In the 2015 PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment), an international exam measuring 15-year-olds reading, math, science and other key skills, the United States ranked 38th out of 71 countries in math and 25th in science literacy. The U.S.’s score was 23 points lower than the average of the countries taking part in the survey, and 29% of U.S. students did not meet the test’s baseline proficiency for math. With countries like Finland, France, China, the United Kingdom, and Canada consistently outperforming us, the United States is falling behind in education and losing the prestige we once carried as a superpower of innovation and growth.
Education is the foundation of our country, pushing our society forward. Add your name to support rebuilding our education system for the future.
The Pell Award is the greatest federal grant provider for postsecondary education, with 6.2 students nationwide receiving the award in the 2020-2021 school year. The grant equalizes access to further education by allowing students from all different financial backgrounds to pursue a post-secondary education. However, today, the maximum award only covers around 28% of the cost to attend a 4-year public university, thus forcing students to take out further loans and forcing them into debt. To truly equalize access to tertiary education, I support the Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act of 2021 to expand eligibility and maximum possible grants to reduce needs for additional loans and further student debt.
Community colleges are an essential pathway for students to gain valuable skills and experience for later careers, a path in which 35% of all undergraduates in the U.S. and 1.8 million California students are enrolled in. By providing federal funding for free community college for all through a progressive, joint payment system with the federal and state governments, we can promote higher college enrollment and higher wages of minorities, lower student loan default rates, close the achievement gap, and increase student completion rates. Through the funding, we can not only support students, but also the colleges themselves that have been hit hard from the pandemic.
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In today’s educational system, many students are falling behind due to their individual circumstances, such as socio-economic status, family issues and more. As these particular conditions impact student’s learning ability and education, they threaten to worsen achievement inequality especially for minority students where these issues are more common. To grant students an education that supports them at all ages, I support federal funding for state expansion of public schools for all children aged 3-5. Students who have access to extended quality education end up being less dependent on welfare, have better educational outcomes (like scoring better in reading and math in standardized exams and taking honors classes), and generally have better social and environmental behaviors. Also, the system helps lower the motherhood penalty, which increases the wage gap between men and women, allowing more women to return to the workforce. The Washington Center for Equitable Growth found that benefits of the program surpass the investment of $60 billion more than 3 times through increased economic, job, and tax revenue growth.
However, the program may hurt already suffering small, private childcare businesses, where space is already limited with increasing costs. As the childcare facilities may lose their older children to public pre-K centers, they would lose revenue. Often, this forces the business to reduce their quality or shut down altogether. Thus, to keep the small business afloat, I support the addition of a Infant and Toddler Slot Preservation Fund, modeled after the Multnomah County Universal pre-K plan in Oregon, to provide incentives for providers to retain spots for younger children and increase their educator wages.
Teachers are at the forefront of education in the United States and not only help in building student skills and knowledge, but also in the formation of the student as a person. However, teachers lack the prestige and respect in our society. A study by the Learning Policy Institute finds that we are currently missing over 112,000 teachers and that by 2025, an estimated 316,000 teachers will be needed annually. Not only do schools all over the nation suffer from teacher shortages, they also experience a lack of staff diversity. A study based on the American Community Survey found that 75.1% and 80.1% of administrators and teachers, respectively, are white. To combat teacher shortages and lack of diversity, I support increasing funding of loan forgiveness programs like the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Improvement Act of 2021, which describes increasing the amount of loan forgiveness available for certain qualified teachers who have federal student loans, in addition to programs such as relocation assistance and alternative certification processes to potential teachers. I also support the implementation and development of additional mentorship and leadership programs in schools to draw greater numbers of young people into teaching, especially in leadership.
The skills and knowledge needed for success in the modern day are constantly changing and our education system must be able to keep up and provide students with the education they require and deserve. I believe in promoting STEAM education in pre-kindergarten, elementary, and secondary school students, especially in focusing on uplifting women and minorities, through the Supporting STEM Learning Opportunities Act, a bill providing grants to local educational agencies to support hands-on learning programs and after school activities. Additionally, technology and computer science are growing fields and becoming increasingly integrated into our lives. To promote its importance and work towards implementing computer science curricula in our schools, we must first prepare and properly educate teachers. To do so, I believe in the establishment of supplemental teacher training programs for computer science, in addition to ensuring access to high-quality learning resources for K-12 students, through state and local educational agencies grants. Through acts like the Teach CS Act and Computer Science for All Act of 2021, which award grants to states, local educational agencies, and institutions of education to establish such teacher programs, we can create an education system better-equipped for today and tomorrow.
Not only is technology creating more important subjects to be taught, it is also shifting the way that we teach our existing topics. With unbounded access to information through the internet, open note exams, in contrast to traditional closed note exams, allow students to develop higher-order thinking and problem solving skills. When students can accurately synthesize and form conclusions based on their notes as compared to unnecessary memorization, students are less likely to cheat and have testing anxiety, creating a more realistic assessment in a real-world environment. To accurately prepare students for their futures, I support efforts to amend required standards for statewide assessments mandated under the Every Student Succeeds Act to be a partially open resource. This allows students to access notes and handouts, teaching them to use and organize their available resources in the most efficient way possible.
As we come back to in-person schooling after COVID-19, we have the opportunity to redefine the educational system we are returning to. With reforms to the organization of K-12 education and beyond and prioritizing the individuals within the system, we can pave a new path forward. Together, we can equalize the playing field for our students and place all students in a position for success. Your vote for me will propel our students and our nation into the future, furthering our progress and innovation as a country. Let’s put the United States at the forefront of education once again.