Issues

Educating the Next Generation

Educating the Next Generation

In my first term, I have co-sponsored Senator Bernie Sanders' bill, the College for All Act, to make public four-year colleges and universities affordable for all. I believe we need to educate the next generation to complete in a global economy. 

Ro knows we need to educate the next generation to compete in a global economy. The platform below is based on his conversation with parents, teachers, and education experts in our community.  As a member of Congress, he will fight to:

  • Make college affordable and debt free by providing federal grants and putting textbooks and introductory courses online.
  • Prioritize local, California students for admission at the UCs over out of state students.
  • Support increased funding for K-12 education; including programs for special education, music, art, upgrading technology, unfunded mandates, and Head Start reimbursement rates.
  • Move away from high-stakes testing and support a curriculum that fosters critical thinking, collaborative learning, and creativity through art and music. Encourage students to become lifelong learners and develop 21st century skills by engaging in project based learning that is age-appropriate and relevant to the real world. 
  • Support quality early learning opportunities by passing legislation on universal preschool for our most vulnerable students to ensure reading at grade level and math fluency by 3rd grade.
  • Support a balance of local and state control accountability that encourages collaborations among key stakeholders including parents, teachers, and administrators. Elevate the teaching profession with more teacher training programs at low cost and increase salaries. 
  • Promote STEM and STEAM curriculum. Focus on technology, science and creativity for all students, share job opportunities in the STEAM fields. Encourage and support girls and under-served groups to enter the field.

I was fortunate to grow up in a middle class family that values education. My mom worked as a substitute teacher in public schools, and every day I saw her commitment to inspiring kids to love the pursuit of knowledge. She helped her students see that education opens the door to more opportunities and a better life. There’s no doubt that her passion shaped my decision to become a lecturer at Stanford University and a professor at Santa Clara University.

I owe my success today to the fact that I was able to attend fantastic schools – both public and private. But I’m still paying off my student debt, and I know firsthand that affordable higher education is essential to giving hardworking students the opportunity at a fulfilling career with economic security.

Unfortunately, America has fallen behind in its investments in education, and our economic competitiveness has suffered. It’s clear that our priorities are amiss when we have a ballooning prison population at the same time as we are firing teachers, cutting arts and physical education classes, and failing to open new libraries. Our comparative advantage to other nations has always been the productivity and ingenuity of our workers. But today’s global economy is profoundly different from the economy of 10 or 20 years ago. We have lost sight of the most important factor that makes our economy thrive: the knowledge, ideas, and skills of our people.

As a Member of Congress, I will fight to return our focus to making college affordable and preparing students for the jobs of the 21st century. When new technology or outsourcing displace workers’ jobs, I’ll help ensure that they have access to retraining programs that enable them to quickly re-enter the workforce in industries where secure employment is available.

 

Incorporate STEM education and Technology in the Classroom

Global economic competitiveness begins not in the marketplace, but in schools, yet our educational system underperforms relative to other developed nations, despite higher spending. We need to make significant changes, starting with placing a greater emphasis on STEM instruction. Early introduction to these subjects will foster logic and critical reasoning skills while preparing students for good-paying jobs. While I believe that nothing can replace a qualified and passionate teacher’s ability to affect a student’s life, it is imperative that our children receive a 21st century education.

Implement coding in the classroom. Professionals in STEM fields earn 26% more on average than their counterparts in other industries, and current job openings in STEM occupations outnumber unemployed STEM workers two to one. Some countries, like Estonia, have already implemented programs to prepare their children for the 21st century workforce – America can do the same. Our schools should teach younger students skills necessary for coding like logic, while courses for older kids should focus on programming languages.

Spurring competition often produces the best outcomes. The Department of Education should commit an annual grant to be distributed equally to the 10 states doing the best job prioritizing STEM education. States that instruct students to code, improve on teaching math and science, or make computer use more available would receive “points” in a nation-wide competition. The 10 states that racked up the most points would receive grants, but states would be reevaluated each year, giving them new opportunities to compete and improve. Additionally, the grant recipients would have their best practices highlighted online so that other states could benefit from their approach.

Offer tax incentives and support to math and science teachers. With growing demand for STEM professionals, our nation needs more math and science teachers in public schools to prepare students to meet the challenges of technical and high-paying STEM jobs.

