Jan 152015
 

The 1975 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) guarantees a “free and appropriate education” to all American children with disabilities regardless of their physical or mental disability. IDEA’s goal is to prepare children with disabilities for further education, employment and independent living. Before this legislation, more than a million of these American children were unable or prohibited from receiving an education. Now, about 6 million students are covered by IDEA, which has an annual budget of about $12 billion. Advocates claim that as result of this law many people, rather than being housed in institutions at taxpayer expense, are now enrolled in college and participating in our workforce. However, estimates of the number of American children eligible for coverage under IDEA range from 15 million to three times this number. Currently, IDEA is only helping about 6.5 million children minimize their disabilities. Advocates say state and local budget cuts are limiting IDEA’s services to only the most seriously disabled, leaving many millions of needy and qualified children without help. They also claim states and local school districts are failing to identify and enroll many eligible students in IDEA. Nor are these administrators forthcoming in giving parents of children with disabilities information on the services that IDEA could provide for their children. Advocates say parents are in the best position to advocate for their child and that they should know their rights, keep records, and get written evaluations of their children whenever examined. Advocates say the government needs to be more proactive in their oversight of this program and ensure all students with disabilities receive the assistance they need.

Pending Legislation:

H.R.511 – TEAM-Empowerment Act of 2013

I oppose reforming current students with disabilities policy and wish to defeat H.R.511

I support providing assistance to States for development and implementation of an individual transition plan for each individual with a developmental disability in the State who is making the transition from the secondary school system into adulthood, and wish to pass H.R.511

I support identifying a legislator who will sponsor a bill requiring the federal government to ensure all eligible students with disabilities have access to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

Between the time of birth and age three, research shows that a child’s brain doubles in size. High quality childcare can promote the mental development of children and their later success in school. These programs, including some with medical care, are credited with improving the reading, mathematics, language and social skills of those children enrolled. Quality preschool programs also help narrow the achievement gap between economically disadvantaged children and their peers. Studies show that each dollar spent today on quality preschool programs will return seven dollars to society in the future. The demand for quality early education is growing as more mothers join the workforce. However, there is a drastic shortage of affordable quality preschool programs that are available to many working families. Recent surveys have found that only about half of our 3 and 4 year old children are now enrolled in some type of preschool program. Education advocates say the quality of early childhood education is primarily related to low child-to-staff ratios, staff education, experience, salaries and specialized training.

Pending Legislations:

S.519 & H.R.1041 – PRE-K Act

I oppose reforming current early childhood education policy and wish to defeat S.519 & H.R.1041

I support awarding matching grants to states to enhance or improve state-funded preschool programs that have curricula aligned with state early learning standards; using nationally-established or best practices for class size and teacher-to-student ratios; requiring each teacher to have at least an associate degree in early childhood education or a related field, and baccalaureate degree within 5 years; requiring such programs to operate for at least a full academic year, and wish to pass S.519 & H.R.1041

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

Early childhood, the first six years of life, is a critical time for children to develop the physical, emotional, social and cognitive skills they will need for the rest of their life. Good nutrition and health care are essential to maximize this developmental process. Head Start is a 48 year-old $6.4 billion federal program helping children attain this goal. Head Start is one of our most successful and longest-running programs fighting systemic poverty. About 30 million children from low-income families have attended Head Start programs and there are about a million children enrolled today. Beginning at age three, Head Start kids learn fundamental cognitive skills while developing the social and emotional capabilities to begin school. Head Start feeds these children and provides medical, dental and mental health care. Their parents learn about nutrition, child development, and are guided into appropriate community programs if needed. However, due to budget constraints, only 3 of 5 eligible children are currently enrolled in one of the 2,500 Head Start programs nationwide. To make matters worse, at least 58,000 children were cut from Head Start programs in 2013 due to budget sequestration cuts.

