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Students Studying Outside

ISSUES

HERE'S WHAT'S STACKED
 

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School Supply

There are over 49 million students who are enrolled in Pre-K through Grade 12 schools nationwide. The inequities within the school system must be tackled head on to ensure that every public school in America is equitably funded by the federal government regardless of zip code, that students' concerns are adequately addressed, and that teachers are paid a living wage. Our leaders must make record investments in our schools and change the policies that are hurting already disadvantaged communities throughout our country. Also to be addressed is protections for DACA recipients. 

 

We are advocating for: 

  • Long-term investments in public education to ensure that school districts are investing in 21st century equipment like computers, tablets, 3-D printers, and coding software to prepare students for the economy of the future.

  • Fairness in public school funding – currently, on average, school districts with large numbers of minority students receive 16% less funding than those with majority white students. 

  • Addressing students' mental health – investing in resources like mental health therapists and counselors as well as additional anti-bullying campaigns throughout the school year.

  • Increase teacher pay – increasing wages will address the nationwide shortage of teachers with one study estimating that there are over 36,000 vacancies and 163,000 positions with teachers not certified in their assigned subject area. 

  • Expeditious implementation of the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program to give broadband access to all American students. 

  • Funding for school infrastructure to address decades of underinvestment in already underserved communities.

  • Preservation and fortifying of the DACA program.

K-12 Education Reform

K-12
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Legalization of Marijuana

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Marijuana

The federal government must act to legalize marijuana. Marijuana has contributed to 40% of all drug related arrests in 2018 alone and of those arrests nearly 92% is because of possession. People of color, especially black Americans, are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession compared to white Americans. Across the country, nearly 60% of Americans approve of the legalization of marijuana for recreational and medical use. 

 

We are advocating for:

  • Full legalization of medical marijuana as this drug has proven benefits for managing chronic pain and other medical issues. 

  • Full legalization of recreational marijuana as it would work towards eliminating the racial disparities associated with marijuana and aid in removing the stigma around marijuana use and possession.

Assault Weapons Ban

Assault Weapons Ban
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In the first 11 months of 2022 there were over 600 mass shootings in the United States, which is just shy of the nearly 640 mass shootings that took place in that same period in 2021. The weapon used in the last four major school shootings––Columbine, Sandy Hook, Parkland, Uvalde––was a semi-automatic assault weapon. These weapons which are designed for war do not belong on our streets or in our schools. In 1994, President Clinton signed a ten-year assault weapons ban after it was approved by the Senate in a 95-4 vote. Under President Bush, the ban was allowed to expire in 2004. Researchers who examined data from 1981 to 2017 concluded that mass-shooting fatalities were 70% lower during the period in which the Federal Assault Weapons Ban was in effect. It is time that we prioritize students' lives over special interests. 

 

We are advocating for:

  • Universal background checks so that convicted felons / domestic abusers cannot purchase a gun from gun shows and non-licensed dealers. 

  • Passage of an assault weapons ban.

  • Red flag laws to prevent mass shootings, suicide, and intimate partner violence.

  • Ghost gun regulation to ensure traceability and background checks.

  • Close the Charleston Loophole.

  • Fully close the boyfriend loophole.

Voter Rights

Voter Protection

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Our right to vote is sacred. However, at the state and national level, voter suppression legislation is being passed to make it more difficult for people to vote, especially for students and people of color. Between 2021 and October, lawmakers in 21 states passed over 42 restrictive voting laws. Georgia led the charge by passing SB202, which is the most restrictive voter suppression law since the passage of The Voting Rights Act in 1965. The bill has been a model for other legislatures and includes provisions such as restrictions on absentee voting, enabling the State to overrule county election authorities, criminalizing providing food and water to those waiting in line to vote, and codifying that a single person can challenge an unlimited number of voter registrations which has resulted in voter roll purges. In Florida, the governor signed a bill requiring college students and faculty to be surveyed on their beliefs and could use the data to implement financial penalties on certain schools. Other states are expected to follow suit leading up to the 2024 election.

We are advocating for:

  • Automatic voter registration so that every American citizen who turns 18 can cast a ballot.

