A Quality Public Education For Our Kids

Georgia has the sixth-largest public school system in the United States, but for the last two decades, our public education system has been consistently underfunded. In failing to fully fund Quality Basic Education (QBE) over the last decade, the state legislature has cut $10.2 billion in funding for our state’s children, including more than $600 million in Cobb County alone. This equates to more than $6,000 for every student currently in the educational system. This discrepancy is felt most in districts in rural Georgia and communities with higher levels of poverty. Yet, many lawmakers who passed SB 233 cited “failing schools” as the justification for the legislation, conveniently omitting their role in underfunding these schools.

Our state constitution mandates quality public education for every Georgia student. Unfortunately, children face not only classroom bigotry but also disparities in educational experiences, notably in funding allocations. Instead of solely using federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to balance next year’s budget, we should allocate these funds to address poverty as a barrier to academic success, closing the gaps created by years of underfunding districts statewide. This entails fully funding the state’s sparsity and equalization grants, providing additional funding to districts with higher rates of poverty, and incorporating a poverty weight into our Quality Basic Education (QBE) funding formula.

We must also provide our teachers with the best environment in which to teach our children, acknowledging the mental health of our students and educators. That includes reducing class sizes, ensuring we have adequate counselor and mental health supports, and rolling back restrictions on the ability of educators to create a curriculum that meets the needs of their individual classrooms.

A Community Safe From Gun Violence and Crime

Every day, gun violence claims the lives of 100 people across the US. In 2023, there was a devastating increase in gun-related incidents, marking it the worst year for unintentional shootings by children. Georgia, ranking 46th in gun law strength, maintains dangerous policies such as allowing guns on campus and the ‘Shoot First’ law, which permits killing in public areas even when safe retreat is possible. Our state’s weak laws leave no community immune, as seen in tragic events like the 2021 shooting in Cherokee County, where eight people were killed throughout north and metro Atlanta after one individual purchased a firearm earlier that day. While some focus on policing issues, the common thread in rising crime is the increase in unsecured guns in the state.

Rather than confronting this reality, the governor and many in his party would rather make the problem worse by instituting permitless carry, increasing the number of guns in the hands of those with dangerous criminal histories. This puts police officers and citizens at risk, and is universally opposed by law enforcement and 85% of Americans.

I support common-sense measures to reduce gun violence while protecting the rights of responsible Georgia gun owners, including:

  • Universal background checks for every firearm purchase and transfer
  • Awareness programs promoting safe gun storage, especially around children
  • Extreme risk laws to prevent access to firearms by individuals in crisis or with dangerous histories
  • Sensible waiting periods for new gun purchases

These proven measures, seen in neighboring states like Florida, have shown to have a quantifiable impact on reducing gun violence in those states. Plus, each measure has bipartisan support, including strong support among gun owners. It is time we came together to act to ensure the safety of our children and loved ones.

A Respect For Women's Healthcare Choices

Since the Supreme Court decided in Roe v. Wade that the right to an abortion is protected by the Constitution, abortion rates have fallen dramatically in this country. This decline is not through draconian measures like “heartbeat” bills or provider restrictions but through education, expanded access to contraceptives, and greater economic freedom for women. Unfortunately, the GA legislature believes that politicians in Atlanta know better than women and their doctors how best to handle the tough choices that can come with pregnancy.

For many people, the news of pregnancy is one of joy and hope even when it comes as a surprise. But the journey also comes with its risks. Exponentially more pregnancies end in miscarriages than abortions, as many as 1 in 8 known pregnancies and 1 in 3 unknown pregnancies. Women can also experience health challenges such as high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, infection, and more. During each ultrasound or checkup, expectant families have hope for the best while understanding that at any point they can receive news that requires tough choices. It is my firm and unwavering belief that those choices are best made between a woman and her doctor.

As your representative, I will be an advocate for protecting the rights of women and people with uteruses to make their own reproductive healthcare decisions, reducing barriers to birth control, protecting women from pregnancy discrimination, and building on the recent initiative to provide paid parental leave to state employees.

A Healthcare System Accessible By All

Healthier Georgians create healthier schools, healthier workplaces, and healthier communities. We have learned in COVID-19 that, while we enjoy individual freedoms, ultimately, we are all connected in some way to each other. And no matter what walk of life we come from, every single one of us will need access to our healthcare systems at some point in our lives. Yet 1.4 million Georgians do not have health insurance, and it is expected that over 25% of rural Georgians will be uninsured by 2026. This ranks us near the bottom, just ahead of Texas and Oklahoma.

