In 2001, I first served in elected office as a member of the School Committee in my home town of Melrose. This position was one of the hardest I’ve ever had, but it gave me a profound understanding of the difficult, sometimes competing decisions faced by policymakers, school administrators, teachers, and parents. I went on to serve as General Counsel for the Massachusetts Office of Child Care Services, and also as a member of the Advisory Council for the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care. Each day spent in these positions helped me understand the importance of improving how we educate our nation’s children.
I believe that investments in early education are critical to basic economic fairness in America. The evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that young children experience astonishing brain growth, forming more neural pathways from birth to age five than at any other stage in their lives. Taking advantage of this phase pays serious dividends, not just individually in the short term, but economically in the long term. Studies have consistently shown that each dollar invested in quality preschool yields a return of roughly $7 over the life of a child.
That is why I have helped lead the charge to protect and expand vital early education resources. In March, I led nearly one fourth of the entire House of Representatives in formally urging House Appropriators to provide adequate funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant, IDEA Act Preschool grants, and Infants and Families grants. These programs are critical to America’s early learners and I will continue to fight to ensure their success.
In addition, I am a cosponsor of H.R. 3461, the Strong Start for America’s Children Act. This legislation ensures that every American four-year-old whose family earns less than 200% of the federal poverty level is able to access high quality pre-kindergarten. This levels the playing field for children whose families cannot afford critical early education programs. This legislation has been referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, where it is awaiting further action.
When the economy crashed in 2008, tax revenues fell, leading to financial difficulties for thousands of American schools. That is why I have written to President Obama asking him to include a significant increase in funding for Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in his budget request. ESEA Title I funding cuts to the heart of this problem, providing support to school systems that serve historically at-risk populations.
I’ve also urged President Obama to set our nation on a path to fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). As you may know, under this legislation, Congress promised to fund 40% of the cost of public education for every American student with special needs. In practice, however, Congress has never fully funded this promise—leaving local communities to fund this program.
While I support these critical funds, above all, it’s important to remember that every student is different. While the federal government plays an invaluable role in providing resources to local educational agencies, it’s equally important to ensure that federal policy provides educators with the flexibility required to innovate and support each individual student. As Congress enacts policy in this area, we must be careful not to utilize imperfect data that hinders ingenuity at the local level.
Higher Education and Student Loans
I believe that education is a great equalizer in our society. Affordable higher education is a critical investment in basic social mobility, economic competitiveness, and a vital component to the American dream. However, the cost of obtaining that dream has begun to outpace the ability of American families to pay for it. Today, the average American student graduates with over $29,400 in debt. As a nation, we owe more than $1 trillion dollars in student loans.
That is why one of my first official acts a Member of Congress was to cosponsor H.R. 1979, the Bank on Student Loan Fairness Act. This bill introduced by Representative John Tierney would cap the interest rate students pay on federal loans at the same interest rate paid by large banks when they borrow from the Federal Reserve. By making sure that students don’t pay more than banks, this legislation would prevent the federal government from making a profit on the backs of struggling students.
Career and Technical Education
Education is the cornerstone of our nation’s economic competitiveness. As our country has continued to grow, new industries have emerged, requiring our schools to adapt to the needs of the modern workforce. A robust, adaptable, and accountable system of career and technical education (CTE), including strong investments in vocational and technical training, is essential to America’s continued prosperity.
The main federal program that supports vocational and technical training in Massachusetts is the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. Under this Act, states use funds to build strong job training programs in high schools, universities, community colleges, and other educational settings. These funds can be used in a number of ways. For example, some schools use the funding to buy equipment, while others use it to train new teachers or set up work-based learning partnerships and apprenticeships with local employers.
Every student deserves a fair chance to earn the skills needed to thrive in the modern economy. That's why, as a member of the House Career and Technical Education Caucus as well as the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, I’m working with my Democratic and Republican colleagues to strengthen and reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. This law expired in 2013 and is overdue for an update. Our modern CTE system should be flexible to adapt to the needs of emerging industries, accountable to ensure every child has an equal chance to succeed, and robust to support the professional educators who move our modern workforce forward.
More on Education
|3/14/14||Clark Votes to Protect Seniors’ Access to Care, Opposes Reckless GOP Medicare Proposal|