I believe we need people in office who personally represent, understand, and are willing to protect and promote our state’s diversity. Diversity comes in many shapes and sizes, but our diverse populations aren’t getting what they need to thrive.
Every child has the potential in them to become a leader, a world changer. We need to see the ability in a child before we see anything else. Our students should be protected and challenged to reach their fullest potential. We’re not there yet.
- Roughly, only 65-70% of students with disabilities graduate high school.
- Tennessee is one of 22 states which still allows corporal punishment, and students with disabilities are more likely to receive it than their non-disabled peers.
- A majority of LGBTQ+ students have reported being bullied or harassed in school.
- Tennessee has double the national average of incidents of students bringing guns to school.
We need to take a hard look at why these statistics exist, and what we can do about it. As State Representative, I will work to ensure better information and education is provided to parents prior to their student’s Individualized Education Plan meeting, so they can be better advocates. All students thrive when exposed to inclusive, diverse settings.
We must ban the use of corporal punishment, not just on students with disabilities, but on all students. Instead of physically disciplining students, efforts should be placed towards nonviolent, constructive disciplinary measures that develop pro-social behavior, self-discipline and character.
All students matter. This means our LGBTQ+ students need to feel accepted in school. Bullying needs to have more serious consequences. I will introduce legislation that addresses harassment and/or bullying, and protects students against discrimination, based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Our students need to know we are doing everything in our power to protect them. Protection should include providing students with certified counselors and social workers who can help when students are at their most vulnerable. It should come from smarter gun management, and from addressing the real causes of gun violence, which go far beyond mental health. Protection does not need to come in the form of arming educators or putting a greater police presence in schools.
It’s clear from just some of the facts surrounding employment in Tennessee that we have work to do.
- Minimum wage hasn’t been raised in TN since 2008/2009.
- Home healthcare workers, doing some of the hardest and most physically demanding work, are paid some of the lowest wages, and often go without insurance.
- People with disabilities are twice as likely to be unemployed than their non-disabled peers, and are often underpaid.
- LGBTQ+ employers have no protection against discrimination in the workplace.
- Paid maternity leave is not required.
Critics of food stamps and other “welfare” programs say too many people are abusing the system, but they’re unwilling to raise the minimum wage so individuals can rely less on them. In fact, Tennessee is one of five states with no minimum wage law. We can all agree that $7.25 an hour is not enough to keep a roof over someone’s head and food on the table. It’s time we provide people wages they can live off.
We’ve taken a great step forward by passing legislation that adds business owners with disabilities to the state's "Go-DBE" program, which assists business owners from diverse backgrounds in contracting with the State of Tennessee, but that’s not enough. Discrimination in the workplace is still a reality for people with disabilities. I stand behind the creation of anti-discrimination legislation, and not just for people with disabilities. LGBTQ+ employees deserve the same employment and civil rights protections as everyone else.
Healthcare is a human right, but you wouldn’t know it looking at our state.
- Since January 1, 2014, Tennessee has rejected $2.6 million per day that would provide coverage to at least 280,000 uninsured people.
- Imposing work requirements on Tenncare recipients would cost the state an estimated $18.7 million dollars per year to implement.
- Approximately 46% of homeless adults in shelters are living with either severe mental illness and/or substance use disorders.
We’ve thrown away the opportunity to help more Tennesseans receive healthcare for too long. While I believe that Medicare for All is the best solution to our healthcare crisis, it has to be achieved at the federal level. But here in Tennessee, we have the opportunity to take the medicaid expansion. It’s time to stop failing 280,000 Tennesseans. I can and will work towards ensuring all Tennesseans have access to the healthcare they need, without work requirement policies that don’t work, cost money better spent on actual healthcare needs, and discriminate against people with disabilities.
There is no denying that we have a substance abuse problem. But we need to address the causes of substance abuse, treat people rather than incarcerate them, and provide alternative and less harmful methods for pain management, including medical marijuana. We need to develop policies and programs that broaden our mental health services and supports. Increasing access to social workers and licensed counselors is an important step towards helping reach individuals in need of assistance rather than policing them.