Press Releases

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine announced $16,557,883 million in federal grant funding through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for Head Start programs throughout Virginia.

“We’re pleased to announce funding through the Head Start program to support young children across Virginia,” the Senators said. “The Head Start program is important to ensuring that schools and organizations have the resources they need to support early childhood development.”

The following organizations will receive funding: 

·         Lynchburg Community Action Group Inc. will receive $3,344,772.

·         Eastern Shore AAA/CAA in Exmore will receive $1,932,019.

·         People Incorporated of Virginia in Abingdon will receive $4,449,701.

·         Buchanan County Head Start in Grundy will receive $1,463,253.

·         Clinch Valley Community Action, Inc. in Tazewell will receive $1,665,748.

·         Augusta County School Board in Verona will receive $2,257,832.

·         Lee County School District in Jonesville will receive $1,444,558.

 

As Governors and Senators, Warner and Kaine have advocated for investments in early childhood education. Head Start programs promote school readiness for children under 5 years old from low-income families through health, education, family support, and social services.

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the below statement on the Trump Administration’s proposal to rewrite U.S. Department of Education guidelines regarding schools’ handling of allegations of sexual assault and harassment:

“I have repeatedly expressed concerns about the Trump Administration’s approach to this serious issue and said that any new process should prioritize the needs of survivors. That remains my position. I will be examining the Department’s proposal and consulting with experts to determine whether it would undermine the progress that campus sexual assault survivors and advocates have achieved in recent years,” said Sen. Warner. “The Department’s seemingly narrow interpretation of schools’ obligations to students is further reason for Congress to advance bipartisan legislation that better protects students and sets clear responsibilities for institutions handling allegations of campus sexual assault.” 

Sexual assault on college campuses remains a pervasive issue. Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, colleges and universities have a legal obligation to provide an environment that is free from discrimination on the basis of sex in all education programs and activities. Sexual harassment and sexual violence are forms of sex discrimination prohibited under Title IX. Sexual assault on college and university campuses is notoriously underreported and, too often, adjudication processes and survivor support services vary from campus to campus, making fairness and transparency all the more elusive. 

Sen. Warner is an original cosponsor of the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, which would establish higher incentives on all universities, including those in Virginia, to empower student survivors and hold perpetrators accountable. The bill was supported by more than one-third of the U.S. Senate in the 114th Congress.

In September 2017, Sen. Warner called the Trump Administration’s decision to review previous guidelines on campus sexual assault a “red flag” and called for Secretary DeVos to prioritize the interests of sexual assault survivors in the rulemaking process.

 

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WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Chris Coons (D-DE) announced that they will introduce legislation to make lifelong learning more accessible for low- and moderate-income workers. TheLifelong Learning and Training Account Act would establish a tax-preferred savings account with a generous government match to assist workers seeking to retrain or upskill over the course of their careers. 

In the coming years, more workers will be required to learn new skills throughout their careers. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, up to one-third of the U.S. workforce will need to learn new skills or find work in new occupations by 2030 due to automation. As a result, American workers are increasingly likely to hold many different jobs over the course of their careers, and in many cases technology will transform the skills they need and even the types of jobs available. The Lifelong Learning and Training Account Act would provide workers with a portable, government-matched savings vehicle for lifelong learning.

“Lifelong learning is quickly becoming a necessity for American workers. We need to make sure Americans are able to retrain and upskill throughout their career, so they can thrive in the modern economy,” said Sen. Warner. “This will not happen on its own. It requires a serious investment to help workers pay for the education and training necessary to modernize their skills—by employees, by employers, and by the government. The Lifelong Learning and Training Account Act represents that serious investment.”

“The digital, fast-changing nature of today’s economy has significant consequences for workers. More than ever before, individuals will need to acquire new skills over the course of their careers,” said Sen. Coons. “TheLifelong Learning and Training Account Act empowers workers, with help from government and employers, to take charge of their future by actively planning, saving for, and completing the training programs they need to thrive in this economy.”

“Although national unemployment is at historic lows, small business owners are still struggling to find the workers they need due to a skills gap,” said John Arensmeyer, Founder & CEO of Small Business Majority. “In fact, Small Business Majority's scientific opinion polling found more than one-third of small employers said it is difficult to find candidates with the right education, skills or training. Since small firms rarely have enough time to dedicate to extensive staff training or sufficient funds to pay for employee education, the Lifelong Learning and Training Account Act would be a huge boost to small businesses by offering them another way to invest in the development of their staff. This legislation would also help solo entrepreneurs invest in their own development and acquire skills without the aid of an employer.” 

“In an economy where more than 80 percent of all jobs require some form of education and training beyond high school, it is more important than ever for workers to be able to access the skills and credentials that can help them advance their careers,“ said Kermit Kaleba, Federal Policy Director of the National Skills Coalition.“The Lifelong Learning and Training Account Act would provide workers with a critical tool to take advantage of emerging educational opportunities so they can keep pace with a rapidly changing labor market. We applaud Senator Warner’s continued leadership on this issue, and we look forward to working with the Senator to ensure passage of the Lifetime Learning and Training Account Act.” 

“Education and training shouldn’t stop after high school or college. We need to provide workers with new opportunities to add or update skills throughout their careers,“ said Alastair Fitzpayne, Executive Director of the Aspen Institute’s Future of Work Initiative said. “Creating a culture of lifelong learning is critical to building a skilled and resilient workforce. By incentivizing workers, businesses, and government to co-invest in education and skills training, Lifelong Learning & Training Accounts will help workers continue to develop skills and better manage their economic future.” 

