Education is one of Congressman Baca's top priorities. He believes that all children should have equal access to education. Congressman Baca believes in investing in a fully funded education system that gives every child the skills to succeed.
No Child Left Behind Act
Congressman Baca supports the goals of the No Child Left Behind Act. The act was intended to to eliminate the achievement gap and to ensure that all children succeed. However, the bill has been enormously under-funded. President Bush's FY05 budget shortchanges the bill by $9.4 billion.
The bill has also been applied inflexibly. There is not enough flexibility added for students with disabilities and limited English proficiency students. More common sense flexibilities must be provided. Schools who do not perform as well must be given more help to meet the standards of the act.
Congressman Baca co-sponsors several bills that will improve the No Child Left Behind Act. H.R. 2394, Keeping America's Promises to our Children Act (Moore, D-KS) requires full funding of Title I of the ESEA (dealing with disadvantaged kids). H.R. 3049, the Student Testing Fairness Act of 2004 (Strickland, D-OH), revises the adequate yearly progress requirements of the NCLB Act to provide more flexibility in annual assessments.
Making Higher Education Accessible
Congressman Baca believes that students who work hard should be able to attend college and university. Congressman Baca supports two important bills that make college more accessible and more affordable by preventing states from cutting higher education funding and providing incentives to colleges to lower tuition costs. He co-sponsors: H.R. 3519, the College Affordability and Accountability Act and H.R. 3180, the College Opportunity for All Act (doubles the Pell Grant maximum award).
Congressman Baca believes that limited English skills should not prevent students from learning. He introduced an education amendment to HR 2211, The Ready to Teach Act. The amendment, which passed the House in July 2003, will allow more funding to train teachers who instruct students with limited English skills.
Congressman Baca supports increasing the top level of a Pell Grant from $4,050 to $4,500. The cost of higher education has risen dramatically over the past decade, and it is essential that federal financial aid increases as well. Congressman Baca has supported the increase in Pell Grants through member-initiated letters.
Congressman Baca supports increasing funding for Head Start so that it is fully funded in the next 5 years. Head Start is a proven successful program that can't reach its potential until it has the funding to reach all eligible children. It would be unwise to hand the program over to the states' control. This is why Congressman Baca voted against H.R. 2210, which chips away at the current, successful, Head Start program.
Federal assistance for modernizing schools
Congressman Baca supports federal legislation authorizing tax credits for at least $25 billion of interest-free school construction bonds. Children learn best when they are in a safe, comfortable and nurturing environment. Improving schools through construction and modern technology is part of maximizing their learning environment. He has supported Q-ZAB (Qualified Zone Academy Bonds) through letters to provide such school construction to San Bernardino County Schools. Congressman Baca also supports teacher tax credits through his co-sponsorship of H.R. 785, the Teacher Tax Relief Act of 2003, which allows tax deductions for classroom supplies.
Repeal Social Security Offsets
Congressman Baca supports federal legislation to eliminate both the Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination Provision. California is among the 15 states whose teachers are unfairly and negatively affected by the GPO and WEP provisions. He is a co-sponsor of H.R. 594 (McKeon) that amends the Social Security Act to repeal these provisions.
Opposes private school vouchers and tuition tax subsidies
Congressman Baca opposes any federal voucher plan, including a voucher demonstration program. He voted against the D.C. Appropriations Bill that provides a voucher system in Washington, DC, schools. Under voucher systems, many children are left behind in public schools with fewer resources that only widen the gap between public and private schools.
Congressman Baca also opposes the inclusion of vouchers within the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). With voucher systems, private schools do not have to accept all children. Students with special needs and students who suffer from emotional and behavioral problems will likely be hurt the most from a voucher system.
The House of Representatives voted to reauthorize IDEA in 2003. The new federal funding level in 2004 increased by $2.2 billion, and will increase by $2.7 billion in FY05-this means that IDEA will be funded at only 21%. In 1974, Congress promised to fund IDEA at the 40% level. Twenty-five years later, Congress has still not met this commitment. Congressman Baca voted against IDEA Reauthorization because of the lack of funding, as well as a list of other concerns. He received several letters from parents, educators and experts who were extremely worried about this bill.