The future belongs to the nation that best educates its children, and right now that nation is not the United States. Education is one of the most critical long-term economic challenges we face, and we must take bold and immediate action to reverse the decline in our country's education system. If we make the right investments and reforms now, we can ensure that all of our children have access to quality early education, that high school students are equipped and able to go to college, and that our graduates are prepared for 21st century jobs.
Our commitment to education should begin on day one. Early childhood education is, without question, the most intelligent investment a nation can make in its future. I am working in Congress to broaden the reach of early childhood programs and boost their quality, encouraging new investment and better information for Connecticut parents about program options and quality. During my first term in Congress, we were able to double funding for Early Head Start and expand Head Start, both of which have shown success in closing the achievement gap and improving outcomes for low-income students.
I am hopeful that Congress will take up the first major reauthorization of our nation's education policy since the 2001 authorization of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) this year. NCLB had admirable goals: to close the achievement gap, to improve academic success, and to improve the quality of teaching across the country. Unfortunately, NCLB programs were underfunded by $85 billion and many schools were unable to meet many of the law's objectives.
The time has come to fix our education law in this country. I am hopeful that in the coming weeks and months, we will begin a serious, transparent, and bipartisan effort to rewrite a law that we all agree is in need of major reform. The status quo is failing our students and putting our future, our economic stability and our global competitiveness at risk.
What needs to change in our federal education policy isn't a mystery. We have to update the law to respond to student and national needs through college and career-ready standards. We need to modernize the teaching and learning workforce and recognize teachers and leaders as the professionals they are. And, we must target funds to school initiatives that show results and commit resources to turn around low-performing schools, not punish them.