The Lifelong Learning and Training Account Act creates employee-owned Lifelong Learning and Training Account (LLTA) savings plans. Contributions to an LLTA by low- and moderate-income workers or their employers are eligible for a dollar-for-dollar federal match of up to $1,000. The federal matching funds are directly deposited into the LLTA immediately after the contribution by the worker or employer. The worker then gets to choose how to use the LLTA funds, which can be applied towards any training that leads to a recognized post-secondary credential.

For workers that need to contribute to the cost of updating their job skills, this significant federal investment can make a huge difference in whether or not these workers seek additional training. If employers are willing to match employees’ savings, the returns can be even greater—a $500 contribution by a worker would create $2,000 in training opportunities (a $500 match by the employer, and then a $1,000 match from the federal government.) The accounts are portable from job to job, and always under the workers’ control.

Contributions by workers and employers are after-tax dollars, but face no additional taxes on earnings if the LLTA funds are used for qualified training expenses. Eligibility is for workers age 25 to 60, with incomes of up to $82,000 per worker. States will manage the accounts. Accounts are designed to encourage the worker to use the funds to regularly update their skills, rather than build up large balances over many years. Restrictions are put in place to ensure that the government’s matching dollars go only to qualified training expenses.

The full text of the bill can be found here. The bill will be officially introduced when the Senate returns after Thanksgiving.

 

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WASHINGTON— U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined a group of more than 150 House and Senate Democrats in requesting U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos turn over more information regarding the Department’s flawed handling of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. The program helps certain government or non-profit full-time employees receive loan forgiveness for the remaining balance of their federal student loans. The request follows the release of a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report which revealed an alarming number of PSLF borrowers have been denied loan forgiveness. The report also showed the Department has neglected to provide clear guidance and instructions to loan servicers. This failure at the Department has left servicers and borrowers in the dark about which employers qualify and without detailed, accurate information regarding their loan payments.

“Consumer advocates, state regulators, Members of Congress, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and GAO have all repeatedly raised alarms about the Department’s handling of the PSLF program,” the Members wrote. “Not only has this Administration ignored the mounting warning signs… but it has actively reduced oversight of student loan servicers—thereby contributing to the current problems in student loan servicing.”

Additionally, official Department data recently showed that a shocking 99.6 percent of borrowers applying for PSLF have thus far been denied. Previous requests to Secretary DeVos to improve PSLF have been ignored, and the Administration has even proposed eliminating the critical loan forgiveness program entirely.

Members also requested a timeline for implementing each GAO recommendation, a copy of the Department’s corrective action plan, and further details about the Department’s plan to reach out to all Direct Loan borrowers about PSLF and to fully digitize the employment certification and application process. It is critical that Congress have this information as authorizers of the program and to make any potential legislative corrections. Sens. Warner and Kaine have both pressed the Department for increased clarity and consistency for PSLF borrowers, including in the April 2017 letter found here.

“We are deeply troubled that millions of dedicated public servants may not obtain the loan forgiveness that they deserve if the Department does not act quickly to correct program implementation issues,” the Members added.

Sen. Warner has introduced several bipartisan bills to improve transparency, accountability and affordability in higher education, and help borrowers better manage their student loan debts. The Dynamic Student Loan Repayment Act would make income-based repayment the default option for borrowers. The Employer Participation in Repayment Act would allow employers to apply pre-tax income to help their employees with student loan payments. Finally, the Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act would promote financial literacy by providing students who are recipients of federal financial aid with comprehensive counseling services.

Sen. Kaine has led efforts to fix a glitch in the PSLF program that left some public servants facing mountains of unexpected debt because they had unknowingly been in the wrong repayment plan. In March, Congress passed Kaine’s legislation to allow those public servants to apply for the loan relief they had earned. The Trump Administration is responsible for administering the loan relief through the Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness (TEPSLF) Program, but so far the Department of Education has created unnecessary hurdles for borrowers and rejected 88.4 percent of applicants. Kaine has pressed Secretary DeVos to turn things around by creating a simple process that gives fair consideration to the teachers, military personnel, law enforcement officers, and other public servants who apply for this debt relief.

To read the full text of their latest letter, click here. To read more about the GAO report entitled, “Public Service Loan Forgiveness: Education Needs to Provide Better Information for Loan Service and Borrowers,” click here. A summary of key findings can be found here. 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine announced $2,425,864 in federal funding will be awarded to Virginia Commonwealth University through the U.S. Department of Education’s Teacher and Leader Preparation and Professional Development Grant Program. Warner and Kaine had written in support of VCU receiving the funding, which will be used to recruit, prepare, license, and retain teachers in high-need school districts as well as strengthen the teaching of mathematics and science.

“Teacher shortages have plagued schools in Richmond and across Virginia, but it’s a problem we can solve. We’re thrilled VCU has shown a commitment to this important endeavor through partnerships with high-need school districts and we believe this funding will assist them in helping the entire community,” the Senators said.

Warner and Kaine each wrote to the U. S. Department of Education in support of Virginia Commonwealth University’s application for federal grant funding.

Teacher shortages have affected students across Virginia.  In July, Kaine introduced the Preparing and Retaining Education Professionals (PREP) Act to address teacher and principal shortages in underserved communities and ensure that there are enough teachers and principals with the right skills and tools to educate students and prepare them for the future. Warner has also introduced the bipartisan Teacher and School Leaders need Education and Development to be Empowered Resources in Schools (LEADER) Act to improve and support programs that recruit, select, and train educators who aspire to fill leadership roles in high-need schools.

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has awarded $1,052,562 in grant funding to help bolster school security and provide training to students and faculty. The funds will also support law enforcement officers and first responders who arrive on the scene of a school violence incident. The grants were made available through DOJ’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services’ (COPS) School Violence Prevention Program (SVPP).

