Issue Position: Education

Issue Position

Date: Jan. 1, 2011

Congressman Gerlach believes a quality education is a key factor in creating vibrant communities and helping children achieve their dreams. That's why Congressman Gerlach has been a tireless supporter of increasing federal funding for critical education programs. Congressman Gerlach has pushed Congress to do more to address the underlying issues of access and affordability of college and technical school education for all students seeking the skills needed to compete in today's global marketplace.

Expanding Higher Education Opportunities

Many students and their families are concerned about scraping together enough money for tuition at a time when family budgets are already stretched thin by rising fuel and food prices. The U.S. House of Representatives has passed several pieces of legislation this session aimed at easing the financial burden placed on students and their families.

Most recently, Congressman Gerlach supported enactment of H.R. 5715, the Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act of 2008. This bill increases the annual loan limits on federal unsubsidized student loans by $2,000 for undergraduate students and gives parent borrowers the option to defer repayment of the federal PLUS college loans for up to six months after their children leave school, thereby giving families more flexibility in hard economic times. This legislation also provides the U.S. Secretary of Education additional tools to safeguard access to student loans, ensuring that any turmoil in the credit market does not prevent students or their families from accessing the aid they need to pay for college. This legislation passed the House on May 1, 2008 by a vote of 388 - 21. President Bush signed the bill into law on May 7.

Congressman Gerlach also voted to enact H.R. 2669, the College Cost Reduction Act. This legislation increases the maximum Pell grant to $5,400 over the next five years, up from $4,050 in 2006, cuts the interest rate on federally-subsidized student loans, and provides tuition assistance to undergraduate students who commit to teaching in distressed public schools and in high-need subject areas, such as math and science. This bill passed both the House and Senate and President Bush signed it into law on September 27, 2007.

This session, Congressman Gerlach voted in favor of passing H.R. 5, the proposed College Student Relief Act of 2007. The bill would reduce interest rates on subsidized, undergraduate Stafford student loans from 6.80 percent to 3.40 percent during a five-year phase in period. Additionally, this legislation would offset the cost of the interest rate cut with a number of reductions in subsidies to private lenders. H.R. 5 passed the House of Representatives on January 11, 2007 by a vote of 253 - 174 and has been sent to the Senate where it is awaiting floor consideration.

Raising Standards and Accountability

All parents should be able to send their children to schools with well-qualified teachers that deliver a quality education to all students. Holding schools accountable and challenging students to reach their maximum potential must be the cornerstones of our nation's education policy. The desire to achieve both of those goals led to adoption of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 - the signature federal law that set standards for students from kindergarten through high school. While Congressman Gerlach believes the law has resulted in significant progress in student achievement, he supports giving principals, teachers and school boards additional resources to achieve the higher standards the law demands. Specifically, Congressman Gerlach is working with his colleagues to pass legislation that would: 1) increase funding for remedial services; 2) remove the current requirement to merge assessment scores of special education students with non-special education students in determining a school's Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP); and 3) end the requirement to merge assessment scores of students with limited English proficiency with language proficient students in determining a school's AYP.

Providing Early Childhood Education

Head Start is a federal program that has provided comprehensive early childhood development services to low-income children since 1965. This program provides services to preschool-aged children such as child development, educational, health, nutritional, social and other activities, intended to prepare low-income children for entering kindergarten.

In the 110th Congress, the House of Representatives passed legislation to reauthorize this important early-childhood education program. H.R. 1429 would increase funding for Head Start by $461 million, to benefit as many as 10,000 more children. The bill also increases teacher salaries and improved teacher qualifications. Congressman Gerlach voted in favor of this legislation when it came before the full House for a vote.

Giving All Students a Chance to Learn

Congressman Gerlach has advocated for a significant increase in funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This important program provides money to states for the education of children with disabilities. More funding for IDEA not only assists children with disabilities but also supports all school children by allowing schools to use their local and state resources as they see fit. For the 2008 fiscal year budget, IDEA received $11.98 billion in federal funds, a 1.52 percent increase from funds allocated to the program in the 2007 fiscal year budget. Additionally, Congressman Gerlach supports legislation that would provide for fully funding IDEA by 2015, thereby meeting the federal government's pledge to states to pay 40 percent of the costs to educate special-needs students.

Increased Funding for Improving Education in the 6th District

* $800,000 -- St. Joseph University Science Center equipment (2007)
* $500,000 -- Harcum College laboratory equipment (2004)
* $350,000 -- Albright College Science facilities (2007)
* $292,000 -- Harcum College equipment purchases (2007)
* $282,000 -- Delaware County Community College Small Business Center (2007
* $243,000 -- West Chester University Nursing Program (2007)
* $250,000 -- Montgomery County Community College (2005)
* $200,000 -- Harcum College Healthcare Initiative for the Aging (2005)
* $200,000 -- Pine Forge Academy Student Center (2006)
* $195,000 - Reading School of Nursing (2007)
* $123,000 - College Consortium, Southeastern Pennsylvania Consortium for Higher Education (2007)
* $100,000 -- Montgomery County Community College expansion of West Campus (2007)
* $100,000 -- Immaculata University (2005)
* $87,000 - Alvernia College Nursing Education Program (2007)