The past several years have put an immense strain on families, emotionally and financially. Many of us are balancing caring for others and ourselves. Our government has the ability and the responsibility to invest deeply in the lifelong success of Minnesotan children and families. With a historic budget surplus at our fingertips, we can create significant changes that will improve all of our lives. And with the necessary courage and leadership, we can create policy changes that serve us all.
Our youth are our future, and we need to ensure our community and our state invests in their success. We have a historic gap in funding for our public schools from the state and federal level. As your legislator, I authored a bill to drastically increase funding to our public schools and a bill to fully fund special education. Increased funding will create smaller class sizes, ensure teachers have access to the supplies they need, expand our mental health resources in schools, and more. Schools are also a vital partner in combatting childhood hunger. When I first ran for office, it was because I learned that over one-third of students at Greenleaf Elementary were food insecure. The first bill I introduced was to address childhood hunger, and I founded the bi-partisan Childhood Hunger Caucus shortly after. We have the tools to end hunger in Minnesota.
All of us deserve to feel safe wherever we go; our schools, grocery stores, places of worship. Gun violence is an epidemic that plagues our community. Even the threat of gun violence and the impact of active shooter drills on our children causes serious harm to their mental health and wellbeing. From day one as your legislator, I took this issue incredibly seriously. I authored a bill requiring criminal background checks for all gun purchases and transfers, and a bill to address the trauma caused by gun violence. When the Republican-controlled House took no action to address gun violence, I led a 24-hour sit-in, pressuring the Republican leadership to act through local and national media attention. We know gun violence is one of the defining issues of this moment, and we need champions to address it with bold solutions that are proven to be successful.
Parents face seemingly impossible barriers to raising children today. Costs for basic essentials are rising, childcare payments are a massive burden on many families, and affording college seems impossible for so many. Our government plays a key role in supporting families, if we choose to make the necessary investments. I know how important supporting families is, which is why I authored a bipartisan bill increasing the Minnesota Family Investment Program, a bill to create Paid Family Medical Leave in Minnesota, and a bill to expand access to financial assistance for childcare. The alternative to making these investments is leaving working families behind. We must invest deeply in supporting parents so that all families can thrive.
There’s a reason so many people raise children in our community. Our beautiful parks and public spaces are great places to spend time and gather together. They aren’t an accident though, and they require intentional investment year after year. As your legislator, I supported funding for our regional parks like Lebanon Hills and authored a bipartisan bill to increase funding for the Minnesota Zoo. These are gems in our community, and we need to ensure they stay at the exceptional quality they are.