I believe in using daring and comprehensive reform to hold our government accountable, rooting out corruption and empowering people. We must continue to put people first by ensuring COVID-19 preparedness and economic security for all Oklahomans.
We are currently experiencing a crisis unseen in our lifetimes. This crisis is urgent and has reframed the way we go about our daily lives. Therefore, we cannot settle for short sighted fixes and politicians who are simply “not that bad”. I am running because I understand how COVID-19 has affected and will continue to affect our lives, and I will do everything I can to work for a brighter future for Oklahoma.
As we have witnessed, our situation has brought many things under the microscope, including:
how Oklahoma’s state government operates and who exactly those in power work for
how fragile our economy really is because it favors the haves and works against the have-nots
how important quality, affordable health care is, and the injustice of not having paid leave now and everyday.
We must fight for relief measures now! We must have an equitable system for all.
Let me be clear, COVID-19 is a public health emergency and a continuing threat to Oklahoma’s economy. That being said, we must not panic but rather take immediate action to keep Oklahomans healthy and our economy strong during this outbreak.
Our small businesses are suffering, while our farm workers, hourly employees, and “non-essential” workers have effectively been laid off. I am calling on the Governor and Legislators to supplement any federal aid, providing essential funds for employees who have been laid off or have had to stop work because of the status of their job. The Oklahoma Constitution allows that “up to one-fourth of the amount in the Fund may be spent through the appropriations process for an emergency.” According to okpolicy.org, last year the fund was at $454 million dollars. That would leave approximately $113 million dollars to help families in need.
It is clear that we do not yet know the extent to which our health and economy will be impacted by COVID-19. In the meantime we must:
Make sure every Oklahoman, including the uninsured, get all coronavirus related care and testing free of charge and free treatment when it becomes available
Institute a statewide emergency paid leave initiative wherein anyone who has been potentially exposed can quarantine until test results return negative
HOLD A SPECIAL MAIL-IN ELECTION TO IMMEDIATELY VOTE ON MEDICAID EXPANSION
The foundation of a solid community begins with a solid education. Oklahoma has not done enough for our schools, educators, and students.
I believe in a strong public school education that is equally accessible for all students. We must support all Oklahoma public schools, so that they can provide a high quality education for every student. I graduated from a rural public school and I believe Oklahoma's Public School System is what’s best for our state.
Every child in our state must have equal access to high quality public education - no matter where they live, no matter how much their family makes, no matter what. Oklahoma is not providing the education our students deserve. We are near the bottom in most areas when considering the quality of our public schools.
47th in per pupil spending
34th in Teacher pay
1 in 5 : the number of Oklahoma schools with 4 day school weeks
180 : average number of school days in other states
165 : the number of required instructional days in Oklahoma
4 years fewer instructional days over the course of a K-12 education
The funding our public schools receive is both deficient and unjust. The primary manner in which our public schools are funded creates these inequalities. We rely much too heavily on local property taxes to fund our schools. This creates a situation where lower income areas are caught in the cycle of decreasing property values and declining schools.
We must begin to treat our teachers and support staff like professionals. Therefore, we must pay them adequately, give them the support they need, and listen to their ideas about how education should be done. Instead we take dollars away from our public schools and give them to for profit charter schools. These for profit companies exploit our state and our schools. We have to do better for our communities.
It is past time that we stop teaching to tests and start teaching to children’s creativity and critical thinking. We need social emotional learning in our schools as well as play based learning, especially in our early childhood programs. This kind of education takes pressure off of everyone in the classroom and creates a much richer environment for learning.
Criminal Justice Reform
It is past time that our state has meaningful Criminal Justice Reform. According to a 2018 report by the Prison Policy Initiative, Oklahoma’s incarceration rate is higher than any other state, surpassing Louisiana, and higher than most other nations.
The average incarceration rate as of 2018:
In the United States was 698 prisoners per 100,000 residents.
In contrast, Oklahoma was 1,079 prisoners per 100,000 residents
The way we chose to imprison people is just that, a choice. These choices disproportionately affect poor and marginalized communities. Our choices have led to our staggering incarceration rate. We imprison too many people! Drug crimes are by far and away the most common felony offenses in our state. Even with the 2016 referendum that reclassified minor drug possession and property crimes to misdemeanors Oklahoma still puts more men and women in prison per capita than any other state.
Other laws that were passed in 2018 that end some mandatory minimum sentencing “are expected to reduce only the growth in the rate of incarceration, not the rate itself, according to Kris Steele, chairman of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform.” Clearly there is still much work to be done. It is not enough that we give people their freedom from unjust prison sentences, we must help them find jobs, get training and rehabilitate.
This is why I support the Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform’s stances to Reduce Incarceration, Invest in Alternatives to Prison, and Keep Families Together. According to Elizabeth Warren, “Real reform requires examining every step of our system: From what we choose to criminalize, to how law enforcement and prosecutors engage with communities and the accused, to how long we keep people behind bars, how we treat them when they’re there, and how we reintegrate them when they return.”
We have to make choices that will reduce incarceration and improve how we seek justice in our state. We must clearly and definitively decide:
What we choose to criminalize
How we want our police and communities to interact
If we are serious about providing opportunities for rehabilitation
Whether we emphasize preventive justice or incarceration
The choices we make are the choices that decide the lives of so many Oklahomans.
I have seen first hand that it is vital to have a solid infrastructure. My parents suffered through an inadequate county road and many people in my neighborhood have told me about the damage poor roads have done to their cars. This damage results in unnecessary expenses for hard working families. According to a recent report written by the American Society of Civil Engineers Oklahoma received a “D” for our quality of roads. Creating better infrastructure for our community not only creates safer driving conditions but it also creates good paying jobs for the many Oklahomans who are in desperate need. We can no longer ignore our roads, bridges, and railways. We have to create a system of oversight for our state’s funds so that the money we have can be spent properly. According to the ASCE “more than 70% of motor vehicle fees are diverted to non-transportation purposes.” In this and many other areas our leaders are not looking out for us and that must stop. Because of our leaders dismissive attitude toward our crumbling infrastructure our rural communities are unable to get the emergency care they need which will mean an increased loss of life to our neighbors and families. With your help I will go to the capitol and advocate for the roads we need.