Giving Our Kids the Tools to Succeed

This country has been a beacon of freedom and opportunity because it has invested in people through public education. Tomorrow's great innovators come from today's great schools. To maintain America's tradition of excellence, we need to address the education challenges of the 21st century.

Unfortunately, children across America do not have access to the education they deserve, as public schools continue to be sorely underfunded and are forced to comply with misplaced priorities. The Bush Administration's feeble attempts at improving our education system have been counterproductive and riddled with bad policy. We must fix their blunders so that our kids will have the tools to succeed. Throughout my years of public service, I have tirelessly worked to get our schools the resources they require. As your representative, I will continue to make education a top priority.

Reforming Education Reform

President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) passed with great promise. Sadly, that promise has yet to be realized. NCLB's emphasis on standardized testing has stifled good teachers by reducing education to rote memorization of facts instead of the developing critical thinking skills. It also ignores fundamental differences in the ways that different children learn. Our children deserve a better educational system.

While aspects of NCLB are worthwhile, its current form is unacceptable. I will fight for major changes to the law. Instead of punishing schools that are deemed as "failing" by stripping them of funding, I believe we should give those institutions the resources they need to succeed. I will introduce measures that allow for increased flexibility in the way we test students, especially those in ESL and special needs classes.

Even beyond its crippling design flaws, NCLB is critically underfunded. With full funding, schools will be able to repair crumbling buildings, hire and train teachers, and to broaden the range of programs available to their students. I championed the first full funding for Head Start, and I'll do the same for an amended No Child Left Behind.

Taking Better Care of Our Teachers

Good teachers are fundamental to quality education. Every year we lose many of our best teachers as experienced veterans retire and as many remaining educators struggle with inadequate pay and lack of resources. I support measures to raise teacher pay and offer incentives to those who work in the toughest conditions, such as inner city and rural schools, and with at-risk children. Those who struggle should be offered training courses to improve their teaching skills. Teachers who thrive should be rewarded for their success. Master Teacher programs are a perfect example of the benefits we should provide our top educators; I will work to increase the federal rewards available for these types of programs.

Getting a Good Start

The Bush Administration has paid little attention to kindergarten and pre-K programs even though they have been proven to improve children's performance in school. In Congress, I worked with countless others to get Head Start the resources it needs. I will resume this fight and ensure that Head Start is not just fully funded, but expanded.

Bringing Everyone to Campus

Post-secondary education is more important than ever in the constantly expanding global economy. Currently, higher education is being priced out of reach for millions of ordinary families. High school seniors should not be asked to choose between their educational future and their financial security.

I believe we can work to make college more affordable. This administration has cut twelve billion dollars from the budget of federal direct lending programs. That funding should be restored. The Pell Grant program has grown less effective as the costs of education have increased. I believe we should tie the maximum award to average tuition costs. Lenders have been allowed to get away with outrageous predatory practices in awarding student loans, but congressional regulation would stop such actions. Finally, I will fight to give parents tax credits for tuition payments. I have the experience needed to implement these necessary reforms.

Beyond making college more financially accessible, I support additional benefits for those serving our country. I will endorse Senator Webb's 21st Century GI Bill, as well as advocate expanding student grants and scholarships for other forms of national service.

A four-year college or university is not the only form of post-secondary education that can help people earn a better life. Career training is fundamental to helping people succeed and warrants more funding. I will work for federal grants to go to apprentice programs, so that those not college bound will have access to better paying jobs.