Education is properly under the authority of state and local governments, but there is a role the federal government can and should play. More than a decade ago, Congress and then President Bush had a real opportunity to make a positive impact on education with "No Child Left Behind (NCLB)." Unfortunately, this legislation did little to improve our public schools. I was one of only 41 members of the House to vote against NCLB because at the time, I did not think the federal government was fulfilling its existing obligations. I also feared it would not do enough to help states meet the additional requirements imposed under NCLB. Unfortunately, all those concerns proved to be well founded.
In the years since NCLB became law, education was consistently underfunded. In December of 2015, Congress passed the Student Success Act, which reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and essentially replaces No Child Left Behind. This bipartisan compromise increases funding for education, specifically directing resources to STEM education and teacher training. It also gives states the flexibility to design accountability systems that best reflect the needs of their school systems.
The role of the federal government in the education of our children should not stop with a high school diploma. With dozens of colleges and universities located entirely or partially in my district, I recognize the important role that higher education plays in keeping America competitive in the global marketplace. I have consistently supported student aid programs like Pell Grants, GEAR UP, and TRIO to help keep college affordable for all Americans and increase access to higher education. Equal opportunity is central to our history and essential to our future. We believe every person has the right to develop his or her potential. Equal opportunity is a matter of individual rights, and it also benefits everyone when barriers do not prevent hardworking and talented persons from contributing all they can to our economy and society. In order to make this ideal a reality and help our students compete, we must work to make college more affordable and accessible for all of our students. We have made some progress in recent years, most notably by increasing the Pell Grant maximum and restoring year-round eligibility, but we must do more to make sure that all of our young people can pursue the education and the future they seek.
The Obama Administration proposed a college ratings system to rate schools using a variety of criteria, including graduation rates and alumni earnings and linking ratings to financial aid eligibility. This concerned me and I introduced a resolution with Republican Rep. Bob Goodlatte setting forth our objections. The Administration opted not to pursue the ratings system as proposed. More recently, Rep. Goodlatte and I co-founded the Independent Colleges and Universities Caucus to serve as an informal group of Members dedicated to issues related to private, nonprofit colleges and the students they serve. We believe that American higher education is strengthened by intellectual and institutional diversity.