As a former teacher at Mankato West High School, I know that maintaining a strong public education system is the backbone of our democracy. We need to ensure our schools have the funding they need to provide quality instruction in all subjects, like math, language arts and information technology. We also need to make sure important support services like counseling for students and professional development for teachers and principals are funded.
Moreover, as we make decisions regarding education, we need to listen to those who are best qualified to make decisions about our students: their parents, teachers and school administrators. The federal government’s role is to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access. However, the Department of Education and Congress need to respect the unique differences of our schools, whether they are urban or rural, and allow decisions to be made locally.
Rest assured, as I serve in Congress, I will remain supportive of our schools and teachers. I look forward to working with my fellow educators and families throughout southern Minnesota as we continue building a world-class education system for our children.
As a teacher and a parent, I know how critical it is for our students to receive a high-quality post-secondary education. At the same time, I also understand the anxiety that middle class families feel about the rising cost of college. Students looking to pursue higher education should be able to reach their goals regardless of their financial situation, and students finishing their degrees should be able to start a career without the crushing burden of student loan debt.
Over the last two years, Congress has debated legislation to prevent rising interest rates on federal student loans. On July 31, 2013, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1911 to reverse a schedule increase for some federal student loans. President Obama signed this bill into law on August 9, 2013. This bill will link interest rates on federal student loans to market rates, but the rates will be fixed for the period of the loan. While this was not the bill I would have written, it was the best deal for families that could pass both the House and Senate and become law.
Interest rates are only one part of the higher education discussion. All students should have the access to post-secondary programs that will give them the skills to compete in today’s workforce. And, that education should be affordable. Achieving these goals will allow students to get jobs that will provide for their families, give them pride in their work and achieve the middle-class American Dream.
I believe that early education is important because a child’s development begins long before he or she arrives in elementary school. Head Start programs provide early childhood education, social services, and parental involvement programs to over 18 million low income children.
The Head Start program developed an early learning program that has been instrumental in educational success for the past 45 years. Likewise, this program is vital in creating a whole-family approach and establishing a pathway to lifelong success. Studies show that every dollar invested in Head Start returns $7-$9 to our future economic growth, so the program more than pays for itself. Students who go through this program increase their social and academic skills and have a reduced high school dropout rate.
As you may know, on March 1, 2013, automatic defense and non-defense spending cuts were enacted into law, commonly known as sequestration. This included funding for Head Start and Early Head Start. These important programs are facing devastating budget cuts that will impact 70,000 at risk children. I believe these cuts are irresponsible and hurt the most vulnerable in our society. Instead of indiscriminate across-the-board cuts, we need to work together and make the hard decisions to find a balanced, long-term plan to fix sequestration and tackle our debt.
The 2001 No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law introduced significant changes to our public education system. The bill was designed to improve accountability among public educators and to ensure that all students should be proficient in reading, math, and science by 2014 through the use of widespread, standardized testing and punitive measures for schools that fail to meet performance goals.
I taught under the NCLB system, and I believe that it was written with the best of intentions and has had some positive impacts on education. That said, the system is clearly deeply flawed and in need of major reform. In response to the unrealistic and suffocating requirements of NCLB, President Obama issued states waivers from NCLB’s sanctions in early 2012. On February 9, 2012, Minnesota received one of these waivers, which allowed the state to develop a new accountability system based on multiple measures.
However, I believe the NCLB waivers are a temporary solution and full reauthorization still needs to be addressed. Unfortunately, Congress has yet to come to a consensus about how to move forward with updating NCLB.
Recently, the House considered a proposal to reauthorize the NCLB that would take us a step backwards by not addressing the challenges and needs facing our schools.
As Congress continues its work on how to reauthorize NLCB, here are a few of the principles I will be advocating for:
- Local Control – no one is better qualified to make decisions about education than the parents, teachers and administrators that know their students best. I support a bigger role for state and local decision-making in how are schools are run.
