Kaplan-The Orlando Times
Debra Kaplan A Candidate For The People Of Lake County
EUSTIS — Two weeks after the November 2016 election, stunned by the turn of events that lead to the Republican victories in the presidential and state-wide elections, Debra A. Kaplan decided that it was time she moved from the role of political spectator and volunteer, to becoming a candidate. She was working full-time in business development for a company in Lake Mary and had a desire to help people in her community. She announced in January 2017, that she would challenge the incumbent, Jennifer Sullivan a twice elected Tea Party Republican, for State House seat 31, which serves northwest orange and portions of Lake County in 2018.
Ms. Kaplan had spent more than 25 years as a reporter in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Florida for newspapers, radio stations and she had hosted a weekly local cable news talk shows on politics issues in Connecticut, and she had seen her share of good as well as poorly performing elected officials, both as a reporter and a resident of those states.
“I felt I could do a better job of representing the district because I had experienced a lot of the same challenges of working to keep a roof over my head, putting food on the table and paying for medical expenses, but most importantly, I knew from being a reporter how to listen to people and as a community activist, I knew how to work to come up with solutions. I felt the people in my district we not being listened to, and often the interests of large donors came before what was good for the people of this district."
“When I was a reporter for the Apopka Chief and Planter, I became acquainted with the Farmworker Ministry and Sisters Theresa, Cathy and Gail, and I covered such topics as the increase in working people without health insurance who had to rely on receiving health care through the Community Health Centers. I won an award for a health series from a small newspaper from the National Community Health Systems Association, as well as an award for a feature on a wheelchair athlete from the Florida Press Association.” At the Thomson Newspapers in Connecticut, she won awards for series on AIDS, Domestic Violence, Living with Cancer and general reporting excellence. My entire career was based on helping people and I want to do that in the legislature."
Ms. Kaplan, who has also worked in public relations and promotion work after leaving journalism, turned her volunteerism to canvassing for candidates and getting out the vote. “I never thought about running for elected office until that November 2016, because I took a hard look at what was not being done for the working people, the elderly and the children of State House Seat 31 and decided that the sum total of all of my experiences in working in the community, interacting with elected officials and wanting to make certain state government would do a better job in representing the people in northwest Orange and a portion of Lake County that encompasses the district.” Her earlier volunteerism in Connecticut included being a founding member of the Interfaith Housing Coalition, The Lower Naugatuck Valley Arts Council and service on boards of the Lower Naugatuck Valley Heart Association and American Cancer Society working on education programs.
Among the issues that are high on her priority list is improving the level of funding for public education. “We are 40th in the nation for funding education,” she said, “and yet we are the third largest state in the nation. We are spending an average of $7,500 per student, which Is not enough to ensure we are giving our young people a chance to succeed. The national average is $12,000 per student, and we keep taking money from public schools to fund for profit charters, many of which do not have certified teachers and do not teach a standardized curriculum. How is that going to help our young people prepare for the work world and compete with graduates from other states, get into the best colleges? It isn’t. I want to increase the level of funding for public schools and I want more accountability for these charter schools, which have a failure rate of 40 percent.” Some of her other educational priorities include expansion of vocational education in Florida; getting back to teaching to learn, instead of teaching to test; and doing more to retain good teachers by raising the level of pay.
Ms. Kaplan also wants to work on initiatives that end the school to jail pipeline as well as improving the way we work with juvenile offenders to prevent them from graduating into the adult offender lifestyle. Education, increasing vocational training, improving the rate of pay for working people to eventually increase to a live able wage and making certain that we use the trust fund that was set up for affordable housing in Florida is not used for general purposes, but applied to help Florida citizens find affordable and decent places to live. Over the past 20 years more than $2 billion has been taken from the trust, which could have been used to provide housing opportunities for Florida citizens.
Other areas of focus for Ms. Kaplan is common sense gun laws that protect lawful ownership of guns while closing the gun show loophole and removing military style weapons from Florida streets. “What occurred in February at Stoneman Douglass High School, should not be allowed to happen again. We must do background checks and certify that those who own guns can pass background checks and pass a gun safety program.” She is disagrees with the legislature’s passing unfunded or partially funded mandates like the 2018 Guardian Act which requires schools to have armed personnel. “We need to make certain that struggling school boards do not have to take funds from academics to arm teachers and administrators.” Ms. Kaplan believes that we can protect schools better by hardening the buildings with metal detectors and closing off multiple access to buildings, as well as do more to aid troubled students with mental health counseling.
Ms. Kaplan is also hoping to sponsor or cosponsor the Equal Rights Amendment to protect the rights of all citizens and she favors equal pay for equal work; protections against sexual harassment in the workplace; stepped up enforcement against human trafficking for sexual and labor exploitation; banning fracking and off shore oil drilling and more oversight of our nursing facilities to protect vulnerable seniors and the disabled from abuse.
She has been endorsed by the UAW, Lake County Educators Association, the National Organization for Women PAC, Florida Progressives Caucus, Florida Democratic Women’s Club, Florida Chapter of the Women’s March, Florida Democratic Environmental Caucus, Mom’s Demand Action Against Gun Violence, Democracy for America, St. John’s River Keepers, and Leap Forward, an anti-gun violence group.
She has pledged not to accept donations from big businesses and PACS which are anti- environmental, anti-public education, and for the loosening of gun protection rules as well.