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Public Statements

Issue Position: Education

Issue Position

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"I am committed to helping provide educational opportunities for all our children. The federal role must preserve the tradition of local control, complement the leadership of state and local government and not impose unfunded mandates."

Peter Welch has a long record of fighting for improving educational opportunities for Vermont,s students. He believes that one of government,s greatest responsibilities is to assure that all children, regardless of wealth or where they live, have access to high quality public education from kindergarten through college.

From refusing to fully fund special education programs and the No Child Left Behind Act to cutting student aid for college, the Republican Congress has failed to provide the support needed to educate our children.

Peter supports the goal behind No Child Left Behind (NCLB). We must help every child succeed. He agrees it is important to measure student learning and assure teachers are highly qualified. However, NCLB has turned into a burdensome unfunded mandate on individual states like Vermont and, using narrow standardized testing, fails to recognize the many different ways in which students learn. NCLB also threatens the values of a diverse education, as schools sacrifice social studies, science and the arts to assure their students know how to test well. A "one size fits all" federal mandate does not work. Instead, the federal government should support schools with the resources necessary to succeed and allow education decisions to be made locally.

The Republican record on higher education has been neglectful. While the average college graduate leaves with record debt, last year Congress imposed a $12 billion cut in student aid, the largest cut to student aid in history. As college education costs continue to rise, these funding cuts widen the affordability gap for low and middle income Americans. This year, leaders in the House have proposed to cut an additional $759 million nationally from three major higher education affordability programs. These cuts would reduce Vermont funding from $8.3 million to $2.7 million and affect some 6,800 Vermont families.

Peter has a strong record supporting education programs, from early education to higher education. Peter supported legislation establishing the first kindergarten programs around the state. Committed to the principle of equal educational opportunity and equitable funding, in 2003 Peter worked with the Governor and achieved bipartisan support for modifying and improving Act 60.

Through appropriations in the Senate, Peter has also fought to fund UVM, our state colleges and the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation (VSAC). Through this legislative support, VSAC was able to offer $16.6 million in grants, $5.1 million in scholarships, and $448 million in loans in 2004-05. In addition, Peter supported a highly successful loan deferment program for nurses who agree to serve in understaffed areas after graduation.

Peter will bring to Congress a commitment to providing quality education for all students and a belief that states and local governments are best able to determine the needs of their students. He will fight to repeal the $12 billion in cuts to student aid and to increase Pell grants and Stafford loans. Peter will also work with members of Congress to support and develop new higher education initiatives to help our students afford college, such as programs for first-generation college students and programs for training students for undersupplied employment sectors. Peter also believes that the federal government must break out of the model of unfunded mandates and start funding schools for our future by supporting technology education as well as language and trade programs in order to educate our children for the 21st Century. Peter also believes we must expand broadband internet access statewide.

In the tradition of Senator Jim Jeffords, Peter believes Congress must meet its commitment to funding special education programs. In addition, he believes Congress must modify the No Child Left Behind Act by assuring it does not overly rely on testing, limit the teaching of important subjects or force out qualified teachers. The program must also receive adequate funding and allow for significant implementation flexibility by each state.

Peter will take his steadfast commitment to assuring educational opportunities for all students that he has shown in Vermont, to work for Vermonters in Washington.


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