Education has been a stepping stone to opportunity for my family, as it has been for so many Minnesota families. My grandfather worked 1,500 feet underground in the mines of Ely. He never graduated from high school, but he saved money in a coffee can in the basement to send my dad to college. My dad graduated from Vermilion Community College and earned his graduate degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. He went on to be a sports reporter and a newspaper columnist. My mom was a school teacher, who taught second grade until she was 70. I learned the value of education from my parents and grandparents.
A good education should be the basic right of every child. It is certainly one of the very best investments we can make in our future as a nation. Minnesotans have always had the greatest respect for education, and this respect is reflected in the strong support we have given our schools and higher education institutions. We have always believed that investing in education pays extraordinary dividends. Not only does it pay off for the individual, but it pays off for the rest of us by giving us a more productive workforce and better-informed citizens. That is why I am working to ensure that from the cradle to college we support our children and strengthen our commitment to providing adequate funding for our schools.
Increasingly, our students and their families are being challenged by the rising cost of college. College tuition and fees have been rising more rapidly than household income over the past two decades. It is becoming more and more difficult for students and their families to afford these costs. We must do more to expand higher education opportunities and make college more affordable for all students.
At a time when our global economy demands more from our workforce, we must focus more than ever on the foundation of our future prosperity: education.
As Minnesota's U.S. Senator, I will continue to focus on these priorities:
- Giving our schools and teachers real support, not empty promises. The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001, which made updates to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), was intended to improve the performance of our schools by increasing accountability for states, school districts, and schools. In exchange for their commitment to reform, states were promised funding necessary to fulfill these new requirements. Instead, this law has turned into another underfunded federal mandate. I will keep fighting to fix the overall shortcomings of NCLB, including putting in place better accountability systems, more flexibility, and closing the achievement gap.
- Guaranteeing high standards and accountability in education in a way that reflects students' real talents and real progress. Schools need to be held to the highest benchmarks, and I support national testing standards, but measuring progress must also be realistic and fair. I will fight to find ways for schools to measure comprehensive achievement. I am also committed to examining ways we can provide a more comprehensive and valid assessment for students with disabilities and English Language Learners.
- Expanding higher education opportunities. Minnesotans have always believed that every student should have the opportunity to pursue higher education. The cost of college has more than tripled in the last 20 years, and college prices are still rising in Minnesota. Skyrocketing costs prevent many qualified students from attending college and force many others to end their education prematurely. At the same time, student loan debt has spun out of control, becoming a crippling financial burden to many young people and their families. It is time to provide real help for students and their families to make college more affordable. I am fighting for stronger federal support for higher education opportunities - because our future success as a state and a nation depends on making sure that quality education is accessible and affordable.
- Strengthening our commitment to two-year degrees at community and technical colleges. Minnesotans have always believed that every student should have the opportunity to pursue higher education. The cost of college has more than tripled in the last 20 years, and college prices are still rising in Minnesota. Skyrocketing costs prevent many qualified students from attending college and force many others to end their education prematurely. At the same time, student loan debt has spun out of control, becoming a crippling financial burden to many young people and their families. It is time to provide real help for students and their families to make college more affordable. I am fighting for stronger federal support for higher education opportunities - because our future success as a state and a nation depends on making sure that quality education is accessible and affordable.
- Increasing our focus on STEM education. To continue our global leadership in science and technology research and development, American students must receive the best training and education to compete with students in growing economies around the world. Our economic future depends on a highly-skilled and competitive workforce. We must do everything we can to encourage and support our students to study math and science. This begins with a greater focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) in the classroom - the subjects that are essential to building an innovation economy.
- Promoting early childhood education. Every time we invest in our children's education, it pays dividends for our nation's prosperity and competitive standing in the world. High-quality early care and education can improve child outcomes, ease the burden on public resources, and increase future productivity and growth of a child. And as the former research director at the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank found, investing in early childhood education posts a return of 16 percent. Minnesota has a long history of supporting early education programs, and we are also leading the way with early learning education reform.
