Wicker Says Education Is A Building Block For The Future

As New School Year Begins, Senator Emphasizes Importance of Educating State’s Young People

August 18, 2008

School bells are ringing across Mississippi, as many schools have begun the new school year and others are preparing to open their doors soon.  As parents and as Americans, we have an obligation to provide a solid foundation for our children to learn.  We also have a vested interest in helping our young people receive an education that will help Mississippi succeed in today’s increasingly competitive global economy. 

                                     PUTTING EDUCATION FIRST
I am a product of public education, as are my three children, who all graduated from the Tupelo public school system.  In addition, my wife, Gayle, works with non-traditional students at the University of Mississippi’s Tupelo campus.  Through these experiences, I have a firsthand understanding of public education’s importance.  Since being elected to Congress, I have supported federal funding for elementary and secondary education programs.  For twelve years I served on the congressional subcommittee that determines funding levels for the Department of Education.  During that time, we increased the department’s budget from $21 billion to $58 billion.

Increasing funding for education is important, but it is not a silver bullet.  Realizing this, I have worked on legislation that challenges our children to learn and gives teachers the tools to become better educators.  I authored legislation, which the president signed, that created an American History and Civics Education grant program.  This gives teachers the opportunity to attend on-location courses on American history and civics to strengthen their knowledge of our government and assists in their classroom preparation.  I have also authored legislation that would provide resources for geography teachers.  Additionally, I believe our schools need to place more emphasis on physical education and nutrition.  I have worked to increase funding for programs to promote healthy lifestyles and combat childhood obesity and the life-long health problems associated with it. 

                                   STRONG COMMUNITY COLLEGES
Providing opportunities for high school graduates to continue learning is critical to their success, and in that area, our state excels.  In 1922, Mississippi was the first state in the nation to create a statewide system of junior colleges.  Today, our 15-member community college system provides an affordable option for high school graduates to study close to home while also offering non-traditional students the opportunity to receive the skills necessary to succeed in the workplace.

In 2006, I helped found the Community College Caucus in the House of Representatives and am now the co-chair of the Senate Community College Caucus.  This bipartisan caucus helps educate members of Congress about the important role community colleges play in our educational system and is committed to helping them continue to excel in meeting their important mission.

                                             FUTURE OF TOMORROW
President John F. Kennedy once said, “Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education.”  I agree with that principle, and I firmly believe that one of the most important roles we have as a government and as a country is to help provide a solid education for our children.  As your United States Senator, I am committed to that goal.  I will continue working to provide our educators with the resources and tools they need to provide our nation’s students with the education they deserve and the knowledge they need to succeed.