I grew up here in Turlock as a product of local public schools. I attended Cunningham Elementary then Wakefield Junior High School before graduating from Turlock High School and going onto college. This is the community I know and love and I believe that today a lot of folks don’t have the same opportunities I had growing up here.
This past week I was invited by CSU Stanislaus to speak about education and other issues facing Valley voters as part of ASI’s multi-candidate forum. While one Assembly candidate attended as well as both candidates for Turlock mayor, I was disappointed my opponent Jeff Denham refused to share his views with students in an open forum. I, however, enjoyed the conversation and wanted to lay out my thoughts on education in greater detail for those who were unable to attend.
Early education is critical to forming the educational building blocks that put students on the right lifetime path for learning. We need to make sure classrooms aren’t overcrowded or underfunded and teachers are equipped with the tools they need to help students learn. I believe Congress has a legitimate role in developing guidelines and nation-wide standards to track what’s working, what’s not and to make sure our tax dollars are being used wisely. But I also believe that we have enough federal mandates and we are better served by increasing local authority to experiment and encourage individual districts to develop new and more creative curriculums to motivate learning and keep subject matters relevant to our students.
Our renewed focus on education must go beyond just K-12. Unfortunately, our region has one of the least educated populations in the state and we need to encourage more of our local residents to pursue higher education so we can compete with the rest of California and our country. As the parent of two teenage daughters, I share millions of Americans’ concerns that high tuition costs will prevent students from getting the college degree they need to compete. I believe we need to fully fund Pell Grants and I also support tying the student loan interest rates to the same rates we loan the big banks we bailed out.
My opponent, Congressman Jeff Denham, unfortunately voted to cut Pell Grants and to increase the interest rates on student loans. I believe we stand far apart on this issue and I feel strongly that getting a good education in the United States should be an option for any hardworking American and not just reserved for the wealthiest among us.
And while I want to be a champion for higher education, we also need to understand that college is not for everyone. We need to support job and career-training programs that invest in technical and certificate education for students who don’t attend college and for older adults who want to refresh their skills. The Central Valley needs a skilled workforce to compete and succeed in a changing economy. If we have the will, I know we can pave a way.
— Michael Eggman is a local Turlock farmer, small businessman and the Democratic nominee running for California's 10th Congressional District.