap to eliminating racism, beginning with education. No one is born a racist. No one is born to hate. This behavior is taught, so we need to unteach it.
- Doubling down on our investment to teach our youth at the earliest of ages (beginning in preschool, kindergarten, first & second grade) that lies, prejudice, and stereotypes can turn into hatred, and even worse, death.
- Building pipelines, creating incentives, and removing barriers for people of color to enter into and remain in the teaching profession and the administration of schools. 20% of Massachusetts students K-12 are Latino, yet only 3% of teachers are. Students need to see teachers and administrators who look like them, understand their lived experience, and can be leaders and role models for them.
- Providing cultural competency and explicit and implicit bias and diversity training for all our teachers, staff, administration, and students.
- Addressing the exclusionary discipline problems that result in students of color and those with learning disabilities being suspended or expelled at higher rates in K-12 public schools. Federal data shows black students comprise of up to 16% of the K-12 public school population, but 40% of all suspensions. Research shows that students receiving even one harsh disciplinary action are up to 4 times more likely to be arrested later in life.
- Reversing the damage caused by the Trump Administration during the past 4 years in undermining and attacking public education and eliminating the rights and protections for women, communities of color and the LGBTQ+ community, including revoking guidance on how schools must treat transgender students consistent with their identity, revoking guidance on reducing exclusionary discipline, weakening federal oversight of schools, rescinding guidance on Affirmative Action, eliminating rules to weaken school obligations to address sexual harassment – making it more difficult for survivors of sexual assault to obtain justice, using Title IX to discriminate against transgender students, weakening protections for students with special needs, and so much more.
- Teaching Black History, not just during Black History Month, Latino history not just during Hispanic Heritage Month, Asian American history not just during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and LGBTQ+ history not just during Pride Month, but teaching these histories and cultures all year. We must incentivize school systems through grant programs to create curriculum to ensure historically marginalized communities and their histories are taught in the classroom.
Supporting Early Childcare and Universal Pre-School
We know that the earlier a child reads and writes the more likely chance they have to be successful in life. I want to make sure that ALL children have an equal chance of being successful in life, and not just a privileged few. Black students on average enter Kindergarten 9 months behind non-Hispanic white children in Math and 7 months behind in English. If we are serious about closing this performance gap we need to invest in our children at the earliest age by expanding our integrated curriculum from K-12 to early Childhood-12 by:
- Enacting universal pre-school for all 3, 4, and 5 year olds.
- Expanding Early Head Start for childcare services for low-income infants, toddlers, pregnant women and their families, homeless children and foster children, by expanding the income eligibility for those who can participate.
- Improving compensation and training for the childcare and preschool workforce to ensure they have the support they need and the children they care for can thrive.
- Helping childcare facilities and workers and families of young children who need childcare services recover from the COVID-19 pandemic by:
- Providing substantial federal aid directly to childcare facilities for personnel costs, sanitization and cleaning, personal protection equipment, training and professional development for health and safety practices, mortgage obligations, rent, utilities and insurance, and other goods and services necessary to resume operations under COVID-19 and maintain viability as a child care provider.
- Appropriating funds specific to providing child care and dependent care for workers.
- Doubling the amount families can contribute to a dependent care Flexible Savings Account
- Extending the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit by making it fully refundable and boosting the max credit rate to 50% and doubling the amount of childcare expenses that can be attributed to each qualifying person.
Investing in Our K-12 Public Education
Every child should have access to high quality public education, regardless of the color of their skin, their abilities, where they live or their socio-economic status. We know our education system is not working for everyone. Although Massachusetts 8th grade students have recently received top scores in Math and have been ranked in the top of the country overall, our Latino students have received low scores in Math and been ranked in the bottom of the country. The achievement gap is widening. To narrow and eliminate that gap, we need to invest in our school infrastructure and our teachers. Under COVID-19, we are seeing the education inequality gap widen even more, where in Massachusetts 10% of students still do not have internet and 20% do not have devices to learn virtually. As a Member of Congress, I will be a tireless champion of public education and:
- Build pipelines, create incentives, and remove barriers for people of color to enter and remain in the teaching profession and the administration of schools.
- Create incentives through increased pay, forgiveness of student debt and training for more high-quality students to decide to enter the teaching profession, especially in low income and communities of color.
- Invest in teacher preparation classes, allowing for mentoring and hands on experience prior to becoming the teacher of record.
- Invest in continual professional development for our teachers, including skill and curriculum training, soft skills, cultural competency and bias training, and leadership development.
- Invest in devices and high speed broadband so students have access to the tools they need to maintain their learning virtually.
- Ensure all students who are food insecure have healthy meals available to them at school.
- Reduce the number of and reliance on federally mandated high stakes tests for evaluations, while providing more individual and local evaluation.
- Provide more reliable, consistent and adequate federal funding for schools that is allocated to bring all schools to similar funding levels.
- Increase the number of adequate school counselors, school psychologists and social worker ratios for students.
- Invest in the education and engagement of our students around substance use, the opioid crisis and mental health.
- Provide significantly more funds for school infrastructure so students have access to clean air and water. All students deserve an environmentally safe learning environment.
- Invest in and provide better support for ESL students.
- Fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, allowing students with disabilities to receive the education and services they deserve, while easing the burdens imposed on local and state budgets to cover the costs of this unfunded mandate.
