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Achieving education reform is one of my top legislative priorities in Congress. After my first election in 2006, I immediately sought an appointment to the House Education and Labor Committee and spent my first two years working to expand early childhood education, improve our K-12 system, and help more Americans access a high-quality college education.

Congressman Yarmuth visits Gutermuth Elementary School

After visiting dozens of schools, talking with students, parents, and teachers, and holding town hall events, I believe our country must reform the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) as soon as possible. We should replace the law’s punitive structure with a positive system that provides the necessary resources and professional support to turn around struggling schools. We will not succeed if we continue to punish schools based on an often-inaccurate one-time multiple choice test of a child’s performance. Instead, we must develop a comprehensive system that evaluates the success of our children in many areas. We must also provide teachers with the resources and feedback to help students improve throughout the school year.  

I believe a comprehensive literacy program is central to our success. I am working with my colleagues to develop a new literacy program that will provide every child from birth through 12th grade with extensive literacy support. The inability to read at grade level is the strongest indicator that a child will drop out of school. We fail our children if we let them experience defeat in the classroom and ultimately give up on the path to a successful career.  

While it is important to improve our K-12 system, we must also continue to lower the cost of higher education for America’s families. In the 111th Congress, we made the single largest investment in increasing financial aid and helping families pay for college in American history. By reforming our federal student loan system, we can invest new savings directly into education. We can make college more affordable by increasing Pell Grant scholarships and keeping interest rates low while bolstering college access and completion. And we can simplify the financial aid application process.

We also made great strides with the enactment of legislation that makes the largest investment in higher education funding since the GI Bill. This new law cut student loan interest rates in half, raised the federal Pell Grant by more than $1,000, and ensured that no college graduate ever has to pay more than 15 percent of his or her income on student loan debt. We also reauthorized the Higher Education Act for the first time in 10 years, enacting several of provisions I authored. And I have continued the fight to keep students' interest rates low.

I am proud to have helped establish a new public service loan forgiveness program, provide grants to colleges of education to ensure teachers receive the training they need to help students with disabilities in the classroom, and create a new national center that will revolutionize the education system by integrating the latest technologies into the classroom.

I believe education is the best investment we can make in the future of our country. Although it is often difficult to see beyond our short-term needs, if we prioritize long-term education reforms, we will give Americans the opportunity to fulfill their dreams while maintaining the highest-skilled workforce in the world.