We should offer tax incentives and commit more federal funds to help recruit math and science teachers who could otherwise turn to higher paying jobs in the private sector. One example is to provide a grant to pay off student loans for those who commit to teaching STEM in public schools for five years.

It is also essential that we provide STEM teachers with ongoing professional development, as updates and new innovations in STEM fields outpace those in other subject areas. The Department of Education should commit funds to give STEM teachers the opportunity to shadow engineers at local companies or attend supplemental courses at community colleges to learn about cutting edge STEM research. We should also encourage greater collaboration among science and math teachers within schools so that educators hold each other accountable for incorporating STEM into curriculums.

Expand alternate teacher certification programs for transitioning STEM professionals. In the past few years, California has opened up more credentialing options to encourage qualified individuals to teach STEM. Many of these programs are funded by Transition to Teaching, a Department of Education competitive grant program to recruit and train mid-career STEM professionals. Its programs accelerate the credentialing process and pay individuals for learning to teach. But even with these incentives, studies estimate that California will need more than 33,000 new STEM teachers within the next few years to meet demand.

The Department of Education should expand its Transition to Teaching program, especially in low-income areas that disproportionately lack access to math and science teachers. Doing so would increase the number of STEM teachers not just in California, but also across the country.

Encourage girls to pursue engineering. Engineers are in growing demand across the country and have higher earning potential and greater job security than their counterparts in many other industries. Yet only one in seven engineers is a woman.

Silicon Valley should drive the discussion on increasing the presence of women and girls in engineering classrooms and in the private sector. We should highlight women leaders in STEM fields, like Marissa Mayer here in Silicon Valley. We should also bring attention to tools and toys such as Roominate and Goldie Blox that encourage girls to form an interest in STEM subjects by teaching spatial and problem solving skills at an early age.

Improve and expand access to MOOCs. With advances in technology and a willingness to think outside the box, we have the opportunity to substantially change the way we approach education. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are becoming more available, the material is improving, and I believe that they have the potential to fundamentally change our education system by lowering costs and improving outcomes.

As a teacher myself, I am a strong advocate for democratizing education. It’s all about giving more students – of all backgrounds and income levels – an equal opportunity to succeed. MOOCs are online courses that provide students with traditional educational materials like videos, readings, and problem sets. They also include interactive online forums where students and professors can exchange ideas and interact with one another. MOOCs can enroll tens of thousands of students across the world at once – breaking down the barriers of space and connecting the world’s students like never before. 

While we increase access to MOOCs, we also must implement standards to ensure their quality. I believe MOOCs should be assessed by two professors other than the primary instructor on a scale of 1-10 for criteria like content and student engagement. That grade should be accessible to students before they enroll. MOOC instructors who choose not to have their course peer graded will face the risk that students will not enroll based on questionable quality standards; those that do will be incentivized to offer courses with high standards. 

Increase access to broadband in classrooms. In technology rich Silicon Valley, it is unacceptable for schools to be as technology poor as they are. President Obama’s ConnectED Initiative will ensure that our schools finally have access to high-speed Internet. I strongly support his proposal to make much needed changes to our outdated E-Rate program and bring our schools into the digital age.

As we make technological updates in schools, we must ensure teachers feel comfortable with computers in their classrooms so they are able to help students and take full advantage of their resources. We should encourage schools to hold a Technology Training Day at the beginning of each academic year, giving teachers and principals the opportunity to learn about up-to-date technology and ask questions. 

Investing in and Improving Public Education

Since our country’s inception, education has been a public good. We need to ensure that all children – regardless of where they live or the socioeconomic status of their families – continue to have access to quality instruction. Instead of making sweeping cuts or implementing policies that leave some kids at a disadvantage, Congress needs to prioritize public education that gives every child more opportunities for success.

Invest more in public schools. A country sets its priorities by how it allocates resources between things like education, public safety, and national defense. We have created a dangerous imbalance in America by draining our tax revenue fighting wars and putting our own citizens in prison, while cutting investments to public education. It is simply unsustainable. 

I have been very supportive of stable, local funding measures for education, such as those in the Cupertino Union School District  and  other school districts that help to cover the education budget shortfall and retain highly-qualified teachers in the classroom. Our classrooms are already overcrowded – the last thing we want to do is lay off educators.

