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Rep. Foster grilled by Metea students on DACA, net neutrality, government shutdown and more

Jan 24, 2018
In The News

Usually when U.S. Rep. Bill Foster visits a school in his district, he's checking out the science projects students created.

While the subject of science came up Wednesday afternoon, students from Metea Valley High School were more interested in the Naperville congressman's take on the recent government shutdown and net neutrality.

Nearly 100 students grilled Foster on those subjects and other matters the teens deemed important, such as the opioid crisis, global warming, and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Last semester, students in the Aurora school's government classes sent a series of letters to the 11th District congressman. Rather than reply individually to all the letters, Foster opted to visit the school and address the concerns in person.

Before the visit, students were asked what topics they'd like Foster to address.

Metea senior Kyle Welsh, who served as discussion moderator, asked questions on behalf of the students. There also was a time for spontaneous questions from the student audience.

He said the experience gave him a better understanding of how government works.

"It inspires me to vote," Welsh said.

Teacher Don Pankuch, who chairs the Metea Social Studies Department, said the discussion also showed students that Foster is a human who struggles with decisions. Because of that, Pankuch said students will be more likely to get more involved.

The issues students raised were completely their idea. "They had a variety of really great questions," he added.

Sophomore Zack Cisco was lucky enough to have his question about DACA raised by Welsh and was chosen to ask a follow-up to a discussion of net neutrality.

On each of Cisco's concerns, Foster provided brief history and presented both sides to give a more balanced look. Since he was asked, the congressman gave his opinion too.

Foster said he's always supported DACA and, unless something happens in the next month or so, "tens of thousands of young people will be deported. That's not OK with me."

With net neutrality, Foster spoke about the parallels of control over the internet to the robber barons that monopolized the railroads in the 19th century.

He said the issue is not that black and white.

Foster gave an example of a doctor who performs robotic surgery remotely. He said no one would disagree that the doctor should have access to the highest internet speed possible.

On the other side, he asked students whether a candidate should be allowed to pay a company more money to have campaign advertising load faster on a website compared to another candidate.

"Is it allowable for certain people to get special treatment?" Foster asked.

Foster spoke at length about the opioid crisis in America and said the United States needs to approach the issue from a scientific point of review.

He told students about research being conducted at Argonne National Laboratory where scientists are measuring the receptors in the brain, which are affected by drugs like opioids.

As companies continue to develop drugs that block the effects of and craving for opioids, Foster said he wants to work to get those drugs approved and deployed as quickly as possible.

Several students also asked what they could do to get their voices heard or make a difference in the community.

Foster suggested students research their representatives' voting records on issues and share the information with friends.

To the half of the students in the room who are eligible to vote in the 2018 election cycle, Foster urged them to take advantage of that right.

If ever there was proof that one vote matters, he said that was the case in Virginia where a state House seat vote ended in a tie. In the end, a flip of a coin decided not only who filled the seat but which party had control of the state House.

Regarding the government shutdown, Foster said the federal government needs to address the budget as a whole and quit trying to make temporary fixes. The problem is no one can agree.

"We either pay down the debt or pass it along to you," he said to students.