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Bob's Weekly Report (Back To School)

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As August comes to a close, students of all ages are stocking up on notebooks, rulers, textbooks, pens, and pencils: the telltale signs that another school year is beginning. As teachers and students head back to school we are reminded of the importance of education. President John F. Kennedy once said "Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation." I believe that the structure and quality of education is a direct reflection of the strength of our nation and I continue to work to ensure that our education system is accessible and beneficial to all of our nation's citizens.

Many of us can remember a time when a special teacher took the extra time and effort to explain a difficult theory or provided words of encouragement and support. They encouraged curiosity and instilled in us a desire to learn. I have supported legislation that continues to provide significant support for teacher quality enhancement, such as the Higher Education Act. The reauthorization of this legislation strengthens teacher training programs; provides a permanent increase in loan forgiveness for math, science, and special education teachers, as well as reading specialists working in disadvantaged schools for five years; and establishes pay-for-performance systems that will provide recognition pay to teachers and principals who demonstrate success in improving student achievement.

The Deficit Reduction Act, signed into law by the President in February, included provisions reducing loan fees so students can keep more of what they borrow and increasing loan limits to give students access to more financial aid. Everyone willing to learn deserves the opportunity to pursue higher education and these provisions will not only make college and graduate education more accessible, it will also make it more affordable.

Access to higher education is important and as several recent reports indicate college graduates are entering one of the best hiring markets in years. In fact, employers expect their college hiring for 2005-2006 to surpass last year's by nearly 15% and nearly 9 out of 10 employers say competition for college hires has increased, with more than 20% raising, or planning to raise, starting salaries. And, with foreign competition in the fields of math and science challenging American ingenuity, the Congress is working hard to set policies to ensure that the U.S. remains an attractive place to receive an education, and do business.

Education is a top priority for me and for our nation. As a parent and a legislator, I look forward to receiving input from teachers, principals, local and state administrators, and parents to enact further education reform and strengthen our education system.

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