- Improved Accountability – I support holding teachers and schools accountable for their performance, but, in order to do that, we need to accurately measure student progress during the school year. We need tests that help teachers, administrators, and parents understand how much students have learned and have grown.
- Well-Rounded Curriculums – NCLB’s focus on a single annual math and reading test has led many schools to focus too much on teaching the content of that test to the detriment of all else. We need a well-rounded curriculum that includes subjects like financial literacy, civics, and geography to prepare students to be citizens of this country and competitors in the global economy.
- Focus on Rural Communities – We must be careful not to replace President Bush’s Houston-based system with a Chicago-based alternative; neither one is as good fit for southern Minnesota. Reform needs to accommodate smaller, rural communities that can’t afford to hire full-time grant writers and don’t have three high schools in town for parents to choose from.
More on Education
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, U.S. Representative Tim Walz (MN-01) joined other House Democrats in introducing the Remedial Education Improvement Act, a bill that will help ensure students complete their higher education in a timely and affordable manner.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar, Al Franken, and House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Ranking Member Representative Tim Walz (MN-01) wrote a letter along with all other members of Minnesota’s congressional delegation to Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Students Director Jeffrey Allen requesting assistance in securing the release of data sets to the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (Minnesota State) system that will aid it in continuing to award academic credit to veterans and service members for their military training and learning.
Rochester, MN [7/17/15] – Today, Congressman Tim Walz visited local tech startup BrandHoot in Rochester and discussed ways to increase entrepreneurship opportunities and grow Rochester’s middle class economy through workforce development and STEM education.
Washington, DC [5/22/15] – Today, Representative Tim Walz announced the winners of the 2015 Congressional Art Competition.
“It is an honor to announce Jillian Hanesworth, a senior at Winona High School, as the winner of this year’s competition,” said Walz. “This is a unique competition that provides the opportunity to showcase the artistic talent of southern Minnesota students and acknowledge our nation’s gifted young artists. I’m looking forward to seeing Jillian’s artwork displayed in the Cannon tunnel at the Capitol.”
Winning works are displayed for one year at U.S. Capitol
Washington, DC [3/24/15] – Today, Representative Tim Walz kicked off the 2015 Congressional Art Competition by inviting high school students from across Minnesota’s First District to submit their artwork for the contest.
According to statistics, between four and seven children die every day in the United States due to child abuse and neglect – one of the worst records of industrialized nations
Washington, DC [5/27/14] – Today, Representative Tim Walz announced the winners of the 2014 Congressional Art Competition.
“It is an honor to announce Emily Bartz, a senior at Winona High School, as the winner of this year’s competition,” said Walz. “This is a unique competition that provides the opportunity to showcase the artistic talent of southern Minnesota students and acknowledge our nation’s gifted young artists. I’m looking forward to seeing Emily’s painting displayed in the Cannon tunnel at the Capitol.”
Winona, MN [3/20/14] – Today, Representative Tim Walz visited CPI Binani to recognize local success and speak about the important role veterans play in our community. Walz was joined by local business owners and employers, representatives from educational institutes, and community leaders to advocate for veteran jobs and educational opportunities, highlight the success and prosperity of the region, while also hoping to learn about best practices from business leaders that will continue to revitalize southeastern Minnesota and the country.
Winning works are displayed for one year at U.S. Capitol
Washington, DC [3/11/14] – Today, Representative Tim Walz kicked off the 2014 Congressional Art Competition by inviting high school students from across Minnesota’s First District to submit their artwork for the contest.
Washington, DC – Today Congressmen Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), David McKinley (R-WV), Tim Walz (D-MN), Chris Gibson (R-NY), Jared Huffman (D-CA), and David Reichert (R-WA) announced introduction of the bipartisan IDEA Full Funding Act. In 1975, Congress took the critical step of passing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and guaranteeing that every child with disabilities would have the opportunity to reach his or her full potential. At that time, the federal government committed to pay 40 percent of the average per pupil expenditure for special education.