In order to make progress in Indiana as Democrats, we have to be willing to work together. There is a lot of talent in our great state that we simply need to tap into. In my new role as Deputy Chair of Engagement I look forward to working with people and engaging with groups who want to see change in Indiana. We are the Change Agents!
Quality Public Education
Preparing Indiana students to compete in an ever evolving and competitive global economy should be the focus of our public education system. Much of the future will require skills that are computer science and technology related. The Department of Labor predicts the nation will add 1.2 million new computer science related jobs by 2022. (1) Yet at the same time, as a nation we are graduating fewer computer science majors than we did in the 1980s. (2) As has been the discussion in the past, introducing hardware into schools has value; allowing students the opportunity to have hands on experience with the devices that have permeated our society. However, are we teaching our Hoosier students to be consumers of technology or are we teaching them to be creators and innovators of technology?
The number one priority I hope to address when elected to the Indiana House of Representatives is introducing computer science and coding, as not just an elective, but a requirement to all public school students. We should want to empower as many Hoosier students as possible as technology is also an essential economic driver in our society that shouldn’t simply be available to a select few. This also includes investing in our teachers by providing them the necessary tools to teach these courses to all students. Not every student who is introduced to coding is going to be a computer programmer, just like not every student who is introduced to English Literature is going to be an author of great fictional works. But exposing more students will offer them greater choices for their future.
As the late Steve Jobs stated, “Computer Science is a liberal art: it’s something that everybody should be exposed to and everyone should have a mastery of to some extent.”
Addressing Indiana's Infrastructure needs
The issues with northbound I-65 has brought to the forefront many of the issues with Indiana's roads and highways. Even Republican State Senator Luke Kenley admitted
"We are falling behind here... We are struggling."
While our legislators have been focused on issues that are destructive to the image of Indiana, they have failed to address the desperate needs of our crumbling infrastructure.
The state Department of Transportation reported earlier this year that 364 of more than 5,600 state-maintained bridges were rated “poor” based on at least one element of their structure.
We are the crossroads of America, but we have managed to ignore the key component in that catchphrase…the roads. We have to refocus on improving Indiana’s infrastructure by making it the highest of priorities. Instead of Indiana spending $2 Million dollar to repair Indiana’s image, we should have been using that funding for our bridges, roads and highways.
Prison Reform by Addressing Recidivism Rates
The Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) defines recidivism as a return to incarceration within three years of the offender’s date of release from a state correctional institution. Based on a study by the IDOC the following statistics should raise awareness of a serious issue:
- Male offenders had a higher recidivism rate when compared to female offenders. Of male offenders released in 2011, 38.9% returned to the IDOC, versus 29.9% of female releases.
- The recidivism rate for African American offenders was 41.7%.
- The younger the offender is at the time he/she is released, the more likely they are to return to the IDOC. Also, offenders serving less than 5 years with IDOC represent over 90% of all recidivists.
- Of all offenders who recidivated, approximately 52% returned to IDOC for the commission of a new crime, compared to approximately 48% of returns for a technical rule or court supervision violation.
- Offenders who had zero conduct violations during their incarceration period were over 30.0% less likely to recidivate when compared to offenders who had at least one conduct violation.
- Offenders who received visits from family or friends while incarcerated were 14.4% less likely to recidivate compared to those offenders who did not receive any visits.
- Those offenders who participated in a work release program were nearly 31% less likely to return to prison when compared to offenders who did not partake in a work release program.
The Indiana Division of Mental Health and Addictions notes that 15 percent of men and 31 percent of women in local jails have serious mental illness; most of these individuals with mental illness are not violent. National research also shows that 53 percent of prisoners at the state level, 45 percent of federal prisoners, and 68 percent of local jail inmates have alcohol and drug additions. This number is 8.8 percent for the general population.
We need to have a better understanding of who is being incarcerated, the notion that our penal system could be our largest mental health provider should make us pause. Are we really helping our communities by simply incarcerating individuals who really need help? HB 1006 which expanded mental health care for Hoosiers is a great start. I will work to build on this progress already started.
Equal Pay for Equal work
In a Pew Research Center analysis conducted in 2013, a record 40% of all households with children under the age of 18 include mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income for the family. With this data we can see how these families are at an economic disadvantage.
I will work with businesses in our community to understand how best to address this issue. Indiana ranks as the 11th worst state in pay inequality (http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-04-12/the-worst-states-for-pay-inequality). It is time for Indiana to lead the way on pay equality.
Equal Rights for All Hoosiers
Today in Indiana, an individual can be fired, denied housing, or refused service in most places for being gay, lesbian or transgender. This fact should not sit well with Hoosiers who understand that only how well you produce should determine your job status and your ability to pay your rent or mortgage payment should determine housing.
In 2015 the Indiana legislatures put on Mike Pence's desk Indiana's version of RFRA that allows business owners the ability to discriminate against gay, lesbian and transgendered patrons. This law was passed with very little support from the business community of Indiana. As stated by Indiana Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kevin Brinegar,
"Unfortunately, Indiana has taken a tremendous hit to its national identity as a welcoming and hospitable state. The business community is concerned about losing contracts and customers for a law that it did not support and did not want to see happen. Hoosier businesses want nothing more than to continue to serve their customers in the state, nationwide and beyond."
It is time we have legislatures willing to work with the our business community to make Indiana as inclusive and welcoming as our Hoosier Hospitality motto proclaims. In order to compete with the surrounding states for business opportunities for our citizens, we have to instill confidence in our business leaders that Indiana will not discriminate against their employees. Adding LGBT community to the protected class status will go a long way in accomplishing this goal.
- Equal Rights for all Hoosiers
- Ending Indiana's district gerrymandering
- Equal Pay for Equal Work
- Protecting the rights of workers to collective bargain
- Focusing on advanced technology opportunities for Hoosiers and ending the brain drain
- Protecting women's reproductive rights
- Quality, affordable health care for all Hoosiers
- Quality public education for all Hoosier students
- Addressing Indiana's Infrastructure needs
- Protecting Indiana's environment
- Prison Reform by addressing recidivism rates
- Addressing the needs of Hoosier veterans
- Mental Wellness awareness
- Substance abuse awareness
- Managing the requirements of Special Needs Hoosiers.
- Moving Indiana Forward