Creating and sustaining high-quality public schools that are available to all children is critical to America's social and economic well-being. Providing quality schools is our primary means to achieve equality of opportunity for all children, giving them the skills to successfully compete in a global economy.
After high school, our colleges and universities, including vocational and technical schools play a vital role in preparing students for careers and retraining workers for new and emerging industries and technologies. Students must have access to these programs, including adequate financial aid.
The years before children reaches kindergarten are among the most critical in their lives. By providing support and resources early on, our youngest children will be prepared to succeed later in their educational career.
Head Start plays an important role in early childhood development, particularly for low income families. I strongly support new rules that raise the standards for Head Start teachers while also significantly increasing the number of participants in this valuable program.
K-12 Education and No Child Left Behind (NCLB):
Every child is entitled to a high quality, public education. This principle is so deeply held in Wisconsin that it is written into our state's constitution.
Federal support for education, including fulfillment of the federal commitment to fund 40% of the cost of special education under the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), is essential.
In 2001, Congress passed the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act to improve standards, hold schools accountable for performance and provide additional resources. In many ways, NCLB was a positive step forward. However, there are significant problems with the law that need to be addressed, from the lack of adequate funding to counterproductive testing requirements.
In addition, we must ensure that children are taught by high quality teachers. Unfortunately, our schools continue to have trouble recruiting and retaining quality educators. By increasing teacher pay and investing in innovative strategies to help teachers improve student outcomes, we will increase the quality of public education throughout our country.
Ensuring that all students who qualify have access to affordable higher education is essential if America is to retain its competitive advantage. In recent years, the cost of a college education has skyrocketed. Too often, the decision of whether to attend college is not based on the student's ability, but rather on their ability to pay. I have long supported increased public investment in higher education to hold down the cost of tuition. In 2010, I strongly supported the largest investment in college financial aid in history. The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act increased Pell Grants, made college loans more affordable and strengthened community colleges.
The reauthorization of the Higher Education Act was a much-needed and long overdue first step toward realigning our nation's higher education priorities. At no cost to taxpayers, it preserved many well-known and widely-used federal grant and loan programs -- Pell, Perkins, LEAP, SEOG -- and increased loan limits for those eligible for federal programs.
We must continue to build on these reform efforts and continue to expand college financial aid, while streamlining the process. I will continue to work to lower the costs associated with student loans, increase funding for successful programs like federal work-study, and expand loan forgiveness programs for those going into key jobs like nursing, teaching, and child care.
By increasing the quality and affordability of education, we will ensure that Americans have the skills they need to compete in a global economy. In addition, these reforms will ensure that businesses are able to find workers with the skills they need, allowing employers to grow and create more jobs here at home.