The simplest and most affordable way to close this gap is to opt in to the Medicaid expansion that would extend coverage to over half a million Georgians. This covers more Georgians and does so at a cheaper cost than the waiver plan offered by Governor Kemp. Not only would this help keep more rural hospital systems afloat, but it would strengthen and expand behavioral health treatment to those with mental illness or substance abuse disorders, extend health insurance to over 150,000 uninsured Georgia women, and cover an additional 32,000 uninsured veterans in the state.

This is not a partisan issue. Fifteen states won by Trump in 2020 have adopted the Medicaid expansion funds offered with the ACA. Georgia has missed out on $21 billion dollars in funding already. Our citizens cannot afford to wait any longer.

A System That Treats All Georgians Fairly

The killings of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd brought the issue of racial injustice to the forefront last summer, culminating in protests across the country, calls to “defund” the police, and a backlash that saw states pass laws to enact penalties for protesters and for banning the teaching of certain subjects in school. Rather than bring people together to discuss solutions to long avoided topics, our politicians have used these subjects to divide us even further.

It is disappointing that our dialogue on race has been politicized to be a right or left issue. It is not right or left to believe that people should be treated fairly regardless of race. It is not right or left to believe that we should strive for equitable outcomes across racial lines. It is not right or left to believe that the first step in moving forward on fixing these issues is to come together across party and racial lines and acknowledge that racial disparities do exist in this country and this state.

We can address the differences in outcomes across all areas of our way of life by tackling them head-on. First, we must ensure that any new piece of legislation we pass as a body does not widen racial disparities. We must also work with stakeholders across every sector of the state to address existing disparities in policing, healthcare, employment, housing, education, etc. This is the right thing to do, and these actions are long overdue.

Fair and Secure Voting Rights

In the 2020 election, Georgia saw its highest turnout in history, with almost 5 million ballots cast. However, instead of building on this success, the state legislature restricted many voting methods that drove the turnout. Since S.B. 202, Georgia has become the focal point of a nationwide struggle for voting rights. At the core of this struggle is the belief, held by the Georgia House majority, that elections are less secure when more people vote. This is misguided and dangerous to our Republic.

Cobb County, with over 766,000 residents, ranks as the third most populous county in Georgia and is rapidly diversifying. From 2010 to 2020, Cobb County shifted from being majority-white, comprising 56% of the population, to becoming a majority BIPOC county, representing 52% of the population. Alongside this demographic change, there has been a noticeable growth in the political strength of voters of color.

However, recent redistricting efforts, spanning Congressional, Cobb School Board, and Commissioner maps, aim to suppress the voices and votes of Black and Latino communities.

Every legislative map passed in Georgia in 2022 was overturned due to racial bias against Black voters. In addition to the Congressional maps, the redistricting maps for the Cobb School Board and the Cobb Commissioners faced similar scrutiny. The Cobb County Commission map targeted a Black woman, ending her term on the commission with 2 years left, a first in Georgia’s history. A federal court judge mandated the redrawing of the Cobb County School Board map due to racial gerrymandering, which concentrated Black and Latino voters into three districts, weakening their voting power. Despite recent revisions, the new Cobb school board map continues to disenfranchise Black and Latino voters. We will never be able to fully address the issues in this state and county until we have local and state government that is representative of the people it serves.

Our political system thrives when everyone participates, every voice is heard, and elected officials cannot manipulate the system for their benefit. I am committed to ensuring every community has fair representation, a voice in political leadership, and access to the ballot box.

An Economy Where All Georgians Can Thrive

Georgia fared better than most states during COVID-19 and boasts one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. However, the economic success within our state is not enjoyed by all. Georgia ranks in the bottom half in wages and is almost dead last when it comes to the success of small businesses in the first year. A major reason is that we prioritize giving massive corporate tax breaks to attract out-of-state business, around $9 billion each year, as opposed to investing in helping Georgians get their small businesses off the ground. This is simply unsustainable if we want a thriving economy felt from the suburbs of metro Atlanta to our rural communities in the black belt.

We have to view small business ownership and success as the driving engine that powers our state economy, that sustains investment in our schools and communities, and that revitalizes areas long ignored. This means expanding affordable broadband so that rural families have the tools to further their work skills and education. This means expanding access to capital for young entrepreneurs to jumpstart new business ventures as well as ongoing no-cost counseling services to help business owners build a solid foundation or to stay afloat in times of hardship. This means looking first to state and local businesses where possible when opening up bidding processes to secure government contracts.

This doesn’t mean we stop trying to attract out-of-state corporations to our state. In fact, investing in our communities will make us an even more desired destination, because we will have the best environment in which to attract and keep talent. And we would much rather have companies doing business in this state who have a stake in its success as opposed to those simply looking for the best deal.