Education is essential to expanding opportunities for Americans, and that begins with learning that takes place at an early age. The competitiveness of our state and our nation is directly related to the quality of our students’ education, from pre-K to college and beyond, and I am committed to making certain every Kansas student has access to a quality education.

We must increase the number of qualified teachers in classrooms and maintain flexibility for state and local school organizations to tailor education programs around the unique needs of Kansas students. Additionally, higher education — including career and technical education — is essential for students to reach their full potential in their careers and lives. Kansans deserve the opportunity to pursue their dreams through additional education, which often makes higher education a family’s most important investment.

Strong schools are the foundation of strong communities. To achieve success, schools need students who want to learn, dedicated teachers, administrators who are goal-oriented, and supportive parents and community members who reinforce the concepts and expectations taught at school. Since parents and teachers know the educational needs of their children and students best, Congress should allow local school districts to determine how to best use federal educational resources.

Accountability is important to ensuring strong schools, but federal initiatives need to contain a degree of flexibility that allows states to operate for the good of their students within the standards of federal legislation. In 2001, I voted against passage of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), the primary source of federal aid to K-12 education, because it did not afford sufficient flexibility to Kansas schools. Education is a process that involves more than just preparing for and taking tests. As Kansas ranchers say, “If you want fat cattle, you need to feed them, not just weigh them.” We must prepare students for the challenges of life, not just standardized tests. As Congress continues to consider the reauthorization of NCLB, I will work to see that the reforms make this law less burdensome and more workable for our Kansas students, parents and educators.

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