To the Editor,
As a teacher, now retired, I worked for years to transfer the wisdom, resilience, and insight that I gained in public school onto my students. It was the greatest effort of my life and convinced me that education is the great equalizer. In the race for the U.S. Senate seat in Kentucky, Amy McGrath is undoubtedly the truest champion for education, and her bold platform is reminiscent of writer Robert Orben’s mantra: “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”
McGrath knows that within the walls of our schools, the next generation of Kentuckians is being prepared for the great challenges to come. She is a mom of three young children herself. She has trained her focus on what is best for our communities as a whole, because she knows that when students are well educated, they become productive citizens, find meaningful work, and contribute to their communities.
She supports Universal Pre-K, or “Headstart,” which studies have shown increases the likelihood of students’ success in high school and vocational or college programs, while equipping children with lifelong social skills. Amy advocates for investments in affordable broadband, calling the initiative, “the equivalent to the Federal Highway Act in the 1950’s” that will provide rural and disadvantaged kids with access to the tools they need to learn. And she understands students cannot learn in unsafe or uncomfortable environments, and will fight for federal grants to help poorer schools update their HVAC systems, their computers, and their crumbling infrastructure and water supplies.
Importantly, Amy will fully fund teacher pensions, and repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision and Government Pension Offset that has severely harmed teachers like me. In addition to my work as a public school teacher, I worked for 7 years at the Dairy Queen, labored at a Five and Dime store, washed dishes for my fellow college students, and taught as an adjunct professor at Georgetown College. I also took time off to stay home and raise five children, but because I retired before 27 years, the provision says I cannot receive my full pension, nor Social Security checks for all the work previously mentioned. That is Social Security that I already paid into. I am one of thousands of Kentucky teachers who are in this same situation. McGrath will change what Mitch McConnell will not.
Amy wants to reduce student debt by starting a voluntary, paid “National Service Program,” allowing students to go tuition free if they serve in places with greatest need. She also wants to expand the Student Loan Forgiveness Program, which will jumpstart our economy by putting more money into Kentucky commerce than in lending institutions and banks.
Mitch McConnell has not made meaningful changes to education in Kentucky. In fact, he has offered decades of impediments. McConnell has done nothing to erase the $23 billion funding gap between majority white and non-white school districts. He recently said that he will not provide funding to state and local governments struggling due to COVID-19 if there is any chance the funds could be used to shore up teacher pension systems. And, he has mentioned withholding funds to schools that don’t feel safe opening “in-person” due to the pandemic.
Time is up for Mitch. We need more innovative, equitable, researched-based educational leadership. Amy’s educational philosophy echoes that of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s who said, “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.” Let us safeguard our democracy and our public schools by voting for Amy McGrath for U.S. Senate on Nov. 3.