As a former educator, I know the importance of making sure our children learn the skills they need to succeed in life. And while education is, and should remain, primarily a state and local issue, I am committed to making sure Oklahoma parents and teachers have the tools necessary to provide a world class education to our children.
Elementary and Secondary Education
When Congress enacted the No Child Left behind law in 2002, it created more accountability and additional resources for state and local schools to ensure that all American children get a quality education. Over the last eight years, it is clear that some aspects of this law have worked, while others have not been as effective. As Congress begins to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary School Act this year, it is my hope that members of both parties will develop a plan to give local schools more control, but still ensure that every student has access to a high quality education.
I also believe that it is imperative that Congress keep its promise and fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which is the major federal statute for the education of children with disabilities. IDEA both authorizes federal funding for special education and related services and, for states that accept these funds, sets out principles under which special education and related services are to be provided. The requirements in this law are detailed and numerous, so it is vital that the federal government do its part to ensure that schools have the right tools to carry out these federal mandates.
Parental Rights / School Choice /Homeschooling
I believe strongly in the authority of parents to direct the education and upbringing of their children with minimal interference from government at any level. Consequently, I am an advocate of charter schools, vouchers, opportunity scholarships and home schooling. Unfortunately, recent court decisions, as well as legislation pending before Congress, could severely impede parents' ability to direct the education of their own children. As a member of Congress, I am committed to fighting for the rights of Oklahoma parents to educate their children in ways that best suit their individual households. For these reasons, I am proud to be a co-sponsor of The Parental Rights Amendment, which would amend the U.S. Constitution and confirm the right of parents to raise their children as they see fit.
Supporting Higher Education
Oklahoma's future and that of its children, requires that higher education is both affordable and available for all those who desire to attend. Having affordable, quality higher education benefits not only those attending college, but all Oklahomans. With a better-educated workforce, Oklahoma can attract, retain and expand high-paying jobs.
I am working in Congress to improve higher education by meeting with educators and students, listening to their concerns and successes, and taking action. I have voted for increased student financial assistance and promoted cutting-edge scientific research in Oklahoma to provide more educational and economic opportunities for students. I am also a strong supporter of programs like GEAR UP and TRIO, which are programs that help disadvantaged students prepare for and succeed in college.
I also fully support federal student loans that give millions of students access to college who otherwise would not be able to attend. However, I believe that these loans should be driven through the private sector so that students and schools have the option to choose the best loans that work for them. Unfortunately, the Congress and the Obama administration recently pushed through legislation that removed the private sector entirely from federal student loans. I am strongly opposed to this change because it will only create more government bureaucracy, eliminate student choice, and create undue burdens on individual colleges and universities, thus causing them to raise tuition and fees on students.
Vocational and Technical Education
Vocational and technical education is a vital component of our secondary and postsecondary educational system. I will continue to support the Perkins program, which prepares youth and adults for the future by building their academic and technical skills and ensuring they are equipped to proceed with postsecondary education or pursue other avenues. This program provides a huge federal investment in high schools across the country.
I believe it is very important for the government to continue funding Impact Aid. This funding is important to districts serving large constituencies of civilian defense workers, members of the armed forces and Native Americans. This program covers the cost of students living on Native American land or military bases. It provides payments to local governments because federal property and Native American lands are exempt from local property taxes, which is the main source of funding for most local school systems. Many schools in Oklahoma rely on these funds to provide the resources to give their students a quality education.