Sen. Joe Donnelly

A good education lays a strong foundation for long-term success and is one way to increase economic opportunity for Hoosiers.

I was proud to recently help the Senate pass the bipartisan Every Child Achieves Act, which would reauthorize and update the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. If enacted into law, this bill would provide resources to states and school districts to support teachers, principals and other educators and renew the 21st Century Community Learning Centers afterschool program. It also would give states more flexibility to better respond to the unique needs of their students. This way, Hoosiers, not bureaucrats in Washington, would be setting the academic standards for our children.

Indiana is home to some of the best elementary, middle and high schools in the country. Unfortunately, I have heard from many teachers, principals and superintendents about the challenges and uncertainty created by the flawed No Child Left Behind Act. This outdated law contains unreasonable standards and one-size-fits-all federal school improvement mandates. While important progress has been made in better educating historically low-achieving students, an update to federal education policy is long overdue.

In addition to overhauling the No Child Left Behind Act, the Every Child Achieves Act would also expand access to early childhood education; promote family and parent involvement in early childhood learning; and empower communities, parents and teachers in partnership with school districts and states to work together to improve our schools.

Early childhood learning is critical for a student's success. To help states with their early childhood learning efforts, the Every Child Achieves Act would establish new Early Learning Alignment and Improvement Grants, which would provide funding for states that propose improvements to coordination, quality and access for early childhood education.

I was able to include a provision in the bill to increase parent and family engagement in early childhood education. States could use these grants to start programs that increase parent and family involvement, encourage communication between families, parents and educators, or promote the active participation of families in their children's educations. Research shows that children with access to quality early childhood education have greater high school and college completion rates, earn higher wages and possess better social and emotional skills. Ensuring that families have the ability to stay engaged in their child's early education strengthens the foundation for academic success. It can also lower involvement with the criminal justice system and reduce the need for remedial education.

Now that the Senate has passed this bill with strong bipartisan support, I hope the House and Senate can work together to reach a compromise and get a bipartisan bill to the President. I will continue to work with my colleagues — Republican and Democratic — to advance common sense policies to improve our public schools and ensure our children have access to a quality education.

Joe Donnelly is a U.S. Senator for Indiana. Visit him on the web at www.donnelly.senate.gov.

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