We have to get back to basics in education, like ensuring that our children are developing the reading and writing and math skills they need to effectively compete in a very tough and increasingly global job market.
I support Congressional efforts to rebuild America’s crumbling schools and have advocated legislation that would address the backlog of deferred maintenance and repair in our elementary and secondary schools and help to modernize classrooms with new science and computer labs and upgraded technology infrastructure.
Likewise, I am taking a lead role in advocating legislation that would promote literacy and help reduce high school dropout rates. I am a cosponsor of the LEARN Act, a bill to prioritize and align reading and writing disciplines across grade levels, starting with early childhood and extending through elementary and adolescent education. The LEARN Act would provide funds to states to develop literacy programs and to help teachers improve reading and writing lessons and effectively implement literacy intervention strategies.
I am fighting hard for our schools, teachers, and children – and, it is a quite a fight in this Congress – with some determined to roll back investments that will undoubtedly leave our children at a disadvantage when it comes to finding a well-paying job.
Most recently, the House of Representatives passed legislation, which I opposed, that would lock in $1.3 billion in education budget cuts, slashing funding for afterschool and literacy programs, as well as other programs aimed at improving early childhood education and safe- and drug-free schools, and reducing high school dropout rates and modernizing schools.
That flawed measure, H.R. 5, which would rewrite the lapsed No Child Left Behind law, would turn away from teacher development and eliminate funding that helps teachers improve their classroom performance. It would strip away and weaken Federal academic performance standards and accountability systems. It would leave states with budgetary challenges to bear more of the burden of closing achievement gaps and improving struggling schools, and it would undermine efforts to ensure students are prepared for college and careers after high school. It also would repeal critical safeguards to ensure accountability for how Federal taxpayer dollars are being spent.
I support efforts to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and to reform the burdensome and unworkable requirements of the No Child Left Behind law. But, we also must find ways to make new and better investments in education, and especially programs that promote careers in the sciences, math, engineering, and technology, which will diversify our economy and bring new jobs to our region.
As the son of hardworking parents, who always stressed the importance of getting a good education, I learned early on that there is no substitute for learning, and the powerful value knowledge affords. A quality education will enrich our children’s lives and open doors to opportunities that ensure a higher standard of living and quality of life.
We must be diligent in our pursuit to encourage learning, improve graduation rates, and ensure that our children have the 21st century skills to compete in the ever-growing global economy.
When it comes to investing in the education of future American generations, I believe it is a sacrifice worthy of our best efforts.
(Editor’s note: U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) represents West Virginia’s 3rd District.)