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As a previous schoolteacher I've had the experience of teaching in public, private and charter schools. I know what it feels like to teach in all three settings and I can tell you the goal is the same: to give children the ultimate education experience. To that end, my conclusion is that public schools remain a fully funded guarantee, while school choice remains an option in communities who believe they are in need of an alternative.

In 2006, I graduated from Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis with a degree in education. Shortly after, I started my teaching career in 2008, and have been teaching ever since. Throughout my tenure as an educator I can tell you that the goal has always been the same: to provide students with the ultimate education experience. Proverbs 22:6 states that we should “train up a child in the way he should go...and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” As a teacher, this has always been my creed: to set goals for my students...then, chart a clear path that provides the challenges and opportunities necessary to make the goals attainable; and to provide the education and experiences students need to be contributors of society holding fast to the things they learned from those experiences. When a society does not have a strong public education system, it leads to wide-spread unemployment, poor health, exploitation, and other forms of breaks in economic growth.

My opponent, Senator Todd Young doesn’t know anything about public school education in America or how vital it is to properly fund it even though he’s a product of it. As a previous representative, he voted in favor of the Abstinence Education Reallocation Act (2013) which provided $110 million per year to teach abstinence in schools. Unbelievable. I can think of 110 million different ways that money could have been spent differently to benefit America’s children. Recently, he’s done nothing except for to blindly support every piece of legislation that diverts funds from public school education. This kind of blind salute is dangerous as it will only devastate America’s public school system. As a future U.S. Senator, I promise to work on the following in my first tenure:

  • Protect Public School Funding. Charter school funding and authorization is dictated by the states, but states receive funding for education from the federal government. The federal government decides how funds are received based on need. The question is how much are charters taking away from public schools and how much can charters fund themselves? In order to prevent charter schools from draining money away from traditional public schools, I will introduce legislation that requires annual economic impact reports (states). These reports should be considered by officials before deciding to authorize additional charters and/or provide any additional funding. States' charter authorization laws will need to be amended to accommodate this new legislation.
  • Expanding early childhood services and education in America. Most Americans are admitted to kindergarten at the age of 5. With most learning taking place in the first three years, it’s too late to ensure toddlers and babies have a strong start. Let’s give our children a nationwide head start in the learning process by investing more money in early childhood education.

  • Investing in increased pay and support for public school educators nationwide. Teachers deserve a pay increase. Bottom line. Point blank. Period.  

  • Ensuring every child in America has the same access to a high-quality public education. As a public school teacher in Title 1 school districts, I was able to see the downfalls in the public school system and gain first-hand knowledge. The downfalls aren’t a reason to completely annihilate an entire system that has stood the test of time and educated most Americans. Instead, these downfalls should be viewed as opportunities to enhance the system and improve it. Right now, students with low-income backgrounds receive less funding than other students on a per-student basis. This just isn’t fair. Reliance on local property tax revenue means wealthier communities are often able to spend more money on their public schools than poorer ones. We need to work on finding alternative ways to properly fund schools across America no matter where they are located. 

  • End districts’ ability to separate themselves from already existing districts for no reason and allow the Department of Justice and Department of Education to carefully scrutinize, investigate, and bring Title VI enforcement actions if necessary.  

  • Invest in school infrastructure and school facilities now. We need to take a deep look at how states and local governments are spending their federal funds and how the federal government can assist in providing more funds to repair and update school facilities.

  • All schools deemed as alternative sources of education to public schools (ex. Charter schools) should be subject to the same level of transparency and accountability as traditional public schools. 

  • School Safety First. I will start by expressing my deepest condolences to the countless families who have lost their children by simply sending them off to school and the hundreds of teachers whose lives have been lost doing what they loved most. While I am against the militarization policies introduced by the current administration (2020), I am for the investment of new and improved detection systems and devices, along with added security and guidance counselors. 

  • Introduce culturally relevant curriculum and multicultural education and training as a necessary requirement in all schools and universities.

  • Create and support national testing and licensing reform. There is a way testing in general can be beneficial to our communities, but when testing acts as the only barrier to one’s life goals and achievements, it must become illegal. This is why I promise to create legislation which will eliminate unnecessary barriers to work and commerce, such as standardized tests, old licensing exams and other forms of archaic assessment which only inhibit the full potential of America’s workforce and business market. We don’t need tests. We need authentic forms of assessment that allow Americans to demonstrate their learning in multiple ways. 

    • In our primary schools for example, standardized testing has led to beneficial activities like gym and recess being cut out, educators' frustration forced to teach to tests, and test results used as a reason to close schools and fire teachers. Testing has been used to keep students from being admitted to the schools of their dreams and as a result, prevented schools from receiving much needed funds. It has kept great American medical students from practicing as future doctors and nurses in our hospitals and clinics, which we needed desperately more than ever during the pandemic (2020). If the Trump administration wasn’t so quick to relax the telehealth rules, how long would it have taken for the licensing boards to do it? How many people battling with depression or other health related concerns wouldn’t have been able to see a doctor? Instead of addressing the structural issues in American education and what we deem as accomplishment, the United States Senate introduced a temporary solution in the form of a bill to grant 40,000 visas to immigrant doctors and nurses. The problem with that, is we have those doctors and nurses right here in America...trained, skilled and ready to go! Why do we keep creating barriers for ourselves? Why do we keep creating more and more hoops for ourselves to jump through? A generation of educators is retiring, and our country is facing a looming teacher shortage. Right now, more than ever, we need to move quickly to remove unnecessary barriers to entry for newcomers in the teaching occupation and many more. 

  • Addressing civil rights in education. The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is responsible for enforcing federal civil rights laws in our public schools. Under the current administration, many of the guidelines have been rescinded (2020). I intend to strengthen the department by giving students and parents the right to address policies that disproportionately harm students in a protected class intentionally and unintentionally (disparate impact). I also promise to introduce, create, and support legislation which provides protection to students who identify in the LGBTQ+ community and especially those who have become victims of sexual harassment and/or assault.  

  • Provide a greater chance at success for differently-abled students. Congress passed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1975 which promised to cover 40% of the additional costs of educating differently-abled students. I will make it a point to both renew and increase the amount of coverage for educating these students.

  • With respect to higher education, we need a general reassessment of purpose and ability to make college more affordable to the average working American. Our students must be job-ready and that means the ability to demonstrate competence on all levels. This goes back to my policy on creating curriculum which allows more hands-on and learning through experience. Finally, we need greater access first, to control costs, and college completion support. Let’s explore ways to reduce student debt.

Paid for By Hoosiers for Haneefah 
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