« Back to the list of Candidates

During an emergency such as a hurricane or a public health crisis, there is not only a need to focus planning and response efforts on disability-specific aspects of the emergency, but also to seek the input and expertise of people with disabilities in the process. If elected, how would your office work to ensure that state emergency planning (i.e., health testing, sheltering and safety of congregate living populations, et cetera) is inclusive of Florida’s disability communities? How will you work to ensure that communications and other information from the state is accessible to people with disabilities?

I would make sure that the state emergency response office was following CDC guidelines on preparedness and specifically disability and health emergency preparedness. We need to make sure those items are safeguarded in our budget and those funds are not raided to fund other programs. Communication in the event of an emergency is paramount and I would include information on my website, that would be accessible to people with disabilities.

In the event that the global pandemic lasts through the current school year or possibly beyond, how would you work with state educational officials to ensure that relevant state and federal educational guarantees for students with disabilities are adhered to, and do you believe that it is possible to appropriately educate students with disabilities remotely or through virtual education?

I work with ESE students and other students with disabilities at the juvenile detention center where I teach. We need to ensure that state and federal guidelines are being adhered to. I believe that if we use our current technology and push our ingenuity that it is possible to educate students with disabilities remotely. Right now, I don't think schools can open safely and we need to find ways to implement education to all students, especially students with disabilities, that protect students, teachers, and families.

In recent years, the state legislature has devoted much attention to the issue of mental health service delivery and crisis response systems in state public schools. In your opinion, how should the state work to ensure that the mental health needs of its students are met, and what reforms are needed to provide adequate mental health and crisis response services in our schools? When, if ever, is it appropriate for schools to initiate involuntary examinations for its students under the Florida Mental Health Act (“the Baker Act”)?

We are not meeting the mental health needs of our students. We have new systems in place, but districts are simply paying lip service to these new guidelines. Teachers receive very little training and are expected to pass that limited training on to students. We need to invest in mental health counseling in our schools, as an option for students to talk to. With the expertise of mental health professionals, a much better determination could be made if a student is in crisis and the Florida Mental Health Act should be initiated.

It has become apparent that COVID-19 spreads most easily in institutional and congregate living arrangements. If elected, how would you work to prevent the unnecessary institutionalization of persons with disabilities and reduce other forms of congregate living in favor of serving persons with disabilities in their own homes or the community both during and after the current pandemic? What will you do to ensure that people with psychiatric disabilities are afforded the services they need to succeed in their own homes and communities and avoid psychiatric hospitalization?

We need a statewide mask mandate. Or leaders who respect the danger of this virus and not those who ignore it or downplay it. This would reduce the amount of spread everywhere, including the institutions where people live and work. We could look at expanding home care for individuals that would have a support system in place and expanding home health care workers in those situations.

Even before the pandemic began and massive job losses ensued, 2.7 million Floridians were uninsured. Research shows that under normal circumstances the uninsured have much greater challenges accessing health care, and these disparities are exacerbated during a health crisis. Do you support expanding the state’s Medicaid program to cover adults (19-64) with income up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level to provide more than 800,000 Floridians with coverage? Why or why not? Do you support proposals to utilize a “block grant” or “per capita cap” approach to contain Medicaid spending? Why or why not?

I fully support expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Covering over 800,000 Floridians is the main reason why. We would take many high-risk individuals out of private insurance, which lowers costs and stabilizes the market. We would also add almost 63,000 high-paying health care jobs to Florida's economy.

Despite the protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act (the ADA) and related state and federal laws, the unemployment rate of people with disabilities continues to be much higher than that of people without disabilities. If elected, how would you work to promote meaningful opportunities for supported employment and competitive, integrated employment of people with disabilities in the state? What policies do you advocate to support the academic and career success of students with disabilities, especially for students from historically marginalized communities and backgrounds?

I support Amendment 2, which would raise the minimum wage. That not only raises baseline wages, it would raise salaries across the board for workers who are close to that wage. We need to raise the unemployment maximum payment from $275 a week and extend the number of weeks someone is eligible, where we're tied for dead last in the country. We need to take down the current CONNECT website and design a new system that provides benefits, instead of denies them. I would support educational opportunities for students with disabilities, especially in STEM areas. I want to diversify our economy with green technology jobs and expand tax credits for the film and television industry, which would provide high-paying union jobs throughout the state.

Nationwide it is believed that there are more than 750,000 people with disabilities who are incarcerated, and many of these individuals face substantial barriers to reentry when they complete their sentences and return home. What reforms do you support to ensure that returning citizens with disabilities have the resources, skills and mental health supports to succeed when they complete their sentences?

We do not do enough to rehabilitate those who are incarcerated. And the rate of ESE students in my classroom are about 10 times higher than at a traditional school. There is clearly a connection between the behavior issues and impulse control that can arise in students and incarceration. We need to add programs that help people with skills, resources, and get at the heart of decision making as they become returning citizens.

What is your experience working with people with disabilities or alongside disability-led organizations? Please provide examples of your experience addressing and responding to disability issues or describing disability advocacy efforts you have participated in either personally, professionally, or while in elected office if applicable. If elected, how would you integrate the input and perspectives of people with disabilities in your office’s planning and legislative efforts?

As I referenced earlier, I teach a juvenile population with ESE rates far above a traditional school. We have to constantly make adaptations and adjustments to suit the needs of these students. I am constantly looking for new ways to provide information and resources for the students while they are in the facility. Sometimes that involves specific lesson plan implementation, sometimes it's finding videos that speak to students in a way that as a straight, white male, I can't convey. Sometimes it's finding a graphic novel version of Shakespeare or The Odyssey to supplement reading because students have a hard time even following what's going on in the story. I would take this unique perspective to Tallahassee and make sure their voice is heard.