As governor of North Dakota and now as U.S. Senator, I have supported policies to ensure education accountability is coupled with adequate local flexibility. The federal government should empower schools, administrators, and teachers to create local strategies that prepare students to succeed in a global, high-tech economy; not mandate rigid, one-size-fits all regulations.
In order to prepare our students to compete, we need to ensure that our teachers have access to resources and professional development. The future of our nation and our ability to compete in a global economy will depend on solid science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, training, and research. I am a member of the Senate STEM Education Caucus and the Senate Career and Technical Education Caucus and I sponsored the Innovate America Act, which would increase the number of STEM schools and place increased emphasis on developing STEM education.
Every Child Achieves Act
In December 2015, Congress has passed the Every Student Succeeds Act, education authorization legislation to replace the No Child Left Behind Act. This four-year legislation takes the right approach in that it pushes both control and funding down to the state and local level rather than a federal one-size-fits-all approach. Importantly, it ends the Common Core mandate. It helps to put parents, teachers, principals and local school districts back in control of our education system.
The bill also includes support for STEM education, which we pushed for, and other initiatives to ensure that our students have the skills and education they need to be competitive today and into the future. In fact, the bill includes a provision based on legislation I offered with Senator Amy Klobuchar to bolster Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education. Specifically, the measure improves students’ access to STEM education by allowing states to award funding to create or enhance a STEM-focused specialty school or a STEM program within a school.
I have worked to make sure that paying for college is affordable and fair. In 2013, Hoeven helped pass a permanent solution as a co-sponsor of the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act (S. 1334) that ties all federal student loan interest rates to the 10-year Treasury rate. We need to continue to work to make college more affordable and accessible to all who want a higher education, while doing all we can to make sure good jobs are available for those who have received their degrees.
North Dakota has world-class universities at the forefront of academic research and development. North Dakota State University (NDSU) and the University of North Dakota (UND) anchor the Red River Valley Research Corridor which has brought hundreds of millions of dollars into North Dakota since 2002, building research centers and infrastructure, training skilled workers for emerging industries and supporting North Dakota’s growing technology sector.
As governor, I helped start the Centers of Excellence program which is an initiative by the state of North Dakota to help develop information and technology businesses. From 2007 to 2012 the Centers had a total economic impact of more than $630 million and directly created more than 1,000 jobs. The Centers continue to play a key role in developing and diversifying North Dakota’s economy.
In January 2016, we reached an agreement to improve nutrition standards for school meals, clearing the way for the Agriculture Committee to approve the bill unanimously. The agreement benefits students while easing some regulatory mandates on whole grains and sodium to alleviate unintended challenges facing school meal programs. Forged in collaboration with the Senate Agriculture Committee, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the White House and the non-profit School Nutrition Association (SNA), the agreement is now included in the Senate Agriculture Committee’s Improving Child Nutrition Integrity and Access Act of 2016.
We worked with school nutrition professionals from across the country to ensure that our schools have flexibility in meeting sodium and whole grain requirements, while maintaining healthy nutritional standards. The standards we’ve agreed on make sure that our schools can serve healthy and nutritious meals that students like, while also making their budgets. This is all about providing both good nutrition and flexibility.
As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I have worked to bring flexibility to child nutrition and school meals programs to ensure that the nutritional needs of students are being met. In 2013, I introduced the Sensible School Lunch Act, which would provide school districts with greater flexibility to meet the nutritional needs of all students. My work on this issue led the USDA to agree to remove the caps on grains and proteins permanently, achieving the goals of my bill without the need for legislation.