Investing in education will ensure that future generations have the resources they need to allow our nation to succeed. To do this, we must work to recruit qualified teachers, reduce class sizes, and make college more affordable. My experience as a teacher in New Jersey encourages me to fight for the highest quality education for our students at every level.
As a former teacher, I know that a teacher’s impact is felt not only in the classroom, but also on the practice fields and in the community. As a student, I had the support of my teachers inside and outside the classroom. As a result, I felt compelled to become a teacher in order to give students the same opportunities that my teachers had given me. New Jersey has some of the most talented teachers in the country. While we ask teachers to prepare our children to meet the challenges of the 21st Century, we must also give them the tools and resources to rise to these challenges.
I understand first-hand that investing in early childhood education is fundamental to the foundations of our children’s learning and development. Investing in our children early will provide the best advantage for younger generations. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) is the main source of federal aid to K-12 education. Initially enacted in 1965, this law was amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) to achieve accountability of school systems for improving student achievement outcomes. However, some requirements have become burdensome and punitive. As Congress looks for ways to reform the ESEA, I will continue to work to ensure the needs of our nation’s children are put first.
It is critical that our students are able to compete globally. That is why I believe we must invest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs across the country. Graduates with STEM degrees are in high demand and are indispensable to our economic wellbeing. These programs will help build a highly-competitive workforce both in New Jersey and across the country. That is why I will continue to support programming that focuses on STEM education for students at every level.
While in Congress, I have supported efforts to improve access to a college education. A college degree has become as important as a high school degree was a generation ago. Therefore, making college more affordable must be a top priority. The largest source of federal grant aid for postsecondary education students comes from Pell Grants. The maximum Pell Grant awards have been maintained at $5,550, and are essential to opening doors and giving students the financial means to attend college. During the Fiscal Year 2019 budget process, I sent a letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, and Education requesting $34.6 billion in funding for the Federal Pell Grant Program.
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Last week, I participated in a House Foreign Affairs Committee markup, where we discussed a number of important bills including regaining observer status for Taiwan in the World Health Organization, accountability for the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, and repealing the Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iraq. I also participated in a Foreign Affairs Committee hearing examining congressional war powers. I cosponsored bills protecting paid sick leave, ensuring injured veterans receive full pensions, and creating a program to teach financial literacy in secondary schools.
Last week, the House passed the American Rescue Plan, a comprehensive $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that will help hard-working Americans and reinvigorate our economy. The House also passed legislation to ensure equal rights regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. I attended a markup of the American Rescue Plan with the House Committee on the Budget and attended a markup for the House Foreign Affairs Committee on legislation to revitalize the State Department.
(Washington, D.C.) – Last night, Congressman Albio Sires (D-NJ) voted in favor of H.R. 1319, the American Rescue Plan Act, a comprehensive COVID-19 relief bill that includes funding to expedite the vaccine rollout, send economic impact payments to Americans, safely reopen our schools, and assist individuals receiving unemployment payments. H.R. 1319 passed the House by a vote of 219-212.
This week, I voted in favor of passing the House resolution on budget reconciliation, and voted to remove Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) from her committee assignments, joined by a bipartisan group of House members. I cosponsored a multiple pieces of legislation including providing additional financial relief to unemployed individuals, expanding the number of transit agencies transitioning to zero-emissions bus fleets, providing grants to community health centers for mental health screening, and expanding awareness and services related to COVID-19.
In the 117th Congress, I am looking forward to returning to the three committees on which I served in the 116th Congress: the House Committees on the Budget, Foreign Affairs, and Transportation and Infrastructure. I am honored to be returning as Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere.
Over the past year, millions of people have lost their jobs as the economic consequences of the pandemic continue to be felt. Small businesses are struggling, and individuals are facing long periods of unemployment. Our national response will have to be multifaceted and it is important that we help equip workers with the skills that match the needs in their community. I believe that the Better Education and Skills Training (BEST) for America’s Workforce Act, which I will be reintroducing in the 117th Congress, can play a key role in achieving this goal.
This week, we continue to work through the fallout from the January 6th attack on the Capitol and determine how policy can best address the many failures we witnessed. On Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump for inciting violence and insurrection against the Government of the United States. In addition to cosponsoring the legislation bringing impeachment articles against the President, I cosponsored a resolution condemning and censuring Rep.
This week, I signed onto legislation to allow tax credits to rollover for childcare costs and signed onto a bill to keep students safe in schools. I also signed onto to letters to urge the President to have the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) set up drive through COVID-19 testing in New Jersey, include pro-worker and pro-labor provisions in the Fiscal Year 2021(FY21) appropriations package, and demand answers from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) about the detention of unaccompanied minors.
Last week, I joined the Congressional Labor Caucus, and cosponsored legislation to raise the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) monthly benefits, help ensure children do not go hungry during the pandemic, raise the Social Security Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for 2021, help students refinance their student loans, and ensure humane treatment of animals in any research and testing.
This week, I wrote an op-ed about the future of the Gateway Project, including the Hudson Tunnel Project, and its significance to the 8th District. I cosponsored legislation to protect the rights of students with disabilities, and to protect students from sexual abuse in schools. I also signed onto a letter to promote colorectal cancer screening and spoke with Colombian President Ivan Duque on the phone.