Rep. Jessie Rodriguez, R-Oak Creek, spoke to College Republicans Tuesday to discuss her work in the State Assembly and common misconceptions regarding minorities, women and those in poverty in the Republican Party.

Rodriguez is an immigrant from El Salvador who moved to Wisconsin from California as a child. She graduated from Marquette University and is currently working on solutions for education, children and poverty.

Rodriguez discussed the common belief that the Republican Party is anti-women and people of color, but Rodriguez said these misconceptions are false and are just used as headlines for the media.

“One thing Republicans don’t do too well is going out to communities and getting to know those people,” Rodriguez said.

The Republican Party is beginning to take initiative to go out into communities, especially those comprised mostly of minorities, to get to know them and their needs, Rodriguez said.

Another common thought about Republicans is that they don’t care about poor people, Rodriguez said. In reality, poverty is a priority for Republicans but they disagree with Democrats on the strategy to help those in need.

“We want people to be able to get out of poverty and homelessness,” Rodriguez said.

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During her time in office, Rodriguez has worked on multiple ways to fight poverty and homelessness. In Wisconsin, homelessness is a unique issue due to the extreme winters.

Another initiative Rodriguez has worked on regarding poverty, specifically in the Milwaukee area she represents, helps parents who struggle paying for daycare for their children. The initiative helps wean people off the system by not cutting people above the poverty line off from welfare but instead having them pay $1 for every $3 raise for childcare.

“A lot of parents are working, but unfortunately sometimes because they’re poor they can’t afford to pay for daycare,” Rodriguez said. “The parents want to work but daycare is too expensive.”

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Rodriguez also believes education is an important issue, specifically school choice. Her first job in politics was working for Hispanics for School Choice and this experience opened her up to the harsh realities of failing public school systems.

When she began her work, the charter school program was only available in Milwaukee, Rodriguez said. She worked for this program to be available to the entire state and eventually her hard work paid off. 

Moving forward, Rodriguez will continue working toward improving education in the state of Wisconsin by increasing the number of charter schools.

“I’m not afraid to vote against my party if it’s what is right for my constituents,” Rodriguez said.