New York Congressman Antonio Delgado has wrapped up a district work period. He briefed reporters Monday about his latest focus on education and workforce development. The 19th District Democrat also voiced his disappointment over the state of rural broadband.
The first-term congressman visited seven schools in his 19th District, along with workforce development programs.
“It’s an area that I don’t believe is getting enough attention at all on the national stage,” Delgado says. “And it’s important, if we’re going to restore some economic growth and opportunity, that we think critically about both education and workforce development.”
Delgado says he had conversations with students about issues most important to them.
“Student debt crisis came up quite a bit,” says Delgado. “Keeping kids safe from gun violence in schools came up, for obvious reasons.”
With regard to student debt, and the high cost of higher education, Delgado says revisiting old practices could help, such as tying interest rates to the U.S. Treasury rate. Looking forward:
“I’m very much in favor of a robust loan forgiveness program tied to public service,” says Delgado. “And it would be particularly helpful in our area if we’re able to also treat farming as a public service because indeed it is.”
In education overall, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has been one of the few in the Trump administration to remain in her position. Delgado has a thought as to why.
“The reason why she’s still there is because she’s doing nothing, and the president likes that. I think the lack of attention, the lack of focus on public school education, the concerted effort to gut the infrastructure and the support mechanisms around that which, by the way, have a profound impact on those suffering from mental illness,” says Delgado. “One of the questions I get a lot when I’m at these schools, and not just from teachers but the students themselves, is where’s the support for those who are struggling with mental health issues?”
He says a lack of funding and resources coupled with some efforts to privatize schooling is affecting students and communities.
“It’s an outright shame that in light of all the inequality we have in this country, that we talk about education being the great equalizer in this country, we are literally taking away the one area that has the capacity to level the playing field, which ultimately just exacerbates and throws gasoline on the fire of inequality,” Delgado says. “So it’s a passion for me to get to a point where we can think about education more robustly again as a country and prioritize it, and we are far from it, unfortunately. And the fact that Betsy DeVos is at the head of the realm, at the head of the table in this is, there’s no better evidence of that fact. She just simply has no desire whatsoever to fulfill the mission of the Department of Education.”
As for school gun violence, and gun violence in general — the latest being a fatal shooting at a municipal building in Virginia Beach — Delgado says students spoke about gun violence during his school visits. He reminds students of their power, giving the example of a national student walkout in 2018.
“I can hear a lot of fear in their voices, and uncertainty, but also frustration and anger, and they want answers and they want action. And I often use the conversation around gun violence to explain to them their power and highlight the successful work of the walkout, and how that really made the adults in the room have do something,” says Delgado. “And it also led to the House of Representatives, for the first time, passing a universal background check bill in H.R. 8. And while that is not nearly enough, it is a critical step that for far too long hasn’t even been remotely pursued to the degree that we’ve now been able to achieve it. The key is to obviously get to a point where the Senate can follow suit.”
He calls the legislation a baseline.
“Safe storage laws, baselines. Focusing on doing away with military-style weapons of war on our streets, bump stocks, making sure that we actually not just say that the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] can study gun violence but give it the funding it needs to study gun violence,” says Delgado.
Delgado is a member of a recently launched House Task Force on Rural Broadband, which seeks to achieve rural broadband for all by 2025.
“What’s even more frustrating is the recent report issued by the FCC [Federal Communications Commission] that we’ve more or less done the job on rural broadband, that we’ve covered the whole country,” Delgado says. “I mean nothing could be further from the truth.”
He says it is important to address mapping, accurately counting who has rural broadband, along with upping the speed from the 25 megabyte standard.
“It’s the mapping piece and it’s the speed piece that I think right now is the main focus of the task force, and making sure that we are able identify those areas all across the country that because of the failed mapping approach have been left behind,” says Delgado.
Also while home, Delgado held a veterans advisory committee meeting and coordinated his first veterans’ resource fair. He also held the second meeting of his Agriculture Advisory Committee.