Investing in Our Vocational and Technical Schools
As we move towards a new technology and clean energy economy, we need to take advantage of our infrastructure and invest heavily in our vocational and technical schools, and in their teachers, staff and administration, curriculum and infrastructure. We need to invest in and support students who wish to pursue a trade and destigmatize the selection of attending these schools.
We must invest in creating and supporting comprehensive strategic public/private partnerships between our vocational and technical schools and private businesses, government and nonprofits. By doing so, we can ensure students can enter the workforce upon graduation with hands-on learning, internship/job shadowing, industry-informed curriculum, and education to prepare them to make an immediate impact on the companies that hire them, their families, their communities and our economy. By jointly developing talent pipelines between our vocational and technical schools and future employers, we can create partnerships that are mutually beneficial to employer and future employees, while also addressing the skills gap and employee shortage in high-demand jobs.
We must also open up and use our vocational and technical schools to provide free adult vocational education to adults of any age who wish to learn a new trade or be retrained. We should extend vocational and technical school days to evenings and add weekend hours to accommodate workers seeking retraining and fund these schools to operate extended hours by hiring additional teachers.
Accessible & Affordable Higher Education
As someone who still carries significant student debt from my education, I know firsthand what it is like to carry that burden. Student debt is holding our economy back and has crippled the economic opportunities of an entire generation of students. Student debt is also a racial and economic justice issue, as people of color owe significantly more than others, reinforcing social stratification and segregation. For the first time in many years, we have also seen a decrease in enrollment and graduation in students of color, because the jobs available upon graduation do not pay enough to erase their debt.
We need to make college more affordable and accessible. It is good for individuals, our communities, jobs and industries where the pay is low but the societal need is high, our economy, and our country. No one should have to decide between making their student loan payments and paying for rent or food. That is why, I will:
- Create a universal income based federal loan repayment plan, where we cap federal college loans at a small fixed percentage of the student’s post-graduation income until the loans are fully repaid – likely at the 5-8% range. No payments or interest would be allowed to accrue if a borrower earned $30,000 or less. This lowers the annual cost of debt burden on students and their parents, provides a mechanism for young people to pay for their higher education, and permits college students to enter occupations that allow them to follow their passion rather than forcing them into higher paying occupations.
- Fight for free college tuition for low income students and highly-subsidized tuition for middle income students to attend four year public higher education institutions .
- Fight for free tuition for low and middle income students to attend two year community colleges.
- Increase funding for work study programs.
- Streamline the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF), by forgiving up to $10,000 every year for the first five years.
- Expand the eligibility of the PSLF to include starting and maintaining businesses in disadvantaged communities.
- Expand Pell Grants for lower income students who attend private high school education institutions.
- Ensure that the interest rates of student loans are at the same friendly rates that any bank can borrow under.
- Ensure current student loan borrowers can refinance their debt at that same rate and cap their debt under the universal income based federal loan repayment plan.
- Ensure students are able to discharge their private and federally guaranteed student loans through bankruptcy.
- Create business tax credits for businesses that offer student loan repayment benefit programs.
- End state licensing boards from denying issuing professional certificates, occupational certificates, registrations and licenses for individuals who default on their student loans.
- Significantly invest and support our community colleges, and in their teachers, staff, curriculum and infrastructure.
- Invest in creating and supporting comprehensive strategic public/private partnerships between our community colleges and private businesses, government and nonprofits so students can enter the workforce upon graduation with hands-on learning, internship/job shadowing, industry-informed curriculum, and education to prepare them to make an immediate impact on the companies that hire them, their families, their communities and our economy.
- Invest in state funding for public higher education. Since 2001, Massachusetts has cut higher education spending 31% per student when adjusted for inflation and then increased tuition and fees to adjust for the funding cuts. The increased cost burden is being carried by the students.
- Improve the working conditions of poorly paid adjunct professors and professional staff, who rarely have access to benefits.
- Invest in the infrastructure of our community colleges and four year public higher education facilities.
Free Adult Vocational Education
Too often our policies and societal ideas of education end at universities and community colleges, but in order to improve the lives of millions of people we need to also invest heavily in adult education. Thousands of positions in Massachusetts and millions around the country are chronically unfilled because workers do not have the skills, training and/or language proficiency the positions require. In order to improve the economic status of individuals and their families, we must help them improve the quality of the jobs they can attain, the wages they can make, and the training and education they need.
As we recover from COVID-19 and try to combat the climate crisis, adult education is even more critical to skill building and training workers for 21st century jobs. While many employers before COVID-19 had unfulfilled high-quality and high-paying jobs because they could not find individuals with the requisite skills and training, many highly-skilled immigrants who had the requisite skills and training for those open positions, were not qualified because they lacked the English language proficiency. We need to close these gaps because it is good for the workers and their families, it is good for the employers and the economy and because it is good for society. That is why I will fight for:
- Providing free adult vocational education through state grant programs provided by the federal government.
- Repurposing existing infrastructure like our vocational and technical schools and community colleges to provide free accessible training for adult workers, so they can receive education without compromising their existing jobs.
- Extending vocational and technical school and community college days to evenings and add weekend hours to accommodate workers seeking to learn new trades or be retrained and fund these schools to operate extended hours by hiring additional teachers.
- Creating public/private partnerships between adult education centers, private businesses and nonprofits so these adult education centers can become a pipeline for open jobs, individuals can improve their economic condition, employers can address the skills gap and employee shortage, and our economy will grow.
- Investing in more and free English learning classes.