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I am a proud product of public schools – from kindergarten through medical school, and the father of three public school students. Public education was once America’s biggest competitive advantage and the “port of entry” for new Americans. Our K-12 public schools need funds, innovation, and respect. College students shouldn’t have to borrow the cost of a first home to get a degree, and we must broaden community college and non-college post-secondary opportunities.

Strong public education is the engine that drives our economy forward.

I believe in public schools and public-school teachers. We must restore a culture of respect for people who teach in public schools, and pay them according to the value we place on the future. Every politician will tell you that “children are the future” – I think we should pay teachers like we really believe it. Public school teachers have held the ladder into the middle class for millions, and we are counting on them to do so for millions to come.

We are blessed to have some great schools and universities in the Sixth District. Embry Riddle Aeronautical University is routinely ranked tops in the world. Bethune Cookman and Stetson both serve a vital role in our community and produce some of the leading business people in our area. Both Radiology Associates and Ormond Beach Dermatology hire Daytona State College graduates.

Schools do more than grant diplomas and prepare almost every American for the life ahead of us. They are the center of a community. Community schools deserve our support and we must defend them against those who would profit from stripping their funding.

Strengthening public education at the primary and secondary levels is critical, but we must also strengthen education at the post-secondary level. This means making sure that college is affordable for future generations, while also working to address the student debt crisis for those already drowning in education-related debt.

As special needs parents, the public schools remain an integral part of our daughter's socialization and education. Exceptional Student Education programs across the nation are historically underfunded, leaving some of our most disadvantaged children even further behind.

We need options for those who do not wish to go to college but wish to expand their skills and education beyond high school. Vocational and technical schools, and programs like the apprenticeship programs run by organized labor, provide a viable and attractive alternative for those who wish to continue their education and training beyond high school to pursue a career capable of sustaining a family, but who do not wish to pursue a traditional college degree.