The student news site of Coral Gables Senior High School.

Big Speak

Maria Elvira Salazar

November 4, 2018

On the Republican side is Maria Elvira Salazar, a journalist and Senior Political Correspondent who worked for the Spanish-language network Telemundo for three decades. She spoke recently with highlights about her campaign and the issues she would champion if elected.

Education is most handled at the state and local levels, but what would you try to do to bolster public education and make it better for students and teachers?

“I think we have to bring more federal dollars to the public school system. One of the things that I would like to do is bring together companies, corporations with high schools. That’s one of my ideas, and I’m putting together that new plan that I’m going to present to Congress. Definitely we need to strengthen the funds that the public school system is receiving right now.”

What would you do about gun safety and making schools safer and preventing the kind of tragedy that happened in Parkland?

“We have to create early intervention centers. That’s a pilot program that I want to present to different high schools that fall into my district. If a teacher considers that a child is going through some emotional disturbances, then he or she can refer them to that early intervention center. That way that child will receive the help he or she needs. The early intervention centers are one of my most important projects, and I would like to make Coral Gables High School and the other high schools in my district part of this pilot program. It’s not a difficult or complicated concept. It’s just having trauma therapists ready to talk to those children and neutralize or minimize their emotional problems and give them a solution so they will be able to graduate high school and avoid the possibility of falling through the cracks.”

That deals with the human side of school shootings. But what about the gun side?

“I don’t like to take rights away from people. I don’t like to change the Constitution. I believe we need to follow the laws that are on the books and close the loopholes. The loopholes are the big villains here. In this country, if you own an assault weapon and you want to sell it to me, from private to private, we don’t need to leave a trace. You don’t even need to give me a receipt. I can pay you in cash and you give me the gun. That’s a loophole. That means I could be selling to you or the bad guys or the gangsters who could be selling a lot of guns. Also when you go to a gun show, if I’m a private [citizen], I can rent a table and I can put out whatever firearm that I want to sell. I think that’s a mistake. Every transaction done in this country that involves a firearm needs to have a background check and needs to go through an authorized dealer. I think that would really minimize the buying and selling of firearms from the bad guys because the law-abiding citizens who are gun owners, they could have whatever guns they want. That’s what the Constitution says.”

State legislation passed soon after the Parkland shooting allows school districts to train teachers to bring firearms into the classroom. Do you have a position on that?

“Should teachers have guns? I don’t think so. There are other people who could be trained that are not necessarily teachers. Teachers are there to teach. They don’t need to be equipped with a firearm to protect a classroom. That’s why we have metal detectors and that’s why I want “mental” detectors, which are the early intervention centers. So now you have both: the mental and the metal.”

What is your position on teacher pay?

“I think we should treat teachers better than anybody else in society. If a teacher has proven that she can teach well, then that person needs to be rewarded, not only with a good salary but with good benefits. Teachers are the soul of society because sometimes they spend more time with you than your own parents. Nothing buys giving love and knowledge to our children. Nothing buys that.”

A big issue for Miami is sea level rise and climate change. What would you do if you got into Congress to address specifically sea level rise?

“We have to bring a major infrastructure bill so we can help Miami Beach and Key Biscayne. So what we need is federal money to help Miami Beach and the coastal areas because we cannot just keep pumping water. We need to find other technology. I believe in giving incentives to companies, have them come up with ideas. How do you incentivize them to come up with new technology? By giving them grants, by giving them tax incentives. Give people incentives for ways to solve problems. That’s how capitalism works.”

What is your position on immigration and immigration reform? What would you do to bolster the immigrants who live in this district and this country?

“You have, according to statistics, 11 million undocumented. Of those 11 million, 7.2 million people have lived here more than 15 years. Those people deserve some type of legality. I’m not talking about citizenship. I’m talking about legality. Because if you’ve been for 15 years in a country, you have kids and cars and homes and friends and churches and neighbors. If they don’t have a criminal record, those people deserve some type of legality. Give them a permit, whatever you want to call it and let them stay and keep on working and paying taxes and let them be part of the economic society. And I would give a lot more visas to those people who need to work I the agricultural sector, the construction sector and the hospitality, which are the three that are most affected. We need to fix our immigration system, which is a major mess, and create and immigration reform law.”

What would you say to students who want to get active in politics, or just become more informed, more civically engaged even if we can’t vote yet?

“If you don’t do politics, politics will do you. Yes, do get involved. Be informed. Understand what a great country we have. And inform yourself and defend what we have built for more than 300 years. Because there is no other better system than this one so we need to preserve it and keep it because this is the last frontier. There is not a better system than this one. And if we lose it, everything else will be a lot worse.”

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