Strengthening our schools is vital to our kids' success in the global economy. I spend a lot of time in local schools and with local educators. I know that they are struggling with reduced resources, but working hard to provide a quality education to our next generation of leaders. We need to support their efforts.
I believe we must set high standards for our students, demand accountability from our schools, and ensure that school boards, administrators, and teachers are able to make the best decisions for their students preserve local control of our school districts. The federal government must also ensure adequate resources are available for targeted programs like those that help train teachers, reduce class size, and support education for low-income and disabled students.
In recent years, college costs have grown substantially. With two-thirds of the jobs created in Michigan over the next decade expected to require post-secondary education and training, I have made increasing access to higher education a top priority.
Making College More Affordable
As our economy becomes increasingly competitive and high tech, the need for a college degree or advanced training becomes increasingly necessary to enter the workforce. Unfortunately, rising tuition costs are forcing more and more Americans to take out student loans, with the average borrower nearly $30,000 in debt upon graduation-a debt load that has more than doubled since 2005. Student debt has not eclipsed even credit card debt, and is second only to home mortgages. According to the U.S. Department of Education, between 2000-1 and 2010-11, prices for undergraduate tuition and fees at public institutions rose 42%, and prices at private non-for-profit institutions rose 31%, after adjustment for inflation. During that same time, median family income has declined by approximately 8%. We must do more to slow these trends and ensure that college is affordable for all Americans.
Improving and Supporting Schools
The worst economy since the Great Depression is still causing negative ripples through our local school systems. As part of the Economic Recovery package we increased funding to local school districts for two years and provided critical emergency funding to prevent teacher layoffs. This support helped to stabilize local budgets. Unfortunately, the Republican budget proposal contains deep cuts to education. While I believe Congress must act to manage the deficit, we need a balanced approach that does not impose crippling cuts to vital programs that are linked to American competitiveness.
(Updated October 23, 2014)