To improve our current education system, we must increase teacher salaries, improve technology access and build safer and more inclusive school environments.

As the daughter and sister of public school teachers, I feel strongly about the need for thriving public education. I will fight for a system that supports high quality education for our kids and values public school teachers, who dedicate their lives to the well-being of our children. I know firsthand: Growing up, I witnessed the countless hours my mother spent preparing her classroom, grading papers and stepping up for her students. Her dedication – and every Texas teacher’s dedication – is worth more.

East Texans work hard to support their families, and they deserve to be paid a living wage. Raising the state’s minimum wage is an important step to promote financial stability for all working Texans. Additionally, women in Texas on average earn just 79 cents for every dollar paid to men for the same work. Equal pay for equal work benefits everyone.

Paid sick leave is also vital to the health of our East Texas workforce. Hardworking Texans deserve benefits that don’t force them to compromise at the expense of their or their family’s health.

Ensuring women’s rights and improving women’s access to medical care is critical to the health and well-being of all Texans. A lack of services and health coverage for women has resulted in Texas moms dying after childbirth at unacceptable rates. We can drastically improve the health of new and expecting mothers by extending Women’s Pregnancy Medicaid to 12 months postpartum from the current coverage, which is only 60 days after delivery.

Voting is an essential tool for expressing our values and influencing policies. Elections and voting are opportunities for citizens to shape the future of our communities, state and country. We should make voting easier for eligible Texas voters — that includes establishing an online voter registration system, expanding early voting periods and improving voter ID laws to include college IDs and federal or state government IDs.

Our current criminal justice system is rife with racial disparities. It unfairly punishes communities of color and targets young black men. We need to dramatically reform this system by removing police officers from schools and increasing the number of social workers and counselors, raising the age of criminal responsibility in adult court to at least 18 years and dissolving the cash bail system.

We should also increase the number of required officer training hours and ensure they complete annual cultural competency and implicit bias training. Legalizing the use of marijuana and pardoning those in jail for low-level marijuana offenses and enforcing the “8 Can’t Wait” strategies in all Texas police departments would also aid in curbing the widespread and unacceptable racial disparities in our justice system.

Our leaders have turned their backs on East Texas’ LGBTQ community, and we must do more to foster an inclusive environment. East Texas needs leaders who will support a planned bi-partisan bill next session that extends LGBTQ protections and bars discrimination in housing and public spaces. In the Texas Senate, I will ensure the LGBTQ community has a voice by supporting protections that prohibit discrimination. I will also support the passage of HB 517 or a similar bill that penalizes mental health professionals for using conversion therapy on LGBTQ children.

Eliminating discrimination and incorporating LGBTQ representation is vital, and I will do all I can to fight for more LGBTQ voices in our government and education.