Rick Santorum believes that a quality education is the key to any child's success, and he supports equipping youth, parents, teachers, and schools with the tools to make that success achievable. Rick believes that these tools should be flexible because every school district across Pennsylvania has different needs, and no bureaucracy in Washington can fully understand the priorities of an elementary school in DuBois or a high school in Quakertown.
No Child Left Behind Act
Rick Santorum supported the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, which has been the most historic legislative initiative enhancing education opportunities to pass Congress in decades. This legislation sets important standards for our schools, our teachers and our children. By setting high accountability standards, NCLB encourages teachers and schools to excel while also providing the tools to improve performance if changes are needed. Further, NCLB gives teachers and school administrators' flexibility by decreasing bureaucratic red tape that hinders access to grant programs, which allows states and localities to redirect resources directly to the classroom.
Commitment to Higher Education
In addition to Rick's support of ensuring that primary and secondary schools in Pennsylvania are equipped for success, he is equally committed to ensuring the every Pennsylvanian has access to higher education. Rick Santorum has supported legislative solutions that provide loans, grants, and tax incentives to make higher education more accessible and affordable.
Rick Santorum supports increased funding for Pell Grants, and since 2001 funding for the Pell Grant program has increased by 47 percent. Pennsylvania students have benefited tremendously from Pell Grants; providing a college education for our state's youth who otherwise might not be able to afford one.
In addition, Rick has worked to strengthen the many higher education institutions across Pennsylvania from community colleges to four-year universities. Through grants and policy initiatives, Rick Santorum is proud to further the priorities of Pennsylvania's colleges and universities. Further, he has sought to address the technology gap that exists at many Minority Serving Institutions by establishing a new grant program providing up to $250 million to help Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) bridge the digital divide.
Rick Santorum has worked closely with HBCUs throughout his tenure in the United States Senate, including Cheyney University and Lincoln University. He has chaired the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Congressional Forum on Capitol Hill, which helps HBCUs gain information about opportunities available from the federal government regarding research, and academic and faculty development needs.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
Rick has been a champion for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IDEA, which Congress passed in 2004, provides much-needed tools for parents, teachers and schools to provide the highest quality education for students with disabilities. There are nearly 7 million youth in the country with disabilities, and IDEA is a critical component towards ensuring that all children receive the education they deserve. Rick Santorum authored an amendment to IDEA that reduces the paperwork burden on special education teachers. This measure authorizes the Secretary of Education to grant waivers of IDEA requirements in up to 15 states to reduce excessive paperwork and non-instructional time burdens, without inhibiting the right of a child with a disability to receive free public education.
Rick Santorum has been extremely innovative in looking for ways to help children succeed. An original sponsor of the America Saving for Personal Investment, Retirement, and Education (ASPIRE) Act of 2005; Rick supports providing every newborn with a savings account called a KIDS Account.
This legislation would provide every child born after December 31, 2006 with a one-time $500 contribution into their KIDS Account. For households who earn below the national median income level, they would be eligible for a supplemental contribution of up to $500. The accounts will be supported by incentives designed to encourage savings, promote financial literacy, and expand asset-building opportunities.
Once a KIDS Account is established, families and others will be allowed to contribute additional resources into these accounts, up to $1,000 a year. As accountholders turn 18 they will be able to keep their accounts with this fund or transfer them to a private sector Roth IRA provider or a Section 529 plan for higher education.
Education Savings Accounts
Rick Santorum supports expanding Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) to make it easier for parents to invest in their children's education. ESAs, which are similar to Roth IRAs, currently allow parents and others to place up to $500 per year, per child, in a tax-free savings account for higher education expenses. The current limit on ESAs is $500, and Rick Santorum believes that limit should be increased to $5,000. He also supports expanding ESAs to include expenses associated with elementary and secondary schools. Rick believes that we all must invest in our children's education, and ESAs will lead to billions of new dollars in private funding specifically for education expenses. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, 70% of the families who benefit from ESAs make less than $75,000. They also found that 75% of the parents who will use the accounts will be public school parents. Public education is expensive for many families, who often spend thousands of dollars on education-related expenses to ensure a quality education for their children. Rick Santorum believes this legislation will enable parents to save for college as well as provide for primary and secondary education needs such as tutoring or even a home computer.
As a United States Senator, Rick will continue to support legislative initiatives that allow children to earn the best education possible.