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Every Child Achieves Act of 2015

Floor Speech

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Ms. KLOBUCHAR. Mr. President, I rise today to talk about the important bill before us today, the Every Child Achieves Act, which reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and fixes No Child Left Behind.

I also rise today to talk about the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, which is also a very important matter for our country.

I thank Senators Alexander and Murray for their great leadership in crafting a bipartisan bill that makes critical updates to No Child Left Behind that will help ensure that all students receive a quality education. They worked together from the very beginning on this important bill, and I think the results show how important it is.

I come to the floor to talk about three amendments in this bill. The Presiding Officer is a cosponsor on one of the amendments, which is about STEM education. I think we all know that in today's global economy, education is key to our economic prosperity. The Senator from North Dakota understands that because our two States, North Dakota and Minnesota, have some of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. We have exciting economies with technological jobs to fill. We are two States that make and invent products which we then export to the world. To keep doing that, America's next generation of innovators will have to be highly trained and highly skilled. We certainly see this in my State. According to the Minnesota High Tech Association, Minnesota will be home to nearly 200,000 technology jobs in the next decade. Part of this is getting young people engaged at an early age.

Today's high school students aren't just competing against students in Milwaukee and Miami, they are competing against students in Munich and Mumbai. If America is going to keep its spot atop the world's high-tech hierarchy, students in our country must receive the best training and education we can provide. That is why Senator Hoeven and I are working to increase the emphasis on STEM education.

The Klobuchar-Hoeven amendment, modeled after our Innovate America Act, will expand STEM opportunities for more students by allowing school districts to use existing Federal STEM funding to create STEM specialty schools or to enhance existing STEM programs within the schools. Our provision will also ensure that the Department of Education is aligning STEM programs and resources with the needs of school districts and teachers. I understand that it is in the managers' package, and I thank the two leaders for that.

The second amendment is the improving teacher and principal retention. The Every Child Achieves Act includes important reforms to improve the quality of education for students in Indian Country. One challenge that schools serving Native Americans continue to confront is the high rate of teacher and principal turnover and the instability it causes. Turnover hurts school districts with the added cost of rehiring and retraining, and it hurts kids as teachers come and go.

One way to decrease teacher and principal turnover is to boost the professional development these teachers receive. Inadequate professional development and the lack of ongoing support are some of the key reasons why some of our best teachers are leaving. That is why Senator Murkowski of Alaska and I have been pushing a provision to improve teacher and principal retention in schools serving American Indian and Alaska Native students. Specifically, our amendment adds mentoring and teacher support programs, including instructional support from tribal elders and cultural experts, to improve the professional development that teachers and principals in Indian schools receive. This is also in the managers' package, and we appreciate that.

The next amendment deals with chronic absenteeism. We know students can't learn if they are not in school. When I was a prosecutor in Hennepin County, I developed a major truancy initiative to keep kids in school and out of the courtroom. My office worked closely with local schools on a faster, more effective response to truancy problems. That is why my provision in the Every Child Achieves Acts will provide professional development and training to schools to help ensure that teachers, principals, and other school leaders have the knowledge and skills necessary to address issues related to chronic absenteeism.

Truancy is sometimes called the kindergarten of crime because it is truly an early risk factor. I still remember looking at the files of serious juvenile offenders--ones who committed homicide and the like--and I realized the first indication that there was a real problem was truancy. It doesn't just hit in high school; it actually usually hits in sixth and seventh grade. The more we can do to put a focus on this, the better off we will be not only for public safety but, of course, for the kids' lives.

I again thank Senator Murray and Senator Alexander for their tremendous work on this bill.

EXPORT-IMPORT BANK

Mr. President, the other issue, which is somewhat related, as we look at preparing kids for the current economy and the century we are in, is about jobs. It is about moving our economy along. Part of that is making sure we can compete globally not only with education efforts, which is what we are doing this week, but also with financing.

