I believe all children deserve an opportunity to attend quality public schools and to be taught by quality teachers. A sound system of public education is not only America’s promise to its citizens but the foundation of its economic prosperity.
We need to be able to compete in a global economy. In recent decades, we have been witness to the rise of the Asian economies, enormous global capital transfers, and the increasing internationalization of production. To create the highly skilled workforce required in this environment, our education house must be the very best in the world.
My own history has underscored for me the importance of education in a person’s life. My mother was a teacher. I have two children, who will go to public schools. I’m a product of public schools and a proud alumnus of the UConn Law School. I know firsthand the difference education makes. We cannot maintain the American middle class without quality public education.
Public education is of critical importance in my candidacy for the U.S. Senate. My top educational priorities are to:
- Make college more affordable and in reach for Connecticut’s students
- Enable states and local communities to sustain high quality education in this time of economic hardship
- Push for a dramatic overhaul of the No Child Left Behind, which is more fair and better
- Helps our students achieve in a 21st century economy
- Take steps to reduce the education achievement gap and protect our most vulnerable youth
In recent years, I have cast votes to provide federal education assistance that prevented the layoffs of hundreds of thousands of teachers, dramatic increases in class size, and a catastrophic reduction of services for disadvantaged and disabled youth. From one of those bills alone, Connecticut received nearly $550 million to support local education. I also supported a major increase in funding of Pell grants that permit deserving families send their children to college, and kept interest rates low on federal Stafford loans.
I’m proud of my support for public education, and much more needs to be done. We need comprehensive systems to determine if schools are succeeding or failing in their mission to provide all children with an opportunity to learn to the best of their abilities. If schools are struggling, they must be provided with a path forward. They cannot do it in isolation. It takes a community to improve a school, because real change involves everybody - students, parents, teachers, administrators, and community leaders.
The federal government has encouraged the adoption of common standards, but that doesn’t mean that there is a common path to achieving them. Solutions for improvement vary and school communities have to be given the tools and resources to choose the most appropriate path to change. The federal government has a responsibility to assist states to make this happen through the dissemination of evidence-based improvement strategies, resources to support school reform efforts, clear and comprehensive standards, and incentives to make necessary changes.
Teachers need the benefit of good evaluation systems that include some indicators of student performance. They must have the advantage of a robust system of professional development that helps them maintain their practices at a high level as well as remedy any deficiencies in their performances. If deficiencies persist, we need to ensure that there are fair and effective processes to consider the status of their employment.
While the federal government has a role in defining standards to ensure teacher quality, actual assessment procedures are best developed at the state and local levels. All the key players – including elected officials and teachers – need to come together to create an assessment that works and is meaningful.
None of the things I’ve talked about will happen if Republican-led efforts to cut support for K-12 and higher education come to pass. At a time when the middle class is most vulnerable and education has never been more important, it’s critical to ensure that Connecticut elects a champion for public education.
In my vision for the future, all American families should have access to quality pre--12 and higher education and I will do whatever I am able to make that vision a reality. I truly believe that good education is at the heart of the American dream and I want to work for you to keep the dream alive.