News Releases


Thank you, Philip. I’m proud to join all of you today as we celebrate this generous gift from Next I.T. to Gonzaga, and the innovative partnership it creates.

I want to thank Next IT, especially President Phillip Galland and CEO Fred Brown. Fred - as an alumnus of this university - you know first-hand the value of a Gonzaga education. I want to thank you and your company for placing the University at the forefront of this exciting new research.

I also want to congratulate – Father Spitzer [Gonzaga President Rev. Robert J. Spitzer], the deans, faculty and everyone here at Gonzaga.

As a university named for the Patron Saint of Youth, Gonzaga is the right place to find new ways to help young people learn and reach their full potential. Not only is Gonzaga the right place, but today is the right time to begin this new project. That’s because on this day back in 1981, another innovative door was opened.

On August 12, 1981, IBM introduced the IBM PC, the first 16-bit personal computer. Back then, no one could have predicted the many advances that would come from that single step forward. And it’s much the same with today announcement.

We know that today we are launching a new technological endeavor. But the real impact of this new partnership will only be evident down the road. I’m looking forward to following your progress.

This partnership is just one of the ongoing efforts in Spokane to fully develop the region’s Higher Ed opportunities. I’ve been proud to help invest in Spokane’s future including $11 million to improve Spokane International Airport, $10 million to reduce congestion and improve safety on US 395 and almost $9 million to create the Spokane Combined Readiness Center to unify the region’s first responders.

This project is being launched at an important time for our state. Our economy is still far too slow. Our state’s unemployment rate is the third-worst in the nation. And we’re all concerned about security.

During these tough times, we want our state and our country to be strong. I think the best way to strengthen our community is to follow the founding principles that have led our nation out of wars and recessions in the past.

One of those founding principles is our belief in opportunity for all. We are not a nation that supports special privileges for a few. We believe in opportunity for all. I think the best way to give everyone opportunities is to ensure that each child has the skills and education to reach their full potential. That’s why this project is so near to my heart.

Over the years, I’ve had a chance to work on education from many angles – as a parent, pre-school teacher, PTA president, school board member, and today – United States Senator.

When I arrived in the United States Senate, I made it a priority to get on all of the Senate Committees that affect education policy – and I succeeded. Today I am one of only four out of the 535 members of Congress that has a seat on all three of the Committees with authority over education policy and funding.

I know what’s at stake for our children and our future, and I’m committed to giving our students the resources and support they need to succeed. I’ve seen the difference education can make in lifting a person – or a community – to a whole new level of success.

Today I want to update you on a few ways we can do that for young children, high school students, and those attending college.

We’ve got to start when our children are very young by providing high-quality child care and preschool. All students should start school ready to succeed. As both a mother and pre-school teacher, I witnessed firsthand the importance of the earliest years of our children’s development.

I remember when children would arrive in my classroom for their first day of school. Almost immediately, I knew which children had been in a high-quality preschool or childcare program like Head Start, and which children had not. Many of the children who were not in high-quality programs came to school already behind their peers. Watching them struggle to catch-up convinced me how important high-quality child care is.

Every parent wants his or her child to succeed. Unfortunately, for many parents – who are balancing work with raising children – there are few options. Quality child care is either too expensive or not available. I have fought hard to expand high-quality child care options for working families because I know that it’s an investment in our future.

The federal Head Start program is one good example of high-quality early childhood education helping children to succeed. Head Start works with our most disadvantaged and vulnerable children. Through Head Start, kids get the check ups, health screenings, dental care and nutritious meals that make it possible for them to learn. The education provided for the children – and their parents -- is inspiring.

I’ve spent a lot of time in Head Start centers, and everywhere I go I see the same thing. They are not just teaching kids. They are changing lives.

Because of our struggling economy and high unemployment, even more families need the services Head Start provides. Unfortunately House Republicans just passed a bill – by a single vote – that could dismantle Head Start.

First, the House bill turns the program into a block grant and hands it to the states while they’re in the middle of a massive budget crisis. In addition, states would be free to drop the high performance standards that ensure Head Start actually helps children. From my position in the Senate, I’m committed to protecting this vital program and the families it serves.

We know that early childhood education is just the beginning of a lifetime of learning so let me turn to what we’re doing to help students in K-12.

Two years ago, on a bipartisan basis, we passed the No Child Left Behind Act to close achievement gaps and help every child fulfill his or her potential. I voted for the Act based on two commitments. First, we would hold schools accountable for their progress. And second, we would provide schools with the resources to meet those new requirements.