  • Expanded early voting locations to include college campuses. This will allow students and other Americans to cast their ballot with ease. 

  • Ensure that college administrations provide adequate voter resources in a broadly accessible manner, such as prominent displays on their websites and signage throughout their campuses. 

  • Passing federal legislation to expand voting rights, override the current state restrictions, end partisan gerrymandering, and include additional campaign finance reform laws.

Mental Health

Mental Health
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The number of individuals affected by mental health issues has increased significantly over the years due to lack of investments in facilities and care. The pandemic has caused this growth to accelerate further. According to a UCSF study, 48% of young adults reported struggling with mental health in mid-2021. In addition, in 2021 nearly 40% of all school districts lacked a single school psychologist. The availability of counselors is severely restricted due to a lack of funding and prioritization from school administrations. Beyond access issues, schools must also grappled with cyber bullying and negative impacts of social media on the mental health of students. Mental health services have diminished across the country as a result of closures of mental health facilities over the years. Racial and ethnic minority groups often face obstacles to accessing mental health care.

We are advocating for: 

  • Access for all students to free counseling and psychological services provided for colleges.

  • Establishing nationwide standards for college faculty and staff to identify and support students who may be experiencing mental health struggles. 

  • Identifying and expanding on-campus and outside resources available to students facing housing and food insecurity. 

  • Promoting mental health awareness and removing the social stigma associated with mental health issues.

Student Debt Relief

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Student debt

As of Q3'22, total student loan debt in the U.S. stood at a staggering $1.745 trillion. Prior generations did not face these levels of student debt as college tuition levels have since skyrocketed out of control. Since 1963, adjusting for currency inflation, college tuition has increased nearly 750%These universities also have huge endowments and related investments while they neglect investments in student resources. High interest rates for student loans add an additional burden to borrowersJust as inequities exist in other areas of our society, student debt hits certain demographics much harder than others. For example, four years after graduation, 48% of Black student borrowers owe more than they initially borrowed compared to 17% of white student borrowers. And among those pursuing an associate’s degree, female students are 50% more likely to borrow federal student loans than male students.

We are advocating for: 

  • $50,000 in student loan forgiveness for individuals who make less than $125,000 per year or for households with combined income of less than $250,000 per year.

  • Free community college tuition for all students and free four year college tuition for those whose household income is less than $125,000 per year. 

  • Investing in students by reducing tuition costs.

  • Students take advantage of any potential opportunities to participate in their college's budgeting process to demand lower tuition while identifying opportunities for the university to cut unnecessary costs. 

Equality

Equality
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Reproductive freedom has been severely threatened or lost through abortion bans in close to 20 states with the overturning of Roe v Wade. Federal abortion ban legislation is being drafted to ensure pregnant individuals lose autonomy over their bodies. The Texas abortion ban is the most egregious and is paving the way for other states. The ban criminalizes abortion and punishes doctors who perform it with up to life in prison and a fine of $100,000. It goes further to allow private citizens to file civil lawsuits against anyone they accuse of aiding or abetting an abortion and collecting court-awarded damages from defendants. Dozens of states are expanding restrictions on use of abortion pills, setting up a potential legal fight against the FDA. 

Furthermore, the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) has yet to be incorporated into the Constitution to afford equal access and protections under the law. We must also address the widespread social, economic, racial and environmental inequities in our society while acknowledging the intersectionalities across these issues. This exacerbates the growing wealth gap between the top 1% and the bottom 99%. Gender inequality has resulted in 27% of female-led households being below the poverty line, in comparison with only 13% of male-led households. Women, especially women-of-color, earn significantly less than their male counterparts. Decades of systematic racism has resulted in these massive inequities among Black Americans, minorities and women. It is imperative that we raise awareness to the social issues and discrimination that women, POC, and members of the LGBTQ+ community disproportionately face.

We are advocating for: 

  • Access to reproductive healthcare on campuses.

  • Providing assistance to students facing food and housing insecurity.

  • Raising the federal minimum wage as no one should live below the poverty line. 

  • Raising awareness through education about the systematic and social inequities that minority groups continue to face in our country, including women, individuals with disabilities, POC, and members of the LGBTQ+ community.

