Our future prosperity depends on the quality of the education we provide our children. We need to help raise a generation of Americans that is prepared for the jobs of the 21st century and ready to compete with other workers around the globe. None of us can predict exactly which great inventions or what great insights will transform lives in the decades to come. But we know that those breakthroughs will form as ideas in the minds of the next generation. It is our responsibility to give every child the chance to be the next great American innovator.
A well-educated citizenry is also the cornerstone of our vibrant democracy.
Early Childhood Education
Learning starts the moment a child is born. We know that the years before age five are critically important to set the stage for a lifetime of learning. Preparing every child to enter kindergarten ready to learn is essential.
Investing in early childhood education pays off. I have helped secure funding for local early education programs throughout our district, including grants to ABCD in Bridgeport, and I helped pass legislation that will increase salaries for Head Start teachers and counselors.
I applaud initiatives at the state and local levels to make preschool accessible to every family in Connecticut. I'll continue doing my part as your Congressman to help make that goal a reality.
Quality Public Schools
Many families, including mine, enjoy the benefits of great public schools in their towns. Students study core subjects, get plenty of time for physical education, and have access to classes in music and the arts. They can play sports, write for the school paper or participate in a wide variety of other funded after-school activities. There are ample opportunities to learn about the world, and realize their potential.
But that's still not the case in every school. It should be. Until we close the “achievement gap,” the disparity between educational outcomes for children of different backgrounds and family incomes, we will not be preparing every child for the 21st century. We must commit resources to turn around low-performing schools and embrace the reform that will return us to being the highest quality educator in the world.
To help improve schools and transform young lives I voted for the Recovery Act, which included funding for education initiatives. It helped the state of Connecticut – and each of the seventeen cities and towns in the Fourth District – keep teachers in our classrooms. And it kept funding intact for special education, making sure that students got the services they need, despite the dire economic circumstances facing every school system.
For too long, we have tolerated failing schools that put our future, our economic stability and our global competitiveness at risk. That's beginning to change. At its core, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001(NCLB) was a call to action on this front. Passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, it sought to improve student achievement and the quality of teaching across the country. Unfortunately, NCLB programs were vastly underfunded and many schools were unable to meet many of the law’s objectives. It's time to reauthorize NCLB, making sure its goals are both rigorous and attainable, while properly funding its implementation by the states. We must be willing to do what it takes to truly educate every child.
Realizing the American Dream
College is not a luxury. Post-secondary education is a gateway to opportunity and many good-paying jobs remain an elusive dream for too many. After high school, today's students ought to be able to pursue their dreams at the university, community college, or trade school that's best able to help them reach their life goals.
To make college more affordable for more students, I have voted to increase Pell grants and improve access to work-study programs. I supported legislation that stopped private banks from charging high rates on student loans while sticking taxpayers with the risk of defaults. Instead, I helped put that money directly into the hands of students. I'm also a supporter of the DREAM Act, which will increase access to college for approximately one million students, many of whom will be the first in their families to earn a degree.
Finally, education doesn’t end in the classroom. I have authored and helped pass provisions that provide consumers with better information to make smart financial decisions, established a program to teach teens life and career skills, and provided support for entrepreneurs and workers training for jobs in the green building and energy industries.
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