When I got elected I thought like a lot of others here, that I was going to make a decision based on my district. You soon get an education on just how diversified our state is. Many times you’ll hear representatives say they’re voting for their districts. That sounds good, but rarely is a vote tailored to one or two districts. Granted there are groups or industries that are affected, but it’s still a statewide issue. 

Drug addiction and drug overdose deaths are an issue that plagues our entire country. Before being elected, I had the attitude that if you were dumb enough to start using heroin or the likes, you deserved the consequences of that decision. 

Thinking in my mind that everyone should know the results of going down that road. Then I met a very brave young person that shared with me the journey that led them to using heroin. Even as I write this article, I’m fighting back the tears just as I did listening to them several years ago. 

To hear the story of a child trapped in such an abusive situation ripped my heart out. We all know people who’ve progressively partied to hard drugs. Now I met someone that by all accounts had no option of escape but drugs. I realized that if we could change the situations of these kids we could change their futures. I know that’s no revelation to any of you but that meeting changed my life. It softened my heart towards children’s issues. 

I’m in my seventh year (wow) as a legislator now, and education reform comes up every year. Seven years of everyone agreeing things need to change but can’t agree on how! The Department of Education is a huge, powerful establishment. They also have a huge influence on many politicians. In Lincoln County, we have a great public education system as most rural areas do. Unfortunately, many school districts aren’t as fortunate as we are. There are some that have been failing for years, and nothing has changed for those kids.

This year I’ve paid more attention to parents testifying in committees on how their schools are failing them. The ones that amazed me were success stories of those that got out of the bad schools. The other side is many are trapped by their zip code or poverty with no means to escape. 

I used to have the luxury of saying it’s not my problem, but that’s not the case anymore. I’ve had the opportunity to visit charter schools in the inner cities. I looked parents in the eyes as they’ve shared their anger, and desires for better education and opportunities for their children. Sometimes I have to decide between frustrated parents and someone in a $2000 suit making a six-figure salary a year. 

I know not every child is going to be a huge success. I know our schools work best when partners are involved with them. We live in a different time now and the one size fits all approach doesn’t work anymore. 

Do I think the changes being proposed by the state legislators is a perfect fix for the problems we are in? No! Do I think we can continue to do nothing? No! Eventually the needle has to move for change. Sometimes even if the first move is in the wrong direction, the friction it makes can start a fire to get it moving forward.