Knowledge is power and education is the key to prosperity—everyone knows it. But Republican leaders find schools an easy target when cutting funding, and they aren’t fully considering the consequences.
The recent trend of slashing school budgets is short-sighted thinking that will result in an even greater long-term problem. The United States was already lagging behind other countries before budgets were slashed after the 2010 Tea Party wave. Frank Guinta voted for the sequester that cut millions from education funding in 2013 before this Congress voted for a bipartisan budget to alleviate it. Money alone won’t solve all of our problems. But to cut funding when we’re already in a very precarious state defies logic and reminds me of the old and wise saying: “Penny-wise, pound-foolish.”
So, how foolish are we being? Almost half of teachers leave within five years, mainly because they cannot get ahead and care for their own families on the low pay. I am leading a bipartisan fight to restore the modest tax deduction for teachers’ classroom supplies expenses that Republican Leadership allowed to expire. But we need to do much more.
Every child in New Hampshire, from a Head Start toddler to a graduating high school senior, deserves a first-class education. Then, after high school, our kids should have the option to continue their education at a university, community college, vocational or trade school, without being burdened with insurmountable debt.
The student debt crisis has hit our state hard. New Hampshire students graduate with an average of $32,698 in debt—the second-worst in the nation. Last summer, student loan interest rates almost doubled. I voted to stop that from happening, which helped, but we should be doing better. That’s why I’m an original cosponsor of the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act, which would treat student loans like any other loan by allowing refinancing. Back in 2010, I helped write and pass the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, which switched wasteful subsidized private loans over to direct loans, taking out the middleman and making loans more affordable and secure.
But to keep students from having to take out huge loans in the first place, we need to control the cost of college, and I believe we were on our way in the late 2000s, investing in community colleges, universities, and high-tech programs. I am a strong advocate for Pell grants. In 2007, the House passed my amendment that ended up increasing their value by $500, and in 2009 I voted for the Recovery Act (stimulus), which raised them to $5,350.
One of my proudest moments in public service was when our Conference Committee completed the reauthorization of Head Start. I’d like to share the video of our announcement with you here.
It is time to talk to our families, our communities, and our legislators about the value and necessity of education. It is time to defend investments in education because they are investments in our children's future, our economy’s future, and our nation's future. It is time to save our schools.