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Weiss discusses her experience as a public school teacher and her priorities if elected.
Regina Weiss, a Detroit school teacher and Oak Park City Council Member, is a Democrat running for the Michigan House of Representatives 27th District. Weiss is running against Republican Elizabeth Goss, who has not responded to an interview request from the JN.
Here is Weiss’ interview with the JN, edited for length and clarity.
What in your experience as a public school teacher led you to run this race?
I’ve worked in education a long time, as a Detroit Public School classroom teacher and also in mental health and wellness support in the communities of Oak Park, Berkley and Huntington Woods. I’ve seen several issues across school districts, but the State of Michigan is the common denominator. The lack of resources from the State and some of the mandates issued are detrimental to kids and communities. I believe we need more educators in Lansing.
I’d like to help implement an equitable funding model that fully funds schools K-12 based on need and not Zip codes. I also want to ensure we aren’t publicly funding for-profit charter schools, and that we’re holding all charters to the same standards as public schools.
Besides education, what other priorities would you like to address if elected?
In addition to being a teacher, I’m also an Oak Park City Council member and very passionate about local government. We need to fully fund our local municipalities. Michigan is the worst state in the country when it comes to revenue sharing — the money we pay in taxes that actually comes back to our local communities to improve infrastructure, to increase water safety and water affordability, to provide quality services. Often taxpayers have to foot the bill through millages in order to have a library or pay public-safety officers.
I also want to stop state unfunded mandates such as the lead service line replacement program. Every local municipality was made responsible for replacing every private lead service line within the community. I’m proud to say this project’s been completed in Oak Park because it is an important one. But the legislature needs to provide funding when making a mandate that burdens a community’s finances.
I’d also like to address unemployment system reform, a minimum wage increase, guaranteed paid and sick time off — especially during this pandemic — and childcare for families who need it. These are critical to moving us beyond the pandemic and improving where we started.
What are your thoughts on how COVID-19 has been handled in terms of schools, and how will you deal with education in the pandemic if elected?
COVID-19 has exacerbated problems that have existed for decades. In Detroit, where I teach, there are many buildings without proper ventilation and, in extreme cases, without running water. It’s nearly impossible to be in a building like that and be safe. So getting back to normal after the pandemic isn’t good enough. We need to move forward, and part of investing in education properly is investing in infrastructure. All our school buildings need to be updated and safe. Students shouldn’t be breathing in toxins or be worried about lead in their drinking water, or the lack of air conditioning and windows that don’t open. These are basic to public health and giving our kids opportunity to learn and grow in an environment conducive to that.
As a teacher, how are virtual classrooms going and how might they continue?
We’re not doing great right now. Another infrastructure struggle is that broadband Internet access isn’t equal. I’m a person with resources who can get high-speed Internet, but even mine is spotty. Many of my students are really frustrated, even struggling with mental health, because they’re constantly getting kicked out of class, or they can’t get in to do their work. This is definitely an equity and inequality issue. I’d like to see every student have access to high speed Internet, reliable devices and support for when those devices fail.
This summer, we’ve seen enormous unrest in our country over police brutality. If elected, what steps would you take to protect the black community in your district?
In order to address systemic racism, we have to enact anti-racist policies when it comes to police brutality. That can include anti-bias training, very detailed background checks, social media account reviews to ensure officers aren’t posting racist comments and then policing Black and brown communities, and ongoing training and support for officers. I also think it’s important to have a central accountability system so a police officer can’t be fired from one apartment for misconduct and then picked up by another.
We also need to invest more in affordable housing and should be giving local municipalities increased control in this. In Michigan, we don’t allow rent control. I think local municipalities should be able to make that decision in order to protect their residents.
There’s been a rise in white supremacy, white nationalism, and antisemitism in America. Can you speak on connections you have with the Jewish community and steps you’ll take to protect it?
Anyone who commits a hate crime should be prosecuted to the full extent, which isn’t currently happening. The Jewish population in Oak Park, where I serve, is one of the strengths of our district. We partner on programs whenever possible, and when there are issues in the Jewish community, we strive to be present and help to address them. We have to stand up for each other. It’s really hard to police the hearts and minds of people, but when they do racist things, when people take antisemitic actions, they need to be held accountable. Our community needs to be protected.