K-12 Education

As a public school student and the daughter of a now-retired first-grade teacher, Monica got a behind-the-scenes look at the stress teachers deal with. The stereotype of “lazy teachers who get the summer off and are just glorified babysitters” is a lie. Teachers work hard and do not deserve the extra stress of low pay and poor benefits. Improving the quality of America’s schools starts with making the teaching profession more respectable and enticing. This will attract more new blood and better skills to the field.

Part of the problem is reliance on standardized testing to measure performance, which started when Monica was in school. These tests cause extreme stress to students and often evaluate skills that hardly transferable into students’ adult lives. Large private corporations make huge profits from creating these tests and evaluate them based on grossly inconsistent rubrics. Furthermore, teachers must struggle to teach enough of the test’s material because it determines both student success and teacher pay. Instead of paying teachers, Congress and state legislatures would rather waste public money on ridiculous tests. Teachers work hard to prepare the leaders of tomorrow, yet they are vilified and forced to teach useless fluff.

Therefore, Monica proposes an overhaul of the educational system to make room for skills beyond bubbling in a test form. Students learn best when they can personally connect with material. Teachers work best when they make enough money. Where will the money for this come from? Schools can save much by abolishing standardized testing and reinstating traditional methods of teacher evaluation without corporate bloat.

The government also wastes money on voucher programs to send students to private schools. No reliable evidence shows that vouchers accomplish anything to benefit students since private schools escape accountability. By taking away high achievers from public schools, vouchers create the illusion that public schools are always lower quality. The also reroute public money to the private sector and ignore students from poorer areas.

Furthermore, many cuts to education have happened for the sake of tax breaks for billionaires. This does nothing but benefit billionaires, and money could be better invested in America’s future.

Since art surrounds students daily, the defunding of arts and humanities must stop. Arts are ways of understanding the human experience and help with learning and remembering other subjects. Sciences are equally important, and Monica proposes making more room for experiential learning opportunities like field trips. Preserving America’s national parks and museums will allow students to experience what they are studying firsthand.

Most high school students learn what a logarithm is and then forget it, but they never learn basic cooking or banking skills. Home economics should no longer be sole territory of women of past decades. Basic finance should not be limited to business majors in college. These are useful skills for a healthy society. Furthermore, civic education is grossly lacking. Many students graduate not knowing how local, state, and federal governments work. To raise healthy, engaged citizens, schools should teach essential real-world skills and knowledge.

Corruption in Higher Education

Monica has worked as an adjunct English professor and experienced the corruption rampant in colleges and universities. Despite the cost of tuition constantly rising, less money comparatively goes to education. Colleges now more than ever rely on “adjunct” professors to teach classes; they usually make less than half what full-time professors earn, receive no benefits, have no job security between semesters, have no path toward promotion or tenure, and receive no compensation for research, travel, or other expectations of academics. Students, however, pay the same tuition regardless of whether their professor is an adjunct. Monica can attest to the demoralizing absurdity of a system that treats highly skilled workers as disposable just because they weren’t lucky enough to win the hiring bloodbath for rare full-time positions.

Where does the money from inflated tuition go instead? Administrators have inflated their own salaries and increased bureaucratic positions, causing even public colleges to act like corporations. Much of the budget also goes to luxury amenities on campus and sports programs with highly paid coaches.

Federal and state governments do little to help, cutting public college/university budgets to give tax breaks to billionaires. However, large corporate interests like the Koch brothers contribute much to universities; this is why administrations will prioritize funding for business schools teaching the lie of trick-down economics.

Monica plans to introduce legislation to audit public college and university administrations and funding spent on education. Students need professors with time and energy to pass on their expertise, not adjunct wage slaves too focused on paying their own rent and student loans. Adjunct pay must be equivalent to full-time pay. This way, perhaps colleges and universities may be willing to hire full-time professors.

Student Debt

America also has a student debt crisis. Student loans are the only debt that cannot be discharged when declaring bankruptcy. The government even garnishes Social Security income to pay off student loans since they take so long to pay off. Interest rates are much higher than what banks pay when borrowing money from the government. In fact, the government make a profit on student loans.

Better allocation of funds in higher education would help alleviate this problem. However, existing student loans need a serious change of the rules, including a vast interest rate reduction. Likewise, the cost of tuition needs to come down significantly.

Monica will support Democratic efforts to make colleges and universities free or low cost for all qualifying students. Funding will come from ending ridiculous tax-breaks for billionaires and adding a miniscule tax for Wall Street speculation, which is currently untaxed income exclusive to the wealthy.

However, she wants to take this plan much farther. America needs welders, mechanics, chefs, and countless other so-called “blue collar” professions. Therefore, such programs should have access to public accreditation and should also have free or low tuition.

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Monica DePaul for U.S. Congress
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