Recognizing Spirit Day
I firmly believe that every child in America deserves an education free from fear and intimidation. My anti-bullying legislation, the Safe Schools Improvement Act, will help schools ensure that all young people are protected by barring harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity. On October 19th, we recognize Spirit Day by taking action against bullying and showing support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth. The importance of standing up for all children cannot be overstated, as a growing body of research and stories highlight the severity of bullying among youth in America. According to the Department of Education, nearly 1 in 3 students between the ages of 12 and 18 are affected by bullying and harassment, which results in increased absenteeism, dropout rates, and academic underachievement, all of which undermine a child’s ability to succeed in the classroom and beyond. Another study found that fewer than half of LGBT students in Pennsylvania felt very safe in school, and that 9 in 10 LGBT students were harassed in the previous school year.
The Safe Schools Improvement Act is a bipartisan bill I’ve introduced in the Senate with 41 cosponsors that will require school districts receiving designated federal funds to adopt codes of conduct specifically prohibiting bullying and harassment, including cyberbullying and bullying based on a student’s actual or perceived race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or religion. It will not have any impact on curriculum or what is taught in school, but rather seeks to ensure that every student feels safe in the classroom. This is a commonsense solution to a serious issue throughout Pennsylvania and the United States.
Vote to Prevent Doubling of Student Loan Interest Rate
Today, I was proud to vote in favor of legislation that will prevent the interest rate on federally-subsidized Stafford student loans from doubling on July 1. Without Congressional action, this rate would have risen from 3.4% to 6.8%, adding $1,000 to the debt burden of approximately 7.4 million students, including 394,000 Pennsylvanians. This vote represents an immediate and necessary step in the fight for affordable access to college.
“I believe that anyone with the drive, fortitude and desire to pursue the opportunities afforded by higher education should be able to realize that dream. Studies have shown that those with college degrees can expect higher lifetime earnings and a lower chance of unemployment than those with lower levels of education. In recent decades, however, tuition rates have grown to levels that threaten to put higher education out of reach for many Pennsylvanians, and jeopardize the continued prosperity of the Commonwealth. As a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, I will continue to seek solutions that make college accessible and affordable.
This week is Teacher Appreciation Week
This week is Teacher Appreciation Week, a time to honor the enormous impact of our Nation’s classroom teachers. In our increasingly global economy, great teachers equip students with the skills and knowledge to succeed in a competitive economy, while also cultivating the development of active and thoughtful citizens. With a growing body of research that highlights the importance of teachers on the lives of their students, their daily work deserves recognition as a valuable contribution to the strength of our Nation.
My first job out of college was as a fifth grade teacher in North Philadelphia as part of my service in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. This brief experience gave me a firsthand appreciation of the challenges faced by our school teachers. This week, I will reflect on the great teachers who shaped my life and desire to pursue public service, as well the countless Pennsylvania educators who work tirelessly to ensure that every child achieves his or her potential. Please join me in thanking teachers for their extraordinary commitment to students, families and the communities in which they serve.