Americans have always believed that if you work hard and stay in school, you can achieve your dreams.  As a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, I am fighting to give our children—and Americans of all ages—access to high-quality, affordable education at all levels.

Today, more than ever, a college diploma is the key to getting ahead in our economy.  Yet federal financial aid has not kept pace with the rising cost of college.  We must renew our commitment to providing an affordable education to the next generation of Americans.  In Rhode Island, we have a proud tradition of helping make higher education more accessible.  Our legendary Senator Claiborne Pell founded the grant program that bears his name and has helped millions of students realize their dreams through a college education.  I am fighting to keep Senator Pell’s vision of affordable college education alive.

How I’m Working to Improve Education

Rhode Islanders of all ages have made it clear to me that affordable, high quality education is a top priority. From young parents concerned about the quality of the public school their child will soon attend, to teenagers worried about how they will be able to afford college, to business leaders looking for new employees with strong math and science backgrounds, we all know that education is the key to Rhode Island’s future—and the future of our country.

Here are some of ways I’m fighting for better educational opportunities for all:

Protecting Pell Grants

Claiborne Pell envisioned a grant that would enable low-income students to attend college and share in the American dream.  I fought against the Republican budget plan that would have slashed Pell Grant funding, and I introduced a resolution in the Senate to defend the Pell Grant program and make it clear that it should not be cut in any deficit reduction package.

Supporting Our Middle Schools

Middle school is a critical time in young people’s lives, during which students may either develop a passion for learning or slip through the cracks.  The HELP Committee has approved reform legislation which incorporates key provisions from my Success in the Middle Act.  This legislation will help middle schools in struggling school systems.

Protecting Our Children from Bullying

All children deserve to learn in an environment free from intimidation and violence.  That’s why I am a cosponsor of the Safe School Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act, two measures designed to reduce bullying in our children’s schools.

Leveling the Playing Field

Here are a few examples of the action I have taken to support improvements in education:

  • Helped secure $3 million in Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) grants for Rhode Island, designed to help economically disadvantaged students succeed in school and prepare for college.
  • Worked to pass the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, which will save $61 billion dollars by eliminating subsidies to private banks serving as “middlemen” in the student loan process.  The majority of these savings are being used to maintain Pell Grant funding for students in Rhode Island and elsewhere.
  • Helped secure $231 million dollars in education funding for Rhode Island through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), including funds to improve academic achievement of disadvantaged students and students with disabilities, and purchase up-to-date computers and software for Rhode Island classrooms.
  • Helped secure over $41 million in ARRA bonds to help finance the construction, rehabilitation, and repair of schools throughout the state.
  • Helped pass the College Cost Reduction and Access Act, legislation to provide an additional $84.8 million in Pell Grants to Rhode Island over five years.  The law also reduces interest rates for student borrowers and provides incentives for students to pursue employment in the public sector.

Your Ideas:  How Can We Ensure Our Kids Get The Best Education?

I’m working hard to make sure the promise of a good education is within reach for all Rhode Islanders.

I’d like to hear from you.  What policies would you like to see enacted to make our education system stronger?