STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS
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Mr. DEWINE. Mr. President, today I join Senator MURRAY in introducing the ``Improving Access to Education for Students Who Are Homeless or in Foster Care Act.'' I thank Senator MURRAY for her deep commitment to the education of children who are homeless or in foster care. I have worked with her on provisions to promote their access to and completion of education in both the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) reauthorization and the Head Start Act reauthorization and am pleased to have worked with her again on this bill.
In the United States, on any given day, more than half a million children are in foster care--20,000 of whom are in the State of Ohio, alone. In 2003, also know that more than 900,000 children were found to be victims of child abuse or neglect. More than half of the children in foster care experience developmental delays. Children in foster care have three to seven times more chronic medical conditions, birth defects, emotional disorders, and academic failures than children of similar socioeconomic backgrounds who do not enter foster care.
We also know that homeless children face great barriers to higher education. Often, these students have run away from an abusive home, or have been lost to the system. These students also may be living on the street with a parent--too often with a parent suffering from an addiction to alcohol or drugs. These children will move from school to school and shelter to shelter, piecing together their education as they can. This is not good enough. Although we have tried to reach out to these students through the McKinney Vento Homelessness Assistance Act, we need to do more. These children deserve a better chance at an education.
Education offers foster care and homeless children their best hope for escaping the poverty and instability they experience. This bill includes additional outreach to these hard to reach populations through current Federal education programs, such as TRIO and GEAR UP. It also would expand and clarify the definition of ``Independent Student'' in order to accommodate the special circumstances of foster care and homeless children and would allow student financial aid administrators additional flexibility to help this cohort of students attain access to higher education. This bill would create a $20 million demonstration grant program targeting foster and homeless children to help decrease the barriers to higher education by involving stakeholders and their communities in the outreach process.
I look forward to working with HELP Committee Chairman ENZI to incorporate these provisions into the Higher Education Act reauthorization bill. I appreciate his willingness to incorporate provisions related to homeless and foster children in the Head Start Act reauthorization bill, as well. He is equally concerned with the welfare of these children. And again, I thank Senator MURRAY for her commitment to these children. We cannot afford to overlook their needs.
By Mr. DEWINE (for himself and Mr. ROCKEFELLER):
S. 1430. A bill to provide loan forgiveness to social workers who work for child protective agencies; to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
By Mr. DEWINE (for himself and Mr. ROCKEFELLER):
S. 1431. A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to provide loan forgiveness for attorneys who represent low-income families or individuals involved in the family domestic relations court system; to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
By Mr. DEWINE (for himself and Mr. DODD):
S. 1432. A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to improve the loan forgiveness program for child providers, including preschool teachers, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
By Mr. DEWINE:
S. 1433. A bill to establish a grant program to enable institutions of higher education to improve schools of education to better prepare teachers to educate all children; to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
By Mr. DEWINE:
S. 1434. A bill to provide grants to teacher preparation programs at institutions of higher education to award scholarships for teachers to receive a graduate level degree; to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
By Mr. DEWINE:
S. 1435. A bill to establish a grant program for institutions of higher education to collaborate with low-income schools to recruit students to pursue and complete postsecondary degrees in education; to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
By Mr. DEWINE:
S. 1436. A bill to award grants to eligible entities to enable the entities to reduce the rate of underage alcohol use and binge drinking among students at institutions of higher education; to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
Mr. DeWINE. Mr. President, I join several of my colleagues today to introduce a series of bills related to the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA). These bills emphasize a number of issues that are vital to higher education, including teacher quality, recruitment, and retention; loan forgiveness for social workers, family lawyers, and early childhood teachers; and the reduction of drug use and underage drinking at our colleges and universities.
The quality of a student's education is the direct result of the quality of that student's teachers. If we don't have well trained teachers, then future generations of our children will not be well educated. That is why I am introducing a bill ``Ready to Educate All Children Act'' that would provide $200 million in grants to our schools of education to partner with high-need local schools to ensure that our teachers are receiving the best, most extensive training available before they enter the classroom.
Studies find that a majority of graduates of schools of education believe that the traditional teacher preparation program left them ill prepared for the challenges and rigors of the classroom. Part of the responsibility for this lies in the hands of our schools of education. However, Congress also has a responsibility to give our schools of education the tools they need to make necessary improvements. This new bill would create a competitive grant program for schools of education, which partner with low-income schools to create clinical programs to train teachers. Additionally, it would require schools of education to make internal changes by working with other departments at the university to ensure that teachers are receiving the highest quality education in core academic subjects. Finally, it would require the college or university to demonstrate a commitment to improving their schools of education by providing matching funds.
Another bill I am introducing today, is the ``Collaborative Agreements to Recruit Educators Act,'' which also would encourage improvement in the education of our Nation's low-income students. Children raised in poverty have a much more difficult time in finishing high school and going on to college. While about seventy percent of children in America will graduate from high school, that rate drops to fifty percent for low-income students. We know that every day, about 3,000 children drop out of school. Our Nation's inner city schools have some of the lowest rates of graduation. I strongly believe that education is one of the most important ways to break the cycle of poverty. To break that cycle, we must keep our children in school, help them graduate from high school, and increase their access to higher education.
My bill would provide grants for collaborative agreements to between local education agencies in low-income communities and to colleges of education. These partnerships would work to provide services, such as mentoring, tutoring, and scholarships through the college of education to the students at the partnering school in order to 1. encourage those students to graduate from high school, 2. let them know of opportunities within higher education, and (3) encourage them to become teachers, which are so badly needed.
Another complex issue affecting the teaching force is the high percentage of disillusioned beginning teachers who leave the field. This bill would help combat this issue, as well. Schools of education receiving these grants would be responsible for following their graduates and continuing to provide assistance after they enter the classroom. The more we invest in the education of teachers--especially once they have entered the profession--the more likely they will remain in the classroom.
