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Knowledge is opportunity, and knowledge is power.  The long-term success of the American economy lies in the strength of our system of education.  Our schools were once were the envy of the world, and they will be again.  We must ensure that our students are learning the skills they need to regain a competitive edge and innovate – like S.T.E.M. subjects and the four Cs of a 21st century education (critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity).

Closing the Opportunity and Achievement Gap

Many families, including mine, reap the benefits of strong public school districts.  In many schools, American students are exposed to superb teachers, a wide variety of academic subjects and after-school enrichment activities. 

But not all American children enjoy equal access to a high quality public education.  Despite the commitment in the United States to the idea of an equal education for all, there remains a stubborn disparity between educational outcomes for children of different backgrounds and family incomes – and it’s growing.  Connecticut ranks at the very bottom, with one of the widest achievement gaps of the fifty states.  We must reduce that gap. 

Last year, Congress came together to pass the Every Student Succeeds Act to help close that gap. The ESSA, as it’s known, will require targeted actions to address underperforming schools and those with high dropout rates. (It will also keep states responsible for following the progress students and schools who need greater assiatance). English language learners and students with special needs to ensure every child is advancing. This law was a bipartisan compromise to update the No Child Left Behind Act, which went into place in 2002 and was considered broken by national, state and local education professionals. It will create a new framework for our country’s education policy and give states and local districts more flexibility, without losing out on accountability. 

Early Childhood Education

Research definitively shows that investing in the education of our youngest students makes a big impact on their academic careers.  Yet fewer than a third of American 4-year-olds currently attend pre-K. Research shows that students enrolled in the Head Start program are significantly more likely than their non-Head Start peers to complete high school and attend college. I am especially pleased that Governor Malloy is working to ensure statewide access to pre-Kindergarten programs here in Connecticut, and I will continue to be his partner in that important endeavor.

Nationally, I have worked with my colleagues in the House and Senate to make sure that early childhood education (“ECE”) programs are continuously improving, while reaching as many children as possible.  Head Start and Early Head Start are great examples of ECE programs that have repeatedly proved their worth by substantially improving educational outcomes for low-income children. 

In previous years, I have introduced legislation that will improve our early childhood education programs and provide easier access to them as well.  The Total Learning Act creates community partnerships that implement high quality early childhood curricula. The Total Learning Program at Bridgeport’s Action for Community Development was the model for this legislation and is the gold standard with its use of multiple modalities, integration of social services and high level of parent involvement.  And the Supporting Early Learning Act establishes two competitive grant programs ($350 million total in its first year) that will help states better their early learning systems.  While all students stand to gain from these innovations, I am especially focused on improving outcomes for students from low-income neighborhoods.

Making College Affordable Again

College or post-graduate training is no longer a luxury.  Yet more and more high school graduates are turning away from the spiraling cost of college and an uncertain future saddled with tuition debt.

That’s why I introduced the College Affordability and Innovation Act in 2015. The bill will create a pilot program to promote innovation in higher education by creating a new, evidence-based grant competition program to promote greater experimentation in delivering higher education to middle and low-income students. The grants will go to innovative programs designed to reduce the amount of classroom time and decrease the costs of completing higher education degrees, such as competency-based courses, online education, and dual-enrollment or fast-track programs.

Here in Connecticut, my office hosts an annual workshop on college affordability.  The feedback from students and parents has been loud and clear:  We need to make college affordable again.  That’s why I voted to increase Pell grants and improve access to college work-study programs.  And, most importantly, my colleagues and I passed the bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act.  That law stopped federal student loan rates from doubling from 3.4 to 6.8 percent and fixed the interest rate for the life of the loan, providing certainty to borrowers.

Celebrating Local Success

This year, Greenwich High School student Olivia Hallisey won the Global Google Science Fair for her development of a fast-acting Ebola detection test. Olivia was also invited to participate in the White House Science Fair, showcasing the best and brightest of our young people. What an incredible accomplishment. It’s because of young women like Olivia that I was proud to support the INSPIRE Act, a bill that would help bring more girls and young women into STEM fields.

Meet Jim

Congressman Jim Himes is a tireless voice for common-sense, independent solutions to the challenges facing Connecticut. He's looking out for the middle class, fighting for affordable health care for all, taking on special interests like the NRA to end gun violence, and working to create economic opportunity for working families.

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