Supporting the Path to College and Career
As a senior member of the Committee on Education and the Workforce, Congressman Scott believes that if we are going to properly prepare our country's youth for their future, we must ensure that we are giving them the fundamental tools necessary to grow into skillful and productive members of the workforce, starting from the beginning of childhood.
EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION
Congressman Scott is a strong supporter of early childhood education. Research shows that early childhood education during a child’s early, formative years is critical to a child's brain development. Early education can help a child succeed academically as well as develop soft skills, such as curiosity and a motivation to learn. Studies have also shown that children who participate in a high quality early childhood education program are less likely to become involved in the criminal justice system, or be involved in violence or illegal drugs in later life.
One early childhood program that has been proven to be effective is Head Start and Early Head Start. Congressman Scott is a strong supporter of Head Start, which was created in 1965 and is the most successful, longest-running, national early education and school readiness program in the U.S. Nearly 25 million pre-school aged children have benefited from Head Start programs nationwide. Head Start provides comprehensive education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services to low-income children and their families. Congressman Scott opposed the Budget Control Act of 2011 because he understood that sequestration's automatic, across-the-board cuts would slash Head Start, forcing children out of the program and onto a waiting list.
Congressman Scott understands that Congress must work together to ensure that our elementary and secondary schools are not places where our children wither, but where they can thrive and grow. All children, regardless of race, ethnicity, income, language, country of origin, or disability, need to start off on an equal playing field the best education available. The U.S. currently struggles with an "achievement gap," certain groups of students - mainly minorities - fall far behind their higher-achieving peers. As long as the achievement gap exists, our children will be unable to reach their full potential. Congressman Scott is committed to closing the achievement gap as Congress continues its work on reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, recently known as the No Child Left Behind Act.
Additionally, Congress must address the dropout problem that many schools are facing. Unacceptably low graduation rates have been obscured and accepted for far too long due to inaccurate data, misleading calculations and reporting, and flawed accountability systems. Approximately one-third of our students leave high school without a diploma. As disappointing as that is, the numbers are worse still for low-income students and minorities – only slightly more than half of African-American and Hispanic students earn diplomas. Some schools, known as “dropout factories,” produce the majority of African American and Hispanic drop-outs. In order to lower our nation's dropout rate, Congressman Scott has sponsored the Every Student Counts Act. This legislation creates a high school graduation rate calculation that is consistent across states, requires reporting of graduation rates for different categories of students, sets meaningful graduation rate goals and targets, and removes incentives for schools to push out low-performing and at-risk students. Congressman Scott is working to include provisions of the Every Student Counts Act in the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind.
COLLEGE AND CAREER
A strong investment in education is one of the most important ways in which we can help keep America’s workforce and economy strong for future generations. A good education can be the difference between the minimum wage job that barely keeps a person afloat and a job with a living wage and full benefits. In addition to increased earnings, individuals with higher levels of education are less likely to be unemployed, receive public assistance, work in unskilled jobs with little upward mobility, and become involved in the criminal justice system. For these reasons, an education past the high school level – whether community college, a four year college, vocational training or a trade or apprentice program – is important not only for earnings, but also for landing a good job that can support a worker and their family.
But the truth is that a high school degree alone just does not get you as far as it used to. In order to succeed today, both individually and as a nation, we need to be making greater investments in education. For many, the problem is still access to quality education. In a weak economy, it is particularly difficult for students to find ways to pay tuition. Many students apply for Financial Aid, which often consists of scholarships, loans and grants, including the well known Pell Grant. Unfortunately, for many students, the Pell Grant does not cover the full cost of tuition. Congressman Scott is committed to increasing the maximum Pell Grant so that this grant can cover more of student's tuition as the price of higher education continues to rise.
Student loans are critical resources that most students need to pay for higher education. However, that is money that must be paid back with interest. Understanding the high cost of these loans to borrowers, policymakers are always looking for ways to make the burden easier on students once they graduate. For example, the Income-Based Repayment program currently allows borrowers to cap their monthly federal student loan payments at 15 percent of their discretionary income, which is based on the borrower's income and family size. However, Congress still needs to make sure that student loan interest rates are not unreasonably high, leaving students shackled to debt for the rest of their lives. Congress must continue to work to ensure that students are equipped with everything they need to pursue their degree and are not overly burdened with debt. Congressman Scott is working diligently to improve access to a quality education by supporting legislation that makes higher education more affordable and student borrowing less burdensom.
In the wake of the Newton, Connecticut mass shooting, Congressman Scott welcomes the national discussion about how to keep our schools and children safe. However, we must choose evidence-based solutions that have been been shown by research to improve school climate, reduce bullying and conflict, and foster student achievement.
Congressman Scott opposes the proposal to put armed guards and other law enforcement officers, such as school resource officers, in schools. Reports show that law enforcement officers frequently respond to student misbehavior by arresting the student and putting him or her in the juvenile justice system. Those reports also show that the children are less likely to be victims of crime if the school had hired more school counselors, instead of school resource officers (SROs). Research indicates that students who have contact with the criminal justice system are less likely to graduate and more likely to commit crimes as adults than students who are given in-school punishments, like detention. We must ensure that we are putting our nation's children on a school-to-college-and-career pipeline, not a school-to-prison pipeline.
For the past few sessions of Congress, Congressman Scott has introduced the "Center to Advance, Monitor, and Preserve University Security (CAMPUS) or CAMPUS Safety Act, to authorize the Director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services to establish and operate a National Center for Campus Public Safety ("Center") and tasks the Center with strengthening the safety and security of institutions of higher education (IHEs). Unfortunately, the bill never made it fully through the legislative process and therefore didn't become law. Fortunately, the Department of Justice saw the value in the program and recently decided to form the Center on its own. Congressman Scott still hopes to see the bill made into law in the near future to ensure that the Center remains operational.