Issue Position: Education
Education has always been my passion because I believe a quality education - whether public, private or home school - is the key to a better quality of life, lower unemployment, keeping folks off welfare and expanding economic prosperity for all Americans.
I am very pleased to be a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. I attended public schools; my children attended public schools; and from 1996 to1998, I served as Chairman of the Georgia Board of Education.
I will continue to work towards enhancing and improving our nation's education system. I will also work to keep the dream of a college education within reach of all Americans by supporting federal assistance programs that help make higher education affordable.
No Child Left Behind
In the House of Representatives, I was proud to have served on the drafting team for the No Child Left Behind Act. With the President's strong commitment, we created a comprehensive reform to strengthen this nation's public schools and the result is a landmark law that is providing schools with the necessary resources to give all children a quality education. The bill reflects each of the four pillars of the President's reform blueprint: accountability and testing, flexibility and local control, funding for what works, and expanded parental control.
Overall, our school systems are improving and our students are receiving more of the educational tools they need to compete in the 21 st Century. I am especially pleased with the increased accountability under No Child Left Behind. I believe our continued commitment to improving reading and math skills by those students most at risk will in time reduce drop out rates and improve educational achievement around the country .
That being said, I do realize that there are some areas that need revision, specifically those dealing with Adequate Yearly Progress, Special Education and non-English speaking students. I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure that we re-authorize and improve this valuable legislation.
I am a very strong supporter of this program and will continue to work to improve it. In reauthorizing the Head Start program, a federal program that has provided comprehensive early childhood development services to low-income children since 1965, the Senate targeted its focus not only on strengthening the program, but also on raising our expectations of it. In June 2007, I am pleased to report that this bill passed the Senate unanimously in a bipartisan effort to give these children an honest Head Start.
Some of the improvements that I favor include strengthening the Head Start workforce and increasing the accountability of Head Start programs. I am in favor of raising the minimum educational requirements for Head Start teachers, as well as providing opportunities and funding for professional development and in-service training for these teachers. I am also in favor of strengthening the role of the governing board in the oversight of Head Start programs by clarifying legal and financial responsibilities. Policy councils, where the active involvement of parental volunteers remains a priority, will continue to have a collaborative role in decisions regarding operations.
The Student Loan Industry
Student loans help keep the dream of a college education within reach of many Americans. We must ensure that students who invest in this worthy endeavor have straightforward, honest and comprehensive information on which to base their decisions.
There have been a number of state and federal probes of unethical practices in the $85 billion student loan industry. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced in April 2007 that a federal task force will examine the ties between lenders and college financial aid officers. New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's office has uncovered numerous financial arrangements that benefited schools and lenders at the expense of students. Other state attorneys general are also investigating the industry.
As a result, I am a co-sponsor of legislation to hold colleges, lenders and loan guaranty agencies that provide student loans accountable to a lender's code of conduct. The Student Loan Accountability and Disclosure Reform Act (S.1262) will establish a Code of Conduct for institutions of higher education that prohibits colleges and their employees from receiving anything of value from any lender in exchange for advantages sought by the lender. The prohibition applies to gifts and trips as well as compensation for service on advisory boards and consulting contracts.
The legislation would prohibit institutes of higher education from designating "preferred lenders" and sending unsolicited electronic mailings to potential borrowers. It would also require colleges to provide students and parents with a guide that enables them to do their own evaluation of the loan products, benefits and services offered by the lenders.
Charter schools are tuition-free public schools that are open to all students. Educators, community leaders, business people and parents who start charter schools select the curriculum, philosophies and emphases of the schools, such as a back-to-basics foundation, technology focus or school-to-work approach. The start-up nature of many charter schools means they typically operate with less funding and facility support than other public schools.
Georgia was one of the first states to pass a charter school law in 1993. Georgia now has over 20,000 students enrolled in 59 charter schools across the state.
I am proud to support charter schools, which tend to have high achievement rates because parents and the local community are so heavily involved in the very nature of the school. I will do everything I can on a national level to support charter schools, which play a significant role in quality choice in public education.
America COMPETES Act
I am proud to co-sponsor legislation that invests in innovation and education to improve the competitiveness of the United States in the global economy. The America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Act ( S.761) focuses on three primary areas of importance, including increasing research investment, strengthening educational opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics from elementary through graduate school, and developing an innovation infrastructure.
I am extremely pleased that an overwhelming, bipartisan majority of the Senate voted in support of this legislation, and I will work to ensure it is passed into law.