As the spouse of a retired public school teacher, I am a strong supporter of our public schools. The federal government funds a broad range of programs to increase education funding at the local level. These programs include Title I, which increases funding for low-income schools, after-school programs, Head Start and other important initiatives.
No Child Left Behind:
The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) reauthorized a number of federal programs aiming to improve the performance of elementary and secondary schools by holding states, school districts, and schools accountable for students' academic progress, as well as by providing parents more flexibility in choosing which schools their children will attend. When NCLB was passed in 2001, I voted for it. While I support the overall goals of No Child Left Behind, Congress must also ensure that any accountability system is funded adequately. Congress and the State should ensure that schools have the proper funding to meet the demands of NCLB. The biggest improvement that can be made to NCLB is to ensure that the standards set by this law are attainable by all students, especially those who are learning disabled and English Language Learners. Some schools have been penalized due to low performance scores, however, it has been noted that most of these cases involve students with learning disabilities. A fair and equitable system is necessary in order to accurately evaluate the needs of schools, and more importantly, the students. I will work hard to ensure that this happens as Congress goes to reauthorize the law.
For the first time in nearly a decade, the Congress reauthorized the Head Start early childhood development program in 2007. Not only does the reauthorization measure ensure the continuation of this successful program, but it also expands eligibility for families and sets higher education standards for Head Start teachers. Since 1965, Head Start has successfully provided comprehensive child development and family support services to more than 22 million low income preschool children and their families. Programs are locally designed, and are administered by a network of over 1,600 public and private nonprofit agencies. During the 2006 fiscal year, the Head Start program enrolled 909,201 children. Many children have been served by this program and have been given the opportunity to advance their education while young. The program has also provided an outlet for parent involvement in schools and for parental support of their children. I am a strong supporter of the Head Start program, and will fight to see that it is strengthened and preserved for future generations.
Children with Disabilities:
In 1975, Congress passed the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, later renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). This program has helped countless children with physical, learning and developmental disabilities to obtain a free and appropriate public education so that they can become contributing members of society. Although Congress set a goal of funding 40 percent of the additional costs of educating students with disabilities, it has never kept its promise to fully fund this program. I support mandatory funding of this program to ensure that the federal government upholds its promise to fully fund IDEA. Every child should be provided a public education that helps them reach their full potential.
The Supreme Court has ruled that school voucher programs like those in Cleveland, Ohio are legal under the constitution. I respect the Supreme Court's decision in this matter; however, I am concerned about the broad use of school vouchers and object to their use. While we must address the problem of underperforming schools, we should not punish underperforming schools by removing their Title I funding and issuing vouchers to a lucky few students. Vouchers result in less money for schools that have already proven that they need more funding. An underperforming school that loses large portions of federal aid will only get worse, and the students who don't receive vouchers will only fall farther behind their peers.