Investing in education will ensure that future generations have the resources they need to allow our nation to succeed. To do this, we must work to recruit qualified teachers, reduce class sizes, and make college more affordable. My experience as a teacher in New Jersey encourages me to fight for the highest quality education for our students at every level.
As a former teacher, I know that a teacher's impact is felt not only in the classroom, but also on the practice fields and in the community. As a student, I had the support of my teachers inside and outside the classroom. As a result, I felt compelled to become a teacher in order to give students the same opportunities that my teachers had given me. New Jersey has some of the most talented teachers in the country. While we ask teachers to prepare our children to meet the challenges of the 21st Century, we must also give them the tools and resources to rise to these challenges.
I understand first-hand that investing in early childhood education is fundamental to the foundations of our children's learning and development. Investing in our children early will provide the best advantage for younger generations. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) is the main source of federal aid to K-12 education. Initially enacted in 1965, this law was amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) to achieve accountability of school systems for improving student achievement outcomes. However, some requirements have become burdensome and punitive. As Congress looks for ways to reform the ESEA, I will continue to work to ensure the needs of our nation's children are put first.
It is critical that our students are able to compete globally. That is why I believe we must invest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs across the country. Graduates with STEM degrees are in high demand and are indispensable to our economic wellbeing. These programs will help build a highly-competitive workforce both in New Jersey and across the country. That is why I will continue to support programming that focuses on STEM education for students at every level.
While in Congress, I have supported efforts to improve access to a college education. A college degree has become as important as a high school degree was a generation ago. Therefore, making college more affordable must be a top priority. The largest source of federal grant aid for postsecondary education students comes from Pell Grants. The maximum Pell Grant awards have been maintained at $5,550, and are essential to opening doors and giving students the financial means to attend college. During the Fiscal Year 2016 budget process, I supported the Democratic Alternative Budget Resolution, which would close corporate tax loopholes and increase education investments like early childhood education and Pell Grants.