"The endless pursuit of knowledge and education is our greatest hope maintaining a healthy democracy, ensuring economic competitiveness, and spurring innovation."
SUMMARY OF STANCE
Our nation must rededicate support for our educational system and provide students with the best possible resources they need to succeed and to contribute to society. Investments in higher education, with an emphasis on student financial support, innovative teaching strategies, and the research and development of new technologies, should remain a legislative priority. In addition, we must take action on the unaffordability of education and the crushing debt it now places on students.
RELATED LEGISLATION AND ACTIONS:
Introducing legislation is just one action that a member of Congress can take to address a concern or issue that impacts constituents. House Members can also introduce Congressional resolutions calling on the House (or even the full Congress) as a body to recognize or support a certain event or position on an issue. Members can write letters to government leaders requesting they take certain action, hold hearings with expert panels to address issues, work with colleagues at the committee level on specific issues, or even make direct in-person appeals to other Members or officials in the government. Here are a few examples of how I have taken action on this issue.
A strong K-12 education is our children’s path to prosperity. Through continued investment in K-12 teachers and students, we will be successful in forging a system that focuses on providing every American student with a high-quality education – one that includes more resources and high academic standards to increase student success.
Comprehensive education legislation was signed into law by President Obama in 2015 with the “Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA), which reauthorized the 50-year-old Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Act.
I was proud to support this bipartisan measure that replaced a one-size-fits-all federal system with a framework that is designed, led, and implemented by states. States can decide and choose their own accountability systems and assessments in order to meet national standards of excellence. The new ESEA includes provisions for:
- High academic standards to prepare young people to be college-and-career-ready;
- State-driven student performance targets and school ratings;
- State-developed support and dedicated funding for the lowest-performing schools;
- A competitive program to evaluate and reward effective educators; and
- Increased investments in high-quality Pre-K and early childhood education programs.
I was an original cosponsor of H.R.2592, the “STEM Innovation Networks Act,” which would authorize the Secretary of Education to make grants for the establishment of State Networks on STEM education. I also introduced a legislative amendment to direct an additional $5 million to the STARBASE Youth Program, which provides instruction for 5th grade underrepresented and low-income students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education. The amendment directly helped the STARBASE Youth Program Facility then under under construction at the Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base (JFTB).
Each year since I came to Congress, I have fought during the appropriations process to secure funding for the STARBASE program. I am proud of the fact that I have been able to secure $25 million a year for the program, as well as an increase up to $30 million during the FY2017 and FY2018 funding cycles.
As a college professor for over thirty years, my passion remains in education. I understand the socio-economic and political implications of providing our students the tools they need to succeed; and, as a member of Congress, I intend to focus on improving the access to these tools.
That is why I support allowing students to refinance their existing student loans at the same low rate being offered to new borrowers. However, interest rates are only a small part of the larger problem of ever-increasing tuition costs and the growing loans and debt that accompany it. I have also supported measures to make college more affordable for low income students.
Building on my work as the former chair of the Senate Education Committee in the California State Senate and as a member of the California Public Higher Education Caucus in Congress, I was a strong supporter of legislation that sought to enhance and preserve community colleges in the state of California and throughout the country. I was a proud cosponsor of the “America’s College Promise Act,” which would make two years of community college free.
Additionally, one of my focuses in Congress is the restoration of year-round Pell Grant eligibility, which gives students the flexibility to continue their studies beyond the academic year. Since 2011, when summer Pell Grants were eliminated by the federal government, I’ve heard from universities and students about the urgent need to restore these grants. This is why I cosponsored the “All-Year Access Act” to expand access to Pell Grants and assist full-time and part-time students.
CAUCUSES OR MEMBERSHIPS RELATED TO ISSUE
Green Schools Caucus
I am chairman of the Green Schools Caucus which works to promote green schools that save money, provide healthy learning environments and encourage local job creation. The goals of the Green Schools Caucus are to raise awareness of the benefits of green schools, lead the policy discussion on this topic in various forums, create legislative opportunities for the collective efforts of caucus members and provide Members of Congress with constituent outreach resources. In addition, the Caucus provides relevant national and local news related to green school activities in specific school districts, as well as materials for constituents who wish to advance green schools at the local level.
House Community College Caucus
The Community College Caucus recognizes that community colleges play an important and distinctive role in the American education system. Community colleges provide low cost, close-to-home education to more than 11.6 million students per year. The ability of the community college to adapt to the needs of the community situates them to play a key role in training workers in our evolving economy. The purpose of the CCC is to raise awareness within the House of Representatives about the unique role of community colleges within the American educational system. The Caucus serves as a forum to identify and discuss current issues which affect community colleges.
California Public Higher Education Caucus
The California Public Higher Education Caucus advocates for the University of California and California State University campuses and their students, while also supporting improvements to the quality, affordability, and accessibility of California’s public higher education system.
For more information concerning my work and views on education, please contact me.
See also information on student financial aid.