My platform is based on three E’s: Education, the Environment, and the Economy.
Education for Everyone
I’m running for State Senate because I disagree with the state legislature’s direction on public education over the last 15 years. Ninety percent of school children in Indiana attend public schools, meaning the future of Indiana is in the hands of our public educators. As an educator and the product of public education, I will always fight for teachers, students, and parents. As your state senator, I pledge to keep education decisions local, end the attack on public education, and expand funding for higher education.
Keep Education Local
The needs of school districts across our state are different. Decisions that might make sense in Henry County won’t work in Union County. As your state senator, I will work to:
- Return Control to Local School Boards and Leaders: Too often, state legislators have usurped local control of education policy. The state’s role should be to provide the tools and resources school districts need instead of passing laws that infringe on school board responsibilities and oversight.
- Keep School Board Elections Non-Partisan: Public education shouldn’t be a partisan issue, but the supermajority proposed making school board elections partisan in the last legislative sessions. Candidates should be selected on the merits of their ideas and their commitment to excellent education, not a party label. Our state and national politics have become divisive and polarized and we must protect our school board races from becoming the same.
- Listen to Parents: Parents play a fundamental role in their children’s success, but legislators have brought policies on their behalf without listening to or asking what they actually need. Local control of education policy gives those parents an actual avenue to have their voices heard without having to travel to the Capitol.
End the Attack on Public Education
The GOP supermajority has unleashed a fundamental attack on public education that has teachers demoralized and leaving the profession. A quality education provides students with a path to a better future and an educated population protects the health of our democracy. With more than 90 percent of Hoosier students attending public schools, it is time to end the attack on their education. As your state senator, I will:
- Increase Access to Universal Preschool and Pre-K: Every Hoosier student deserves the opportunity to pursue a quality education, and that should start at a young age. Indiana’s On My Way Pre-K program already shows significant benefits for enrolled students. As your state senator, I will vote to expand funding for the program and work to increase access to high-quality classrooms throughout the district.
- Boost Funding for Public Schools: Even with record increases in K-12 funding in the last budget, Indiana still ranks well below the national average in per pupil spending ($10,256 per pupil in Indiana compared to $13,185 nationwide). Teachers shouldn’t have to fundraise for supplies or pay for materials out of their own pockets. We need to devote more of our budget to funding public education and eliminate unfunded mandates that filter money away from instruction and towards fulfilling state regulations. With a state budget surplus in the billions of dollars, not investing this money in our schools and teachers is irresponsible. Public education isn’t an expense, it’s an investment in our state’s future.
- Increase School Support Staff: We expect teachers to teach, care for student’s mental health, and provide for their basic needs. Educators should be able to do what they do best–teach. I will fight for expanded support resources, including more classroom aides, school psychologists and counselors, social workers, and mental health professionals.
- Raise Teacher Pay: Indiana is facing a teaching shortage, with more than 2,500 teaching positions currently available across the state. Part of the reason for this shortage is abysmal pay. Indiana ranks 41st in teacher pay with Hoosier teachers making the equivalent of 19% less per year (compared to 1999). We must increase teacher pay to match our surrounding areas and to provide educators with a living wage.
- Oppose Bills That Make Teaching Harder: State legislators should be supporting teachers, not attacking their expertise, and proposing legislation that makes their jobs harder. Bills like SB167 further demoralize teachers and hasten their exit from the profession. I will oppose any bill that makes it harder for teachers to do their jobs.
Support Higher Education
District 27 is home to eight colleges and universities that serve as educational, cultural, and economic centers. Despite years of effort, Indiana’s college-going rate continues to decline. I know the value of a college degree and the opportunities it opens and we need to highlight the benefits a degree offers. As your state senator, I will fight to:
- Expand Funding Teacher Residency Programs: Indiana is facing a teaching shortage, with more than 2,500 teaching positions currently available across the state. Teacher residency programs pay student teachers, provide mentoring, and ensure they are prepared to succeed after graduation. We must extend Indiana’s teacher residency grant program to meet the needs of our education workforce and end our teacher shortage.