“We are pleased that Virginia schools have received these grants to help improve campus safety,” said the Senators. “These federal funds will help train students on how to respond in violent situations and provide additional resources for faculty and local law enforcement.”

Under today’s announcement, the following Virginia communities will receive funding:

  • Bedford County: $91,124
  • Chesterfield County: $500,000
  • Hanover County: $75,188
  • City of Virginia Beach: $386,250

These grants are authorized by the STOP School Violence Act, and are intended to improve school security by helping students and teachers reduce exposure to risks, prevent acts of violence, and quickly recognize and respond to violent attacks. The School Violence Prevention Program (SVPP) is a competitive award program designed to provide funding to improve security at schools and on school grounds in the jurisdiction of the grantee through evidence-based school safety programs. For more information on this program, click here. 

 

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today met in Washington, D.C. with Dr. David Ellena, Principal of Tomahawk Creek Middle School in Midlothian, Va., and the 2018 Virginia Principal of the Year. The recognition is given by the National Association of Secondary School Principals to outstanding middle and high school principals who have succeeded in providing high-quality learning opportunities for students as well as demonstrating exemplary contributions to the profession.  

Dr. Ellena earned the recognition as 2018 Virginia Principal of the Year for his innovative intervention program for struggling students. The system involves administrators creating a biweekly report of students with Ds and Fs, meeting with each student individually, and then establishing a study and organization plan moving forward. The program has helped reduce the number of failures at Tomahawk Creek Middle School and assisted in severely limiting the number of retentions in each grade level. Dr. Ellena also spearheaded the development of a makerspace at Tomahawk Creek Middle, where students have designed and 3D-printed everything from prosthetic hands to drones. His commitment to project-based and service learning enhances students’ critical thinking and problem solving skills, and further enriches their educational experience. 

“Guiding our students and ensuring they are equipped with all the tools to succeed is no small task. Educators who go above and beyond to help all students achieve academic excellence – like Dr. Ellena – deserve not only our gratitude, but our full support,” said Sen. Warner. “I was glad to have the opportunity to hear directly from such an outstanding administrator about the ways the federal government can make sure teachers everywhere have the resources they need to help students thrive inside and outside of the classroom. Congratulations to Dr. Ellena for earning this well-deserved recognition.”

Dr. Ellena has been in public education for more than 30 years. He started as a physical education teacher in 1985 and has served as principal of Tomahawk Creek Middle for five years. He is active in the Virginia Association of Secondary Schools Principals and the National Association of Secondary School Principals, having served on the board of directors for both organizations. 

“It’s wonderful to be able to speak with legislators like Sen. Warner to make sure we’ve got the resources we need and that our kids need, especially the kids who need it the most,” Principal Ellena said. “We’ve got 12 middle schools in Chesterfield, and it’s so important that we have federal support for special education, teacher recruitment and training, and well-rounded education that includes arts, social sciences, and STEM education.”

 

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WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Rob Portman (R-OH) sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to urge the Administration to consider expanding the dual enrollment Pell experiment to meet the goal of 10,000 participating low-income high school students. Under the Department’s experiment, a limited number of high school students taking college-credit courses have access for the first time to federal Pell Grants. One of the participating sites is Central Virginia Community College (CVCC) in Lynchburg, Virginia. Sen. Warner visited CVCC earlier this year and heard firsthand from students, teachers, and administrators involved with the dual enrollment program about the program’s success. 

In addition to assessing whether the experiment is on-track to have 10,000 participating students—and, if not, considering accepting another round of applications—the letter from Sens. Warner and Portman also raises two funding issues that were discussed on the visit and recommends potential solutions.

“Central Virginia Community College and other institutions participating in the Department’s experiment continue advancing our understanding of how best to implement dual enrollment programs that access Pell Grant funding,” said Sen. Warner. “We should take every opportunity to harness their experience and expertise to better meet the needs of students who may apply for similar programs in the future.”

“The cost of college tuition and fees continue to rise, and early college high schools can play a critical role in helping students get head start on college,” said Sen. Portman.  “I strongly support expanding access to programs that help students get college credit while in high school.  I will also continue to push for our bipartisan legislation ‘Go to High School, Go to College’ to make this pilot permanent and provide more options for college to low-income students.”

Sens. Warner and Portman have championed legislation that would permanently expand Pell Grant eligibility to early college high school students, and led efforts toexpand access to dual and concurrent enrollment in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

A copy of the Senators’ letter is available here and below. 

 

September 11, 2018

 

The Honorable Betsy DeVos

Secretary of Education

U.S. Department of Education

400 Maryland Avenue, S.W.

Washington, D.C. 20202

 

Dear Secretary DeVos:

 

We write today regarding the U.S. Department of Education’s ongoing institution-based experiment to provide access to Pell Grants for eligible students participating in dual enrollment programs. Specifically, we write to request the Department consider accepting another round of applications for additional institutions to join the experiment, and to relay feedback we have received on the experiment’s current construction and offer recommendations as to how it might be modified for an additional round of applications to have an even greater impact for low-income students and the institutions that serve them. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

 

Under the Department’s dual enrollment experimental site, 43 diverse programs nationwide run by approved Institutions of Higher Education have been selected to allow up to 10,000 low-income high school students to access their Pell grants in order to participate. Access to federal financial aid under the experiment is designed to offset the costs of tuition, fees, and books for dual enrollment programs that provide students with the opportunity to earn a minimum of twelve college credits on a pathway towards a degree or credential as well the support services necessary to ensure their success. We request that the Department assess whether the currently participating institutions are likely to meet the Department's goal of 10,000 participating students; and consider accepting another round of applications for additional institutions to join the experiment beginning with the next school year.

