We rely too heavily on free and low-pay childcare in this state, provided mostly by women of all ages. It’s a crisis, and we often force our young parents to make choices between incomes and family bonding due to limited options. Paid family-leave and universal access to early care and intervention are essential to the future health and wellbeing of all Vermonters. Governor Scott has vetoed paid leave legislation twice over the last five years, and bringing a bill back to the top of the Democratic priority list will be one of my main goals in the Legislature. This issue is about more than young parents, too. The pandemic has disrupted so many lives, and it’s a shame that many Vermonters had to sacrifice the wellbeing of themselves or their family just to earn a paycheck.
My heart continues to ache for the innocent lives lost in the Uvalde, TX, school shooting. As an educator at CVU, I entered school the next day to try to comfort my students, hold space for them, and process the horrific news together, but I couldn’t in good faith tell them they would be safe. Our country has a severe problem with gun violence, and more needs to change. Whether mass murder happens at a school like Robb Elementary, a grocery store in Buffalo, or a health clinic in Tulsa, it’s all senseless. Our CVU students planned a walkout to protest this violence, but the action was canceled by the school due to a specific threat of gun violence against our building and community. The brave students I work with regrouped, built a coalition hundreds strong, and followed through with their action the following day. They also collected signatures to petition the legislature for common sense reforms that the vast majority of citizens agree with. As a mother, as an educator, I will always choose children over violence.
Our current healthcare system is not sustainable. Insurance premiums and prescription drug costs are out of control. Healthcare costs will not go down in our current system. People cannot afford to go to the doctor, which then leads to doctors’ offices and hospitals closing due to lack of revenue. UVM Medical Center spent millions of dollars updating electronic health record systems at their affiliate hospitals in Vermont and New York, only to have COVID-19 appear and wreak havoc on already thin budgets. The pandemic has shown us it’s obvious that healthcare should not be tied to employment. The current system of fee-for-service is not working and the state needs to change its healthcare delivery model. I believe that we should work towards a system that prioritizes primary care and preventive care for all citizens. If people are able to see doctors regularly it reduces health risks and long term costs. We need to decide if we truly care about making sure that all Vermonters have equitable access to healthcare, or if we are going to accept the system as it currently is.
My family has had to fight tooth and nail for quality care for our children. As someone with a loved one suffering from mental health issues I know what it is like to wait over six months for an appointment with psychiatry. I have been on the phone with First Call when they don’t have anyone available to come out and help. I have sat in the emergency room with a loved one, waiting for psychiatric care. I have waited over months for disability insurance determinations. We don’t value the work of our social workers, therapists, and first responders. If we did we would be able to recruit and pay them more money. It’s time to change our healthcare model and focus on primary, preventative, and mental healthcare in Vermont.
Racism is a public health emergency. Vermont is not an outlier. The Vermont chapter of the ACLU and researchers at UVM have shed light on statistics proving that Black people in Vermont are stopped, searched, and arrested disproportionate to white people, our prison population has some of the worst racial disparities in the U.S., and our state’s refusal to make bold moves on climate change also contributes to disproportionate impact on people of color. As an educator who works with CVU’s student Racial Alliance Committee, I learn about racist incidents in our school almost every day. Students are accosted, bullied, and physically harmed because of the color of their skin. Students use the n-word to verbally attack Black students. Just before we transitioned to remote learning in March, students of Asian descent were the subject of verbal insults involving stereotypes around the coronavirus and its origins. Systems of white supremacy and oppression are ignored because, according to the administration, almost everything is an “isolated incident,” or the perpetrator was “ignorant” or “only joking.” Intent is almost universally valued over impact because even though we’ve held assemblies and added a few books to the curriculum and raised the Black Lives Matter flag too many members of our community mistake “not racist” for antiracist. Racism has always been part of the DNA of this country. As my brave student and friend, Christel Tonoki, said during her CVU graduation speech in 2020, “Racism is not getting worse; it’s getting filmed.” And, while I have high hopes for the Ethnic Studies Coalition and the changes that could come to our school curricula because of their work, it isn’t enough and it isn’t fast enough. All of our children need to understand their identity privileges and intersections and learn the real and hard history of this country and this state in order for us to change those disproportionate outcomes.
According to the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, 76% of our greenhouse gas emissions come from fueling our transportation and heating our buildings. The same study proved that our electricity usage is quite clean, accounting for only 2% of our greenhouse gas emissions. Knowing that, I'd support the Climate Action Plan's goals to provide incentives to electrify our cars and heating sources, and I'd specifically focus on legislation that prioritizes low-income and rural Vermonters, as well as renters, because these populations pay a disproportionate amount of their income for energy.