Equal access to education has been an issue in America for the past 150 years. In the last two decades, public education has been hit especially hard by ill-advised federal policy, a focus on standardized testing, a broken funding system, and the migration of the wealthy into private schools. The result has been a vastly inequitable system that offers significantly different resources and opportunities to our youth, depending largely on where they live. This has to change. Education is the clearest pathway to the American Dream. We have to make sure that the dream is accessible to everyone. In order to live up to that promise of equality, America has to make sure that the education available to a child living in an impoverished urban environment is on par with the education available to the children living in affluent suburbs. To do this, states must abandon the current neighborhood specific, tax based systems in favor of a county or state-wide system that would distribute funds in a more equitable manner. As your Representative, I will advocate for a system that will actually deliver on the promise of equal education for all.
The Opioid Epidemic
Like many areas in America, Western Pennsylvania has been hit hard by the opioid epidemic. Those in power have addressed the opioid epidemic through an effort to criminalize addicts. For the most part, it hasn't worked. Simply locking up addicts will not address the issue of their addiction. America has to shift the paradigm of addiction from one of a criminal justice issue to one of a healthcare issue. Addicts need treatment. Period. Those who are importing and selling opioids (and other drugs) need to be punished accordingly. Still, America must get away from treating those who are caught possessing or using these drugs the way we treat violent criminals. Federal, state, and local governments must begin to allocate more money to the treatment of drug addiction.
It is important to recognize that there is no simple answer for America’s opioid problem. No single method of treatment will fix everything. The key to fighting this battle is to equip drug & alcohol treatment facilities, hospitals, and co-occurring treatment centers with the funds and resources necessary to find answers. Treatment programs around the country are woefully underfunded and overwhelmed. Dedicating funds to this issue is a necessary second step toward addressing America's drug addiction problem in earnest. The first step, though, is the federal decriminalization and legalization of marijuana. As places like Colorado have already demonstrated, legalizing marijuana will not only reduce the crimes related to the drug, but it will also create a windfall of funding that could be allocated to treatment of addiction to other drugs. I propose that a tax on recreational marijuana sales be created as a source of funding for three major areas: public education, drug addiction treatment, and research into the use of medical marijuana for the treatment of various health issues, including opioid addiction. The medical and psychological communities have long known that marijuana has medicinal qualities that are currently underutilized. It's time to remove the politics around marijuana and get real about addressing serious drug related issues.
Many of the people in the 46th District are rightfully concerned about their economic future and their ongoing ability to feed their families. As jobs in coal, oil, and gas become more scarce, folks are scrambling to find ways to earn a respectable wage. As we look to the future, we will need to make sure that we are able to train our workforce for the jobs of tomorrow while also remembering to protect the wages of the workforce today. We do that by supporting a prevailing wage for union labor and reducing the power of Right to Work laws; by supporting infrastructure projects and luring businesses to the region. By supporting programs and initiatives that will train or retrain our workforce in technology fields, we will make our workforce competitive in tomorrow's job market. As the representative of the 46th District, I will work with you to make sure these things happen.
An important part of my platform is the belief in equality. One area in which America has struggled to achieve equality is gender equality. Women in America earn .79 cents on the dollar, when compared to men. Women's health issues are routinely decided by panels of men, who have neither the expertise nor the experience to make informed decisions. Much of American culture perpetuates rape culture, misogyny, and the subjugation of women of all ages. This absolutely must change. Given the platform of a State Assembly seat, I would seek the leadership of female legislators and scholars in addressing these issues head on.
Criminal Justice Reform
It is no secret that criminal justice reform is a hot button topic in the media today. Many Americans, especially people of color, feel as though the American criminal justice system does not treat them fairly. It is important that we, as an American people, take these concerns seriously. In the State Assembly, I would call for comprehensive research into the discrepancies that exist within the Pennsylvania Code, complete with recommendations for remediation. We cannot address a problem that we do not fully understand. Once we understand the problem, I would advocate for addressing the issue at a federal level. Still, based on our current understanding of American criminal justice, there are certain issues that undoubtedly need to be addressed. The hyper-criminalization of marijuana, racial profiling, disparities in sentencing, and the revocation of rights and privileges of the formerly incarcerated are all among the issues that I would seek to address. America has always claimed to be about freedom and equality. It is time we make sure that freedom and equality are actually accessible to all.