Implement high standards to ensure success for students in the 21st century. Today, when education and skills training are more important than ever for competing in the job market, it is imperative that all students in this country have access to public schools that embrace high standards of achievement. School districts in the District of Columbia and in 45 states, including California, are currently implementing the Common Core in an effort to improve quality. Common Core standards will cause school districts to focus their curriculums more on critical thinking and a deeper understanding of important subjects.

The Common Core has the potential to improve the quality of public schools nationwide – if we implement these new standards effectively. Teachers need more support and resources as they transition to the Common Core, and administrators need implementation money to ensure their school districts can adapt. Government also needs to help school districts institute effective Common Core assessments aligned with the new curriculum’s goals – giving students the education they need to succeed in the 21st century. 

Pay teachers more. We need to attract the best and brightest teachers in order to create pathways for the next generation to succeed. Teachers deserve more pay and more respect. They need salaries that will allow them to live in the communities where they teach. This problem is particularly accute in the Bay Area, given the high cost to live.

Ensure a permanent place for arts education in our schools. A solid education in the arts helps students learn to innovate and express themselves – skills that can facilitate future professional success. In fact, Steve Jobs credited a calligraphy class for teaching him the importance of aesthetics, a lesson he applied when designing Apple’s world-changing products. Studies have also shown that children who play musical instruments outperform their classmates in math. Despite examples like these, public schools have faced numerous cuts to arts programming over the past several years. Federal funding for arts education is limited compared to other programmatic financing; while most states have an arts education mandate, school districts are usually left to pay for and implement programs. 

To ensure the future of arts education for students across the country, the federal government should match dollar-for-dollar the funds that states commit to arts education. In addition, individuals or corporations that donate money to fund arts education in public schools should be rewarded with federal tax deductions.

Stop unfunded federal mandates on schools. Unfunded mandates place requirements on schools without providing financial backing. Many measures, like those that address bullying, teacher evaluations, and school nutrition, have broad-based support but are too costly for school districts to implement without help. Just the expense of filling out thousands of pages of additional paperwork generated by mandates can be extremely costly to school districts, increasing workloads for office administrators and often requiring school districts to hire new staff.

Congress should charge an independent, bi-partisan Advisory Board with creating clear guidelines and metrics to determine which mandates are actually necessary for improving student achievement or services to children in the classroom. The federal government should help to pay for needed policies and eliminate others that do not meet the criteria established by the Advisory Board.

Stress civic engagement. I distinctly remember registering to vote right when I turned 18 years old, and going for the first time to cast my ballot in an election. Because my parents made so many sacrifices to immigrate to this country and believed so strongly in its founding principles, voting was a right I did not take lightly. It is an opportunity for each citizen to set the course for this great nation. But civic engagement doesn’t stop at the voting booth – it also includes volunteerism and being a stakeholder in the Democratic process.

As a country, we are only as strong as the people who are actively engaged in setting our policies and shaping our national discourse. Today, when Washington is more divided than ever, it is essential for us to teach civic engagement to our students. Civic participation is predicated on an educated citizenry – so it is essential for our children to learn about our country’s founding principles. But teaching civic engagement also includes offering more service learning courses, which can help engage students with their communities while giving them a lens into specific industries in the workforce.

 

Increasing Access to College and Job Skills Training

Student debt has quadrupled in the last decade, now totaling $1 trillion with 37 million borrowers. Sixty-six percent of college seniors now graduate with an average of $26,000 to pay back, and studies show that student debt causes a lifetime wealth loss of four times the debt amount. In the 17th District, which has one of the highest college attendance rates of high school graduates in the nation, the growing cost of attending college is a critical issue. When education and skills training are important for success in today’s economy, it is essential that we make college more accessible to students, expand job-training opportunities, and extend the reach of community colleges. 

Keep interest rates low and refinance federal loans. When 37 million Americans have student loan debt, it is imperative that we lower interest rates and make repayment as affordable and streamlined as possible. I support Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren’s proposal to allow students to pay the low rates that big banks pay for short-term borrowing.

While keeping interest rates low should be our first priority, we should also refinance student loans to make them easier for students to pay back. The majority of student loans are federally backed, and together the two types of federal loans – Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL) and Direct loans – total $706 billion outstanding. FFEL are no longer available, but because they were issued by private lenders but guaranteed by the government, they have variable interest rates.