Pending Legislation:

S.322 – Ready to Learn Act

I oppose reforming current Head Start policy and wish to defeat S.322

I support awarding grants to states for high-quality full day voluntary pre-kindergarten programs, including Head Start, that prepare four-year olds for school; requiring that such programs first serve children whose family income is no higher than 200% of the poverty level or who are limited English proficient; ensuring that, within two years of grant receipt, each classroom is taught by a teacher who has at least a baccalaureate degree in early childhood education; have teacher-child ratios of no more than 1 to 10 and group sizes of no more than 20, and wish to pass S.322

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

Education advocates say a college education is important because the gap in income is widening between those with a college degree and those without one. In 2002, a college graduate could, over a lifetime, expect to earn 75% more than a person without a degree. That differential is 84% today. The availability of federal aid determines whether many students can attend schools of higher education. In 2011, the average undergraduate student costs for tuition, room and board at most public universities was about $16,000, while these costs at most private universities were about $33,000. Tuition has increased at a rate of about 6% each year for the past decade, or nearly threefold the rate of inflation. Low-income students continue to fall behind in their ability to access a college education. In 2007, two-thirds of all college undergrads needed some form of financial aid. On average, about half of these students received about $5,000 in grants, while about 40% took out loans averaging about $7,000. In 2013, the average student loan debt for recent graduates was $29,400. Others used veteran’s benefits and parent loans to help pay for their education. During this year, Pell Grants, averaging $2,600, will be awarded to about a quarter of all undergraduate students. The Department of Education distributes Pell Grants, which do not require repayment, and manages other financial assistance programs such as Stafford loans. There were nearly 10 million needy students awarded Pell Grants in 2011 for a total cost of $33 billion.

In addition to the need for increasing the availability of student grants and loans, there is also great need for students to be able to pay these loans off in a timely manner. Due to increasing college costs and stagnant family resources, the average college student now graduates owing about $30,000 in school loans. By comparison, the average student loan debt in 2004 was about $19,000. Recent studies reveal that graduate students, compromising only 14% of university enrollment, now account for nearly 40% of all student debt. Total student loan debt is now about $1.2 trillion, more than our total credit card debt. Even worse, many of these loans carry high interest rates set by the financial institutions which administered the student loan program. Servicing this debt is difficult for grads with lower-paying public service careers, those who are ill or unemployed, or those who failed to complete their degree. Advocates claim many young Americans are unable to afford car loans, home loans and other needed purchases due to student loan costs. These advocates say graduates should be required to pay no more than 10% of their income to service their student loans. They also say the balance of a student loan should be forgiven after 20 years – or after 10 years if one chooses a career in public service.

Pending Legislations:

S.897 & H.R.1979 – Bank on Students Loan Fairness Act

I oppose reforming current federal student aid policy and wish to defeat S.897 & H.R.1979

I support awarding Direct Stafford Loans to all eligible students attending participating institutions of higher education, setting the interest rate on Direct Stafford Loans first disbursed on or after July 1, 2013, and before July 1, 2014, at the primary credit rate charged by the Federal Reserve banks on July 1, 2013, and wish to pass S.897 & H.R.1979

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

Budget shortages have forced most states to cut funding for higher education. Combined with rapidly rising college tuitions, these factors are removing the opportunity for many Americans to attend a university. The average cost of tuition and fees at state-sponsored four-year schools is now 50% higher than it was only 10 years ago. The cost for a resident student attending a four-year public university is now about $14,000 a year, and more than double that amount at a private university. It is not unusual for either of these educational systems to enact significant tuition increases year after year. Some critics blame universities for not controlling costs and wasting money on sports and glamorous research programs. Advocates say cost containment and increased tuition assistance is the only way to keep college accessible to all Americans. They claim higher education is not meeting our nation’s needs because the proportion of young adults with two or four-year degrees is still the same (39%) as it was 30 years ago. They say we need to increase this proportion to 55% by 2020 to stay globally competitive.

