It is our responsibility to ensure every child in the United States has access to a high-quality education, regardless of their income or zip code. In classrooms throughout the First Congressional District and across Washington state, teachers and administrators are doing incredible work to educate our kids and prepare them to succeed after graduation. However, Congress must do more to support these efforts and ensure that federal education policies are working for Washington's students, educators, and school districts.
To guarantee that all students are given an opportunity to succeed, I believe we need to replace No Child Left Behind (NCLB) with a system that maintains high standards for student achievement but provides states and districts with the tools and flexibility they need to help all kids reach their full potential. By doing so, we can help close the achievement gap and ensure that all high school graduates are college and career-ready.
At the same time, we must increase our nation's investment in early learning programs, public universities, and career and technical education programs, in order to ensure that every American has access to educational opportunity. We also need to do more to support STEM education, as well as student innovation and creativity, in our schools.
One of my top priorities in Congress is to make college more affordable for all Americans. The rising cost of higher education in the United States continues to pose serious challenges to millions of middle-class students and their families, who are being forced to take out higher loan amounts to pay for tuition, fees, textbooks, and housing. That's why I am fighting to keep student loan interest rates as low as possible, strengthen the Pell Grant program and other forms of student aid, lower the cost of college textbooks and supplies, and reduce the burden of student debt by allowing borrowers to refinance at today's lower rates.
While I continue working with my colleagues to support each of these goals, here's some information on the progress that we've already made:
*Prevented the Doubling of Student Loan Interest Rates. In 2013, I helped roll back the doubling of student loan interest rates, which were hiked from 3.4 to 6.8 percent on July 1 of that year. I was an original cosponsor of legislation that would have maintained low interest rates through 2015 and I ultimately joined with both Democrats and Republicans in support of a long-term compromise bill (Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act, Public Law 113-28) that provided immediate relief to millions of students and their families.
*Increased Funding for Internet Access and Wi-Fi in Schools. I helped lead the effort in Congress to urge the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to modernize and improve the federal E-rate program, which provides discounts to schools and libraries for the cost of Internet and telecommunications services. As a result of this effort, the FCC increased funding for E-rate by $1.5 billion per year to help schools deploy increased Internet bandwidth and Wi-Fi in every classroom during the next five years.
*Secured Funding for Schools in the Aftermath of the SR-530 Mudslide. The Darrington and Arlington school districts faced a number of additional costs to keep schools running in the aftermath of the State Route 530 mudslide on March 22, 2014. I helped secure thousands of dollars in federal grant funds to reimburse the districts for costs incurred during this tragedy, including transportation expenditures to ensure students could get to school and costs for substitute teachers to fill in for classroom staff who were unable to return to work.