Throughout my career, few issues have been more important to me than raising student achievement and strengthening our nation’s education system. This includes expanding access to high-quality early learning programs, improving college affordability, and encouraging folks to consider making a difference in a child’s life by becoming a mentor. As Governor of Delaware, I spent eight years focused on these issues at the state and local level. The federal government shares in this important responsibility, too. Together, we can work together to make sure that all students – no matter their zip code, their race, or their economic status – have access to an education that prepares them to achieve success in the classroom and go on to meaningful careers.
Raising Student Achievement
As a United States Senator, I have been privileged to have worked on two reauthorizations of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Over fifty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson signed this landmark civil rights law to address educational disparities between children living in poverty and their more affluent counterparts. Over the past five decades, the law has contributed to significant academic gains, particularly among students in our most vulnerable communities.
In 2015, Congress reauthorized ESEA by passing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)—a bipartisan law that replaces No Child Left Behind. The new law reaffirms the federal government’s role in ensuring that states set rigorous academic standards to raise student achievement. This bill eliminates some of the overly prescriptive and punitive aspects of No Child Left Behind, while empowering states, school districts, educators, and parents to develop locally driven plans to improve educational outcomes for students. Critically, ESSA asks states to provide additional resources to our lowest performing schools. As states begin to implement ESSA, I believe the federal government should play a strong oversight role to ensure that federal funds are targeted to persistently underperforming schools, and that states are using the additional flexibility to make good on the promise to support children from disadvantaged communities.
Protecting Military and Veteran Students
Like many veterans, the GI Bill changed my life. When I returned from Southeast Asia after three tours of duty, I used my Vietnam-Era GI Bill benefits to enroll at the University of Delaware and pursue a master’s degree. Today’s veterans can take advantage of a new GI Bill that’s much more generous than the GI Bill of the Vietnam-Era. The Post-9/11 GI Bill can cover the full costs of tuition and fees at public colleges and universities, as well as housing and book stipends to allow veterans to pursue their studies without incurring additional financial stress. Veterans can also transfer this incredible benefit to a spouse or child.
Unfortunately, a few bad actors in the for-profit college industry are taking advantage of veterans and taxpayers by exploiting a loophole in the law. The 90-10 Rule is a federal law passed by Congress in the 1990s that requires for-profit schools to derive at least 10 percent of their revenues from sources other than the federal government. However, a loophole exists that allows for-profit schools to count military and veteran education assistance as non-federal revenue. As a result, some for-profit institutions have aggressively—and sometimes deceptively—recruited veterans and their G.I. Bill benefits to receive 100 percent of their revenues from taxpayers.
With the enactment of the Post-9/11 GI Bill in 2008, veteran enrollment at for-profit colleges has skyrocketed relative to enrollment at public college. Since 2008, for-profit colleges have collected roughly 40 percent of Post-9/11 GI Bill tuition dollars – even as questions continue to be raised about these institutions' graduation, default, and job placement rates. It’s one of my top priorities to ensure that each veteran can get the most out of their hard-earned GI Bill benefits. That’s why I’ve introduced the Military and Veterans Education Protection Act to close the 90/10 loophole
Our veterans and their families have sacrificed for our country, and we owe it to them to protect the benefits they've earned through their service. I will continue working to make good on that promise.