"North Carolina deserves leaders who will join together to take our state forward -- improving schools, expanding job opportunities, protecting our environment and ensuring basic rights, including fair voting districts and laws"
Where Ashton Stands
I caught the teaching bug during high school, when I had the privilege of tutoring a fellow student who was homebound fighting leukemia. I helped him a few times a week with Biology, while he shuttled back and forth to Chapel Hill for treatments. When he graduated, I have never been so proud. From then on, I knew education would be my calling.
I am passionate about the American promise of providing equal opportunity to all children, and public education is where we make good on that promise. This passion led me to become a North Carolina Teaching Fellow, to pursue my master’s degree at Harvard and then to serve as a teacher, principal and assistant superintendent at disadvantaged at-risk schools in High Point, Greensboro, and Thomasville.
The North Carolina I grew up in was known nationwide for its commitment to education, from pre-K to our top-notch university system. But that commitment has vanished in recent years, and now our teachers’ pay is among the lowest in the country. It’s no wonder our best teachers are lured to other states, a trend we must reverse. I will fight to renew North Carolina’s commitment and make education a top priority again.
Growing up in Burlington and Alamance County, I remember those special days when my Dad would let me tag along while he voted. He wanted me to see what a privilege and responsibility voting is, and that lesson has stayed with me. I take my own kids with me on election days so they can learn the same thing.
Unlike our current lawmakers in Raleigh and Washington, D.C., I favor making voting easier, not harder. We should expand early voting, allow same day registration and reduce as many barriers as possible to encourage people to cast their ballots. Protecting voting rights is essential.
Our democracy depends on representative districts, a concept that is threatened in these days of gerrymandering. North Carolinians are tired of politicians playing games to preserve their own power. I will fight for an independent, non-partisan redistricting commission that will give us confidence that the system for electing our representatives is fair.
The system of checks and balances is fundamental to our democracy, spelled out in our State Constitution. I worry that our legislative leaders in Raleigh are undermining that constitution, however, by taking steps to weaken separation of powers among the legislative, executive and judiciary branches. They have stripped powers from the governor and are threatening the independence of the courts.
And they have grabbed power from cities like Greensboro, trying to dictate how we elect our local officials.
Likewise, our legislators have shown lack of respect for the U.S. Constitution, passing bills only to have them thrown out by federal courts – after spending millions of taxpayer money in lawsuits to defend them. North Carolina should be a model of good governance, and I'll work tirelessly to that end.
North Carolina used to be a place of promise and hope, where families could thrive. Unfortunately, today many North Carolinians work 50 or 60 hours a week and are still not able to provide the basics for their families.
Poverty has grown faster in North Carolina than in most states, and too many people lack opportunities to earn a good living. We need to dramatically increase job opportunities by fostering small business growth, supporting innovation and attracting new employers to our state, making sure to include hard-hit rural areas.
Our educational system is a key, and by strengthening the partnership between our schools and businesses, we can make sure we have a job-ready workforce. We must embrace programs such as the one I toured recently in Kentucky, where high schools students learn skills and get experience that prepare them for good paying, high-tech auto manufacturing jobs.
As the mother of three young children, I am committed to a sustainable and green future for North Carolina. This means we must safeguard clean water, protect our parkland and open spaces and support the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
Growing up, my family vacationed at Topsail Beach and I love to take my own kids to enjoy North Carolina’s beautiful beaches. But climate change is real and so we must help our coastal communities get ready for the rising sea, not just stick our heads in the sand -- the approach of our current legislature.
Closer to home, I believe we must fight for environmental justice, making sure that the most vulnerable communities do not bear a disproportionate burden of pollution and contamination. And when an environmental crisis does occur, such as the coal ash spill, we must hold the responsible party accountable. In this case, Duke Power should not be allowed to raise rates to cover the cost of its toxic spill while people in Stokes County are still drinking bottled water. I will work to be a careful steward of our natural resources so North Carolina can be a place our children and grandchildren want to call home.
As a public school educator, I have seen too many children suffer due to lack of health care. It happens with alarming frequency: a child ends up with a health crisis that could have prevented, but the parent couldn’t afford a doctor’s visit. Small problems turn into large ones and kids end up in the emergency room – an option that is expensive, traumatic and ineffective.
Our health care system is broken, and one area where that is painfully apparent is mental health. Our schools mirror our society, where mental health services are needed more than ever but are in short supply. Nothing is more frustrating to me as an educator than to see a child who desperately needs counseling but to find out that the next Medicaid-covered appointment is months away. We must invest in more school-based mental health services, part of a strategy to address the gun violence epidemic as a public health problem.
Beyond that, North Carolina should follow the lead of 31 other states and expand Medicaid, taking advantage of the federal dollars provided in this program to cover more North Carolinians. Lower income families, most of whom are working full time, are disabled or are caregivers, would receive coverage, while premium costs for those who already have health insurance would stabilize. In addition, expanding Medicaid would create tens of thousands of jobs. It’s not only the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing economically.