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Issue Position: Education - Improving and Supporting Schools

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I believe we must set high standards for our students, demand accountability from our schools, and preserve local control of our schools. The federal government must also back them up with adequate resources for our schools and for targeted programs like those that help train teachers and reduce class size.

Since 2002, schools have been operating under the "No Child Left Behind Act" (NCLB), which requires that all schools have 100 percent of their students testing at the proficient level by the end of the 2013-14 school year. In the meantime, NCLB requires schools demonstrate increasingly higher levels of proficiency - this is referred to as Adequate Yearly Progress or AYP. States base their initial targets on test scores from the 2001-02 school year, and then increase those targets in steady intervals so that 100 percent of students are proficient within 12 years.

Test results must be broken down by four subgroups - poverty, racial and ethnic group, students with disabilities, and students with limited proficiency in English - for individual schools as well as entire school districts. In order for a school or school district to meet AYP under the NCLB requirements, each of those subgroups, as well as the student population as a whole, must meet the state's annual target for the number of students who need to perform at the proficient level. Schools failing to meet AYP face penalties of increasing severity.

NCLB also established minimum qualifications for all teachers. The law requires states to ensure that all public school teachers in core academic subjects (math, English, science, government, arts, history, and foreign language) are highly qualified. Overall the law defines a fully qualified teacher as one who has a bachelor's degree, is fully state certified, has demonstrated competence in the subject by completing sufficient academic course work, or has passed a state subject-matter examination.

I voted for the original No Child Left Behind law because I felt it was important that we set high standards, demand accountability and provide the financial resources to support our schools. Unfortunately, the Bush Administration and Republican Congresses reneged on their financial commitments, and with the President's most recent budget proposals, would have shortchanged our schools $55 billion from the amount originally committed when NCLB became law.

The new Majority has made restoring this funding a top priority, boosting Title I support for elementary and secondary schools to assist low-income children by $125 million for 2007. For 2008, the House Appropriations Committee boosted NCLB funding by $2.0 billion or 8.6 percent over 2007 levels and $1 billion over the President's request in nominal terms.

The Education and Labor Committees have also started a top to bottom review of the program to evaluate the law's requirements and how they are being implemented. I believe that within the basic structure of standards set by NCLB we must seek modifications that increase flexibility while maintaining high expectations for our students and teachers. One promising testing model receiving close attention is the "growth model," which measures an individual student's progress over time as opposed to the current model of measuring yearly performance against a state standard. The Committees are also looking at ways to better assist schools failing to meet NCLB requirements and increasing the usage of technology in the classroom.


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