I came from a place that literally translates to, “the middle of nowhere.” The village didn’t have a school. There was a nearby village with a classroom, a few miles away, far enough to be a significant journey for a small child. And we traveled the distance knowing that no lunch would be served. We walked back in the afternoon, in the hot desert sun of East Africa. We were children with plenty of laughter but no water. At one point, we knew that a predator had discovered our miles-long journey to school. It used to stalk us. We gathered stones to throw, but our biggest strategy was to stay together as a team and rush toward it. Now, in East Portland, I see children whose faces look like mine. I know that every child who has migrated here has faced barriers to their educational journey. They, too are facing predators—racism, sexism, xenophobia, Islamophobia. A broken system that doesn’t see them for who they fully are. The stones in their hands are their resilience. They are counting on our collective power to push back on those who would threaten their success. Our children deserve a community that not only cares for them but understands their struggle. They need leaders who are willing to take a stone in the hand and fight for them. This is why I am running.
For me, education was the path from extreme poverty to a successful life and career. Our schools are some of the most diverse in the state, and the young people in my district are likewise overcoming incredible odds to succeed. As someone who has worked with immigrant refugee communities, students of color, and low income families for decades, I understand that poverty and other barriers have a huge impact on the ability of students to learn. Our students require adequate support, and the fact that we have increased spending on incarceration rather than investing in education should outrage every Oregonian.
The most recent state education budget was woefully inadequate. We came approximately $200 million short of meeting our basic educational needs. It’s time to reverse this trend. According to Department of Education statistics, we are under funding the Quality Education Model by about 25-35%, depending on the year. Our graduation rates are some of the lowest in the nation. Speaking with teachers and being in classrooms, I have witnessed first hand that they don’t have the resources they need. With bold leadership, we can prioritize education first and transform our state budget to fully support our young people -- from early childhood through post-secondary education and beyond.