Every student in America should be able to get a quality education, from early childhood through college, regardless of his or her race, zip code, or learning ability. Education is a personal issue for me – my mother was a teacher, my wife works in education, and as a parent of two school-age boys, I spend time helping with homework and attending parent-teacher conferences. And as someone who is still paying off college loans, I know the all-too-familiar feeling that families face when trying to figure out how to make college an affordable reality. That’s why I asked to be a member of the committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions in the Senate – so I can be at the center of debates about our nation’s commitment to education.
In 2015, I worked to repeal the broken No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law and replace it with the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act. I heard from countless teachers and families in Connecticut that NCLB was suffocating them—placing the emphasis on testing above all else and providing overly-prescriptive federal oversight. During the process of drafting the replacement bill, I wrote the civil rights section of the legislation that assures that minority students, low-income students, and students with learning disabilities get an equal education to every other child in their state or school district. In the end, the Every Student Succeeds Act marked a significant rollback of unnecessary federal mandates on local schools, without undoing the expectation that schools educate everyone equally, regardless of geography, race, income, or learning ability. Under the new law, states — not the federal government — set goals for student achievement and hold schools accountable for meeting them.
As one of the youngest members of the Senate, I spend a lot of time focusing on ways to make it easier for students and families to pay for college. We need to revolutionize the way we think about higher education. I support efforts to lower borrowing costs and allow more students to refinance loans to lower rates. But I also believe that our higher education system is broken at its core. Costs are out of control, and too many colleges, especially the for-profit institutions, are handing out degrees that aren’t worth the money students put into them. That’s why I introduced the College Affordability and Innovation Act – legislation that for the first time will promote true innovations that will dramatically reduce cost (like granting degrees upon the achievement of competency in a major rather than the number of credits earned) and finally start withholding federal funding from sham schools that promise degrees in worthless subjects without a clear path to a career. To further tackle this growing phenomenon of hedge fund-run for-profit schools, I introduced the Students Before Profits Act, which would hold executives of fraud schools personally responsible when they market worthless degrees and collect federal grant and loan dollars to pad their pockets.
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