Pending Legislation: None

I oppose reforming current higher education affordability policy

I support identifying a legislator who will sponsor a bill prohibiting federal aid to institutions of higher learning where increases in tuition exceed the rate of inflation

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

Like much of our nation’s infrastructure, the average American public school is over 40 years old and past its expected lifetime. Most of our schools were built for the Baby Boom generation and more than a third of them need extensive repairs or complete rebuilding. Nationally, these construction cost estimates exceed $100 billion. However, when adding the cost of equipping schools with computers and other modern technology, this estimate nearly triples. Advocates say that when schools begin to deteriorate, student achievement does also. They say students learn best when taught in smaller classes and in adequate facilities equipped with technology and resources that help maximize their abilities and fulfill their potential. Currently, many of our public school students attend overcrowded schools with broken bathrooms, poor ventilation, leaking roofs and sporadic electric power. These conditions, among others, have caused many American families to seek alternatives to placing their children in our public school system. Statistics tell the tale of student-teacher ratios in private and public schools: 25% of our nation’s schools are now serving only 10% of our nation’s students. There are now more than 5 million PK-12 students, or about 10% of our nation’s total, attending about 31,000 private schools, which is about 25% of all our nation’s schools.

Pending Legislation:

H.R.1629 – Rebuilding America’s Schools Act

I oppose reforming current school facility policy and wish to defeat H.R.1629

I support making permanent the Qualified School Construction Bond and Qualified Zone Academy Bond programs to provide federal financing for the construction, renovation, and repair of America’s public schools, and wish to identify a legislator who will either reintroduce H.R.1629 – Rebuilding America’s Schools Act (113th Congress 2013-2014), or a similar version thereof

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

American public schools are facing a teacher shortage of epic proportion. This is due to the retirement of Baby Boom teachers, increasing pupil enrollment, and laws limiting the size of classrooms. It is estimated we may need to hire at least 450,000 new teachers and administrators before the end of the decade to avoid a critical shortage. Particularly acute is the shortage of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) teachers. Already, many school districts are short-handed and overly dependent on substitute teachers, many of whom are not certified. Compensation for teachers, particularly for public school teachers, has historically lagged behind other comparable occupations. Education advocates say this must change if a critical shortage is to be averted. Some advocates claim our teacher shortage is not so much a shortage in absolute numbers as it is in distribution. There has long been a shortage of teachers in certain geographic regions of our country. It has been difficult to find qualified teachers who are willing to teach in rural and urban areas, particularly in schools which serve low-income and minority students. Some claim that producing new and qualified teachers is not the problem, but that shortages are caused by high turnover rates, particularly among the most qualified and effective educators. Presumably, many of these professionals have moved on to more financially rewarding sectors.

Pending Legislation:

H.R.536: Diverse Teachers Recruitment Act of 2013

I oppose reforming current teacher shortage policy and wish to defeat H.R.536

I support recruiting individuals from underrepresented groups as public elementary and secondary school teachers, and providing training and retention incentives to public elementary and secondary school teachers, giving priority to applicants that serve the most high-need schools and those that serve schools with high concentrations of poor, minority, disabled, or limited English proficient students, and wish to identify a legislator who will either reintroduce H.R.536 – Diverse Teachers Recruitment Act of 2013 (113th Congress 2013-2014), or a similar version thereof

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

By 2010, the worldwide ranking of American students had slipped to 29th in math, 22nd in science and 20th in reading. There is great desire to raise the academic performance of our students. Most states have developed tests to evaluate the performances of students and teachers. Those results are then compared with the scores in other parts of the nation to improve learning conditions in the lesser-performing areas. Sometimes tests are used to blame teachers for poor student achievement. Teacher groups cite poor school facilities, crime and insufficient budgets as reasons why all our children are not performing as well as desired. Not surprisingly, a disparity has been found to exist in the quality of an education received by students living in high-income areas compared with their peers from low-income areas. Many administrators believe one reason our student’s performance is slipping is because each state does not teach the same academic material and skills. Their solution has been an initiative called he Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Initiative which was created to establish consistent educational standards across the states. CCSS is a program that prescribes what k-12 students should learn in mathematics and English language arts/literacy by the time they complete each grade. If successful, all students will have attained the knowledge and skills necessary to graduate from high school, succeed in college and perhaps also in life, regardless of where they live. Forty-three states, the District of Columbia, four territories and the Department of Defense Education Activity have adopted CCSS. However, some states wish to set their own academic standards.

