I believe the primary responsibility for educating our children lies closest to the home -- in the hands of local school boards, teachers and, most importantly, parents.
I make it a point to visit regularly local elementary, middle, and high school students in their classrooms. I also meet with students, faculties, and staffs at New Jersey's colleges and universities. It's not only my way of keeping in touch with our young citizens, but it also keeps me current on trends and needs of New Jersey's schools.
To give our children a brighter future, we must make sure that the federal government works closely with our state and local education officials to reach the goal of providing every child with a quality education while holding schools, teachers and students to higher standards.
In New Jersey, I continue to fight for other education needs, including special education funding, Head Start, and Title I programs. Additionally, I was proud to lead the fight and secured a victory for the first federally funded school choice program in nation in Washington, D.C. I am committed to working to provide parents with a choice in their child's education in New Jersey.
As part of this effort, I advocated passage of the America Competes Act, which expands Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematic (STEM) education programs. The key to continuing America's competitiveness is making sure that our young people receive the best education possible, particularly in areas like mathematics, science, and engineering.
To encourage students to pursue careers in STEM related fields, I have organized visits from N.A.S.A. astronauts, pilots of the "Hurricane Hunter" and the Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) to meet at local schools with students of all ages to discuss important and exciting career options.
I also support continued investment in higher education. As the cost of college rises, it is important to make sure families can afford a quality education. Most recently, Congress made available over $25 billion in funding for the Pell Grant program which provides need-based grants to low-income undergraduate and certain postbaccalaureate students to promote access to higher education. Over 7 million students received the grant in 2009 ranging from $486 through $5,350.
I have been proud to support our local colleges and universities: Drew University, Fairleigh Dickinson University, the College of St. Elizabeth, Caldwell College, the County College of Morris, Princeton and Rutgers.
For more information about all the schools in northern New Jersey, please visit: http://www.state.nj.us/njded/directory/. For more information about federal education programs, please visit: http://www.ed.gov.
Of course, the bedrock of America's global competitiveness is a well-educated and skilled workforce. For America to play a leading role and compete in the worldwide economy, we must aggressively improve the quality of education in America. A strong education system is in New Jersey's self-interest. It is vital to keeping New Jersey at the center of research and development, technological innovation, and revolutionary pharmaceutical breakthroughs.