As a teacher in a middle school in KC’s urban core, I learned firsthand the problems of a struggling school system. Lack of funding meant teachers bought their own sets of classroom books. There was uncertainty around testing and performance. Cuts to programs meant our students missed out on enriching opportunities. My students' basic needs too often went neglected. These experiences informed my decision to run for office, and my greatest commitment is to advocate for students.
In order to set our kids up for success, we must prioritize these areas:
-Investments in early childhood education and universal pre-K in Missouri. Decades of research proves public investment in early childhood education offers tremendous economic and social benefit.
-Recruitment and retention of high quality educators. Missouri is on the brink of a major teacher shortage; we need great people in the classroom, and we need them to feel supported.
-Focus on early literacy. It's hugely important that students read on grade level and eventually graduate from "learning to read" to "reading to learn".
-Student-centered instruction that excites students' curiosities and passions. We must encourage practices like project learning that engender high levels of engagement and critical thinking.
We know a highly educated and skilled workforce is key to a strong economy and positive society. We must fund education -- and create policy -- that demonstrates a commitment to our children's futures.
A few years ago, we experienced the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Like a lot of people, I conducted a job search in that difficult economic climate. Hard-working Missourians continue to struggle to find jobs in this economy and an understanding of their struggle motivates me to support legislation that addresses both the short-term and long-term jobs problem.
In order to help grow our economy, we must:
-Fund infrastructure projects. Missouri's aging infrastructure results in major losses to our economy. It's also a matter of keeping people safe.
-Invest in higher education. Missouri's two- and four-year colleges have suffered major cuts over subsequent years. There is no way that Missouri can remain competitive without adequately funding our higher education institutions.
-Foster programs that support entrepreneurship, research, technology and innovation. We should strive to create an environment in Missouri that is the most entrepreneurial in the country.
-Respect workers and support legislation that protects their rights to request fair wages and good working conditions. A strong middle class is key to bettering Missouri, and we must guarantee that we put policies in place that protect and grow the middle class.
I understand the need to approach the budget in a sensible way. Funds are not limitless, and taxpayers deserve responsible use of their money. But as our legislature determines its budget, it is worthwhile to prioritize programs that stimulate economic growth in the short-term and guarantee a better Missouri in the future.
An unexpected trip to the emergency room should not result in crippling debt, and one should not be denied access to affordable care based on income or a pre-existing condition.
In order to make Missouri's largest industry work for us, we must:
-Expand medicaid. The decision to not expand the program results in a loss of coverage for 300,000 lower-income adults in Missouri as well as an estimated $1.7 billion in economic activity.
-Improve access to primary care. Thirty-seven percent of Missouri's population lives in rural areas, but only eighteen percent of primary care physicians are located in those rural counties. Opportunities to expand access -- through means like telehealth services and expanding the permitted scope of practice for Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN) -- should be supported.
-Battle the opioid drug crisis. This nonpartisan issue is wrecking havoc on our state. Measures like expanding access to treatment, setting up needle-exchange programs, and covering behavioral health services are initiatives that can address the epidemic.
Ethical & Responsive Government
Our state government should be of the people, for the people, by the people. Increasingly, scandals have cast dark shadows over Missouri's Capitol and rightfully undermined the public's trust in their elected officials.
In an effort to make government more transparent and representative, I have:
-Voted for lobbyist gift bans. Before the recent passage of Clean Missouri, legislators could accept unlimited gifts for unlimited amounts. I voted in favor of complete bans of lobbyist gifts and offered amendments to close loopholes in proposed legislation. Undue influence -- even the perception of it -- hurts our institutions.
-Sponsored legislation that requires transparency for dark money organizations. Dark money organizations are not governed by the same campaign finance laws as candidates and campaigns. They can receive unlimited amounts of money, spend money in any way that they chose, and never have to disclose how the money is being spent. Dark money organizations can try to influence election outcomes, and voters are left uninformed. I sponsored legislation that would require disclosures of major contributors to these dark money groups.
-Held elected leaders accountable. We should hold high standards for office holders. When leaders do not meet those standards, it is time to hold them accountable.