 

We would also encourage the Department to consider making changes to the experiment for any new institutions admitted, responsive to feedback from the initial set of institutions selected to participate in the experiment. The experiment presently requires that, “Participating institutions…ensure that after all Federal Pell Grants, State, local, institutional aid, or other resources have been applied to student charges, students are not responsible for any remaining institutional charges as a result of enrolling in the postsecondary program as part of the institution's dual enrollment arrangement under the experiment.” While we appreciate the presumed intent of this requirement to ensure access and affordability, it has come to our attention that this stipulation has had the unintended consequence of impeding or imperiling some students’ ability to participate in the experiment altogether.

 

It is our understanding that at least one institution has already withdrawn from the experiment because they were unaware of the sizeable financial obligation and unable to fulfill it. Another institution would have followed suit were it not for extraordinary measures taken by the state’s higher education coordinating body and community college system to identify and allocate the necessary funds. At a minimum, we would encourage the Department to make this fiduciary requirement clearer in future iterations of the experiment and provide participating schools—many of them community colleges or minority-serving institutions—with guidance on identifying funding sources. We would also urge you to consider making additional federal funding available to participating schools or allowing students to contribute some modest amount towards their postsecondary courses to help institutions offset costs.

 

Further, the experiment requires that participating schools demonstrate that, “Federal Pell Grants made available to students to enroll in participating institutions through this experiment must not supplant public and institutional sources of funding for an institution’s dual enrollment arrangement(s).” While we share the Department’s desire to see expanded access to dual enrollment programs for low- and moderate-income students, this requirement, too, has had unintended consequences in its implementation. One school district that would have otherwise been qualified and eager to participate in the experiment was deemed ineligible to apply because they already finance their Pell-eligible students’ costs. Were the experiment’s supplement-not-supplant language crafted differently, this school district would have been able to reach even more students—expanding dual enrollment access across the board, while still providing access for their Pell-eligible population. While we share the experiment’s objective to encourage additional investment in dual enrollment access, we would encourage you to consider and adopt a more tailored supplement-not-supplement requirement that gives schools slightly more latitude in determining how to allocate funds amongst dual enrollment participants.

 

Thank you for your continued commitment to the Department’s Pell dual enrollment experimental site, and for your consideration of these recommendations. Please do not hesitate to have your staff contact Lauren Marshall at (202) 527-0431 or Lauren_Marshall@warner.senate.gov or Megan Harrington at (202) 224-3353 or Megan_Harrington@portman.senate.gov with any questions. We look forward to continuing to work with you on this promising initiative.

 

Sincerely,

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) joined Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and 41 of their Democratic colleagues in a letter to Secretary DeVos condemning her reported plans to allow states and school districts to use federal funds to purchase firearms and firearm trainings for teachers and other school staff. The grants Secretary DeVos is considering using were created in the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and are intended to keep students safe and healthy, provide a well-rounded education, and help school districts more effectively use education technology.

“This plan runs counter to the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act and will make our schools more dangerous, and our students less safe,” wrote the Senators. “We urge you to abandon this proposal immediately, deny state and school district requests to use federal funds for this purpose, and instead work with us and other stakeholders to focus on other efforts that enhance student safety and prevent violence.” 

If Secretary DeVos goes through with this plan, the New York Times reports this would be the first time a federal agency authorized the purchase of weapons without a Congressional mandate. Just a few months ago, Congress once again reiterated this position by preventing federal funds from being used to purchase firearms or firearms training in the bipartisan Stop School Violence Prevention and Mental Health Training program. 

“Students across the country deserve to learn in an environment that is safe and free of weapons. Introducing more guns into schools and classrooms is likely to lead to more, not less, violence. Reports of an unintentional firing in a classroom and even a gun being left in an elementary school bathroom illustrate the very real dangers to our children of arming teachers and other school staff,” continued the Senators. 

In addition to Warner, Kaine, and Murray, the letter was signed by Senators Feinstein (D-CA), Nelson (D-FL), Schumer (D-NY), Murphy (D-CT), Blumenthal (D-CT), Durbin (D-IL), Markey (D-MA), Baldwin (D-WI), Bennet (D-CO), Booker (D-NJ), Brown (D-OH), Cardin (D-MD), Carper (D-DE), Casey (D-PA), Coons (D-DE), Cortez Masto (D-NV), Duckworth (D-IL), Gillibrand (D-NY), Harris (D-CA), Hassan (D-NH), Heinrich (D-NM), Hirono (D-HI), Jones (D-AL), King (I-ME), Klobuchar (D-MN), Leahy (D-VT), McCaskill (D-MO), Menendez (D-NJ), Merkley (D-OR), Peters (D-MI), Reed (D-RI), Sanders (I-VT), Schatz (D-HI), Shaheen (D-NH), Smith (D-MN), Stabenow (D-MI), Udall (D-NM), Van Hollen (D-MD), Warren (D-MA), Whitehouse (D-RI), and Wyden (D-OR).

 

Full text of the letter is below and PDF is HERE.

 

The Honorable Betsy DeVos

Secretary of Education

U.S. Department of Education

400 Maryland Avenue, S.W.

Washington, D.C. 20202

 

Dear Secretary DeVos: 

We write to express our strong opposition to the Department’s reported plans to allow States and school districts to purchase firearms or firearms training for teachers and other school staff with federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) funds.[1] This plan runs counter to the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and will make our schools more dangerous, and our students less safe. We urge you to abandon this proposal immediately, deny state and school district requests to use federal funds for this purpose, and instead work with us and other stakeholders to focus on other efforts that enhance student safety and prevent violence.