To facilitate the paying back process, we should convert FFEL loans into Direct loans, and lower the interest rate on Direct loans. Reducing student loan costs would likely boost repayment. Studies show that if the federal government were to refinance loans with interest rates above 5%, individual borrowers would save $14 billion and $21 billion would be pumped into the economy in the first year.

Let private loan borrowers consolidate their debt into federal loans. Private student loans tend to be the most harmful to borrowers because they often have high variable rates, peaking at 19%. High interest rate loans are made to the riskiest borrowers and have a disproportionate drag on the economy – these students often are unable to make timely payments and their debt increases. 

Students with private loans should be allowed to exchange them for Direct loans. They would then have access to federal protections like Pay As You Earn, a plan that caps monthly payments for eligibles at affordable amounts. Legislation to achieve these goals has already been introduced and the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that it could generate extra federal revenue. 

Strengthen community colleges and our public university system. There are millions of jobs available in technology and high-skilled manufacturing that our workers do not have the expertise or training to fill. While community colleges and public universities are important for educating young people, they are also essential for retraining those who have been laid off. People whose work hours are cut additionally benefit from receiving more training with their available time.

As part of its mission is to promote economic growth, the Department of Commerce should address the skills mismatch in our country. The Department should allocate grants to community colleges, which are currently underfunded and overcrowded, to provide for more practical job and skills training. We should make useful and practical credentialing systems like the National Institute of Metalworking Skills (NIMS), computer numerical control (CNC) machine training, and advanced robotics training more accessible. By expanding community college course offerings, we can ensure students are able to take the courses they need at low cost community colleges instead of having to enroll in for-profit colleges.

Cap tuition at publicly funded institutions and require reports on actual job placement. The mission of public institutions of higher education has always been to serve all students, regardless of financial circumstance. In reality, however, with tuition costs rising at public universities across the nation every year, higher education is out of reach for many families, or requires them to assume burdensome debt. All state funded universities should take a pledge to cap tuition at a rate affordable to middle class families.

When students invest in college they should have some peace of mind that their degree will help them find a job upon graduation. Congress should hold institutions of higher learning that receive federal funds accountable for improving the employment prospects of their graduates. Those higher education institutions should be required to report their graduates’ job placement statistics twice a year, six months after conferring degrees in the spring and fall. These institutions should also be encouraged to commit a minimum percentage of their federal funding toward career services programs.

Allow individuals starting new businesses to defer federal student loan repayment.Young entrepreneurs have long been among America’s most successful business leaders. Bill Gates, for instance, was just 20 when he co-founded Microsoft. However, the greatest drop-off in entrepreneurial activity following the economic recession occurred in the 18-24 age group. Today, when a majority of undergraduates receive federal financial aid, the need to pay back student loans keeps many young entrepreneurs from starting businesses. Young people starting new businesses should be able to defer their student loan payments for three years so they have the opportunity to establish their startups and help grow the American economy.

Simplify federal financial aid into a coherent package. Today’s federal financial aid is composed of grants, loans, and work-study. This complexity makes it difficult for students to understand upfront the amount and type of financial aid that will be available throughout their course of study. We should simplify federal financial aid by re-orienting it to a primarily grant-based system while ensuring that students from all backgrounds have the resources they need to understand their expected current and future contributions.

Reform FAFSA to solely consider education-related assets. Students’ ability to pay for higher education should not come at the expense of long-term financial security. In addition to considering the number of dependents in the household, additional siblings in college, and cumulative household income, FAFSA takes parents’ savings and retirement plans – including 401(k)s – into account when calculating the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). As assets grow, the EFC increases, leading to excessive financial drain on families, especially if one or both earning members of a household are unemployed. We should reform FAFSA to only consider household assets related to savings for education, like 529 savings plans, when calculating the EFC.

I support a global cultural education and fact based presentation of world history. In a global economy, we need our children understanding world history, including the history of India and China. Our children deserve a good education about Asia to prepare them to work with the cultures that shall be a significant part of their professional lives.

I oppose singling out of any culture or religion for vilification and negative portrayal. I shall bring an end to propagation of myths and misinformation about major world cultures. It is wrong to reduce Hinduism and Ancient Indian civilization, with its rich history and contributions to the world, simply to a version of 'caste' system. Our district is home to a vibrant diversity of cultures and children of all heritage, and Hindu Indians should have the opportunity to feel proud of their heritage in school.