Fighting for our students in legislation in Congress

Miami's Community Newspapers
Donna E. Shalala

I want to congratulate the students across South Florida who are entering their final weeks of classes. As a lifelong educator and a former university president, I still regard May as a time to celebrate the incredible achievements of students across the country.

Finishing a year of school is no small feat.

School — whether it be elementary or middle school, high school or college — demands hard work, profound dedication, and an unending willingness to rethink our preconceptions, to learn. School is transformative, not in spite of but because it is difficult.

Students know this, and they do not back down; they do not shy away from the challenge. We owe them this same courage and tenacity as we fight to ensure safe, accessible, and equitable education at every level. I’m proud to be working to improve opportunities for all students, and I’m excited to update you on a few of my latest initiatives in Congress.

Combating the Achievement Gap — Last month, I introduced my second original bill, H.R. 2006, the College Equity Act. This bill aims to counter the demographic disparities that plague too many colleges and universities. Studies show that students of color, students with disabilities, and low-income students, among others, face unprecedented barriers in their path through our higher education system. H.R. 2006 will establish various mechanisms and grants for colleges and universities to address gaps in student outcomes by race, ethnicity, gender, income, and other lines of identity.

Following their findings, schools will develop plans to improve equity on their campuses. I’m confident this bill will help reduce the achievement gap by tackling the systemic flaws in our higher education system.

Investing in Public Schools — Public schools serve the vast majority of K-12 students, yet they remain chronically underfunded.

All across the United States, schools are physically falling apart, teachers don’t make enough to support themselves, and students lack the resources to pursue their interests. We desperately need to improve school infrastructure, raise teacher pay, and recognize that well-funded public schools are the most critical investments we can make in our children and our society.

I’m proud to be a cosponsor of several pieces of legislation that support these aims. H.R. 865, the Rebuild America’s Schools Act, will invest $100 billion in digital and physical educational infrastructure, while H.Res. 58 supports raising teacher pay, and H.Res. 254 will establish Mar. 25 through Mar. 29 as “Public Schools Week.”

Prioritizing Education — One of my proudest duties as your representative is serving on the House Committee on Education and Labor. Last month, we welcomed Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to speak on the policies and priorities of the Department of Education. I requested information from Secretary DeVos on the Department of Education’s delay in implementing the Equity in IDEA rule, which requires states to monitor and track the treatment of students of color with disabilities.

Research shows that students of color are selected for special education services, placed in more restrictive learning environments, and punished with harsher discipline at a disproportionately higher rate than their white peers. A judge has ordered the Equity in IDEA rule to be implemented, but Secretary DeVos has not yet complied with this order. I recently sent a letter requesting the Secretary provide Congress with a specific timeline on the implementation of the rule.

As always, I want to hear from you and your neighbors about your experiences with our education system. Be sure to save the date for our next Town Hall community meeting in Little Havana (1300 SW 12 Ave.) on May 29 at 6 p.m.

Finally, don’t hesitate to stop by our district office if you need assistance with an issue or want to share your concerns about a policy matter. We are located at 7700 N. Kendall Dr., Suite 605, Miami, FL 33156, and we’re open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Give us a call if you need help with a federal agency, applying for a federal grant, or requesting a U.S. flag to be flown over the Capitol. You can visit our website at or give us a call at 305-668-2285 or 202-225-3931.

Lastly, be sure you stay up-to-date with the latest developments from our office on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: @RepShalala.

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  1. The federal government should not be involved in funding public schools. That is the job of the states and local school districts. School infrastructure and teachers pay has always been the province of the states and local school districts and should remain so.In Florida the sales tax and the local property tax funds public schools. Charter schools are a competitive alternative to public schools which are top heavy with administration and unaffordable pensions.
    On the college level, university tuition has risen beyond any reasonable justification. If the federal government pulled the plug on subsiziding rich universities such as Harvard and Yale, tuition levels might level off or decline.
    Despite priding herself by introducing bills that sound good, Congresswoman Shalala knows none of them have any chance of becoming law.

  2. Thank you, Mr.Friedman! You said it all. We are already paying big bucks on the local level. How would Congresswoman Shalala’s bill be funded? Raising our Federal income tax? Her focus is misdirected. We need reduction of the national debt, strong environmental protection and carrying capacity laws to limit out of control development.

  3. Shalala is taking credit where it is not due. (again). The federal government has no business taking taxes for education. Education is defined by the State’s charter not the Constitution. Washington somehow believes that is their job to take money from the State so they can turn around and give back a portion of the money with huge strings attached. (and we’re supposed to say thank you for giving us back what is rightfully ours and never belonged to you) The Florida educational system would greatly benefit from ending the Federal Department of Education. Then there’s the tag line – “I sent a letter” – oooh so scary. If she was really interested in making a change for Florida she would end the DOE.

  4. Congresswoman Shalala needs to go all in with the Energy Innovation and Dividend Act HR 763.
    This bill is “revenue neutral” and would benefit every family in the USA. Congresswoman Shalala
    should take a leadership roll, even Congresswoman Lehiten embraced this. 78% of your constituents actually know climate change is a serious issue!


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