 

The Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant program, authorized under Title IV-A of ESSA in 2015, provides funds to States and school districts for a range of activities intended to keep students safe and healthy, provide a well-rounded education, and help school districts more effectively use education technology. Congress never intended for these funds to be used to purchase weapons, or train teachers in how to use weapons in schools. In fact, Congress denounced the presence of firearms in schools in ESEA section 4102(5)(B), when it defined the term “drug and violence prevention” as a program that fosters “the creation and maintenance of a school environment free of weapons.”[2]

 

Within the realm of education, it is the Federal government’s longstanding position to prohibit federal funds from being used to purchase weapons. Just a few months ago, Congress reiterated that position with the bipartisan Stop School Violence Prevention and Mental Health Training program, which ensures “No amounts provided as a grant under this part may be used for the provision to any person of a firearm or training in the use of a firearm.”[3]  According to the New York Times, your Department acknowledges that moving forward with this plan would be the first time a federal agency has authorized the purchase of weapons without Congressional mandate.[4] Establishing such a precedent would be dangerous and clearly against Congressional intent.

 

Educators already face the daunting task of educating our next generation. Teachers and other school staff should be focused on providing instruction, engaging families, and providing students with the skills and supports they need to succeed in the workforce and in life, not on managing and potentially responding to threats with deadly force. In fact, a recent poll showed that the overwhelming majority of educators do not want to be armed, and instead many believe social emotional learning, mental health supports, and increased wraparound services and funding are a more effective way to keep students safe.[5]

 

Students across the country deserve to learn in an environment that is safe and free of weapons. Introducing more guns into schools and classrooms is likely to lead to more, not less, violence. Reports of an unintentional firing in a classroom[6] and even a gun being left in an elementary school bathroom[7] illustrate the very real dangers to our children of arming teachers and other school staff.

 

Title IV-A provides the opportunity for states and school districts to tailor their programming to local needs and improve school safety and student learning. The Administration’s proposal to allow States and school districts to use federal ESEA funds to arm teachers and other school staff not only runs counter to Congressional intent and established federal precedent, but would take schools and communities backwards in pursuit of these goals. We urge you to disallow any State or local educational agency from using ESEA funds for these purchases and to work with Congress to ensure our students are healthy, safe, and well-supported.

 

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[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/23/us/politics/devos-guns-in-schools.html

[2] Elementary and Secondary Education Act, section 4102(5)(B) 

[3] H.R.1625 - Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018

[4] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/23/us/politics/devos-guns-in-schools.html

[5] https://teachplus.org/news-events/press-release/teachers-overwhelmingly-oppose-idea-arming-teachers-schools-new-national

[6] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2018/03/14/teacher-accidentally-discharges-firearm-in-calif-classroom-he-was-trained-in-gun-use/

[7] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/cops-teacher-left-gun-in-bathroom-elementary-kids-found-it/

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine announced $150,000 in federal funding to help transform the 8,667 square foot space in the old Prices Fork Elementary School in Montgomery County into a local food enterprise center. The transformed space will include a commercial incubator kitchen, farm-to-table restaurant, a local craft brewery, a retail consignment market, and business incubation and support services.

“This revitalization is the result of a real partnership between local businesses and the community to invest in Prices Fork. We’re proud to support the project with federal funding that will help contribute to the food center’s success,” the Senators said.

This grant was awarded through the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Business Development Grants Program.

 

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Washington, DC—Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Michael Bennet (D-CO), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Mark Warner (D-VA) introduced a bipartisan bill to improve professional development opportunities for teachers and school leaders in high-needs school districts called the Teacher and School Leaders need Education and Development to be Empowered Resources in Schools (LEADER) Act. 

 

“Having strong teachers, school leaders, and administrators is vital to a strong school,” said Hatch. “By supporting training programs that develop aspiring teachers, principals, and other school leaders and give them the practical experience needed to succeed in the classroom, we can respond to the need for the best educator development. As Utah and other states struggle to staff schools with well qualified educators, my Senate colleagues and I are working to enable schools in high-need districts to partner with a broader range of organizations to provide more professional development opportunities for educators and help prepare them for a career in the classroom. This proposal both ensures that teachers, principals, and school leaders have greater access to the resources they need to thrive in their professions and inspire a new generation of Americans.”

 

“We must ensure that all students can learn from excellent teachers and school leaders,” said Bennet. “Colorado’s communities recognize the importance of investing in the preparation and development of our educators. From Denver to Alamosa, districts have crafted residency programs to raise the bar for the skills, experience, and support we provide to our future teachers. This legislation builds on Colorado’s momentum to provide more teachers and school leaders with access to the tools they need to succeed in our classrooms and schools.” 

 

“Teachers and school leadership play a vital role in nurturing and shaping young minds capable of solving today’s toughest problems,” said Cornyn. “This legislation would help give educators in Texas’ high-need school districts the opportunities and resources necessary to motivate students to succeed in school and beyond.” 

 

“I’m proud to join Senator Hatch, Senator Bennet, and Senator Cornyn in introducing this bipartisan legislation to expand professional development opportunities for teachers and school administrators,” said Warner. “When we empower educators, their students benefit.”  

 

 

Statements of Support

 

Many local, state and national organizations have endorsed the bill. A letter signed of support has been signed by the following groups: Center for the Study of Education Policy, Council for Exceptional Children, Deans for Impact, Democrats for Education Reform, EdAllies (MN), Educators for Excellence, Hope Street Group, Knowledge Alliance, National Center for Learning Disabilities, National Council of Teachers of English, New Leaders, NJ Principals and Supervisors Association, NYC Leadership Academy, Profound Gentlemen, TASH, and Teach Plus. Click [HERE] to read the full letter.

