Even as the economy continues to recover, Americans of all backgrounds are still looking for work. I strongly believe that expanding access to quality education is an essential step to improving our nation's long-term economic forecast.
BUILDING A FOUNDATION THROUGH EARLY, ELEMENTARY, AND SECONDARY EDUCATION
PROTECTING TEACHERS AND IMPROVING TEACHER QUALITY
Teachers are one of our most valuable resources and are critical to the success of future generations of Americans. It is important that our public education system continue to attract good teachers by rewarding those teachers who have dedicated themselves to the successful preparation of their students.
During the 111th Congress, I supported the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which allocated $300 million to improve teacher quality and raise student achievement. Additionally, another $100 million was dedicated to funding competitive grants for states to address teacher shortages and for modernizing the teaching workforce. This landmark legislation also allocated over $50 billion to State Fiscal Stabilization Funds, which enabled states to avoid teachers layoffs and provided incentive and innovation grants to competing schools. In 2010, amidst severe economic turmoil and mounting state deficits which threatened the jobs of thousands of teachers, I proudly supported the passage of the Education Jobs and Medicaid Assistance Act to keep teachers where they are most needed--in the classroom. As a result, an estimated 161,000 public school teaching positions were saved or created--including 3,600 in Indiana.
Furthermore, I will continue to support programs that provide continuing education opportunities for teachers to practice and build their skills through professional development. This kind of network of information helps our educators learn innovative techniques and increases the opportunity for our kids to receive a well-rounded education.
INCREASED FUNDING FOR YOUTH MENTORSHIP PROGRAMS
Studies have shown that children who have frequent, positive interactions with adult role models perform better in school and are less likely to be involved with drugs and alcohol. In turn, academic performance improves when young Americans behave appropriately and are engaged in their studies. I have had the privilege of visiting many successful mentoring programs located throughout the Seventh Congressional District, and I have seen firsthand the positive impact it has had on the lives of young people
I re-introduced H.R. 853, the Transition-to-Success Mentoring Act in an effort to provide underserved and at-risk students with much needed attention and support. With the assistance of a school faculty member or volunteer from the community, participating students in the Transition-to-Success Mentoring Program would be able to develop and execute a plan for academic excellence.
NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND
According to data released by the U.S. Department of Education on the nation’s dropout rate, 25 percent of our students and almost 40 percent of our Black and Hispanic students fail to graduate high school on time. These achievement gaps between racial minorities, low-income students and their counterparts are inexcusable. No Child Left Behind is the most recent law reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. This law established admirable goals and objectives for improving our public education system and closing achievement gaps. Nevertheless, it has done a disservice to our children by overwhelmingly focusing on performance on standardized tests. Instead of addressing the individual needs of students in their classrooms, No Child Left Behind caused many good teachers and administrators to become preoccupied by the threat of sanctions and school closings if their students fail to perform on tests.
I strongly believe improving our public education system should be one of this nation's highest priorities. I have supported innovation in education by recognizing the value of early childhood education, supporting charter schools and encouraging teacher professional development. As the House considers reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, I am working with my colleagues to encourage collaboration between educators, parents and community leaders to close achievement gaps and prepare all students for a successful future. Rest assured, I will continue to advocate for terminating unsuccessful policies and supporting those that benefit, improve and reform our public schools.
EXPANDING AFFORDABLE HIGHER EDUCATION OPPORTUNITIES
The ever increasing cost of tuition is putting higher education out of reach for far too many Americans. As Chairman and Founder of launched Congressional Caucus on Higher Education, I will continue engaging other Members of Congress on how to improve our nation’s system of higher education by addressing the issue of college cost, general access, and quality. For both those graduating from high school and older Americans who are already in the workforce and looking to enhance their career skills, higher education is essential in preparing for jobs in an increasingly competitive global market.
As a strong believer in higher education and its positive impact, I voted to pass the College Opportunity and Affordability Act to curtail rising tuition costs, expand grant and loan availability, and otherwise increase attendance at colleges and universities across the United States. Since joining Congress, I have repeatedly supported legislation to improve accessibility to higher education. By expanding funding for Pell Grants and the "American Opportunity" tax credit, post-secondary education became more affordable for millions of low- and moderate-income students.
Recently, I cosponsored and fought hard to pass legislation so that more than seven million students did not have to watch the interest rates on the Stafford loans double from 3.4 to 6.8 percent. This increase would have cost Hoosier students an estimated $219 million for the 2012-1013 school year.
Higher Education and Employment Transparency Act
It is crucial that students, parents, and those considering going back to school have easy access to resources that will allow them to make informed decisions about their investments in education. In order to address these needs, I introduced H.R. 6458, the Higher Education and Employment Transparency Act to give families increased access to information. My bill would require institutions of higher education to provide up-to-date information on recent employment trends in major occupations by region. This will help individuals weigh their options when they decide what to study and what fields are hiring in their areas. It would also create clear guidelines for schools advertising job placement rates to distinguish between jobs that require post-secondary education and whether or not the position is paid or unpaid.
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