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Public Statements

Statements On Introduced Bills And Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

By Mr. KOHL:

S. 627. A bill to authorize the Secretary of Education to make grants to support early college high schools and other dual enrollment programs; to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Mr. KOHL. Mr. President, today I am doing my part to end the growing crisis of high school dropouts. I am introducing the Fast Track to College Act, a bill to increase high school graduation rates and improve access to college through the expansion of dual enrollment programs and Early College High Schools. Such programs allow young people to earn up to two years of college credit, including an Associate's degree, while also earning their high school diploma.

As our country struggles with an economic recession, I believe we must continue to invest in our public schools. While we must carefully consider how taxpayer dollars are spent during these trying times, education is one of the wisest investments we can make, and it is an investment that must be made now, before our children fall farther behind.

Education provides an outstanding return on investment for taxpayers, and it builds the foundation for future economic growth. Young people who drop out of high school are at increased risk for unemployment and incarceration, and they are more likely to depend on public assistance for healthcare, housing, and other basic needs. Conversely, adults with a bachelor's degree will earn two-thirds more than a high school graduate over the course of their working lives, and they are much less likely to experience unemployment or rely on social programs.

Our Nation's future depends on how we respond to the growing crisis in our schools, especially the rising number of high school dropouts. This generation of Americans is the first in history to be less likely to graduate from high school than their parents, and the U.S. is the only industrialized Nation where that is the case. This is not a sustainable trend if we hope to remain powerful and prosperous. Recent reports have illustrated the enormous challenge: the national graduation rate is only 70 percent, and is significantly lower in many large urban school districts. For example, my home state of Wisconsin has a relatively high graduation rate of 86 percent, but that rate drops to only 46 percent in the urban schools in Milwaukee. Such an achievement gap cannot continue.

As we work to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act, we must find solutions to the growing dropout crisis and provide opportunities for young people to pursue higher education. More funding is not the only answer for the problems in our schools--we must also reform our whole approach to education. We must ensure that young people are being equipped with the skills they need to compete in a 21st century economy. In particular, we can no longer view a high school diploma as a satisfactory goal for students. In today's world, students need at least two years of college or technical education in order to secure a well-paying job and provide for themselves and their families.

That is why I ask my colleagues to support this bill, which provides competitive grant funding for Early College High Schools and other dual enrollment programs that allow low-income students to earn college credit and a high school diploma at the same time. These programs put students on the fast track to college and increase the odds that they will not only graduate, but go on to continue their education and secure higher-paying jobs. The Gates Foundation has been funding evaluations of such programs for several years now, and they have shown incredible promise as a tool for increasing attendance, graduation, and college enrollment rates, particularly among low-income high school students. Students are motivated by a challenging curriculum and the tangible rewards of achievement, including free college credit and exposure to career opportunities. This free college credit is critically important, especially in this economy, as family savings dwindle and tuition costs continue to rise. Dual enrollment programs can provide just enough costs savings to make college affordable, especially for low and middle-income families who might think it is out of their reach.

Specifically, this bill authorizes $140,000,000 for competitive 6-year grants to schools, with priority given to schools that serve low-income students. The funding will help defray the costs of implementing new programs, strengthening existing programs, and providing students and teachers with the resources they need to succeed in early college high schools and other dual enrollment programs. The bill also includes $10 million for states to provide support for these programs, as well as an evaluation component so we can measure the program's effectiveness.

I am proud to sponsor this legislation because I believe this investment in our schools will help solve the dropout crisis and secure America's future by ensuring that all young people can compete in today's global economy. Further, I believe that all children, regardless of income or other factors, deserve equal opportunities to fulfill their potential, and it is both morally and fiscally responsible for this Congress to invest in high-quality educational programs that help them reach that potential.

While our country faces unprecedented challenges at this moment in history, I believe we also face incredible opportunities to shape our future. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Congress to reinvest in a world-class education system that will move our country forward into the 21st century.

I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be printed in the Record

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. KOHL (for himself, Ms. Collins, Mr. Cochran, Mr. Kerry, Mr. Whitehouse, Mr. Bingaman, Mr. Levin, Mr. Casey, Mrs. Lincoln, Ms. Klobuchar, Ms. Stabenow, and Mr. Bayh):

S. 631. A bill to provide for nationwide expansion of the pilot program for national and State background checks on direct patient access employees of long-term care facilities or providers; to the Committee on Finance.

Mr. KOHL. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce the Patient Safety and Abuse Prevention Act along with my colleague, Senator Collins. This bill is the culmination of years of work and careful study, and would go a long way to ensuring the safety of vulnerable older Americans. We have hard evidence that this policy will work and will protect lives. It is vital that we consider getting this legislation moving soon, and I look forward to working with the Finance Committee, the elder justice community, and Congressman Joe Sestak in the House to make that happen.

Thousands of individuals with a history of substantiated abuse or a criminal record are hired every year to work closely with exposed and defenseless seniors within our nation's nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Because the current system of state-based background checks is haphazard, inconsistent, and full of gaping holes, predators can evade detection throughout the hiring process, securing jobs that allow them to assault, abuse, and steal from defenseless elders.

We can and must take action to stop this type of abuse by building on the resounding success of a seven-state background check pilot program, enacted as part of the 2003 Medicare Modernization Act, which enabled seven states to make major improvements in their existing screening procedures of individuals applying for jobs in long-term care settings. The results of this 3-year pilot program were a resounding success: more than 7,200 individuals with a history of abuse or violence were kept out of the workforce in Alaska, Idaho, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wisconsin.

The states who participated in the pilot have all chosen to continue their programs, and are taking additional steps to build on the success of the technological infrastructure they created. The Patient Safety and Abuse Prevention Act will expand these outstanding results nationwide by making it possible for all states to make these commonsense improvements. The cost of enabling states to efficiently connect registries and databases, expand the range of workers who are screened, and add a national criminal history check is very modest. If states take these steps, we can reduce the terrible toll of elder abuse. If we do not, experts tell us abuse rates will continue to rise.

Our straightforward approach is strongly endorsed by State Attorneys General across the country, the Elder Justice Coalition, which speaks for over 500 member organizations, AARP, the American Health Care Association, NCCNHR, the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, and advocates in hundreds of communities who work every day to protect the well-being of elders and individuals with disabilities.

Last Congress, the Patient Safety and Abuse Prevention Act was passed unanimously out of the Finance Committee. We are so close to getting this policy passed. I ask my colleagues to join Senators Collins, Kerry, Whitehouse, Bingaman, Levin, Casey, Lincoln, Klobuchar, Stabenow, Bayh, and Cochran in supporting our efforts to reduce and prevent abuse of our elders and loved ones.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that support material be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be placed in the Record

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


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