Provide financial support to historically black colleges and universities

Challenging financial times such as these require difficult funding choices. That is why the members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) have seized the mantle of leadership and provided financial support in recent spending bills for historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and primarily black institutions (PBIs). 

The FY2010-enacted budget included $85 million in funding, and the FY2011 Continuing Resolution (CR) included a similar level of funding. And even as our nation faced its worst recession since the Great Depression, the CBC pressed President Obama to include comparable prior-year funding in his FY2012 budget request.

It is important to note that the members of the CBC have never wavered in its support of HBCUs and has sought to ensure that they will remain financially viable and able to provide the highest quality of education for the next generation. As members of Congress, we believe it is vital to invest in education and to help all children receive an early, healthy head start in order for them to thrive and grow to their full capacity. We believe it is critical to invest in human capital and to support those programs and institutions that spur and sustain it. 


Education hornets’ nest: Creating a national K-12 curriculum

The U.S. Department of Education has, since September of 2010, been financing the work of two testing groups to create a national K-12 curriculum for English and mathematics. But in launching this new initiative, Education Department officials seem to be acting at crosspurposes with existing federal statutes, and, as their initiative becomes better known, it may bring out a multitude of opponents.

The new national curriculum is designed to complement a federally-funded national testing system that will test every public school student in America. Left unchallenged, this federal effort will establish for America a new system of national tests, national academic content standards, and a national curriculum.


Why charter schools deserve our support

Many students get trapped in failing schools and need a way out and public charter schools offer that opportunity. Charter schools serve as a consistently high-quality alternative to some failing public schools. They put a real premium on quality education and are often held to a higher standard of accountability for student achievement.

Charter schools offer parents the choice and flexibility to escape struggling schools and the education bureaucracy that surrounds them. I believe parents are best equipped to make decisions for their children, including the educational setting that will best serve the interests and educational needs of their child.

It is for that reason that I believe states should lift caps on the number of charter schools that can exist and the number of students these schools can serve. Charter schools have made great strides in raising achievement and tackling unique educational challenges from urban centers to rural areas. But despite their many successes, charter schools are not growing as they should. They face overwhelming barriers to expansion, from arbitrary state caps to hostile state legislatures.


Students before districts

A nine-year-old student, according to his own mother, “was on the edge of failure and about to give up on himself.” We’ve heard this story all too often, and, most of the time, it doesn’t have a happy ending. Yet this one does. “He turns in assignments early now,” reports his mother, adding, “And he said ‘I’m proud of myself.’” 

What turned this around? Supplemental tutoring did. This sort of success story is commonplace when students receive individual instruction after school. We all know No Child Left Behind (NCLB) got a lot wrong. One thing it got right, however, is that it provides just this sort of individual instruction, in the form of free tutoring for low-income students in failing school districts.


Higher education: The Senate's golden opportunity

A political issue that enjoys broad support is rare, especially during a contentious budget debate occurring in a painfully jobless economic recovery. Even more rare is when said issue has a base of politically active supporters, giving politicians precious capitol to do what is both right and popular in a time when common ground seems like foreign soil. Luckily for today’s legislators, there is such an issue: higher education.
A political issue doesn’t develop a swell of organic support unless there is a problem, and access to college is certainly a burden on families nationwide. A vast majority of college students require loans to finance their education and the average borrower now graduates nearly $25,000 in debt. This number has been ballooning exponentially over the years to the point where Americans now owe around $1 trillion in student loan debt - that’s even more credit card debt.


Limiting sexual discussion in the classroom

National media outlets have dubbed my legislation the "Don't Say 'Gay' Bill", improperly implying that the legislation is a gag order on a word or words.

In actuality, the legislation specifically limits the introduction of sexuality discussions as part of the official curriculum for children grades K-8, exempting discussions of biology.

The impetus behind my legislation is the case of David and Tonia Parker, the parents of a kindergartner in Massachusetts. The Parker family requested their child be allowed to opt out of homosexual discussions in the classroom, similar to opt-outs available for Jehovah's Witnesses regarding recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.


Students feeling nation's neglect for their future

Forty-three states have cut their educational budgets over 40 percent since 2007 and the Department of Education is being cut $11.5 billion this year, maybe even more. Money can always give our legislators reasons to loose sight of the lives being affected by their decisions. The atrocities of the budget cuts have left my colleagues and I weary of further persuing this unfulfilled education.

America is already at the bottom of the list when it comes to education, so how do we continue to call ourselves world leaders?


Education Department rules should help, not hurt, students

In his first State of the Union address, President Obama proclaimed that, by 2020, the United States would once again lead the world in college graduates. However, despite the president’s ambitious goals, the Department of Education is proposing arbitrary restrictions on private sector colleges and universities that will disproportionately affect the most disadvantaged segments of the student population.


Let's be serious about education reform

House Speaker John Boehner made the following remarks today on the House floor in support of H.R. 471, legislation renewing the successful D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. 

Today, the House will have the opportunity to do something special for the future of our country.

I think just about every member would agree we have work to do when it comes to our education system. Americans are concerned that their children won’t be able to have the same blessings they’ve had. And if we want to protect the American Dream, there’s no substitute for a quality education.


Sash and crown a step to cap and gown

This spring, thousands of high-school seniors will proudly count themselves among the graduating class of 2011. For many students, whether from big cities or small towns, like mine in Nebraska, the possibilities seem endless.

But they also face the very adult reality of affording a college education. As higher education costs skyrocket across the country, a generation of young Americans will cobble together family and personal savings, financial aid and decades of debt in order to prepare themselves for an increasingly competitive global economy.

My saving grace? The Miss America Scholarship Program. Yes, you read that correctly. Beyond the glitz and glitter of the stage, as it reads on its website: “The Miss America Organization is one of the nation's leading achievement programs and the world's largest provider of scholarship assistance for young women. Last year, the Miss America Organization and its state and local organizations made available more than $45 million in cash and scholarship assistance. This assistance is not just for the handful of young women who become Miss America, but is available to the over 12,000 young women who compete in the state and local competitions as well.”

In fact, every girl who competes walks away with a scholarship, making winners out of us all.