Pending Legislations:

S.1112 & H.R.768 – Securing Teacher Effectiveness, Leadership, Learning, And Results Act of 2013

H.R.2316 – Success in the Middle Act of 2013

I oppose reforming current school teacher policy and wish to defeat S.1112 & H.R.768 and H.R.2316

I support efforts to evaluate the effectiveness of school teachers and principals for comparison to their counterparts in other local educational areas, and wish to identify a legislator who will either reintroduce S.1112 or H.R.768 – Securing Teacher Effectiveness, Leadership, Learning and Results Act of 2013 (113th Congress 2013-2014), or a similar version thereof.

I support Common Core State Standards and awarding grants to implement a comprehensive middle school improvement plan that describes for each school, what students must master to successfully complete middle and secondary school coursework; with priority given to schools with a high proportion of middle grade students that matriculate to secondary schools with graduation rates below 65%; schools with more than 25% of the students who finish sixth grade exhibiting key risk factors for failure; and a majority of middle grade students not rated proficient on required state assessments in mathematics, reading, or language arts, and wish to identify a legislator who will either reintroduce H.R.2316 – Success in the Middle Act of 2013 (113th Congress 2013-2014), or a similar version thereof.

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

Charter schools are schools which receive public funding but operate under a contract, or charter, with a state. Charter schools are operated by private education companies, educators and parents. They are independent of school districts, choosing their own curriculum and teachers. When students transfer to charter schools, their local school districts send the departing student’s funding allocation to the charter school. Opponents say this has the effect of draining the district’s resources for the remaining students. They claim some cities and states even allow charter schools to use public school facilities, further reducing resources for public school students. Supporters claim student transfers, and the threat of transfer, force underachieving schools to improve or risk closure. The charter school program is now more than 20 years old and there are now about 5,000 charter schools enrolling about 1.6 million American children in 40 states. Studies have found urban charter schools tend to outperform local school districts at the elementary and middle school levels. However, suburban charter high schools have not shown an increase in academic performance over public high schools.

Pending Legislation:

S.1083 – All-STAR Act of 2013

I oppose reforming current charter school policy and wish to defeat S.1083

I support awarding renewable competitive grants to successful public charter schools to allow such schools to expand or replicate to serve additional students, including serving or planning to serve a large percentage of low-income students from public schools with low-graduation rates, schools identified as needing improvement, corrective action or restructuring, and wish to identify a legislator who will either reintroduce S.1083 – All-STAR Act of 2013 (113th Congress 2013-2014), or a similar version thereof

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) was established in 1946 to provide low-cost or free school lunches to qualified students of public or nonprofit private schools. This program was also established as a way to prop up food prices by absorbing farm surpluses. The NSLP is a federal subsidy paid to states that provide lunches to more than 30 million children each day at an annual cost of about $9 billion. Child advocates claim this may be the best meal millions of American children are going to get that day. They also say that lunchtime is an important and memorable social experience for many students. The Summer Food Service Program makes these meals available during summer vacation to many needy students under the age of 18. A similar program has been proposed for providing meals on weekends.

Pending Legislation:

H.R.1395 – Weekends Without Hunger Act

I oppose reforming current school lunch program policy and wish to defeat H.R.1395

I support implementing a pilot program providing commodities, on a competitive basis, to nonprofits for the provision of nutritious food to at-risk school children on weekends and during extended school holidays during the school year, and wish to pass H.R.1395

 Posted by at 12:00 am