As a former educator, I know the importance of making sure our children learn the skills they need to succeed in life. I am working in Congress to make sure Oklahoma children have a bright future. I am 100% committed to their success. I will continue meeting with parents, students and educators in order to create a system of learning that will empower students throughout their education.
In January 2002, President Bush made a pledge to each child to make sure they are not left behind. Under his leadership Congress is continuously increasing No Child Left Behind (NCLB) funding each year. With increased resources and accountability each state is taking the challenge to meet President Bush's pledge. Over the past eight years, federal spending on education has more than doubled, but our standards of accountability must rise with the funding level. Every child should be able to pursue a dream-and that starts with education.
While we need additional funding in the area of special education, money alone will not solve our challenges. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that was signed into law on December 3, 2004 offers a comprehensive approach to better meet the needs of children with special needs.
To give teachers more instructional time with their students this legislation will reduce the paper work burden on teachers. Also in this legislation, the Congress sought to encourage innovative approaches to increase parental involvement and parental choice. Because many children with reading problems are being identified as disabled and placed in special instruction classes that they do not belong in, IDEA will give flexibility to local school districts to use up to 15% of their funds for pre-referral services for students before they are identified as needing special education.
I hope to work with educators and Congress to continue increasing funding for local schools and for those students who need special attention.
A quality education begins with qualified teachers. I support legislation, the Teacher Recruitment and Retention Act, that will aggressively recruit qualified math, science, and special education teachers by enticing them with substantial assistance to pay back student loans then placing them in under performing schools, where they are needed most.
I also support The Ready to Teach Act, which aims to place a top quality teacher in every classroom by improving teacher-training programs. It accomplishes this goal through increased accountability, flexibility and effectiveness.
Supporting Higher Education
Oklahoma's future and that of its children, requires that higher education is both affordable and available for all those who desire to attend. Having affordable, quality higher education benefits not only those attending college, but all Oklahomans. With a better-educated workforce, Oklahoma can attract, retain and expand high paying jobs.
I am working in Congress to improve higher education by meeting with educators and students, listening to their concerns and successes, and taking action. I have voted for increased student financial assistance and promoted cutting-edge scientific research in Oklahoma to provide more educational and economic opportunities for students. I am also a strong supporter of programs like GEAR UP and TRIO, which are programs that help disadvantaged students prepare for college.
Vocational and Technical Education
Vocational and technical education is a vital component of our secondary and postsecondary educational system. I will continue to support the Perkins program, which prepares youth and adults for the future by building their academic and technical skills and ensuring they are equipped to proceed with postsecondary education or pursue other avenues. This program provides a huge federal investment in high schools across the country.
I believe it is very important for the government to continue funding Impact Aid. This funding is important to districts serving large constituencies of civilian defense workers, members of the armed forces and Native Americans. This program covers the cost of students living on Native American land or military bases. It provides payments to local governments because federal property and Native American lands are exempt from local property taxes, which is the main source of funding for most local school systems. Many schools in Oklahoma rely on these funds to provide the resources to give their students a quality education.