 

Jean Desravines, New Leaders Chief Executive Officer
“The proposal put forth today by Senators Hatch, Bennet, Cornyn, and Warner highlights what research and our experience have long shown: school leadership matters greatly for students. We are especially encouraged by the bill’s recognition that a large and growing number of teachers, principals, and other school leaders are trained through nontraditional programs. The proposal would provide the opportunity for a wider array of innovative and effective programs to partner and compete for funding under Title II—while also being held accountable for delivering real results for kids. By focusing on research-based practices and evidence of effectiveness, the bill advances a crucial goal: getting well-prepared, well-supported leaders in every school, especially those serving the students and communities most in need.”

 

Tabitha Grossman, Hope Street Group National Director, Education Policy and Partnerships

"We know from research that the quality of school leadership influences teachers' decisions about remaining in the profession. Keeping more teachers in the profession is a priority and efforts to strengthen the preparation of school leaders is one we support."

 

Alice Johnson Cain, Teach Plus Executive Vice President, Policy and Partnerships

"Teachers know that strong principal leadership is an essential ingredient in successful schools.  The Teacher and School LEADERS Act will ensure more of our public schools get the outstanding leadership they need so more students can succeed."


Background

 

Research has shown that strong school leaders can dramatically improve the quality of teaching and accounts for 25 percent of a school’s effect on student achievement. Despite the critical importance of school leadership within a school, our current state of educator preparation and training does not adequately prioritize the need to recruit, select and train teacher and school leaders, particularly in high-need schools. At the same time, recent reports and statistics show that traditional methods of training new educators do not adequately prepare them for the realities of teaching or leading in a school setting. To do their best for students, aspiring teachers, teacher leaders, principals and other school leaders need more practical, on-the-job experience and targeted support from their preparation programs and colleges. Innovative programs and partnerships are responding to the need for stronger educator development, but continued innovation and progress require even more dramatic changes to the sector.

 

Reforming Teacher Quality Partnership Grants to Support Principals and School Leaders

 

This legislation amends Part A of Title II of the Higher Education Act to support opportunities for principal and school leader preparation programs within the Teacher Quality Partnership Grant Program. In doing so, it explicitly allows for high-need school districts to enter into partnerships with colleges and education and non-profit entities to support programs that recruit, select, and train educators who aspire to fill leadership roles in high-need schools. It also supports pre-service residency opportunities for aspiring school leaders which would train them to offer high-quality administration and leadership to geographically diverse or high-need schools.  

 

Allowing for More Innovation in Educator Preparation Will Help Elevate the Sector

This legislation also affords high-needs school districts the opportunity to forge new partnerships for the newly re-named Teacher, Principal, and Other School Leader Quality Enhancement grants under Title II of the Higher Education Act.  It allows districts to choose which teacher or school leader preparation organization (e.g., a college of education, nonprofit provider, alternative certification provider, etc.) will serve as their primary partner for the grant, based on shortages in teacher areas and qualifications.

This bill also fosters a stronger connection between teacher and school leaders' professional development and induction within the partnership grants.  It allows for up to 10 percent of grant funds to be used to create a nexus between a teacher’s clinical experiences and their professional development once placed in a school or district.  By strengthening the link between educator preparation and professional development, this bill will help teachers and school leaders develop and will support innovation in educator preparation based on district feedback.

Furthermore, this legislation encourages teachers and school leaders to use both qualitative and quantitative data to improve student achievement and classroom instruction. It also requires the Institute of Educational Sciences to evaluate independently the effectiveness of the Teacher, Principal, and Other School Leader Quality Enhancement Grants.

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WASHINGTON – Today, as companies gather at the White House committing to educate, train and reskill American workers, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a member of the Senate Banking and Finance committees, pressed the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to use its rulemaking authority to require companies to tell shareholders whether and how they are investing in their workforces through human capital management disclosures.

Human capital management disclosures provide a snapshot of how U.S. companies compensate, train, retain, and incentivize their employees. Several studies have found that human capital management disclosures are an important predictor of a company’s long-term success in a changing economy. For example, a 2015 McKinsey study found that firms that prioritize learning programs for their employees perform better overall than those that do not, and a recent Harvard report found a positive correlation between human capital management and investment outcomes. Requiring companies to disclose these indicators would provide investors with a better understanding of a firm’s performance and potential for long-term growth.

The SEC’s current human capital disclosure requirements are extremely limited, requiring disclosures only of the number of employees, their median compensation, and CEO compensation. Sen. Warner’s letter notes that because human capital investment is currently categorized by accounting rules under “administrative expenses,” it’s plausible that capital markets punish companies that invest in training and upskilling their workforce by treating long-term investments in people as an expense akin to high energy bills or spending too much on office supplies.

“Workers are the greatest assets we have in our economy,” said Sen. Warner. “Company disclosures should reflect the importance of human capital in the 21st-century economy, so that investors can evaluate whether a company is making the appropriate investments in its workforce to compete.”

In his letter, Sen. Warner urged the SEC to utilize its rulemaking authority to require companies across the board to provide further details relating to human capital management. Specifically, Sen. Warner encouraged the SEC to revise and modernize Regulation S-K to require public reporting companies to disclose more qualitative and quantitative information regarding human capital. While the SEC would be responsible for developing and finalizing the requirements, human capital disclosures could potentially require firms to make public information about workforce demographics; employee turnover; employee compensation; workforce compensation and incentives; and employee education and training programs.

A copy of the letter to the SEC can be found here. 

 

Shareholders are increasingly demanding more information on non-financial indicators covering a company’s ethical and social practices – what’s known as environmental, social, and government (ESG) reporting. ESG reporting provides transparency on a company’s governance practices, political spending, investment in workforce development and the effect of climate change on financial performance, along with other factors that allow investors to better evaluate potential risk in a tech-driven economy. The SEC has not issued comprehensive standards in this area, leaving it up to businesses to decide how much – if any – information to provide investors on ESG matters. In a companion letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Sen. Warner today asked for a study on the subject analyzing the extent to which firms currently report on ESG issues, and whether Congress and the SEC should act to require such disclosures. A copy of the letter to the GAO can be found here.

