For-profit regulations protect students and taxpayers

With bipartisan debt commissions unfurling proposals, newly-elected Tea Partiers headed for the Capitol, and Congress moving to keep Bush-era tax breaks, it’s clear that Washington needs to find cuts in the federal budget. With dollars more scarce, our country must rededicate itself to spending as wisely as possible.  

One area that politicians frequently pledge to attack is the unholy trinity of “waste, fraud, and abuse.” Identifying such wasteful spending is easier said than done – but not always.

The Obama administration proposed to act on two higher education programs where it was crystal clear that government money was not being spent prudently. Two industries, student loan companies and for-profit colleges, had become wealthy through federal largesse – and, to a large degree, at the expense of student and taxpayer interests.


Poor PISA performance requires radical curriculum rethink (Rep. Mike Honda)

While China's number one rankings in reading, science and math categories may ruffle America's competitiveness feathers, as witnessed in the latest Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), our feathers have been ruffled before, by a host of higher performing nations. America continues to be outcompeted on the PISA. In this latest assessment, the U.S. moved little, scoring 17th in reading, 23rd in science, and 31st in math.

Before America slips further, we must retool our education system so that each child is equipped with the training and education needed to reach their maximum potential. Good schools will give back to America through innovation, investment and intellect - key components of any economic recovery process.


Empty promises: Many for-profit colleges lead students into debt with no diploma (Sen. Tom Harkin)

For-profit colleges have seen explosive growth in recent years. Top executives had been rewarded handsomely, and shareholders have received great dividends. But for students at for-profit colleges, it has been a very different story. Despite enticing promises of a diploma followed by a good job, the majority of students withdraw without graduating, with few employment prospects, and in most cases a load of debt that could follow them the rest of their lives.


Career colleges fulfill a vital role in the American education system (Rep. Edolphus “Ed” Towns)

Career colleges or private for-profit schools of higher learning are often the choice of students looking to enhance specific skills that will improve their marketability for employment. Students attending career colleges are generally low-income working people looking to boost their human capital so that they might earn more to better care for themselves and their families.


In defense of the Department of Education

I was extremely disappointed to read in the Washington Examiner last month that incoming House Education and Labor Committee Chair Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) is wondering why we have a federal Department of Education.  In his editorial (, the Congressman wrote:

“Across the country, many have begun to wonder why we have a federal Department of Education at all.  What makes us think that bureaucrats in Washington, DC can manage our classrooms and prepare our children for success any more effectively than qualified teachers and engaged local school boards?”


Economic prosperity and national security through the DREAM Act

Even in tough times, Americans have used their freedom, common sense and respect for one another to do the right thing for the nation. Today, we face one of those times. There are thousands of hard-working, patriotic, young people who are leaders in their communities and who are looking for an opportunity to attend college or serve our country in the military, but they cannot, through no fault of their own. Congress has the opportunity to offer them and our country a brighter future by coming together in a bipartisan way to pass the DREAM Act.


Redefining the federal role in public education (Rep. Mike Honda)

One of the challenges confronting education policy makers is staying connected to the grassroots. This is not only important for political purposes, but, most importantly, for policy implementation. What sounds great in the cloakrooms on Capitol Hill, or the conference rooms of D.C. policy shops, sometimes does not work on the ground. As a former high school teacher and principal, I am particularly sensitive to this dynamic, which is why I got back into the community again last week, visited schools across the nation and spoke with some of the folks who are making it happen.


The youth agenda

American populism is back, evidenced by the midterm tour-de-force of voters concerned with unemployment and government spending.  While these voters mostly backed extremely conservative candidates, both Democrats and Republicans tried winning them over by claiming to be the party of ‘the people.’  True stewards of the economic justice, however, would do well to take a serious look at the plight of young people and how substantial investments in opportunities for youth success can save our nation’s prosperity both now and for decades to come.  There are several pieces of the youth agenda that Congress can pass in the next few weeks and in the 112th Congress that uplift the underrepresented communities that saved Democrats’ seats and maintain the fiscal responsibility championed by Republicans.


Career colleges are the path for many to achieve their dreams

Now a successful chef and business owner, I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for my career college education.  I am deeply concerned that Washington policy makers currently attacking career colleges fail to understand that limiting the educational options available to those who oftentimes come from modest backgrounds will only serve to punish those they claim to want to assist.    

Education is the foundation required to achieve success in today’s world.  But no one specific system of post-secondary education will ever have the wherewithal to accommodate everyone’s educational needs, which means there must be a wide choice of systems.


It's time to step up when it comes to preparing our K-16 students (Rep. Michael Honda and Dana Ditmore)

The United States is increasingly losing its competitive edge when it comes to preparing our K-16 students in critical subjects like science, technology, engineering and math.  In these subject areas, our students consistently rank near the bottom in educational achievement among the world's 30 richest nations.  While we know that teacher quality is the most important factor in improving students' academic performance, many teachers are not adequately schooled in the subjects they are teaching.  In our Santa Clara County, for example, one-third of our high-school math and science teachers are under-prepared, out-of-subject, or novice teachers.  We must turn this tide if we are to keep Silicon Valley as the center of technological advancement and keep America as a leader in science and engineering innovation.