For too long, our district has remained the poorest in the state of Minnesota. I don't believe that this is the result of some deficiency among our residents; I know that we are plagued by the same inequalities that plague our nation at large. However, our district doesn't have the luxury of being able to ignore them. It is unconscionable that the median income in our district is so low, -- even worse that the median income for a black family is half that of a white family. The best way to remedy inequality is the simplest: we have to pay people more. To that end, I will be a strong supporter of increasing the minimum wage to at least 15 dollars an hour as soon as possible. 15 Now Minnesota is right when they say we shouldn't wait until July 2024, which is the current plan. Seven years is a long time. Someone who is a middle schooler now would be an adult by the time this plan is implemented. We have a chance to make a difference in so many lives right now. It is unacceptable for any resident to work 40 hours a week, often more, and still struggle to make ends meet. I will work to provide a liveable wage for all, and ensure that every individual will be able to sufficiently support themselves and their families. Additionally, I will fight to bridge the gender pay gap, and make sure women finally receive the same pay as their male counterparts. That women are paid less than men is a moral issue. Period. There's absolutely no reason for it. It is cruel that, among women of color especially, we ask so much and pay so little. In our African-American community, roughly 70% of households are headed by a single mother. I've seen single mothers struggle in my own building, trying to maintain balancing a family and sometimes more than one job, all while trying to make sure their kids are doing well in school. How can we expect them to provide for their children with a low wage that is below that of their male peers? I promise I will fight to provide fair wages for all, and ensure new wages are tied to inflation so our children won't have to keep fighting this fight in the future.
To improve the living conditions of our residents, we must work to provide adequate employment opportunities for both youth and adults. This can be achieved by providing job training and skill development opportunities, and utilizing public-private partnerships to work towards a goal of full employment. I know unpaid internships are a completely unneccessary form of gatekeeping: I've worked in one myself. Most of the youth in our district aren't as lucky as I was, and they simply cannot afford the opportunity to take on unpaid positions, a problem that compounds later by leaving them a step behind their peers. I believe that unpaid internships are, quite frankly, wrong. No one is more or less qualified for a job because of what their family can afford. Because of all this, I will work to end them. When I was employed at a community college, I made sure to get kids paid internships. Some people need both pay and experience. I had multiple people worry whether or not they should even finish college when their situation will still be so precarious when they graduate. If they can plan that far ahead for themselves, so should we. Rather than having our youth remain a step behind their peers in other districts year after year, we must fight to provide them more chances to succeed, through youth summer programs and jobs with fair wages. I believe that, if given a truly equal chance, they will show the brilliance that we see in them every day
The future of our district is in the hands of our youth, so making sure they have the best education possible is paramount. There is a proverb that it takes a village to raise a child, and it's a value I was raised on in my community. I believe that education should be free from the moment a child walks into preschool to the time they walk across the stage to collect their college diploma. The burden of student debt is weighing down our youth for their whole lives, and not only serves as a barrier to moving up the economic ladder, but makes even attending college an insurmountable task to many in a time when a college degree is an outright requirement for success in most fields. When I worked as an advisor at a community college, I saw students worry on a daily basis about how they were going to afford to pay their tuition bill. How can we expect them to perform to their best with such worries? Additionally, I will work to end the achievement gap that has afflicted our schools for years by focusing on issues involving racial disparities. No one deserves to be left behind because of the color of their skin, and all the data we have suggests that is exactly what is happening. Currently, only 13 percent of our black neighbors and 7 percent of our Hispanic neighbors have college degrees. I don't believe that this is because they aren't as smart as their white peers. As a child, I wasn't a good student either. I failed standardized tests myself sometimes. I barely graduated high school. I was one of these kids. I was lucky enough to have opportunities from my family and my community, and I believe that everyone deserves the chance I got. It is no coincidence that these students also face the highest rates of poverty. I know that could have been me, and I know that free education is better for everyone: our state will benefit immensely from a more educated workforce, and our communities will benefit from a more engaged and empathetic populace. Our district is capable of so much, and it's time for us to reach our full potential, together.
Throughout our district, one of the main concerns among our residents continues to be finding affordable housing. I believe housing is a human right, maybe the most important one. I understand that there is not a single solution that will work for everyone. Our district is diverse, and I have seen that each of our communities has unique needs. However, I will fight tirelessly to provide access to affordable housing for every resident, I will increase funding for subsidized housing programs, and I will expand homelessness prevention programs. I promise I will work specifically to improve the quality of life for our youth, as some estimate that as much as 25-30% of our youth lack permanent housing. This is unacceptable. Precarity in housing leads to worse outcomes across the board, from performance in school to likelihood of interacting with law enforcement. Spending on children and families isn't an expense, it's an investment. We need to do better, and I believe we can. All of this can be done, it's just a matter of where our morals lie, and if we truly value our diversity.