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I believe that every student should have access to high-quality, affordable education. An investment in education must start at the pre-kindergarten level with programs like Head Start to ensure that all students are ready for kindergarten and succeed in elementary school. Investments in education need to also continue through high school, career and technical training and college so all of Hawaii’s keiki can get good, quality, competitive jobs in our global economy.

Early Childhood Education 

I believe that early learning programs are important investments that can improve post-preschool outcomes for our keiki, including better health outcomes and academic success. That is why, as a member of the House Committee on Appropriations, I helped draft and pass through the House our Fiscal Year 2024 funding bill to help strengthen early childhood education programs. It included $12.3 billion for Head Start, $8.7 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant Program and $315 million for preschool development grant programs—a combined increase of $1 billion from the previous year to increase access to quality childcare for hard working families and invest in the early childhood education workforce.

K-12 Education

In the current Congress, I am focused on investments to support school infrastructure projects, provide for growing technology needs in the classroom, improve teacher recruitment and training, sustain Native Hawaiian immersion education programs and ensure minorities and women can pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM).

For more information about elementary and secondary education issues under consideration by Congress, please read a report prepared by the Congressional Research Service

Career and technical education (CTE) programs have been critical in providing high school students with the relevant technical knowledge and skills they need to prepare for further education and occupations in emerging professions. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I helped secure $1.4 billion for CTE programs in Fiscal Year 2023. Research has proven that these programs mitigate high school dropout and absentee rates and increase participants’ overall employment outcomes and earnings.

Higher Education

In the United States, rising tuition costs have made it an increasingly more difficult for many to go to college. I believe we need to make it easier for students to afford the cost of higher education. During my time in Congress, I have strongly supported federal programs that help borrowers manage and pay off their student loan debt, including through need-based scholarships.

The federal Pell Grant program has been essential to preserving college opportunities and narrowing the achievement gap for lower income and otherwise disadvantaged students. I have consistently supported programs like the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program that provides debt forgiveness in return for public service in certain fields such as medical care in underserved areas. The whole issue of student loan repayment is under active debate in Congress. I am working with my colleagues in this effort to ensure these programs work better for students and borrowers in our Hawai‘i and across the country.

Educator Workforce Shortages

More must be done to recruit and train more educators nationally and in our Hawai?i. As a member of the House Committee on Appropriations, I helped draft and voted for the Fiscal Year 2024 funding bill that included $90 million for Supporting Effective Educator Development Grants, which supports state efforts to prepare, train, recruit and retain high-quality educators. The measure also provided $70 million for the Teacher Quality Partnerships Program, which funds high-quality teacher residency programs that prepare diverse cohorts of teachers to serve in high-need schools, improve teacher efficacy in the classroom and increase retention among teachers.

Teacher attrition rates have been nearly eight percent nationally in recent years, meaning that too many quality, experienced teachers leave the classroom every year. I believe we can improve teacher retention by creating more opportunities for professional development and the promotion of teacher innovation. To address this issue, I am a cosponsor of H.R. 3143, the Teachers Leading, Educating, Advancing and Designing Act, which would establish a competitive grant program to help schools develop professional leadership and mentoring opportunities for teachers. These grants would prioritize school districts with higher teacher turnover and higher poverty rates and for entities, including Tribes and Native Hawaiian educational organizations, that seek to recruit and retain teachers from historically underrepresented backgrounds. The program would provide a clear pathway for classroom teachers to become teacher leaders, along with tangible compensation and resources for their added responsibilities.