- Invest in Technical and Scientific Education: We need to ensure students are prepared for the new economy and I support increased funding for STEAM (science, technology, economics, art, and mathematics) education and improved access to trade schools and community colleges.
- End Disparities in Educational Attainment: Indiana has become more diverse, but disparities in educational attainment still persist. I support programs that will help low-income, non-white, and rural students attend community college, trade schools, and college or university.
- Extend Eligibility for the 21st Century Scholars Program: The 21st Century Scholars program closes the achievement gaps highlighted above, especially for rural students like those in District 27. As your state senator, I will work to extend eligibility guidelines and support programs that ensure every eligible student enrolls, including automatic enrollment into Scholars.
Our Environment is our Future
I care deeply about the environment. This is a main reason I am running for Indiana State Senate. I am the Sustainability Director on my campus and talk to students daily who are deeply concerned about their environmental future. Here are issues that I find most pressing, although I would support other bills that protect our environment and build on a green economy:
Fight the Climate Crisis
Our climate catastrophe cannot be ignored any longer; I am a scientist and have been following and teaching about climate change for many years. It is real. Our own generation as well as those in the future will be inextricably affected by warming temperatures, seasonal droughts and floods, loss of essential species, unforeseen impact on our economy, and a blighting of our planet. Indiana bears a burden in all this: we rank 7th nationally and FIRST in the Midwest for greenhouse gas emissions. Some of the bills Indiana can and should implement, and that I would support, to limit CO2 production and move to clean energy, include:
- Allow a free-market economy so that industries and energy companies can follow the market in pursuing renewables and green energy. Rep. Ed Soliday’s stance for Indiana to re-commit to coal is strangling companies, forcing them to stick to coal when much of the country is already increasing jobs and energy output from renewables.
- Preserve net-metering which gives incentives to companies and individuals for solar implementation by allowing them money back when their energy creation exceeds their needs and goes back into the grid. Sen. Liz Brown (R, Fort Wayne) proposed just such a bill (SB 248) that needs further support.
- Protect individual, home-owner rights by supporting rooftop solar-panel implementation and limited association overreach, as introduced by Rep. Mike Speedy (R, Indianapolis; HB 1196).
- Protect wilderness areas and virgin forests in our state, which reverse the impact of greenhouse gases: HB 1376, which would give budget appropriations to conservation trusts, wildlife diversity programs, and recreation around the state, needs to make it out of the House Natural Resources Committee. Indiana bears a responsibility to cut CO2 emissions radically over the next decade and increase its native forests to mitigate those same gases. This is for the health of our planet and our children’s future—a clean, safe planet to enjoy as we have enjoyed it. I would write and support all bills which would do so.
Protect our Natural Resources
Indiana was once 90% forested. Today we are only 19% forested. Forests, prairies, clean air, rivers and wetlands not only add to the beauty of our state, they are essential to its economic success in tourism, health, and food production. At the same time, I value the family farms of our state; I grew up on a family beef farm myself and my father received “Conservation Farmer of the Year” in testament that farms and natural resources are not mutually exclusive. Here are some concerns I have and bills I would support:
- Make Indiana’s waters and air clean again: Our state is 45th in air quality which is shocking given the blue skies we may think we enjoy. We also have 25,000 miles of rivers and streams too polluted for recreation and swimming, top of the list of all states. These facts are nothing to brag about and I would advance legislation which would give much more support to IDEM to do its job of air and water-quality compliance and enforcement across the state (IDEM air compliance ).
- Reverse the Wetlands Bill, SB 389, which the legislature passed in 2021 and which greatly weakened wetlands protection. Despite a huge outcry in our state—one 11-year-old boy gathered over 25,000 signatures (Indy Star, March 19, 2021)—the bill passed that spring. Indiana has already lost 85% of its wetlands; we cannot afford to lose more of them, being essential as a pollution filter, clean-water maker, and habitat for hundreds of bird and wildlife species (www.epa.gov ). Wetlands also capture the runoff from thunderstorms preventing millions or possibly billions of dollars of damage due to flooding.
