As an educator, ensuring that every child, regardless of where or how they grow up, has access to a quality public education will always be my number one priority. I am the product of the North Carolina public school system; from Bruce Drysdale Elementary, where I later served as principal, to Hendersonville High School, where I taught math and served as Athletic Director, to the University of North Carolina where I earned a scholarship to play football, I can confidently say that I would not be where I am today without our state’s public education system. My wife Katy is also a middle school math teacher at Hendersonville Middle School where she was recently named teacher of the year. I am also the proud father of three North Carolina public school students, Kelan and Jacob who are graduates of North Carolina State University and Western Carolina University respectively, and Maya who is a rising junior at North Carolina A&T State University. Through my experience as a teacher, school administrator, and public school parent, I know that opportunities we provide for our children reflect the values of our communities, and are affected on the federal, state, and local levels. And it is that experience, from the classroom to the principal’s office, that serves as the driving force behind my campaign for Congress.
PRE-K THROUGH 12
When elected to Congress, I will fight each and every day to ensure that all of our pre-K through 12th grade schools, regardless of zip code, are appropriately funded. That begins with guaranteeing a universal,high-quality, preschool education for all. We know that many of the core learning competencies start before kindergarten and it’s time our public school system reflects that. By ensuring universal access to pre-K, we aim to level the playing field for all of our students, regardless of their parents’ income status. With respect to our elementary, middle, and high schools, the fight for funding will be a day one priority for me. I am proposing we significantly increase the levels of funding the federal government currently allocates for our K-12 schools, and to ensure that no student has to share resources and that our classrooms are able to nurture
the inherent curiosity, brilliance and creativity that each student is blessed with. As the country slowly recovers from the COVID induced recession, it is important that we prioritize education funding to ensure that our students’ needs are met and we are able to restore confidence in our public school institutions.
COLLEGE AND SECONDARY EDUCATION
While my experience as an educator ranges from elementary to high school, I know that a K-12 education is no longer enough to guarantee the success of each and every student. That is why we need to work to reign in the astronomical cost of a college education. This starts by giving students the opportunity to refinance their student loans as well as increasing funding for federal Pell grants. We should also look to offer free tuition at our community colleges as well as expand the Department of Education apprenticeship program to help train the next generation of high-skilled tradesmen. And while I am not in favor of offering tuition-free 4 year college, I am in favor of young people being able to achieve debt relief through national service programs such as Americorps, Peace Corps, and Teach for America, all things that would serve Western North Carolina especially as we work to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. By prioritizing the education of the next generation, our nation will continue to live its values of equal opportunity as well as maintain its competitive advantage against the rest of the world.
We need to invest in our teachers and give them the support they need to successfully educate and prepare future generations for success. From pre-K to high school, educators of all levels don’t receive the compensation they deserve or that is commensurate with their enormous responsibility. I have seen far too many teachers leaving our schools because they can no longer afford to live and raise a family on their salary. In Congress, I will work tirelessly to ensure that teachers here in Western North Carolina and all across the country can make an honest living. Not only is this the right thing to do, but competitive salaries will allow us to attract dynamic, motivating and inspiring teachers who can be tasked with educating our children.
TESTING & STANDARDS
I know from personal experience that students learn in different ways. Our children and parents need flexibility. The remote learning that was thrust upon teachers and students in 2020 made this all too clear as some students excelled in a remote or hybrid environment while others struggled. As a teacher, school administrator, and parent, I know that it takes everyone working together to understand how children learn and how to teach – not to a standardized test to make overall school scores higher – but to give individual students what they deserve. Accordingly, we need to strengthen the Every Student Succeeds Act to return standards to the states, while at the same time, not stripping schools of valuable federal resources. I know that this will allow us to give each and every student the individualized education that they deserve.
With the Administration’s push to invest an historic amount of federal resources in our nation’s infrastructure, we need to ensure that our students and schools are the beneficiaries of that investment. Here in Western North Carolina, that means first and foremost, we need fast and modern rural broadband. Without the connectivity of the internet, our students in rural school districts aren’t getting the same resources as those students in urban districts like Asheville. This also means that we need to prioritize rural bus services as well. No student, especially not an elementary student, should be forced to sit on a bus for an hour just to get to school. Finally, as is the case with rural broadband service, I know how technology can help unleash a student’s education, potential, and curiosity. This means that we need to have a 1:1 student to electronic device ratio in all of our public schools. Whether or not your parents can afford a laptop or tablet should not stand in the way of a student’s ability to learn in the 21st century.