  • Passing legislation that clears the path for the ERA to be enshrined in the constitution.

  • Electing candidates who will enact legislation in support of equality.

Title IX

Title IX Expansion

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Title IX represents legislation enacted as part of Education Amendments of 1972, that protects students and staff against discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities in federally funded schools. It opened doors for women's athletics making athletic scholarships available and included protections against sexual assault and gender based harassment. Discussion is warranted as to how schools are held accountable and what type of transparency and compliance reporting should be required. There is lack of enforcement due to the underfunding of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR). The Leadership Conference of Civil and Human Rights called for doubling the OCR’s budget given a significant increase in the number of complaints to OCR but limited resources to address them. 

 

Despite protections by law, sexual assault and gender-based harassment continues to be an issue in K-12 and college campuses. Women ages 18-24 are at a higher risk of being sexually assaulted, a risk that increases exponentially as they enter college. Among undergraduate students, 26.4% of women and 6.8% of men experienced rape or sexual assault. These numbers are higher within the LGBTQ+ college community.

Nearly 70% of sexual assaults are not reported. The most common reasons victims give for not reporting is fear of reprisal, not being believed or supported, and experiencing victim-blaming. Schools and college administrations must be transparent and comply with federal level guidance. Adequate protections are not currently in place to keep students safe. 

 

We are advocating for:

  • Doubling the funding of OCR so there is a larger enforcement body to hold schools and universities accountable.

  • Equal access to STEM programs to ensure more diverse graduates with technical degrees to address the gender wage gap.

  • Schools to create a safe reporting system for victims of sexual assault where the victim does not have to fear retaliation.

  • Expanding protections for the LGBTQ+ community.

  • Comprehensive Sexual Education that discusses consent, sexual assault prevention, safe sex practices, and LGBTQ+ education, nationwide.

Climate Change

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Climate

Climate action must be a priority. The climate crisis is manifesting itself through an increased amount of extreme weather events such as intense rainfall, hurricanes, tsunamis, heatwaves and droughts. Climate change is both a national security and a human rights emergency. Global food supplies are being threatened by rising temperatures and the UN estimates there could be 1.2 billion climate refugees by 2050. We must pass legislation that accelerates our transition to net zero. 

Minority and disadvantaged communities are disproportionately affected by the climate crisis, and recent rollbacks of environmental protections must be addressed. What happened in Warren County, North Carolina is unfathomable when a toxic landfill was forced onto a predominantly African American community. The contaminated water crisis in Flint, Michigan is yet another example of environmental injustices. Local, state and federal governments must hold corporations and other polluters accountable to protect our planet. 

We are advocating for:

  • Passing a set of climate policy priorities through comprehensive legislation. 

  • Working with states to promote and incentivize clean energy initiatives.

  • Prioritizing public transportation including high speed rail, electric vehicle charging stations, and associated R&D related to electric vehicles. 

  • Fixing the broken recycling system.

  • Promoting the use of sustainable farming practices.

  • Launching a major national initiative requiring schools to visit landfills, waste water treatment plants and recycling centers near where they live.

  • Clean water and highlighting the inequities in underserved communities.

  • Removing toxic chemicals from our food and water supply.

  • Eliminating pollutants in the air that are causing rapid increases in asthma cases.

  • Educating yourself and others about the path to net-zero emissions by 2050.

  • Supporting brands and companies that have made a net-zero pledge and calling out those who engage in unsustainable practices and greenwashing.

  • Working hand-in-hand with departments of sustainability to improve practices on our campuses.

Accountability

Accountability in Government

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Unethical behavior amongst government officials is pervasive and threatens our democracy. This breach of fiduciary responsibility to taxpayers and outright disregard for the Constitution is cause for alarm. They must be held accountable for misconduct, corruption, accepting gifts / bribes, and conflicts of interest arising from their committee assignments as well as misrepresentations to constituents and the public. 

Special interests and corporate lobbyists are major contributors to the lack of progress in Washington. Addressing the revolving door in politics must be a priority. Too many politicians are elected through dark money and Super PACs, making them beholden to those special interests and corporations. 