- Protect Indiana’s forests: Of Indiana’s original 20 million acres of forests, fewer than 2,000 remain. In 2017, SB 420 would have required the DNR to designate at least 10% of each state forest as an old growth forest and prohibit timber cutting there, but it did not make it out of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources. I would encourage further data collection on the importance and feasibility of tree-culling vs tree-protection and support a bill that would do both responsibly.
An Economy for All
The Hoosier economy is changing and our elected officials need to prepare for the future while protecting workers today. I support building a future-proof economy, creating the workforce Indiana businesses need, and developing an economy that works for workers. As your state senator, I will fight for a more fair and balanced economy for all.
A Future Proof Economy
Agriculture and manufacturing will continue to be important industries for Indiana’s future, but those industries are changing. As your state senator, I will fight to:
- Build a Green Economy: We have the technology and knowledge to build a greener economy with a much smaller carbon footprint. In doing so, we create jobs and ensure that our current community members, as well as our children and their children, have a healthy world to live in. Indiana is poised to harness its incredible agricultural history to be a leader in this area.
- Invest in Technical and Scientific Education: Manufacturing is becoming more technical and scientific and we need a workforce that is ready for this new reality. I support increased funding for STEAM (science, technology, economics, art, and mathematics) education and improved access to trade schools and community colleges.
- Support Family Farms: As the son of a beef farmer, I recognize the importance of family farms and will always fight for them. Family farms are a powerful tool in our battle against climate change and I will work to increase investment in sustainable farming practices.
- Legalize Recreational and Medicinal Marijuana: I will work towards a bipartisan agreement to legalize the medical and recreational use of marijuana in Indiana. This will help support our economy by establishing a new market and creating more opportunities for small farmers in Indiana.
The Workforce Indiana Businesses Need
Business leaders are raising the alarm that Indiana isn’t prepared to compete for new jobs. As your state senator, I would take those concerns seriously and work to:
- Increase Educational Attainment: We must work towards a high school and college graduation rate that keeps up with the rest of the country. I will listen to school leaders, teachers, and parents and end barriers to educational attainment in the state.
- Expand Workforce Training and Reskilling Programs: As the economy shifts to more technical work, we cannot leave workers behind. I support free training and educational programs for high-demand, high-paying industries, and programs to reskill unemployed workers.
- Improve Health Care Access: Indiana is above the national average in premature death, those in fair to poor health, and access to primary care physicians, dentists, and mental health providers. This is combined with some of the highest health costs in the nation. We need to expand access to health care, including mental health care, and lower costs to ensure that Indiana’s workforce remains healthy.
- End Disparities in Employment and Pay: We must work to end disparities in employment and pay by race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and identity. Indiana workers deserve equal pay for equal work.
- Stop Divisive Social Policies: Indiana’s divisive social policies discourage new businesses and new employees from moving to the state. Younger workers want a diverse and accepting culture. We must stop divisive social policies that don’t represent the interests of all Hoosiers and enshrine protections for all Hoosiers into law.
An Economy That Works for Workers
The economy runs because of hard-working Hoosiers, and we must create an economy that works for workers, not just business leaders. As your state senator, I would work to:
- Increase the Minimum Wage: Indiana’s minimum wage has remained at $7.25 since 2009, even as the cost of living and inflation have risen. Simply put, Indiana workers are now earning less. We must work to gradually increase the minimum wage to meet the needs of Indiana’s workers. Hoosiers shouldn’t have to work multiple jobs just to make ends meet.
- Restore Worker Protections: Hoosiers have the right to fair pay and safe working conditions. Senate District 27 has a strong union history and I support organized labor and will fight to restore the right to collectively bargain. We must also enforce existing labor laws to ensure Hoosiers are treated fairly by employers.
- Create Paid Family Leave: The United States is one of the only industrialized countries in the world without guaranteed, paid family leave. I will work with state leaders and businesses to develop a paid family leave policy for new parents and those caring for their families.
- Attract New Workers: Hoosiers are moving out of rural areas and we must stem this tide. I support incentives for people and businesses to stay in and move to rural areas.