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Begich Priorities Included in Education Legislation

Rewrite of No Child Left Behind underway in Senate

Several Alaska priorities and initiatives supported by U.S. Sen. Mark Begich are included in the bipartisan bill released yesterday by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

This bill would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law. Sen. Begich's priorities include dedicated funds for rural projects in a competitive grant program, a new focus on education focused on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, and a comprehensive literacy section that starts at early childhood.

"The long-awaited overhaul of No Child Left Behind is underway," Begich said. "This law doesn't work in Alaska, and I am eager to move forward on changes that will return local control and also focus on areas of education we know our children need to succeed in the 21st century."

Earlier this year, Begich introduced the Investing in Innovation for Education Act.  Also known as the "i3" bill, the legislation supports districts and organizations in their efforts to improve student outcomes, increase high school graduation rates and improve college enrollment and completion.  The i3 program was included in the base bill, and included a rural set aside Begich successfully pushed for.

"It can be difficult to compete for grants when you live in rural Alaska and don't have the vast resources of urban communities to support the grant process. The inclusion of a rural set aside in the i3 program will help give students the opportunity to benefit from innovative ideas and programs no matter where they live," Begich said.

Begich has been a leader in supporting STEM education and was pleased to see his efforts included in the base bill.  The bill includes a new STEM program that would award funds to states to improve student achievement in STEM.  The program includes components of Begich's legislation, the Effective STEM Teaching and Learning Act, as well as other legislation Begich has supported.

"Alaska's 21st century economy requires us to engage our students in STEM fields," Begich added. "Teachers need the resources necessary to prepare students for emerging jobs.  We must get our kids excited about STEM from a young age." 

Sen. Begich was also pleased to see a comprehensive literacy section included in the bill.  He supported these efforts, led by Sen. Patty Murray, to promote literacy during early childhood and continue through high school.

Begich said he will continue to work with his colleagues as the education bill moves through the legislative process to make sure it meets the unique needs of Alaska.

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