My platform is all about providing a hand up to our most vulnerable citizens. I want to see everyone in our state happy, healthy, and prosperous. Until we end the cycle, we are in our fellow West Virginias will continue to suffer. I am tired of seeing our people hurt. I will be a representative that cares for ALL of our people.
I am a public school teacher, so of course, public education is a significant part of my platform. Teaching is a major part of my life. Public education is the core of our economic future. I know that the students in my classroom are the key to our state being successful. I will do everything in my power as a legislator to help aide their success.
It is no secret every student in a West Virginia public school, as well as across our nation, deal with the pressures of real life in addition to their studies. We have students coming to us every day after experiencing extensive trauma, often due to neglect and abuse. Our teachers and school service personnel need to have intensive trauma-informed training. We need to have a trauma-informed counselor in EVERY school. Proper training will help our educators recognize the signs of trauma in our students. We cannot continue to allow these children to fall through the cracks or to continue the cycle of hopelessness. I will work relentlessly with legislators to find funding to train and staff our schools adequately.
School meals in WV should be available to our students free of charge; no questions asked. We should also be packing any leftovers into to-go meal boxes for our students to take home. Our students should not have to worry about where their next meal will come from or if they are going to be able to eat when they should be concentrating on their school work. I will work with every legislator and any group to make sure that our students are eating healthy lunches for free.
As a public school teacher and a future Delegate, I will work with legislators to create and approve more Career and Technical Classes for our middle and high school students. We must provide our students with sustainable trade skills that they can begin using to earn a livable, honorable wage once they graduate. We must give the students an incentive to stay in school to earn their degree.
We need to take care of our students first and foremost because they are the ultimate reason we are teachers, but our educators need to be taken care of also. Teachers and school service personnel deserve ultimate respect. PEIA has been at the forefront of issues plaguing our great state. PEIA is used by state and retired state employees, that’s about 200,000 people who rely on it for their healthcare needs. We must find a permanent fix to fund PEIA so that the premiums do not continue to skyrocket each year.
Our teachers and school service personnel need to be provided with a competitive living wage. We should not have our educators qualifying for public assistance. Every year we are losing teachers to surrounding states where the pay is substantially higher. Our school service personnel are hard to find because they can provide a better living for their families in other industries. Until we pay our people what they are worth, we will continue to have vacancies in our schools.
The addiction crisis in West Virginia has spiraled out of control and is now firmly rooted in nearly every person’s life. Every day my fellow educators and I deal with the effects of the addiction crisis with our students. Families are being torn apart from addiction. We have over 7,000 homeless children in our state and over 10,000 in foster care. Until we can reach in and pull those who are addicted out of their hopelessness, those numbers will continue to grow.
I want to be able to write legislation that will provide more programs for anyone suffering from an addiction. Treatment programs need to be in every part of our state. Most facilities only offer a thirty-day program. I would like to see the minimum be sixty days. Once people have completed the recovery programs, I want to help them get back on their feet. I believe that there should be follow up programs that provide job coaching and job assistance.
Getting at the root of the problem is my main concern. We need to find out why people become addicted in the first place. Once we start working with our youth and pulling them from this cycle of hopelessness, we will be able to put a big dent in the addiction crisis.
Foster Care System
Our foster care system is broken. We currently have around 10,000 children living in the foster care system. This number has risen due to the addiction crisis our state is batteling. As a teacher, I have seen several students over the years come to school with their black trash bags of belongings because they did not know where they would be at the end of the day. I have also seen my seniors drop out of school or couch surf with friends when they age out of the foster care system upon their eighteenth birthday.
A school-age child should not “age out” of the system and be left homeless. I will work to write legislation that will fix this. The system MUST provide the resources for and require any host foster family to allow the young adult to remain in their home until after graduating high school. Our state already has over 7,000 homeless children; the foster care system cannot and should not contribute to that number.
I also want to write legislation to help these young adults after graduating from high school. I believe that putting money into programs and youth centers will help our state be even more successful in the long run. An eighteen-year-old who has been in foster care throughout their life needs structure after graduating. We need to provide them with youth homes that will teach them life skills to prepare them for the workforce or college; we need to help them find employment and housing. All of these things will prepare them to become tax-paying citizens giving them a head start they need to be successful. These programs will keep them off the streets, keeping the homelessness numbers down and giving them the support they need to not turn to the hopelessness of addiction.