The federal government can and should do more to invest in our students and schools as states struggle to provide adequate K-12 funding and affordable higher education opportunities. Quality education creates sound building blocks for future generations, yet recent trends indicate American students are falling behind their foreign counterparts in nearly all subjects.
DeFazio understands the importance of higher education and he could not have attended college without the assistance of financial aid. This is why he established a scholarship fund for dislocated workers at five community colleges in southwest Oregon. Since he has consistently refused the pay raises that other Members of Congress keep passing for themselves, the scholarship fund lets him use that excess pay to benefit Oregonians. As of the end of 2014, DeFazio contributed $378,000 of after-tax salary toward 227 scholarships and debt reduction. He counts these scholarships among his proudest accomplishments.
In addition to his scholarships, Congressman DeFazio has been a consistent supporter of federal higher education programs such as Pell grants, federal work study, and student loan forgiveness, which helps make college more affordable.
As a recipient of financial aid, DeFazio was proud to support the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA) which became law in 2010. The SAFRA comes at an opportune time as a record number of students need assistance for affordable, quality education opportunities. SAFRA eliminated taxpayer-financed subsidies to banks making federal educational loans in favor of a more cost efficient model through the Direct Loan program. Direct loans to students provide more opportunities to future generations than do subsidies to banks. Eliminating bank subsidies will result in $61 billion in taxpayer savings over the next 10 years, which completely pays for the improved educational investments.
Passage of SAFRA was not the end, and DeFazio believes we need to do more. He supports efforts that would allow tens of millions of Americans to refinance their student loans, and supports lowering the student loan interest rates to the same super low interest rates that big Wall Street banks get. The federal government should be investing in students, not be making a profit off of them. DeFazio also supported the Income-based Repayment program, which gives graduates a flexible repayment system to avoid default.
DeFazio was one of a few members of Congress to object to the $21 billion in graduate student loan cuts in the Budget Control Act of 2011. In the next 10 years, 2.5 million new jobs will require a graduate degree. At the same time the debt burden from higher education is sky-rocketing. Masters students face an average $51,950 in debt when they graduate. Doctoral students report an even steeper debt burden of $77,580.
Early Childhood Development
DeFazio has been a strong supporter of increasing federal funding levels and federal resources to Pre-K programs, such as Head Start. Early childhood education, nutrition, health care and family support services are critical for our nation's youth. Often these programs are not just about schooling, they are about meeting the needs of young children and their families.
No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, or the Elementary and Secondary Education Act
The NCLB needs to be redrafted, providing opportunities to track student progress in a meaningful way rather than continue the short-sighted policies that do not provide schools the necessary flexibility to reach achievement goals. DeFazio strongly believes that Congress needs to fully fund NCLB. When the federal government imposes mandates on local schools, then the federal government should follow through on promised funding to fulfill those mandates. In addition, the annual testing mandate and 100% proficiency mandates are a flawed framework for measuring student achievement.
DeFazio has also championed federal funding for school construction and modernization. He protested the removal of these critical funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and supports the inclusion of these funds as part of job creation legislation.