Dana Beasley Brown

Dana Beasley Brown

I grew up in a very poor family. My parents and my five siblings squeezed into a singlewide trailer, doing the best we could to get by. When I was very young, I realized how economic policies affected my everyday life. I decided then to devote my life to becoming a voice for the low-income community.

In 2000, I received a Pell Grant to attend Western Kentucky University, and I plan on becoming an advocate for the low-income community after my husband graduates from seminary.

The Pell Grant that helped me afford to go to college is an example of why I believe in government. It makes sense that we open opportunities to people who can grow from them. It is our collective responsibility to do this, and we work through government to fulfill that responsibility.

So often, though, in the political arena, the true purpose of government gets lost. Already, we're hearing about plans to outsource our children's education to businesses, or to depend on casinos to share their profits to fund our state's public structures. Can't we do better than this?

Government is part of civil society; it is the vehicle that all Kentuckians use to make this state what it needs to be. We fill our potholes, we educate our children, and we make sure that everyone has access to running water. We can't do these things individually, but we congregate through government to collectively contribute to the common good.

My experience with the Pell Grant also tells a story about why I'm worried about our state's future. The grant started out as a great opportunity, but each year, the aid I received dwindled, not because my family was making more money, but because tuition was rising and the funding for grants was eroding. I paid my bills by going hungry toward the end of each month. Now my husband and I are trying to pay back all the loans. He's in seminary, I'm working two jobs, and we're still struggling.

I know my story is not a unique one in this state. Over the last five years, our state government has endured $1 billion in budget cuts. Kentuckians are feeling the pinch because we all see that our state has not been moving forward. The Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation just released a study that found that it will take 153 years for Kentucky's median household income to meet the national average. And despite the rhetoric about the importance of education, Kentucky leadership has failed to adequately fund our educational system. Governing Magazine ranks Kentucky 50th in per capita K-12 education funding. Just recently, Education Week released a study determining that because of high poverty rates and low investments in education, a child born in Kentucky is significantly less likely to succeed than children born in 40 other states.

We the people-my friends, my family, and the people at my church-are worried about Kentucky's future. We don't need studies to tell us that things aren't good here. But we know that with the right leadership, we can be a better state. We can invest in our public structures so that all Kentuckians have a chance to succeed. We're looking for elected officials who see Kentucky's reality squarely, and will help us fix it. This is our state-not the casinos', or the highest bidders'-and we need leadership that respects the potential that we have.

We-the people who are here living and working and making this state what it is-want to fairly and adequately address our budget's structural deficit, and we want a leader who invests in Kentuckians' ability to move forward with the rest of the country. We want every Kentucky family to have access to adequate housing and good health care. We want students to be able to afford college. We want jobs to be sound and sustainable. We want our children to want to stay here. We want to come together for the common good, and we need a governor who supports us in that.

This is what the people in Kentucky are talking about. We're looking for leaders who will join our conversation.