Everyone deserves a quality education, no matter your background, what zip code you live in, or where you are from. My kids go to the same public schools I went to here in Rockford, and I understand how important their education is to their future. I believe we need to invest in early education programs so that every kid has the same opportunities to succeed. That means investing in programs like Head Start that help all lower-income families start their children on a path to success.

Quality education does not stop after high school graduation, and we need to provide our children with options once they graduate. If a student wants to attend a 4-year university, they shouldn’t be saddled with student loan debt for their entire adult life. My own student loans will not be paid off until my daughter is a sophomore in college and at this rate, her college loans won’t be paid off until her granddaughter is a sophomore in college! This is unacceptable, and we must allow our students to refinance at an affordable rate.

At the same time, we need to acknowledge that a 4-year degree is not for everyone - but that shouldn’t lock young men and women out of quality jobs. We need a renewed focus on certification programs, vocational training, and union apprenticeships that prepare young adults for the workforce. Continuing education programs, like those at Rock Valley College and Illinois Valley Community College, allow adults to go back to school to learn a trade and earn higher salaries. These programs need to be affordable and accessible to residents across our district.