To further help teacher quality and retention, I am introducing a bill ``The Master Teacher Scholarship Act''--to establish a Master's in Education Scholarship Program. The lack of promotions and salary increases are some of the most pervasive reasons for the disillusionment of teachers. This disillusionment is becoming a crisis as half of teachers leave the profession altogether within their first five years of teaching. To both improve the quality of teachers and increase their retention, this bill would provide $30 million in grants to schools of education to administer scholarships to eligible teachers. In return for the scholarships, teachers would agree to teach for another five years and mentor a novice teacher for two years.
Today, along with Senator DODD, I am introducing the ``Paul Wellstone Early Educator Loan Forgiveness Act.'' Our dear friend and colleague, Senator Wellstone, and I had been working on this legislation together before his tragic death. I know he cared deeply about this issue and about making sure that all children receive a quality education. He was passionate about that. Though our bill was originally called the ``Early Care and Education Loan Forgiveness Act,'' we have renamed our bill in Paul's memory.
Our bill would expand the loan forgiveness program so that it benefits not just childcare workers, but also early childhood educators. This loan forgiveness program would serve as an incentive to keep those educators in the field for longer periods of time. Research shows that children who attend quality early childcare programs when they were three or four years old scored better on math, language arts, and social skills in early elementary school than children who attended poor quality childcare programs. In short, children in early learning programs with high quality teachers--teachers with a Bachelor's degree or an Associate's degree or higher--do substantially better.
When we examine the number and recent growth of pre-primary education programs, it becomes difficult to differentiate between early education and childcare settings because they are so often intertwined--especially considering that about 12 million children younger than age five spend part of their time with a care provider other than a parent and that demand for quality childcare and education is growing as more mothers enter the workforce.
Because this bill targets loan forgiveness to those educators working in low-income schools or childcare settings, we can make significant strides toward providing high quality education for all of our young children, regardless of socioeconomic status. The bill would serve a twofold function. First, it would reward professionals for their training. Second, it would encourage professionals to remain in the profession over longer periods of time, since more time in the profession leads to higher percentages of loans forgiveness. The bill would result in more educated individuals with more teaching experience and lower turnover rates, each of which enhance student performance.
I encourage my colleagues to join me in this effort to help ensure that truly no children--especially our youngest children--are left behind.
I also am working on two bills with my friend and colleague from West Virginia, Senator ROCKEFELLER. These bills would provide loan forgiveness to students who dedicate their careers to working in the realm of child welfare, including social workers, who work for child protective services, and family law experts.
Currently, there aren't enough social workers to fill available jobs in the area of child welfare. Furthermore, the number of social work job openings is expected to increase faster than the average for all occupations through 2010. The need for highly qualified social workers in the child protective services is reaching crisis level.
We also need more qualified individuals focusing on family law. The wonderful thing about family law is its focus on rehabilitation--that is the rehabilitation of families by helping them through life's transitions, whether it is a family going through a divorce, a family dealing with their troubled teenager in the juvenile system, or a child getting adopted and becoming a member of a new family.
Across the United States, family, juvenile, and domestic relations courts are experiencing a shortage of qualified attorneys. As many of my colleagues and I know, law school is an expensive investment. In the last 20 years, tuition has increased more than 200 percent. Currently, the average rate of law school debt is about $80,000 per graduate. To be sure, few law school graduates can afford to work in the public sector because debts prevent even the most dedicated public service lawyer from being able to take these low-paying jobs. This results in a shortage of family lawyers.
The shortage of family law attorneys also disproportionately impacts juveniles. The lack of available representation causes children to spend more time in foster care because cases are adjourned or postponed when they simply cannot find an attorney to represent their rights or those of the parent or guardian. Furthermore, the number of children involved in the court system is sharply increasing. We need to ensure that the interests of these children are taken care of by making certain they have an advocate--someone working solely on their behalf. By offering loan forgiveness to those willing to pursue careers in the child welfare field, we can increase the number of highly qualified and dedicated individuals who work in the realm of child welfare and family law.
Finally, I am introducing a bill today that would help address an epidemic--the epidemic of underage drinking on college and university campuses across the United States. This bill would provide grants to states to establish statewide partnerships among colleges and universities and the surrounding communities to work together to reduce underage and binge drinking and illicit drug use by students.
Many States, including my home State of Ohio, have coalitions that deal specifically with the culture of alcohol and drug abuse on America's college campuses. They work with the surrounding communities, including local residents; bar, restaurant, and shop owners; and law enforcement officials toward a goal of changing the pervasive culture of drug and alcohol abuse. They provide alternative alcohol-free events, as well as support groups for those who choose not to drink. They also educate students about the dangers of alcohol and drug use.
Furthermore, the coalitions recognize that while it is important to promote an alcohol aware and drug-free campus community, if the community surrounding the campus does not promote these initiatives, there will be no long-term solutions. Therefore, these coalitions also have worked to establish regulations both on and off campus, which will help our Nation's youth to stay healthy, alive, and get the most out of their time at college. Some of these regulations include the registration of kegs. This provides accountability for both the store and the student. This is just an example of one step that colleges, local communities, and organizations can take.
To help start the expansion of these coalitions, this bill would provide $5 million in grants. This is an important demonstration project that would help lead to positive effects for our young people. It is up to us to change the culture, which has been perpetuated by years of complacency and a dismissal tone of ``that's just the way it is in college.'' We must protect the health and education of our young people by changing this culture of abuse--and that is exactly what this bill would help do.
I thank all of my colleagues who have worked with me on these bills. I look forward to the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act and working with Chairman ENZI and Ranking Member KENNEDY to incorporate these important measures.