Elementary and Secondary Education
Rep. Lowey believes that improvements in the quality of education are essential to ensure that young Americans become productive members of the workforce. She has cosponsored legislation to reduce class sizes by hiring 100,000 new teachers, was instrumental in securing funding for afterschool programs that provide a safe and secure learning environment, and wrote the first bill to provide federal funding for school modernization so students can learn in 21st century classrooms. In response to the critical shortage of qualified principals and superintendents, Rep. Lowey introduced the Investment in Quality School Leadership Act to provide ongoing, intensive professional development programs for current and prospective principals and superintendents.
Congresswoman Lowey is pleased that President Obama is focusing on improving education for our students as a critical strategy to rebuild our economy over the long term. Our economic competitiveness in the future is directly linked to our ability to prepare students for the needs of the global economy.
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
The economic stimulus legislation signed into law by President Obama contains critical assistance for schools that will help improve the education our students receive and mitigate the need for budget cuts or tax increases to maintain current funding levels. This law provides $13 billion for Title I (Improving the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged) and $12.2 billion for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Of this amount, Westchester County will receive at least $55 million and Rockland County will receive at least $24 million. Additionally, Westchester and Rockland school districts will receive millions in federal funding to restore state budget cuts.
College Education: Cost and Access
In order to provide relief to families struggling to pay the enormous costs of college, Rep. Lowey voted for the College Cost Reduction and Access Act, which provided the largest investment in college financial aid since the passage of the GI bill. She also voted for legislation to cut the interest on student loans in half over five years. Under this legislation, a student borrower with $13,800 in subsidized federal student loans would save approximately $4,400 over the life of his or her loans.
Rep. Lowey also introduced the "DIPLOMA," or Deductibility and Incentives to Promote Learning Opportunities and Maximize Assistance Act to help families with the costs of college through full deductibility of all college-related expenses, including tuition and fees, room and board, and books, from their federal income tax, or a fully refundable tax credit for college-related expenses. The Earned Tuition Tax Credit (ETTC) would be available for all four years of college and would cover 100% of expenses up to $1500 and 50% of expenses up to an additional $2500. The DIPLOMA Act would also help recent graduates by allowing them to deduct the interest of their student loan payments, in addition to the principle for five years after graduation.
Rep. Lowey is also working to provide students with the tools they need to better prepare for a college education. In the 1990 Higher Education Act, she inserted a provision establishing the National Early Intervention Scholarship and Partnership Program. Known today as GEAR UP, it pairs low-income middle school students with mentors, provides students with access to tutoring services, and helps organize college campus visits for participants. Rep. Lowey has successfully fought against proposals to eliminate GEAR UP.
In 1996, Rep. Lowey helped to create the 21st Century Afterschool program, the first federal initiative specifically designed to support afterschool education. As a member of the Education Appropriations Subcommittee, she has fought to increase funding for the program from $1 million ten years ago to more than$1 billion today. Rep. Lowey believes quality child care and afterschool programs strengthen students' academic and social development and give hard-working parents peace of mind knowing their children are in safe places. In 2005, Rep. Lowey founded the bipartisan Afterschool Caucus to educate the public on the critical role these programs play and to promote the expansion of federal, state, and local support for afterschool initiatives.
No Child Left Behind
Since coming to Congress, Rep. Lowey has worked hard to raise education standards and improve the performance of our nation's schools. She firmly believes in the core goals of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, but understands that a one-size-fits-all approach to student achievement is not effective. That is why she has cosponsored a number of bills to amend the original law, including the No Child Left Behind Improvements Act, which would improve NCLB's assessment and Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) provisions by allowing multiple measures of student achievement and giving states greater flexibility in the use of alternate assessments for disabled students and those not proficient in English.
Rep. Lowey also believes that Congress must fulfill its promise to fully fund the law. Unfortunately, since NCLB was enacted, it was consistently short-changed, hindering the law's effectiveness. Many school districts and state governments have been forced to provide the needed funding, often through increased local taxes, or risk being punished under the mandates of the law.
As a Member of the Education Appropriations Subcommittee, Rep. Lowey has consistently voted to increase funding for education, including NCLB, and cosponsored the Keeping our Promises to America's Children Act, which would require the federal government to fully fund NCLB programs or delay its federal requirements.
When Congress first enacted the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) in 1975, it agreed to pay 40 percent of the cost of educating children with disabilities. Unfortunately, recent education spending bills have actually decreased the federal government's share of special education funding. As a Member of the Education Appropriations Subcommittee, Rep. Lowey has consistently fought to increase funding for IDEA to the promised level of 40%.
As a mother and grandmother, Rep. Lowey knows that it takes a lot more than basic reading skills to get our children prepared for learning. A child's emotions, personality, and social surroundings are just as important as his or her I.Q. when first entering school. Head Start takes that fact to heart -- providing children with needed immunizations, primary health care, vision screenings, and dental care, along with literacy activities. The program also brings parents into the process by providing support in and out of the home, giving them access to comprehensive health care and social workers, peer counseling, and parenting programs. 3,000 children in the 18th Congressional District of New York participate in Head Start. Rep. Lowey has consistently supported increased funding for this vital program and voted against efforts to turn Head Start into a block grant program.