The COVID-19 pandemic has caused us to reexamine how everything functions, whether it is reorganizing a space to allow for social distancing or re-imagining how our institutions are led to ensure equity. This year’s General Election is an opportunity to realign our priorities and to express them through new political leadership. As a public school teacher, I am well-positioned to speak to our communities’ most pressing issues as State Representative: schools, healthcare, and wages.
With the pandemic forcing schools to implement more remote learning, it is imperative that the state legislature restore the $300 million cut from the budget during the Great Recession. 21st century learning requires that students have access to a variety of online applications; the licenses for many of these learning resources come at a cost. Replacing physical books and textbooks with eBooks is another cost brought about by the pandemic. As of July 2020, the budget surplus is $1.4 billion, meaning that the resources are there to adequately fund our schools. This moment calls for lawmakers who are willing to make the investment in our young people.
The pandemic has also highlighted the need to expand healthcare access and raise wages for essential workers. In Indiana, an individual who makes more than $17,829 a year does not qualify for the HIP 2.0 health insurance program; however, someone earning $17,829 is likely not to receive health insurance through their employer and will likely struggle to afford health insurance on their own through the healthcare.gov marketplace.
This calls for Indiana to raise the income eligibility for HIP 2.0 to individuals making up to $21,866 so that someone who works two 29-hours-a-week part-time jobs receives health insurance coverage. Another possible solution is raising the state’s minimum wage incrementally so that workers can afford to buy health insurance coverage on their own. I propose raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour in 2022 and then raising it one dollar a year so that it reaches $12 an hour by 2025.
Because of the pandemic, we are now more aware of how indispensable schools are to our communities, how vital healthcare coverage is to people’s safety, and how essential workers are to everyone having the things they need. Our state policies need to reflect these understandings by increasing per-student funding, expanding the HIP 2.0 health insurance program, and raising the minimum wage. Teachers like me, since we confront these issues on a day-to-day basis, are equipped to tackle the challenges our state faces with compassion and resolve. This is why I am running for State Representative this November.
Article sponsored by Michael Bienz who is a high school English teacher running for State Representative in District 83, which includes Aboite Township and most of Whitley County.