Every child in the United States deserves a high-quality education from pre-school to college, but our education system faces enormous challenges at every level. In recent years, American schools have experienced ballooning classroom sizes and significant increases in the number of students who need special attention. College students are challenged by meager financial aid levels while tuition is increasing sharply. Already-underpaid educators have had to do more with fewer resources and inadequate support. Jim knows that investing in education at all levels must be a priority for our country, and he is working with his colleagues in Congress to ensure education receives the focus and funding it needs.
When the Recovery Act passed in early 2009, it gave many school districts a critical boost in resources. Jim worked to bring more than $3 million of Recovery Act funds to both Seattle Public Schools and Highline Public Schools. This money has strengthened programs like Seattle University’s Fostering Scholars Program, which offers scholarships to Washington state’s foster youth.
But even with these increases in funding, there’s still more work to do. Nearly every local government is facing budget shortfalls, laying off teachers and cutting vital education programs. Jim believes it is imperative for the federal government to increase its financial investment in education to ensure that children receive the education they need to be successful.
No Child Left
Sadly, the Bush Administration’s “No Child Left Behind Act” (NCLB) has become one of the major obstacles to excellence in Americans schools. The program is deeply flawed and it is widely unpopular with states and local districts. Major overhaul of the program is necessary and, while larger reforms are considered, the Department of Education has decided to offer states the opportunity to apply for waivers liberating them from the “wacky requirement[s]” created by the NCLB law. Jim supports these waivers – they are only a stopgap measure and nowhere close to a permanent solution, but they are essential to limit further weakening of U.S. education by NCLB.
Every young adult should have the opportunity to attend college without fear of bankrupting their family or graduating with insurmountable debt. Over the last 50 years, college tuition has increased an average of about 8 percent a year – far faster than inflation. When Democrats gained control of Congress in 2007, several steps were taken to make college more affordable – increasing the aid available to students, incentivizing colleges to keep costs down, and reforming the whole college loan program to make it less expensive. Jim was a strong supporter of each of these initiatives.
Since Republicans took control of the House after the 2010 elections, they have pursued a budget cutting agenda that hasn’t spared higher education funding. In just the past few months, Republicans have pushed hard to cut highly successful financial assistance programs like Pell grants. These programs are critical investments that enable students to obtain the education they need to be competitive in an increasingly global workforce. Jim has actively opposed these cuts, and will continue to fight for increased funding for higher education programs.