The one essential element to our nation’s long-term economic success is education. It is the foundation on which our next generation will gain the knowledge and skills they need to keep America on the cutting edge of innovation and discovery. I am committed to increasing educational opportunities, supporting our hard working teachers, and improving our classrooms.
To start, we must work to make sure our students receive the best possible education from the day they step foot in the classroom. I am proud to have supported efforts in Congress to help our local school districts keep and hire teachers, invest in 21st century technology, and improve school infrastructure.
In addition to these important benefits, the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act also brought our district increased funding to provide assistance to schools with high percentages of students from low-income families, while also expanding funding for the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act.
We must make sure that a college education is an affordable option for working families. An affordable college education is what allowed America to become a world economic superpower. In the 19th century, in response to industrialization and the need for workers to have practical skills in science and engineering, our nation passed the Morrill Act. Hundreds of thousands of acres of federal land were allocated to the states so that they could develop or sell it for the purpose of establishing colleges. These colleges were affordable for working families. Middle class sons and daughters attended these universities, they learned new skills, they graduated, and America created the highest quality workforce in the world.
This commitment to affordable higher education continued with the GI Bill. After World War II, this legislation created such a strong and skilled middle class that America's economy was unrivaled throughout the 20th century.
If our nation is going to remain an economic superpower in the 21st century, access to an affordable college education is a commitment we must continue today. However, over the last five years, student fees have increased by 61 percent a year at the University of California system and by 68 percent at the California State University system. Community college fees have gone up by 30 percent over the last year. Total student debt currently stands at $1.1 trillion, greater than national credit card debt.
We must do everything we can to keep the cost of college down. That is why I coauthored the Student Loan Relief Act (H.R. 1595), which would allow college students to continue benefiting from the historically low 3.4 percent interest rates on subsidized Stafford loans, and supported a compromise measure, the bipartisan Student Loan Act of 2013 (H.R. 1911) that will keep student loans interest rates down for years to come.
There is still more that needs to be done. This Congress, we will again work to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, better known as No Child Left Behind. The current system has done little to close the achievement gaps between urban and rural schools. Additionally, low-income and minority students are still struggling to achieve success. Throughout the reauthorization process, I will work to fix what’s not working, improve what is working, and work closely with parents and local education leaders to make sure any changes to this law are in the best interests of district’s students, teachers, and schools.
Finally, every student should feel safe in school. Harassment and bullying have no place in our classrooms. That is why I am proud to coauthor the bipartisan Safe Schools Improvement Act (H.R. 1199). This important legislation would require schools to implement comprehensive anti-bullying policies and ensure the safety and well-being of all students.
Improving our education system should not be controversial and it should not be political. Supporting our teachers, updating our classrooms with the latest technology, and keeping costs down is about making sure our next generation of workers has the education and training they need to keep America’s economy strong and competitive for years to come. Working together, we can make sure that every student, no matter who they are or where they are from, has the same opportunities to pursue their own goals and dreams.