Education is the cornerstone of this nation. We must invest in our public school system, expand early childhood education and fully fund public education. Every child in Illinois deserves access to a quality education will allow them to reach their full potential - no matter the location of the school they attend, the color of their skin or how much money their parents make.
This pandemic has highlighted the need for protecting our public education system. Despite attempts to reduce federal funding by $6.1 billion and deny public school’s funds available during COVID-19, we need to increase the amount of funding to our public schools to ensure that every student has an excellent quality education that prepares them to be global citizens in this technological world.
Increase Teachers’ Pay
Fair wages allow educators to provide for their families and do what they love without going into debt. The fact is that one out of five educators must take a second job to get by. This is not sustainable. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that teachers earn 19 percent less than comparable professionals. Inadequate teacher pay causes other ramifications such as high turnover rates and teacher shortages.
Empower schools to safely & successfully serve students, families, and educators
Districts across the nation are torn between national calls to both develop their own strategies and pressures reopening. It is unconscionable to hold funding for our school districts hostage to pressure districts into reopening with little regard for the health implications of our students, staff and educators. For many schools that are already underfunded, the increased costs needed to safely reopen is unmanageable for most districts – so are the increased healthcare costs associated with the thousands of uninsured residents in our district who could potentially be infected.
We must empower our colleges and universities to effectively adapt to COVID-19 protocols and guidelines. Social distancing guidelines will prevent many institutions from offering the full “campus experience” for incoming students, which will likely result in enrollment decreases. We must continue to expand access to higher education and job training programs to meet the needs of our communities and to compete with an increasingly competitive global marketplace. Too many low-and middle-income families can not afford the increasing cost of the higher education market through the rising cost of tuition and fees especially with the reduction in pell grants.
I will advocate to strengthen and reauthorize the Higher Education Act through the College Affordability Act (H.R. 4674) currently in the Education and Labor Committee, which includes:
Increasing college affordability by addressing high tuition costs and increasing federal student aid
Extending relief to student borrowers by simplifying the student loan process and expanding repayment plans
Preventing future fraud in predatory for-profit institutions
Improving college campus climate and protect student safety
I believe colleges must foster an environment where all students feel safe to promote their success. The College Affordability Act or CAA will take critical steps towards this end by blocking Betsy DeVos’s Title IX changes that blame victims over perpetrators. It also increases accountability of tracking and preventing cases of sexual assault, harassment, and hazing. This increased accountability extends to compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, or national origin.
Expanding access to high-quality programs to build skills and meet job demands of community workforces
By expanding eligibility of Pell Grants to include short-term programs, the CAA provides a path to success for students to propel into successful careers or establish a pathway to two- or four-year institutions.
Providing resources to support the success of diverse students
The College Affordability Act proposes more substantial services designed to keep students progressing, including campus childcare services, academic and career advising, and small grants to cover financial emergencies that would otherwise cause students to drop out and delay their studies. It will also increase and permanently reauthorize mandatory funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and Minority Serving Institutions (MSUs).