Congress is in the early stages of receiving testimony and the views of various stakeholders as it plans to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act that was signed into law in 2001. I have met first-hand with district educators and administrators, as well as parents and students to solicit their views on reauthorization of the NCLB law and other education policy issues. I look forward to hearing more from the parents and educators of the 19th District as Congress continues work on reauthorizing federal elementary and secondary education policies.
Whether it is NCLB or other education legislation, I believe local districts and state governments should have greater flexibility and control over how they run their schools. I support greater accountability for both teachers and schools to ensure that each student is learning and encourage parents to take an active role in their children's education. I also support policies that break down barriers and expand college access for all students, especially low and middle income students.
Congress took several steps in 2008 to improve higher education and help more students afford a college education. The 19th Congressional District is home to a variety of colleges and universities, both public and private four-year institutions as well as quality community colleges and trade and technical schools. I believe higher education in all its forms has become the cornerstone of the American dream and should be pursued.
This year, President Obama has proposed that Congress pass legislation to phase-out the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP), under which the government guarantees loans that banks and lenders provide to college students.
The FFELP has traditionally provided two-thirds of the direct student financial aid awarded annually to Texas postsecondary education students and 54 percent nationally, allowing students to obtain loans from their local lender. I strongly disagree with the President's proposal, which would have a significant negative impact on students and require all student loans to come directly from the federal government.
With these concerns in mind, I have asked my staff to reach out to experts in the 19th Congressional District, as well as my colleagues in the Texas Congressional delegation, so we can work together to help secure the future of the Texas student loan program while aiding those who are working to repay their loans. Changes made to the FFELP in 2000, which I did not support, and current credit problems in the financial markets, have already affected students' ability to obtain loans. Forcing all student lending to come from the federal government, however, is not the answer.
As a member of the House Committee on Science and Technology and the Subcommittees on Energy and Environment and Research and Science Education, I have taken a great interest in furthering the sciences in our nation's classrooms. I was proud to have the opportunity to include researchers from Texas Tech University as stakeholders in recently passed Wind Energy Research legislation enabling them to provide Congress with oral testimony and to provide drafting consultation on this critical legislation. In addition, I was pleased to work with the National Science Foundation, which was gracious enough to loan me some of their ultra-low temperature protective gear used in Antarctica, that I was able to bring with me when I visited several schools in the 19th Congressional District. I was encouraged by the interest these students had in sciences, and I firmly believe we should work to further enhance STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education in today's schools.