There are over eighty export-import-type banks in developed nations. China's bank currently funds things at nearly four times the amount that the Unites States does. Yet we are seriously now allowing the Export-Import Bank to lapse, and I strongly support reauthorizing the Bank.

I want to thank all of those involved, including Senators Cantwell, Kirk, Heitkamp, and Graham, for their strong and impassioned leadership on this issue. I also wish to thank all of my colleagues who have spoken about the importance of this Bank.

Yesterday, a few of us met with the President and senior White House officials to discuss the importance of reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank. America needs to be, as I said, a country that thinks, that invents, that builds things, and that exports to nations. That means the bill we are working on this week, but it also means the financing so those businesses can keep going.

We had a vote here, as we all know, and 65 Senators supported reauthorizing the Ex-Im Bank, and in the House, 60 Republicans are cosponsoring a bill to do the same. We should get it done. We know that when 95 percent of the world's customers live outside of our borders, there is literally a world of opportunity out there for U.S. businesses. We all know that isn't just about Mexico and Canada. It is about the rest of the world, including Asia and the emerging economies in Africa. We can just go all over the world to see opportunities.

In my own State of Minnesota, the Ex-Im Bank has supported $2 billion in exports and helped over 170 companies in the last 5 years alone. Every single year, as the Presiding Officer knows, I have been to all 87 counties in Minnesota so I am able to see firsthand these businesses. I may not be going there to talk about Ex-Im. I have rarely done that, although we have had a few Ex-Im events. I am so surprised when I go to businesses and they say: We have actually grown our exports to 15 percent or it is now 20 percent of our business, and we went to Ex-Im and got financing, and we went to the Foreign Commercial Service and got help. What we are really hurting by letting this lapse and not reauthorizing it are the small businesses.

In my State, 170 businesses used the services of Ex-Im in the last five years. They don't have an expert on Kazakhstan. They don't have a bank down the street in a small town of 3,000 people that is able to explain to them how to get that kind of financing. They rely on the expertise of Ex-Im and, most importantly, they rely on the credit of Ex-Im.

Look at this: Balzar, in Mountain Lake, MN, population of 2,000. As the Presiding Officer knows, we don't have many mountains in Minnesota, but we have a lot of lakes. So we call it Mountain Lake. This is a small business--74 people in a town of 2,000--that has relied on Ex-Im in the past decade to help export its products. Their exports have grown to about 15 percent of their total sales. They export from Canada to Kazakhstan, from Japan to Australia. They are exporting to South Africa.

Ralco, a small animal feed manufacturer in Marshall, is a third-generation family business with distribution to over 20 countries around the world.

Superior Industries in Morris, MN, is a manufacturer of bulk material processing and handling systems. There are 5,000 people in the town, and 500 people in Morris are employed at this company. That would be 10 percent of the town. Thanks to the Ex-Im Bank, they are able to export to Canada, Australia, Russia, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and Brazil.

We know this is necessary for small businesses. We know this is important for our country to be on an even playing field. We don't want China to eat our lunch, but if we continue along this way and become the only developed Nation that doesn't have financing authority such as this, we will let them eat our lunch.

At the end of last month when the Ex-Im Bank expired, there were nearly 200 transactions totaling nearly $9 billion in financing pending, and many businesses--90 percent of which are small businesses--are no longer able to use their export credit and insurance to its full extent. I have already talked to businesses that literally have been told: When we were trying to make a deal, our competitors on the other side that were trying to make the next deal said: They are not going to get financing. That country let their Ex-Im Bank expire. Go to a business from this country. Take our business because you know we have steady financing.

This cannot continue.

This is why this is a major priority of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a major priority for small business organizations around the country, and a major priority, most importantly, for the workers that work at these companies.

It is critical to move forward. We must reauthorize the Export-Import Bank and make sure our exporters are competing on a level playing field in this global market. We do it with education, thanks to the good work of Senator Alexander and Senator Murray, but we also do it by making sure that our businesses have the financing tools they need to succeed.

I urge my colleagues to support the Ex-Im Bank and reauthorize this critical agency as soon as possible.

Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.

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