Ensuring our students get the academic and career skills they need to develop into the next generation of leaders and highly skilled workers is critical to the future of our economy. We must make it a priority to help students get diverse and engaging education opportunities.
As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Murray has worked hard to secure funding for relevant and high-quality education programs that will help our students succeed. She has advocated for more federal funding for critical job training programs, a summer jobs program for teens, and a new focus on connecting students to the world of work.
Below are examples of Murray's work in this area:
Over the last several years, she had the opportunity to travel the state to bring together representatives from education, workforce, business, and labor to discuss how we can better meet the needs of students, business, labor, and educators.
Based on what she heard in these meetings, Senator Murray introduced the Promoting Innovations to 21st Century Careers Act to help high school students learn about and prepare for a full range of educational options and careers after graduation. Her bill would provide grants to encourage leaders from business, education, workforce, labor, and economic development to come together and develop creative, innovative programs that will help students learn about 21st century career options, stay engaged in school, and graduate. The object is to get students ready to move on to more education or training and eventually a successful career in a thriving industry. The bill is structured to give students the flexibility to change their areas of interest while preparing for graduation and further education. And it incorporates efforts to identify, engage, and reintegrate students who have dropped out of high school.
Too many middle and high school students are still struggling with basic skills in reading and math, and many of our schools simply aren’t equipped to help them. Federal support for reading programs ends at the 3rd grade. Beyond that, it’s up to strapped state and local districts to fund these basic programs, even though more resources are desperately needed to prevent these kids from slipping through the cracks.
We can’t expect our children to be able to understand their academic studies if they’re struggling just to read the materials. That’s why Senator Murray wrote the Pathways for All Students to Succeed Act (PASS Act) to help reform the nation’s secondary schools and enable them to focus on adolescent literacy, math, and academic counseling. The PASS Act would create a grant program to establish research-based literacy instruction in all academic classes for students in grades 6-12. The grants would provide resources to enable each school to hire a literacy coach at a ratio of one coach per 20 teachers. Literacy coaches would help teachers incorporate literacy across the curriculum, assess student progress, assist with diagnostic tests, and work to establish school-based literacy plans. The bill also would focus on improving math instruction and hiring math coaches in schools. The math provision was passed into law in the America COMPETES Act in August 2007.
The PASS Act also addresses another hurdle many of our students face – the lack of school counselors. Especially in low-income communities, school counselors are often the primary way students learn about the courses and requirements necessary to graduate from high school and enter college. Yet in many schools, one counselor is assigned to work with as many as 485 students. Her bill would provide funding for our nation’s poorest high schools to shift the ratio of counselors to students to a more manageable one counselor to every 150 students.
One of the most troubling things we learned from the foreclosure crisis was how many homeowners lack the basic skills needed to make good financial decisions. As a result, millions of homeowners signed mortgages they didn’t understand – and too many were taken advantage of by predatory lenders. All Americans should have the skills to make sound financial decisions, yet most of our K-12 schools don’t offer even basic financial literacy programs. We can and should do much more to help educate and protect the next generation of homebuyers and consumers.
In 2009, Senator Murray introduced legislation that would make a substantial commitment to improving and expanding financial literacy programs. The bill, the Financial and Economic Literacy Improvement Act of 2009, would invest $250 million to support new personal financial education programs in K-12 schools and colleges. The bill would address the problems adults are facing today, while also helping to ensure that future generations have the skills to avoid the same mistakes.
Our country is home to some of the most innovative workers, schools, and companies in the world. But – as leaders including Bill Gates have pointed out – American high school seniors score near the bottom on math and science tests compared to their peers in other industrialized countries.
If we hope to maintain our nation’s competitiveness into the
next century, we must use all the tools available to strengthen
educational opportunities for K-12 students in science, technology,
engineering, and math – also known as the STEM subjects. Yet federal
funding for math education typically drops off in the high school years,
just when students need help to pursue college and careers in subjects
such as engineering, science, and technology.
Senator Murray was a strong supporter of the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Act (America COMPETES) of 2007, which is helping to increase research investment, strengthen opportunities in STEM subjects, and develop a stronger national infrastructure to foster innovation. She was proud that her Math Skills Act was included in the law. It creates a competitive grant program that will improve math instruction, curriculum, and material for secondary school students. And it will help high schools hire math coaches to provide targeted support for math teachers and their students. The provision, which complements elementary and middle school provisions in the bill, authorized $95 million in three-year grants to states and districts.
Our students need to have experience with the latest technology in order to be ready to compete in the global economy. Senator Murray has worked to ensure schools have the funding to promote innovative uses of technology in the classroom. As a member of the HELP Committee, she has helped shape legislation that provides teachers with technology training and revamps technology-related provisions within No Child Left Behind. She is an original cosponsor of the Achievement through Technology and Innovation (ATTAIN) Act, which would enhance the networks currently in place to ensure our nation’s students are technologically literate.