All three of my kids attended (or still attend) public school in the Hamlin County School District (Go Chargers!) and they’ve been blessed with tremendous teachers, school administrators and coaches. I believe it is incredibly important to have a quality public education program, and I understand the unique challenges facing rural schools. School districts’ individual needs are best managed at the state and local levels with the cooperation of parents, teachers and local officials. This applies to everything from academic curriculum to school lunches.

In 2015, Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act. This legislation finally gets us away from having the federal government micromanage local classrooms. The legislation gives states much greater flexibility to spend money in a way that benefits students most. It empowers parents, not the federal government, to hold schools accountable. It modernizes the Impact Aid program, which many South Dakota schools rely on. And maybe most notably, the legislation ensures the federal government can't pressure states into adopting specific academic standards, like the Common Core.

Additionally, I fought for education tax credits for families through tax reform. The American Opportunity Tax Credit, Hope Scholarship Credit, Lifetime Learning Credit consolidated into an enhanced American Opportunity Tax Credit. This provides a 100% credit for the first $2,000 of higher education expenses, 25% credit for the next $2,000 of higher education expenses and now are available for a fifth year of postsecondary education at half rate. 

I also fought to expand 529 Education Savings Accounts, so they can now be used for elementary, secondary and college education. This can apply for those looking to buy books, pay for a tutor or any online educational materials needed. For those students with disabilities, 529 amounts can now roll into ABLE accounts. Another piece of legislation I introduced, the Investing for Tomorrow Act, would allow for unborn children to be named as beneficiaries of 529 education savings accounts.

School Lunches

I have also worked hard to reform the school lunch program.  We all want our kids to be healthier, but a nationwide, one-size-fits-all approach is extremely costly for our schools, jeopardizing the program’s long-term viability and putting expensive food on our kids plates that they aren’t even eating.  I authored legislation, the Permanent Flexibility for School Meals Act, which would give schools more flexibility when feeding our kids.

Higher Education

Both of our daughters are recent college grads and our son is going to be there soon. To say that we’ve had a few discussions about student loans in the past is probably an understatement.  In the House, I’ve worked on a College Dashboard, so more financial information – and the impact student loans will have on future milestones – is available when students are deciding which school to attend.  Students and parents need to have better information when they’re making these kinds of decisions so they can be smarter shoppers.

I have also introduced bipartisan legislation that takes aim at sexual assaults on college and university campuses by protecting and empowering students, strengthening accountability and transparency for institutions and establishing stiff penalties for non-compliance with the legislation’s new standards for training, data and best practices.

Do you want to sign up for my E-Newsletter?