My-Lin Thai, a Vietnamese American woman, has recently announced her candidacy for the State representative seat of the 41st Legislative District in Washington state.
Thai is currently president of the Bellevue School Board. She says she wants to ensure that everybody in the district, regardless of race and socioeconomic class, is guaranteed access to a quality education.
The International Examiner reports her experience growing up as a Vietnamese American immigrant in Washington state inspired a passion for education. As a 15-year-old refugee from Vietnam, Thai and her family immigrated to the United States knowing no English. Thai eventually graduated from the University of Washington’s School of Pharmacy.
After starting a pediatric neurology practice alongside her husband in Wyoming, and subsequently working as a practicing pharmacist in Montana, Thai decided to take some time off from work. She moved back to Seattle so her children could attend school there. She says it was during her temporary hiatus from the healthcare industry when her concerns about the public school system resurfaced.
“I will continue to advocate for investments in our local schools that enhance parent and community engagement, establish high student expectations with diverse and challenging curricula, close the Opportunity-Gap for at-risk students, and improve district services to accommodate students with special needs,” Thai said to the Issaquah-Sammamish Reporter.
While volunteering at schools across the Bellevue School District, she noticed many faults in the education system such as oversized classrooms and unfair curricula. What struck her the most was the lack of guidance that immigrant students have in navigating the public school system; an issue that mirrored her experience attending school in America.
Thai recalls her experience reading through scholarship applications.
“When I read those essays, of the undocumented students, it brought me right back to 1983 when I was that 15-year old kid who didn’t know English, didn’t understand what was going on. All I had was a dream, and these students have a dream too,” she said to the International Examiner.
Thai ran for a position on the Bellevue School District Board (BSDB), where she won her first term in 2013 as well as her reelection in 2017. She is now the president of the BSDB and the vice president of the Washington State School Directors’ Association, marking her 10th consecutive year working in the education field.
Now running for the 41st legislative district position left vacant by Rep. Judy Clibborn in April, My-Lin Thai aims to further her agenda for educational reform across a district where over 20% of the population is of Asian descent.
“My-Linh Thai is a passionate, outspoken fighter for education and our kids.” King County councilmember Claudia Balducci said, according to the Issaquah-Sammamish Reporter. “She is the kind of leader who puts her community first and who knows how to get things done. My-Linh will be an outstanding and effective leader for us in Olympia.”
Thai believes the key to educational success is equity, seeking to diversify the teaching faculty with more people of color, to encourage larger investments into the district’s local schools, and to expand the curriculum so all students receive an education that fits their unique learning styles.
Thai’s platform also extends into promoting affordable healthcare and building safer communities, focusing on providing greater access to mental health resources and ensuring that schools and neighborhoods remain healthy.
Although Thai claims that she will be representing the interests of all people of color and marginalized communities, her vision for racial justice has come under fire, where a petition has been pushed to remove Thai from the BSDB due to racist remarks she supposedly made.
Regardless of the controversy surrounding her platform, Thai continues to fight for the diverse interests of the 41st District. Directed to the Bellevue Reporter, Thai states that “As a parent, Eastside neighbor, and education advocate, I am motivated every day by a commitment to improving outcomes and opportunity for the next generation”.
“As a parent, Eastside neighbor, and education advocate, I am motivated every day by a commitment to improving outcomes and opportunity for the next generation,” Thai said to the Bellevue Reporter.
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