Senator Bingaman Introduces Package of Education Reform Legislation

U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman has introduced a package of bills aimed at reforming America’s public schools by both raising academic standards and helping students achieve them.

Bingaman is a senior member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and one of the main authors of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law.  NCLB has expired and Congress is due to write new legislation governing federal education policy.

“No Child Left Behind was important because it demanded more from schools and students.  But the law was flawed and we must take action to fix the problems with it,” Bingaman said.  “The legislation I have introduced seeks to reform schools in New Mexico and across the country by raising standards and helping students achieve them.”

The first of the bills Bingaman introduced is the Graduation Promise Act, or GPA.  This measure directs much-needed funding to help turn around underperforming high schools, allowing them to increase their graduation rates and student achievement.  While approximately 25 percent of low-income students in the United States currently attend high schools, less than 10 percent of federal funding for disadvantaged students goes to high schools.  GPA would help to correct this imbalance.

The second bill, called the Achievement Through Technology and Innovation Act of 2011 (ATTAIN), recognizes the importance of technology in the classroom.  The measure provides federal funds to train teachers, purchase education technology hardware and software, and to support student technological literacy.  The bill authorizes up to $1 billion in annual funding for education technology and teacher training nationwide.

The third piece of legislation, called the Advanced Programs Act of 2011, would reauthorize a program Bingaman first wrote into law more than a decade ago to help low-income students cover the costs of Advanced Placement exam fees, while helping schools expand the professional development of teachers instructing AP courses.  Before Bingaman first created the program more than a decade ago, the number of AP exams taken by low-income students was 82,000.  By 2010 that number had grown to 500,000, thanks in large part to the federal investment in these students and teachers.  The program is funded this year at $43.25 million.

“I believe if we are going to remain competitive in the global economy, we must improve the quality of public education in our country.  Taken together, I believe these bills will have a very important impact on our nation’s schools,” Bingaman said.

In addition to his own three bills, Bingaman is the cosponsor of a fourth bill, called the Time for Innovation Matters in Education (TIME) Act.  The TIME Act authorizes federal funding to support expanded learning times.  American students spend about 30 percent less time in school than students in other leading nations, which hinders our students’ ability to succeed and compete.

Bingaman is considered a leader on education policy and has been taking part in negotiations over the reauthorization of federal education laws.

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