It is critical that we set realistic goals to hold schools accountable for providing the education students deserve while taking into consideration the unique challenges that must be overcome in the classroom. Our education system must support and revitalize our public schools instead of labeling them as failing when they are not.
I am pleased that in December 2015, the House of Representatives passed a bipartisan reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that replaces the flawed policies of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). I voted for S. 1177, the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA) because reauthorizing the ESEA was the most important action Congress could take to fix the flawed NCLB law.
NCLB placed unreasonable standards on students, teachers, and administrators, and led to award-winning schools being labeled as failing. The consequences of NCLB have been felt directly in Washington state where, since the 2014 loss of a U.S. Department of Education waiver, 88 percent of schools have been deemed to be failing under NCLB standards, even when that is clearly not the case. The new ESSA law ends the need for waivers for states and replaces the one-size-fits-all approach of NCLB’s federal accountability system by shifting authority for academic standards and school accountability back to states and local school districts.
The bipartisan ESSA conference agreement passed by the House included aspects that were important to our region, including federal dollars to support locally-tailored improvements in the highest-need schools. The bill also authorized the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grant program that allocates federal funds based on need, population, as well as school district identified opportunity gaps. These grants will support programs to keep students safe and healthy, promote well rounded education opportunities such as foreign language and STEM, and encourage the effective use of technology in schools. Further, this education legislation improves the Migrant Education Program to prioritize services for migrant students who have dropped out of school. ESSA is a much needed step towards promoting fair and equal access to quality public education.
Since it was first enacted in 1965, the ESEA has played a key role in providing equal access to quality public education and helping to reduce educational inequalities. Significant work still remains to ensure that all of our students, regardless of where they live, receive high-quality instruction, and I remain committed to working with my colleagues to support students throughout our country.
Access to higher education is also extremely important to the success of our children. Whether through grants or scholarships, making higher education affordable is critical for the future of millions of students. I strongly support Pell Grants and maintaining access to low interest rates on student loans.
Providing a quality education to students in our public schools has become even more important. With an unemployment rate around five percent, there are millions of jobs that can’t be filled because our workforce does not have the skills needed to fill them. It is critical that we prepare our children for the competitive global economy and make sure they have the skills that directly apply to the type of employment opportunities available when they enter the workforce.
I am a strong advocate of investing in our education system through sound and effective policies that ensure a quality education is equally available to all children.
- College For All: Joined Representative Pramila Jayapal in supporting and working to advance the College for All Act, which is mirrored after Senator Bernie Sanders’ bill and would provide states and tribes money to eliminate undergraduate tuition and fees at public colleges and universities as well as institutions of higher learning controlled by tribes for students from families making less than $125,000 a year. The bill would also provide free community college for all students.
- Extending STEM Education to the Underrepresented: Cosponsor of the 21st Century STEM for Girls and Underrepresented Minorities Act which would authorize funding to school districts to carry out activities designed to better engage girls and communities of color in STEM.
- Promoting Early Childhood Education: Joined colleagues in sending a letter to the House Committee on Appropriations and the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies asking they prioritize funding for the Head Start Program in their Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 appropriations bill.
- Encouraging Youth Job Training: Cosponsor of the Youth Access to American Jobs Act, introduced by Representative Rick Larsen. This bill would establish a pilot program to promote public-private partnerships among apprenticeships or other job training programs, local educational agencies, and community colleges.
- Defending Civil Rights: Joined colleagues in the House and Senate in sending numerous letters to the Department of Education expressing concern over the Administration’s actions to curtail the role of the Office for Civil Rights at the Department.
- Career and Technical Education: Requested strong funding for the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act in the Fiscal Year 2018 Labor, Health, and Human Services, and Education Appropriations bill. I was pleased to see this program reauthorized from FY 2018-2023 with the passage of the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act. I have also long been a strong supporter of apprenticeship training opportunities and have worked in Congress to promote and support apprenticeships and training.
- Ensuring Access: The TRiO Upward Bound program prepares students from disadvantaged backgrounds to excel in college. I support programs like TRiO because of their commitment to ensuring a quality education for all children, regardless of their family’s incomes, race, or ethnic background.
- Supporting Individuals Receiving Education and Workforce Training: introduced the Empowering Individuals to Succeed Through Education and Workforce Training Act. This legislation would establish a new grant program under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), dedicated exclusively to providing support services for individuals receiving workforce training and education.
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