Access and affordability have been the two most significant concerns facing Congress in the field of education. Federal input and oversight of primary and secondary education is implemented through the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). These bills represent policies aimed at ensuring high quality education resources are available for all. During the 112th Congress, we will be working to reauthorize and amend NCLB in such a way that our students and teachers will be equipped to meet, achieve and exceed proficiency standards in their grade-level. Additionally, while IDEA has not been fully-funded in the past, I believe it is important to provide the necessary resources for students with disabilities.
In addition to being involved in primary and secondary education, the federal government also plays a role in higher education through the provision of federal loans and grants. Pell Grants are a federal need-based program that is designed to be the financial foundation for students seeking an undergraduate degree. While this program is not only for low-income students, it is primarily allocated to recipients whose total family income is $30,000 or below. In fiscal year 2010 the Pell Grant program distributed $33 billion in loans to approximately 8.7 million students. In fiscal year 2011 the average Pell Grant was $5,550, up from $4,860 in years past. As the cost of tuition continues to rise, Pell Grants enable many Americans to achieve a level of education that makes them competitive in the workplace.
In addition to these traditional federal fingerprints in the realm of education, I recognize that there are other significant inputs in our system, such as trade, technical, culinary and beauty schools; however, the most substantial influence in the education field is a child's family.