- Preventing truancy. As a prosecutor for eight years, I saw how skipping school was often the first step toward juvenile delinquency and adult crime. Truancy and school dropout rates are directly correlated, and students who drop out often pay a heavy price later in life. Unfortunately, these problems are often miscategorized and only addressed as high school problems affecting students in their later secondary years. However, attendance and truancy issues typically develop in the lower grades. The reauthorization of Elementary and Secondary Education Act must include middle school truancy legislation so at-risk students remain in school and on a path to success. We need to be doing everything we can to keep at-risk youth in the classroom and out of the courtroom.
- Fully supporting education for those with disabilities. The federal special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004, imposes specific requirements to ensure that students with disabilities receive the services they need to achieve their educational goals. However, the commitment to fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act has never been met. School districts are being forced to redirect more and more resources from their general education budgets to cover the shortfall. This practice hurts all students. I am working to make sure the federal government lives up to its promise to support education for those with disabilities.
As Minnesota's U.S. Senator, I've been working to ensure all our students have the educational opportunities they need to succeed in the 21st-century economy:
- Supporting early childhood education opportunities. I fought for Minnesota to receive the Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge grant, which will provide almost $45 million to improve the quality of early learning and development programs serving high-need children across our state. This award will go to support and strengthen existing efforts to give every child a chance to get a good start in life and enter kindergarten ready to learn. I also supported the Head Start for School Readiness Act, which was signed into law in 2007 and authorizes $22 billion to ensure that children are prepared when they enter school.
- Granting teachers more flexibility in classroom. In 2012, I successfully fought for Minnesota's Elementary and Secondary Education Act waiver. The waiver was a big step forward for Minnesota and will give our state greater flexibility around certain No Child Left Behind targets, like the goal of 100 percent proficiency by 2014 and the sanctions on schools if they do not make adequate yearly progress.
- Providing our students the training and skills they need to compete in the global economy. As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, I helped pass into law the America COMPETES Act of 2007, which increases support for math and science education as well as new technology initiatives. In 2010 we passed a reauthorization of this law. Major provisions of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 are set to expire in 2013. As we consider reauthorization, I will continue to push for policies that strengthen our nation's commitment to remaining competitive in the global marketplace. In 2011, I introduced the Innovate America Act that would call on the Department of Education to double the number of STEM high schools in America. This legislation would also provide a tax credit to businesses for donating equipment to technical and community colleges to help strengthen our country's network of two-year colleges that are essential to training the innovators and entrepreneurs of tomorrow.
- Implementing truancy prevention initiatives. I introduced the Student Attendance Success Act, which targets districts that have a documented history of significant truancy in grades five through nine and helps develop innovative strategies to engage students in their school. I will continue to work to include this legislation in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization so that at-risk students remain in school and on a path to success.
- Making college more affordable. I helped pass the College Cost Reduction Act, which was signed into law by President Bush in September 2007, to make it easier for students and families to pay for college by raising the maximum Pell Grant to $5,100 and $5,400 by 2012, protecting borrowers by capping monthly loan payments at 15 percent of discretionary income, and cutting student loan interest rates in half for subsidized Stafford Loans by 2011. The College Cost Reduction Act legislation also encourages public service through a loan repayment program for those who commit to service as teachers, prosecutors, non-profit employees and a host of other public service positions and serve in a public service capacity for 10 years. I also supported the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which saves middle-class families up to $2,500 a year on college tuition. In July 2012 I helped pass a law that prevented student loan rates from doubling for more than 200,000 Minnesota students. I helped pass the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, which makes higher education more affordable by removing private lenders from the federal student loan system and saving taxpayers nearly $68 billion in the coming years. This law also expands Pell Grants and invests in community colleges for education and career training programs. In addition, I have been a strong supporter of TRiO programs that continue to provide fundamental support to low-income and first-generation students across Minnesota as they prepare to attend college.
Senator Klobuchar’s Offices
302 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Main Line: 202-224-3244
Main Fax: 202-228-2186
Toll Free: 1-888-224-9043
1200 Washington Avenue South, Room 250
Minneapolis, MN 55415
Main Line: 612-727-5220
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Rochester, MN 55901
Main Line: 507-288-5321
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Moorhead, MN 56560
Main Line: 218-287-2219
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Virginia, MN 55792
Main Line: 218-741-9690