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Mike believes that every child should have the opportunity to receive a high quality education, regardless of their background or financial situation. This includes strong childcare and preschool programs; challenging early, middle, and high school curriculums that prepare students to succeed; dynamic career and technical educations that provide skills needed in today's world; and affordable post-secondary education that maintains our nation's competiveness.
PROMOTING EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION
Preschool and elementary education provides an essential foundation for our students. Unfortunately, low-income children in Maine and throughout the nation often lack the necessary resources for a successful education. Programs like Head Start provide comprehensive education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services to low-income prekindergarten-aged children and their families. Mike voted for the Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act, which became law in December of 2007. This legislation reauthorized the program and helped provide 10,000 more children with access to important Head Start services.
Child care and development grants are another important source of support for the early education of children in low-income families. Mike has called for substantial increases in funding for a number of programs, including Head Start, Early Head Start and Child Care and Development Block Grants.
FULLY FUNDING NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND
Before Mike served in Congress, No Child Left Behind passed and was signed into law with the great promise of a new federal commitment to education. Unfortunately, the federal government has continued to underfund local and state education efforts, even failing to support programs mandated by the federal government. Since the passage of No Child Left Behind, states and localities have been given billions of dollars less in federal funding than was promised.
Mike has cosponsored legislation that would fully fund the No Child Left Behind Act. He has also cosponsored legislation that would fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which was enacted in 1975 to ensure that all children, including disabled students, have access to free and appropriate public education. At the time, the federal government promised to pay 40% of the costs. But, the federal government has never made it to even 20%, which has forced local and state governments to make up the difference.
MAKING HIGHER EDUCATION MORE AFFORDABLE
A strong system of college and university education has always given the United States an edge over other countries. However, for too many in Maine and throughout the nation, a college degree remains out of reach. Skyrocketing tuition costs have prevented many from getting a post-secondary education and saddled many of those who are able to attend college with crushing levels of student loan debt.
In Congress, Mike is working to make sure that the potential to pursue a college education is available to every child in Maine regardless of his or her economic background. In order to achieve this goal, Mike supports increasing the maximum Pell Grant award and making affordable financial aid more accessible. Mike also supports increased funding for the GEAR UP program, which encourages middle school students to become college-ready, and TRIO programs such as Upward Bound. Mike also helped pass the College Cost Reduction and Access Act into law in 2007, which substantially increased the amount and availability of student aid.
Most recently, Mike supported the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, which represents the single largest investment in aid to help students and families pay for college in history. The bill reforms the system of federal student loans to save taxpayers $87 billion – and then invests $77 billion of those savings back into education, particularly by making college more affordable, and directs $10 billion back to the Treasury to reduce the deficit. Among its provisions, the bill provides substantial support to community colleges, increases the maximum Pell Grant, and keeps interest rates low on subsidized federal student loans. A fact sheet put together by the House Education and Labor Committee on the overall legislation can be found HERE.
ADVANCING EDUCATION FOR THE FUTURE
Mike is a strong supporter of the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) because he believes that these disciplines are where the future lies. Everything from answers to our energy crisis and the solutions to climate change, to the cure for cancer and other debilitating diseases, will be discovered by bright men and women who are knowledgeable in these areas. We must work to strengthen our scientific programs and open these fields up to more Americans.
Mike supported passage of the America COMPETES Act, which was signed into law on August 9, 2007. This bill delivered more highly qualified teachers in the classroom in the fields of mathematics, science, engineering, technology, and critical foreign languages through grant programs that provide degrees in these areas with concurrent teacher certifications. In addition, it authorized competitive grants to establish programs focused on math for elementary and secondary schools including training for teachers with a focus on serving high-needs schools.
Mike also supported a bill that invested more than $31 billion in science, technology, innovation, math education, and workforce training. This innovation agenda was signed into law on December 16, 2009 as a part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act for 2010.
SUPPORTING ADULT EDUCATION IN MAINE
Mike has always been a strong supporter of our nation’s community colleges. The State of Maine has over 100 local Adult Education Programs which provide opportunities for Mainers to receive degrees and other accreditations. These degrees assist students in their pursuit of college degrees, and give them a serious advantage in competitive job markets.
The Maine Adult Education Association (MAEA) is a nonprofit organization that offers services to over 85% of cities and towns in Maine. The organization offers adult education and professional training, among other services. On average, MAEA awards 2200 GEDs and 800 high school diplomas annually.
The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, which Mike helped to pass in September of 2009, invested $5.9 million to help finance projects for community college facilities in Maine. This will ensure that community college students can learn in modern, updated, state-of-the-art facilities by renovating campuses in need of repair or by constructing new facilities. The bill also created a new competitive grant program for community colleges to improve instruction, work with local employers, improve student support services, and implement other innovative reforms that will lead to a college degree, certificate, or industry-recognized credential to help fulfill local workforce needs.
According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, more than 9,200 people are helping to meet local needs, strengthen communities, and increase civic engagement through 28 national service projects across Maine.
Mike is a strong supporter of volunteer programs because they are an important investment in our communities. He voted to pass the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which was signed into law on April 21, 2009. The bill tripled the number of volunteers to 250,000 nationally and increased the education reward they receive. The education award will be linked to match future boosts in the Pell Grant scholarship in order to keep up with rising college costs.
Mike believes this new law will improve current programs and promote a stronger sense of service in our communities. So many in our state are involved and willing to step up and do this valuable work, and this bill will help encourage more people to serve their communities.
IMPROVING EDUCATION OPPORTUNITIES FOR VETERANS
Mike is a strong supporter of improving educational opportunities for veterans. Mike was a lead supporter of the GI Bill for the 21st Century, which delivered updated and expanded educational benefits to our nation’s veterans. Before the bill became law, GI educational benefits paid only about 70% of a public college education. The new GI Bill provides up to a full, four-year college scholarship for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. This puts educational benefits on par with those available after World War II.
SAVING JOBS AND INVESTING IN EDUCATION
One of the most crucial ways that we can ensure a high quality education for students in Maine is through the teachers and education professionals in our schools.
During this time of economic uncertainty, the Recovery Act, which was signed into law on February 17, 2009, invested $39.5 billion to prevent teacher layoffs and education cuts, as well as for school modernization projects. Most of this funding went directly to states in the wake of massive budget shortfalls to ensure that the quality educators in our schools could keep their jobs. Also contained in the “State Stabilization” fund was $5 billion in incentive and innovation grants for student achievement, and $8.8 billion for high priority renovation and public safety needs in our schools.
To continue these investments, in August of 2010, the Comngress passed into law a bill was estimated to support and create approximately 319,000 jobs. The Education Jobs and Medicaid Assistance Act, included $10 billion in funding to save teacher jobs and $16.1 billion in health assistance to the states that, by reducing shortfalls, will help keep many others on the job, including police officers and firefighters.
The Department of Education estimated that the education funding would help save 161,000 teacher jobs nationally. Maine is expected to receive $39.1 million, helping to save 700 jobs. The bill was fully paid for and, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, reduces the deficit by $1.4 billion over 10 years. It cuts $17.7 billion in spending and raises $9.8 billion by closing tax loopholes that encourage corporations to ship American jobs overseas.