My wife Mary and I raised three children in Northern California. My kids attended public schools in our area and went to public universities in our state. Nothing is more important to our country's future than providing America's youth with a first-class education, and I'm focused on making sure that California children have the educational opportunities they deserve. For our children and grandchildren to be able to compete for tomorrow's jobs, they need the skills and knowledge that will enable them to thrive
Times are tough, and school districts are facing unprecedented challenges. I travel home to California every weekend, and I frequently visit local schools to meet with students, teachers, and parents. I hear from many people who are worried about teacher layoffs, budget cuts, and the future of education in our state. Teachers are the foundation of a good education, and I've helped pass bills to prevent layoffs and provide teachers and school districts with the resources they need.
We must make a national commitment to education by strengthening our schools; making sure our teachers are qualified, rewarded and supported; reducing class size; modernizing our classrooms; and providing vocational and technical educational opportunities. One of the ways we can start is by reforming federal education policy to provide accountability and flexibility. Our policies should take advantage of America's true creative spirit to equip our youth with the tools they need to succeed in a competitive international environment.
But we can't stop with K-12 education. We must continue to make higher education more affordable. Tuition and fees for college continue to rise, and I know how hard it can be to put children through college. I had to take out a second mortgage to afford tuition bills for my family, and I don't think that skyrocketing costs should put a college diploma out of reach. That's why I've worked to expand access to college education by passing significant reforms that increase Pell Grants and give students access to more affordable college loans.
I'm also committed to delivering resources to our local community. For example, I secured $976,000 for a local after-school tutoring program for at-risk children. Thanks in part to these funds, the tutoring program is growing and expanding to new sites. I'm proud to support successful local initiatives that help our young people succeed.
I'll keep working to support the best education reforms that improve public schools, make a college education more affordable, and give our teachers high quality pay.