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Diploma Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair recognizes the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Chu) for 5 minutes.

Ms. CHU. Mr. Speaker, for so many, education is the key to the American Dream. But for so many, a good education seems like it is beyond reach. That is why I am introducing the DIPLOMA Act, or Developing Innovative Partnerships and Learning Opportunities that Motivate Achievement.

This legislation will address obstacles to learning by giving out grants to schools, social service programs, and the local community to create comprehensive, community-based solutions that will ensure that our struggling students will succeed.

For awhile now, I have advocated for changing the tone of debate that surrounds school reform. Too often critics point fingers instead of offering solutions. That is why I am pushing for real change, dramatic change in our schools that harnesses the energy of parents, the community, and the school to turn around our failing schools that lift up all our students.

Now, there is no denying that this approach can be challenging and hard work, but research shows when communities, parents, and schools collaborate and work together, there is nothing we can't achieve. I know this because I have seen it firsthand in my district.

In East Los Angeles, Esteban E. Torres High School is a shining example of a community school. It's the first new school built in the neighborhood in 85 years, and its facilities and classrooms are simply magnificent. But to me, the most awe-inspiring part is the community-based approach at the heart of Esteban Torres. With the help of the Los Angeles Education Partnership and the Federal Full Service Community Schools Grant Program, Esteban Torres tapped into the resources of the surrounding community to overcome challenges facing their students regarding health care, limited English proficiency, and financial literacy.

Esteban Torres partnered with Bienvenidos for a full-service health service on campus that will help maintain the health and well-being of their students so they are ready and able to learn.

Pan American Bank partnered to help the high schoolers create a student-run financial center to teach the importance of a budget and proper money management, skills which will stick with these students for the rest of their lives.

Luis Rodriguez and Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural joined the effort to establish the first-ever bookstore in East Los Angeles, making it easier for students to expand their education outside their classroom.

And the effect of these programs is apparent on the smiles of the students' faces on their way to school, in the cafeteria and the classroom. This type of engagement and support is giving students in the community new opportunities and opening their world.

Across America, our students face problems like homelessness, lack of health care, and limited English proficiency. Research tells us that two-thirds of the achievement gap is due to factors outside of school, and even the best teachers have a hard time overcoming these obstacles.

A recent study from Chicago found that when we don't address students' social and economic disadvantages outside schools, the hard work done inside the school can be futile. That's why the DIPLOMA Act is so necessary. Local groups can coordinate, integrate, and facilitate services aimed at strengthening student achievement, such as dropout prevention, family engagement, tutoring, extending learning services, health care, and social support. The bill contains strong accountability measures, including independent evaluations to measure results and identify best practices.

These partnerships will make a difference in the lives of students in my district. When students are provided the right kind of support and opportunities to help them learn, nothing can stop them. The DIPLOMA Act ensures that America's next Nobel Prize laureate can come from any background or community because they had the support they needed to succeed.

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