 

“As the United States continues to lead the world to a 21st century globalized economy, shareholders are increasingly expecting public companies to disclose material environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues affecting the businesses’ financial performance and communities,” Sen. Warner told the GAO. “Twentieth-century disclosure and accounting requirements be reformed to reflect a dynamic, innovative and sustainable economy.”

 

Advocates, workers and investors today praised the Senator’s requests to the SEC and the GAO:

 

“As investors increasingly call for companies to disclose more information on ESG issues, Senator Warner’s letters arrive at a crucial time to keep the conversation headed in the right direction. The Council of Institutional Investors is supportive of efforts by the SEC to consider enhancements to disclosures that include ESG issues and human capital management. We look forward to the results of the GAO study and to continuing to work with the SEC to consider these and other disclosure issues that have been identified by many long-term investors,” said Jeff Mahoney, General Counsel, Council of Institutional Investors.

 

“Aligning the interests of workers, shareholders, and managers is one of the essential elements of corporate long-termism. Senator Warner is right to make this a priority, and it’s past time the SEC act on the investor petition on human capital disclosures and more,”said Andy Green, Managing Director of Economic Policy, Center for American Progress.

 

“Investors and the public are increasingly focused on how companies manage human capital to improve business performance and contribute to the broader economy. Sen. Warner’s letters to the SEC and GAO raise important and timely issues. We look forward to the results of the GAO study and urge the SEC to move quickly to improve corporate disclosure of human capital issues,” said Damon Silvers, Director of Policy, Special Counsel, AFL-CIO.

 

“Public Citizen applauds Sen Warner's effort to promote corporate disclosures on human capital, environment, political spending and other critical issues. Investors understand that these factors figure at the center of value and have demanded enhanced disclosure, but thus far the SEC has done little to keep pace with this demand,” said Lisa Gilbert, Vice President of Legislative Affairs, Public Citizen.

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced that three Virginia organizations will receive $891,303 in federal funds from the U.S. Department of Labor to help homeless veterans re-enter the workforce. 

The funds – in the form of three competitive Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program (HVRP) grants – include $227,263 for Total Action Against Poverty in Roanoke Valley, Inc.; $355,050 for STOP Inc., in Hampton Roads; and $308,990 for River City Comprehensive Counseling Services in Glen Allen, Va. 

“Virginia’s veterans have made tremendous sacrifices to fight for our nation. Now, we need to fight for them and help ensure that they have the resources they need to succeed and thrive after completing their service,” said the Senators. “These grants will provide homeless veterans with counseling and a variety of career services in order to help them re-integrate into the workforce.” 

HVRP funds are awarded on a competitive basis to state and local workforce investment boards; local public agencies and nonprofit organizations; tribal governments; and faith-based and community organizations. Homeless veterans may receive occupational skills training, apprenticeship opportunities, and on-the-job training, as well as job search and placement assistance. Grantees under the HVRP program will coordinate their efforts with other federal programs, such as the Veterans Affairs Supportive Services for Veteran Families program and the Department of Housing and Urban Development Continuum of Care program.

Sens. Warner and Kaine both have long records of advocating for the nation’s veterans through the appropriations process and legislation they have championed to reduce veteran homelessness, improve job training opportunities for veterans, and expand access to veterans’ health care.

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced that Virginia has received $9,807,162 in AmeriCorps funding from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency responsible for AmeriCorps and other national service programs. 

These grants will ensure 1,448 AmeriCorps members can continue to volunteer their service to communities across the Commonwealth through nonprofits, schools, public agencies, and faith-based groups.

Since 2017, the Trump Administration advocated for drastic cuts to critical national service programs, including CNCS. Earlier this year, Sens. Warner and Kaine supported the omnibus spending bill that included more than $1 billion in funding for CNCS.

“AmeriCorps members across Virginia help create positive change for the communities they serve,” said the Senators.  “From helping to tackle the opioid crisis, to protecting our historic public lands, their volunteer work goes a long way to building a better, stronger Commonwealth. We are pleased to announce continued funding for this important work.”

The projects funded by the AmeriCorps grants are:

  • American National Red Cross DC, Red Cross Corps—Fairfax, Va.—$1,066,400 AmeriCorps Funding; $473,600 Education Awards: members will install and test smoke detectors in neighborhoods vulnerable to natural disasters, especially wildfires.
  • City of Richmond-Human Services Commission, Richmond Area Healthy Futures Project—Richmond, Va.—$138,186 AmeriCorps Funding; $59,200 Education Awards: members will help expand services geared towards the prevention of opioid and heroin addiction and assist in recovery efforts.  
  • CARITAS, CARITAS AmeriCorps—Richmond, Va.—$235,106 AmeriCorps Funding; $100,640 Education Awards: members will help provide services to individuals and families who are homeless achieve affordable housing, assist with job placement efforts, and mentorship programs to help substance abuse recovery.
  • Institute for Advanced Learning & Research, Dan River Year AmeriCorps—Danville, Va.—$235,444 AmeriCorps Funding; $93,655 Education Awards: members will assist with STEM literacy among children and adults.
  • Catholic Charities USA, CCUSA AmeriCorps Peer Navigators—Alexandria, Va.—$118,400 Education Awards: members will help veterans and military families with accessing their benefits and ensuring their educational, social services, and physical/emotional needs.
  • Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Charities USA Refugee Resettlement—Alexandria, Va.—$271,491 AmeriCorps Funding; $142,080 Education Awards: members will assist with the resettlement of 3,000 refugees and other eligible populations, by helping them to assimilate in the U.S. 
  • Student Conservation Association, Inc., SCA AmeriCorps—Arlington, Va.—$321,602 AmeriCorps Funding; $2,505,102 Education Awards: members will engage in a number of projects that aim to protect, restore, and enhance public lands and waterways.
  • Student Conservation Association, Inc., SCA AmeriCorps Stewardship Teams—Arlington, Va.—$177,600 Education Awards: members will help inspire future leaders to become good stewards of the environment.
  • The Nature Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy National AmeriCorps—Arlington, Va.—$328,504 AmeriCorps Funding; $130,240 Education Awards: members will engage in local, state, and national environmental conservation work.

