As a father of two school-aged boys, I am deeply committed to making sure all children, regardless of their background, have the opportunity to learn the skills they need to compete in our increasingly global economy. We must recognize that our kids are not only competing with those from Minnesota and Illinois, but also with those from around the world. Currently I am focused on the following education issues:
No Child Left Behind
To raise the bar for our kids and our schools, we must give them the tools and flexibility they need, while also demanding accountability for results. Right now, we have a federal law in place that is not adequately meeting the needs of our kids and our schools, No Child Left Behind. While the intention of this policy was to ensure that every child, regardless of socioeconomic status or upbringing be provided a quality education, I have heard from parents, teachers, and school administrators across the state that NCLB is focused too much on a one-time, high-stakes test, and not enough on the students themselves. We have an opportunity to address this by reforming No Child Left Behind to work better for everyone with multiple indicators for schools to measure adequate yearly progress, individual growth models for students, and most importantly - full funding.
Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies
Before we can help students achieve healthy minds however, they also need a healthy body. The emphasis on performance on standardized tests for reading and math has caused many schools to neglect things like physical education. This is counterintuitive, as students who are physically active are proven to perform better academically.
Thats why I authored the Fitness Integrated with Teaching (FIT) Kids Act, H.R. 3257. FIT Kids would modify No Child Left Behind (NCLB) to strengthen physical education programs throughout the country by requiring schools to report on students' physical activity, and move toward a national goal for time spent in physical activity every week. I truly believe that offering comprehensive physical education in schools will get to the root of the childhood obesity epidemic, and get kids on a health path early in life. We will see benefits in not only their math and reading test scores, but also our health care costs will go down by preventing chronic illnesses.
Keeping College Within Reach
We also must ensure that higher education is within reach of anyone who is willing to work for it. No student should put off or write off college because of the price. But the reality is that college tuition costs have risen 40 percent over the last five years, putting a strain on families and the students themselves.
Thats why I was proud to be an original cosponsor of the landmark College Cost Reduction and Access Act, which was signed into law in September of 2007, and represented the largest increase in college aid since the GI Bill in 1944. This bill increased the maximum Pell Grant scholarship, and cut interest rates on need-based student loans, saving the typical student borrower $4,400. I was also proud to support the College Opportunity and Affordability Act, another way to help students on the path to college. This bill would simplify the student financial aid process, and protect students from deceptive student loan marketing practices.
The value of higher education cannot be overemphasized, and I will continue to work to ensure that any qualified and interested student can pursue it.