We’re certainly keeping the first part of that bargain. But unfortunately, the President has not kept the second part of that promise. In its past two budgets, the Administration has actually proposed cutting the promised funding in the No Child Left Behind Act. At a time when we are demanding more than ever from our students, teachers and schools, this Administration should be investing more – not less – in their success.

Everywhere I go in our state, I hear from educators who believe in the goals of the No Child Left Behind Act. They’re willing to work hard to make it work. But they can’t do that without resources. That’s why the bill promised significant increases in resources.

To truly leave no child behind, we’ve got to make real investments in things like:
  • smaller classes
  • teacher quality
  • technology, and
  • after-school programs

We know that in small, uncrowded classrooms students can learn the basics with fewer discipline problems. In the Senate, I’m the leading advocate for smaller classes, and I’m proud to be one of the strongest proponents of using technology in the classroom. I introduced legislation creating both the federal class-size reduction program and the federal program that supports college programs that prepare teachers to use technology in their classrooms. I hope that the Gonzaga Artificial Intelligence Lab can new find ways to use technology to help children learn and reach their full potential.

When it comes to helping students graduate from high school, I’ve just introduced a new bill that I’d like to share with you. My bill is called the PASS Act – which stands for Pathways for All Students to Succeed. It’s designed to help America’s teenagers graduate from high school, go on to college, and enter the working world with the skills they need.

Today, far too many students drop out of school and never have a chance for college and a better life. My bill will reach out to vulnerable students during high school by providing the training, guidance and resources they need to stay in school and go on to college.

The PASS Act provides grants to states and school districts to do three things. First, it will help schools hire literacy coaches. Those coaches will offer personalized help to strengthen reading and writing skills. Second, it will provide grants for high-quality Academic Counselors. These counselors will ensure each student has an individualized high school plan and access to services to prepare for college and a good job. And finally, the PASS Act targets resources to those high schools that need the most help, so they can implement comprehensive, research-based strategies for success.

Many of America’s high schools and high school students are in serious trouble, and it’s only getting worse.

  • With each new school day, 3,000 secondary students drop out of school.
  • This year alone, nearly 540,000 young people will leave school without attaining a high school diploma.
  • Our nation’s high school graduation rate is 69 percent. In urban areas, that figure is even worse. Many urban school districts graduate fewer than half of their students.

Dropping-out has an enormous cost to these students, their families and our communities. Sadly, even those students who do receive a high school diploma are not guaranteed success in college or in life. I’ve designed my bill to address these challenges so we can ensure that students graduate from high school ready to succeed.

Finally, I want to mention higher education, where we’re seeing college enrollment increase dramatically. An estimated 17.5 million American students are expected to enroll in college by the year 2010. That’s an increase of 20 percent from 1998. I understand that here at Gonzaga the application rate has increased by 11 percent since last year.

Throughout the country, one of the big challenges for students is the rising cost of college. Since the early 1980s, college costs have increased at two to three times the rate of inflation every single year. Making college education accessible and affordable is among the most pressing issues facing Congress.

As we reauthorize the Higher Education Act this year, I am committed to doing my part by working to improve college quality, affordability and diversity. First, we must make higher education more affordable through:
  • increased Pell Grants,
  • more student work-study programs,
  • better loan forgiveness programs for highly-qualified teachers,
  • and lower interest rates on student loans.

Second, we must hold colleges and universities accountable for better preparing our nation’s teachers. And we must give more talented people the opportunity to attend those colleges and become good teachers. Teachers need to be trained to meet the needs of the diverse students in our schools today, including students with disabilities and limited English proficiency. And we need more effective professional development activities for teachers in-service.

Finally, we know that the graduation rates for minority, first-generation, and low-income college students are declining. We can improve their access to college by:

  • providing the SAT prep programs that many can’t afford today,
  • by increasing funding for college prep and support programs like GEAR-UP and TRIO;
  • by encouraging colleges and universities to provide mentoring, tutoring and other services
  • and by addressing the critical needs of Hispanic-Serving Institutions, Tribal Colleges, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

In this Congress, we have an opportunity to improve college quality, affordability and access. I’m looking forward to working with all of you to ensure that all children can reach their full potential. If we meet this challenge, we’ll strengthen our country by once again living up to our belief in opportunity for all.

So again, I want to congratulate Next IT and Gonzaga on this great new partnership. You’re beginning your work on what is already an historic day in technology and education, and I know that your efforts will add tremendously to that proud history. I’m looking forward to following your progress here and to supporting your work in the United States Senate.