 

We are advocating for: 

  • Campaign finance reform.

  • Congressional Ethics Committees taking expeditious and immediate action to resolve ethics violations.  

  • Passing the TRUST in Congress Act to ban members of Congress from owning and trading individual stocks. 

  • Restricting lobbyists from political appointments, and preventing elected representatives from becoming lobbyists after their tenure in government.

  • Improving whistleblower and watchdog protections to guarantee oversight.

  • Increasing enforcement of financial and other disclosure rules for members of the Federal government.

  • Reviewing the current ethics guidelines and developing more comprehensive protocols to hold elected and appointed government officials accountable. No one should be above the law. 

Disability Rights

Disability Rights

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Disability rights are human rights. There are currently 61 million Americans living with disabilities; that is 26% of our adults in the country. These vary from mobility, to cognitive, vision, etc. With such a large portion of our population having disabilities, it is devastating that 1 in 3 adults with disabilities from 18 to 44 do not have a health care provider; many of these are veterans. Equally unacceptable is that another 1 in 3 adults with disabilities have unmet health care needs due to cost. Lack of employment is a struggle for many as the unemployment rate among those with disabilities is nearly double the U.S. unemployment rate. 

 

Those with disabilities are further challenged with affordability of healthcare, housing that is suitable for their disabilities, and other essential living costs. COVID-19 has also disproportionately affected those with disabilities. Inclusion and accessibility continue to be a problem, and complaints filed with the federal agencies that address fair housing and employment laws are not sufficiently resolved. 

 

We are advocating for:

  • Improving access to care needed through affordable universal healthcare. 

  • Accessible and affordable home and community-based services (homecare).

  • Employment programs from colleges and employers to ensure equitable hiring of those with disabilities, including proactive campus career counseling to assist with navigating job opportunities for graduates with disabilities.  

  • Creating infrastructure to support and facilitate the needs of individuals with both physical and learning disabilities, as well as providing easier access and inclusivity to everyday tools and accessories. Having classes, dorm rooms, and facilities that help ease life for those with disabilities is a key step forward. 

Criminal Justice Reform

Criminal Justice Reform
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Systemic racism has resulted in inequities within the criminal justice system. Black people represented 14% of the US population (as of 2021), yet accounted for 33% of the U.S. Prison population. The widespread use of mobile phones and social media has helped expose racial profiling and police brutality. Body cams and police vehicle cameras have also highlighted atrocities and the pervasiveness of these injustices. The George Floyd murder forced America to reckon with the urgent need for police reform and investment in underserved communities. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020 has yet to be passed in Washington, D.C.

 

Introduction of the Demilitarization of Police Act has also not been successful. More than 8,000 local police forces, including more than 100 college police agencies, have received over $5 billion in military equipment from the federal government under the “1033 Program.” These reform bills are necessary. 

 

As of March 2022, almost 2 million people are incarceratedRoughly 76% of people held in jails are not convicted of a crime; bail practices contribute to this. Also notable is the substantial rise in the incarceration of women and girls over the last two decades by 475%. 

In 27 states, felons lose their right to vote during incarceration, and once prison sentences are served, some of the states require felons to pay fees, go in front of a commission including the governor, and meet other requirements to earn the right to vote again.

 

We are advocating for:

  • Police accountability through local and national registries that track complaints, eliminate qualified immunity, and hold officers to the same standards as citizens.  

  • Instituting training and reforms within police departments, also making mental health experts available to respond to such 911 calls. 

  • Passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to ensure required reforms.

  • Demilitarization of police departments. 

  • No armed police on campuses but an emphasis on deployment of de-escalation methods.

  • Ending privatized prisons and other organizations profiting from high incarceration rates.

  • Rehabilitation and treatment of incarcerated individuals so they may re-enter society with adaptability and survival skills.

  • Automatically grant felons the right to vote upon serving their sentence.

  • Eliminating the death penalty.

  • Funding for more public defenders so those who cannot afford an attorney can still get a fair trial.

  • Schools to institute dedicated departments to address racial profiling of their students and be advocates for students of color when complaints are filed.

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