Our country's future rests with our children and grandchildren. For our country to grow and thrive, they deserve a high-quality education in a safe environment so they can live up to their fullest potential.
This is why Senator Toomey has worked across the aisle to advance policies that will help improve our elementary and secondary schools, keep our children safe, make higher education more affordable, and provide high quality vocational and technical training for those students who choose not to attend college.
Every child in our country deserves a high-quality education, regardless of zip code or income level. Unfortunately, many children are still trapped in failing schools and are suffering the consequences: 62% of high school seniors are not proficient in reading and 74% are not proficient in math. These disappointing figures are even worse among children from low-income families. We need to take action.
First, Senator Toomey believes in more parental and local control over elementary and secondary schools. He is working to end years of Washington bureaucrats dictating local schools' policies. He has voted for the bipartisan Every Child Achieves Act, which provides that the federal government will no longer be able to coerce states into adopting Common Core-or any other standards, curriculum, or testing requirements. The bill also takes decisions regarding school accountability, school improvement, and teacher evaluations away from Washington and returns them to parents and the states.
Second, Senator Toomey supports school choice and believes that parents should have the power to decide what is best for their children's education. Pennsylvania is currently home to 162 charter schools, public schools that provide choices for parents seeking the best education for their kids. Senator Toomey voted for the bipartisan Every Child Achieves Act, which authorizes grants to open new charter schools, gives existing charter schools more flexibility in how they use federal funds, and authorizes grants to replicate and expand those charter schools with a record of success. These reforms will enable more Pennsylvania children to attend innovative, successful charter schools.
Senator Toomey has worked to protect state school-choice programs from federal obstruction. When the Department of Justice sought to block 570 needy children in Louisiana from attending the school of their parents' choice, Senator Toomey led a group of 30 Senators in protesting the Department's actions. The Department backed down and allowed those 570 children to escape their failing schools. And when the Administration sought to end the highly successful D.C. school voucher program, Senator Toomey fought back, co-sponsoring the bipartisan Scholarships for Opportunity and Results Act of 2011 (S. 206), to preserve the program. The legislation was included in the Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2011, which President Obama signed into law in April 2011.
Third, Senator Toomey has also fought to protect federal funding for Pennsylvania schools. Senator Toomey pushed back against an amendment to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that would have reduced Pennsylvania's education funding by over $120 million each year. Senator Toomey successfully worked across the aisle with his colleagues in the Senate and with Pennsylvania educators, including the Superintendent of the Philadelphia School District, William R. Hite, Jr., and the Superintendent of the Pittsburgh School District, Linda A. Lane, to stop this significant spending cut for our Commonwealth's schools. Due to Senator Toomey's efforts, Pennsylvania will not lose any of its federal funding.
Every year, hundreds of school workers across America are arrested for sexual misconduct with children, including many in Pennsylvania. Thanks to Senator Toomey's bipartisan efforts, in July 2015, the Senate acted for the first time to protect our children from child molesters infiltrating the classroom. The Senate unanimously passed Senator Toomey's measure to ban "passing the trash." This is the horrific practice of a school learning it has a pedophile on staff and helping that dangerous person obtain a new job at another school and become someone else's problem-often, by writing letters of recommendation.
Senator Toomey has also introduced the bipartisan Protecting Students from Sexual and Violent Predators Act, which requires schools receiving federal funds to perform background checks on all employees and contractors who have access to children. Under the bill, a school may not hire a person if he or she has committed certain crimes, including any violent or sexual crime against a child.
Senator Toomey understands the challenges posed by the skyrocketing costs of college. Over the past two decades, tuition at public universities has risen 127% while tuition at private universities has grown by 70% after accounting for inflation. Student loan debt has risen dramatically as well, and many Pennsylvanians are concerned about this burden.
In the Senate, Senator Toomey has supported common sense efforts to address this problem. He voted in favor of the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act of 2013, which stopped a hike in student loan rates and saved Pennsylvania students an average of $1,500. This year, he also joined a bipartisan effort to reauthorize the Perkins Loan Program, which provides critical financial aid for low-income students.
Senator Toomey also has co-sponsored the Know Before You Go Act, a bill introduced by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) that provides parents and students more information on graduation rates, post-graduation income, and student debt about our nation's colleges. Families should not be expected to invest tens of thousands of dollars in a college education without knowing whether that education can lead to a good, high-paying job.
For the one-third of Pennsylvania students who choose not to attend college, vocational and technical training can be a successful pathway for securing high-skilled, high-paying jobs.
That is why Senator Toomey voted for the bipartisan Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. The legislation, which was signed into law by President Obama in 2014, modernizes America's federal worker training programs, reduces administrative burdens, and provides additional flexibility so States can provide the best possible services to workers.
While this law's enactment was a positive step forward, Senator Toomey believes that more needs to be done to ensure Pennsylvanians can find employment, increase their paychecks, and have more financial security. That is why Senator Toomey introduced the CAREER Act- or Cutting Administrative Red-tape for Education and Employment Reinvestment Act. The CAREER Act increases the amount of education and training the federal government provides and ensures that the programs are effective.
The CAREER Act consolidates 37 federal worker training programs into 5 programs. By cutting red tape and duplication, Senator Toomey's bill redirects an estimated $359 million from red-tape to additional education and training, while also reducing the federal deficit by an estimated $26 million.
The CAREER Act ensures that America's education and job training programs yield results for Pennsylvanians. First, Senator Toomey's bill eliminates onerous federal restrictions-some decades old-that prevent states from developing effective programs, and have made it difficult for states to help underserved populations, such as youth from broken homes. Second, the CAREER Act lifts artificial caps on how long worker training can last—caps which the New York Times has reported can leave some individuals with thousands of dollars in debt and "significantly worse off than when they started" a federal program. Third, the CAREER Act adds much needed accountability. Currently, many federal job programs have no meaningful performance or accountability measures, making it impossible for officials to determine whether they are effective. Senator Toomey's bill requires federal programs to use uniform accountability measures, so officials can compare programs and direct funds to those that provide the best results.