We need a champion for public school students and senior citizens

 

This week, when I returned to my classroom after our winter break, I was reminded yet again that many of my students don’t revel in vacation time. For them, a break from school means a cold home, a shortage of food and constant uncertainty. 
My kids walk into their school knowing that the building will be warm enough to allow them to shed their coats - if they have coats. My kids depend on the breakfasts and lunches served in the cafeteria to carry them through the day … and evening.
My kids know what it is to be cold, uncomfortable, and hungry. They watch their parents struggle over medical decisions - “Do we pay the electric bill or do we take Darrell to the doctor for his asthma?”
Even as my students - and their families - tried to cope with these living conditions and medical realities, our congressmen and president spent their holidays cozy and warm, content in the knowledge that they and their children and grandchildren are safe and comfortable, well-fed, and insured.  
As a public school teacher, this knowledge makes me sick to my stomach. 
My kids walk into the school building and are comforted by thermostats set at 69 degrees.  
Congressmen and their children - or grandchildren - have no idea what it is like to be cold. Or hungry. Or worried about a nagging cough and/or fever.
As we enter 2018, our Congress still hasn’t addressed the funding of CHIP, which is a vital means of providing healthcare for our nation’s most vulnerable children.
The White House administration and our Congress are out to gut Obamacare. They have no interest in continuing CHIP funding. They don’t care about the fact that our public school students count on their campus cafeterias for food. They don’t care that these same students’ parents must forego healthcare if they want to pay the electric or gas bills. 
Hunger, poverty, and illness are barriers to kids receiving the education they need to become productive members of society, and they prevent adults from being qualified, dependable members of a strong workforce.
There are solutions, but we need champions in Washington DC who will fight for them. They include fairly priced healthcare for all; education, trade, and technology to build a workforce; and financial security for singles, families, and seniors.
Medicare for All, including provisions to eliminate income and asset restrictions on people with disabilities will prevent people from having to choose between medical expenses and food. Limiting pharmaceutical costs allows parent to pay utility bills.
Setting a living wage at $15 an hour and tying it to inflation means people don't have to work themselves like dogs just to afford basic needs - because right now, working 40 hours a week at minimum wage doesn't pay for a basic 2 bedroom apartment in Pulaski County.
Meals on Wheels, which remains chronically underfunded, ensures not only that our senior citizens eat, but that they are checked on routinely. Preserving Social Security and Medicare - and tying their cost-of-living increases to rising costs of pharmaceuticals and medical expenses -puts more food on seniors' tables.
Protecting public schools and expanding them to include universal pre-K means fewer hungry kids. Making debt-free investments in our developing workforce's access to trade and technical training and higher education help keep people working and earning. 
I want to champion these ideas in Washington D.C. on behalf of Arkansans.

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