Measures to simplify FAFSA, streamline loan repayment, strengthen child nutrition programs, support charter schools, enhance innovation, improve teacher development
Washington, D.C. - Several of Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet's bipartisan education priorities have been included in the Administration's budget request for fiscal year (FY) 2017.
The proposal, which was sent to Congress for consideration on Tuesday, would eliminate as many as 30 complex and unnecessary questions from the FAFSA application and streamline student loan repayment to create a single income-driven repayment plan. It would also provide $350 million for the Charter Schools Program (CSP), $180 million for the Education Innovation and Research program, $100 million for the Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) program, and create a new program that would provide all children eligible for the school lunch program with access to meals during the summer months.
"These are key, bipartisan initiatives to increase innovation, better support educators, simplify the college process and help ensure our kids don't go hungry when school's not in session," Bennet said. "We still have a long distance to travel to close the achievement gap, but these are important steps that will help ensure we prepare all kids, no matter what zip code they were born in - to compete in the 21st century economy."
As a former Superintendent of Denver Public Schools, Bennet has fought for innovative reforms to ensure that all children have access to a high quality education. He played a key role in crafting the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to fix No Child Left Behind that was signed into law in December and ensured that Colorado priorities were included in the final version of the bill. He also included an Amendment in ESSA to create a funding stream for The Education Innovation and Research grant program to support the development of evidence-based practices that encourage innovation.
In January 2015, Bennet sponsored a bill with Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to streamline existing Charter School Programs and provide startup, replication and expansion funding for high-quality charter schools. In November, Bennet also sent a letter to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget and then Secretary of Education Arne Duncan requesting $375 million in funding for the CSP in the President's Fiscal Year 2017 budget. At CSP's inception in 1994, there were less than 100 public charter schools in the U.S. Now there are more 6,800 schools across the country that serve more than 3 million students.
Last year, Bennet led a measure with Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) to reduce the current FAFSA form from more than 100 questions to two on a post card and to streamline repayment plans and create a single income-driven repayment option. Bennet also sponsored the Hunger Free Summer for Kids Act with Senator John Boozman (R-AR) to make the summer meals program more efficient and flexible so they can reach more children in need, particularly children in rural communities, during the summer months when school meals are not available.