CNCS will also provide an additional $3,800,517 in Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards, a post-service benefit that can be used to cover the costs of post-secondary education or help pay off student loans. In addition, the federal investment announced today will help generate an additional $18,211,236 from the private sector, foundations, and other sources – further increasing the return on the federal investment.

The federal investment today also includes $3,409,912 for the Virginia Office of Volunteerism and Community Service, the Governor-appointed state service commission, to support additional AmeriCorps programs in the state.

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced that Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) will receive $823,698 in federal funding to conduct research that aims to promote the emotional and behavioral well-being for early elementary students (children ages six through eight) in the classroom.

“We are pleased to announce funding to support Virginia Commonwealth University’s research to ensure all children have the ability to thrive in the classroom,” said the Senators. “Their work will be critical in breaking down barriers that prevent many children from achieving academic success.” 

The funding was awarded under the Education Research Program of the National Center for Education Research (NCER). NCER supports rigorous research aimed at improving the quality of education for all students. NCER’s federal funding will allow VCU to test the effectiveness of a pre-existing classroom-based intervention, known as BEST in CLASS, with students in early elementary school. The BEST in CLASS intervention has demonstrated effectiveness with preschool-age children at risk for emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD), yet remains untested for early elementary school-age children at risk for EBD.

The research will occur across eight elementary schools in Virginia and eight elementary schools in Florida, and will include 576 students and families, and 192 kindergarten to second-grade teachers.

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) introduced bipartisan legislation to make it easier for students to get degrees they have already earned by ‘reverse’ transferring college credits from four-year institutions to community colleges.

For certain workers, an associate’s degree or certificate is the most affordable, accessible pathway toward a higher-paying job. Many job openings in growth industries such as cybersecurity and healthcare do not typically require a four-year degree. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly half of employed college graduates across the country are in jobs that require less than a four-year college education. 

“This bipartisan bill will make it easier for people to receive degrees that they’ve already paid for, worked towards, and earned,” said Sen. Warner. “This bill will give schools one more tool to prepare degree seekers for the workforce – equipping them with credentials that would have otherwise been left on the table. These folks will enter the job market with higher earning potential and better positioned to repay any student loan debt they might have accrued. As the Senate works to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, I’m hopeful that we can work together to advance this and other bipartisan, consensus proposals.” 

“I am happy to introduce legislation with Senator Warner to streamline the reverse transfer process. Eliminating this regulatory hurdle will enable millions of students to get credit for their college coursework and finally attain a degree or certificate,” said Sen. Hatch. “Students with a credential are more likely to be employed and earn higher wages than non-credentialed individuals over the course of their lifetime. In an ever-evolving and competitive job market, we must ensure that students are able to get credit for the work they have done so that they can have a better chance for success in today’s workforce.”

Roughly one-third of occupations require some postsecondary education, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce estimates that at current graduation rates, our economy will face a shortage of 5 million workers with the necessary education and training by 2020. Increasing the number of Americans with postsecondary credentials, such as associate’s degrees or certificates, will be essential to addressing this challenge. The National Student Clearinghouse, an educational nonprofit that verifies enrollment data, has identified over four million individuals – including more than 123,000 Virginians – who have completed enough credit hours at a four-year institution to be eligible for an associate’s degree, but instead withdrew without a degree or certificate. 

“This bipartisan legislation will help students get degrees they've earned and save money,” said Sen. Warren. “Washington should make it easier -- not tougher -- for hardworking students to get an education and prepare for their careers.”

“This commonsense bill will help hardworking students get better jobs and enjoy the success they have earned by removing bureaucratic hurdles,” said Sen. Isakson. “I’m glad to introduce this measure as we work to reauthorize the Higher Education Act.” 

The Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act would amend the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to create a new exemption for the sharing of student education records between higher education institutions. “Reverse transfer” refers to the transfer of credits from a four-year institution to a two-year institution that a student previously attended. Currently, students must proactively give permission for their institutions to determine whether they have earned enough credits to be awarded a degree or certificate—a bureaucratic step proven to diminish credential attainment rates.

Facilitating the practice of reverse transfer would ease students’ access to postsecondary credentials they have already earned and better provide for the demands of the future workforce and economy. The bill would allow an institution to share a student’s academic records with another institution that the student previously attended under the condition that the credit information is sent with the goal of conferring a degree, and that the student provides written consent prior to receiving any degree for which he/she is eligible. 

As Virginia's Community Colleges continue working to prepare students with the skills they need to be successful in on-demand jobs and growth industries, credential attainment is a key indicator of their career readiness and our effectiveness in serving them, said Glenn DuBois, Chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges. The bipartisan Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act will provide much needed clarity in facilitating communication between institutions and removing bureaucratic obstacles to credential attainment. I applaud Senators Warner and Hatch for working across the aisle to find common ground and introduce this sensible approach to advancing workforce readiness.”

“AACRAO believes the additional FERPA exception proposed in the reverse transfer legislation represents a responsible means of sharing student information between a student's 4-year and 2-year institution, while ensuring that the student's consent is obtained before awarding a degree or certificate,” stated AACRAO's Executive Director, Michael Reilly. “This legislation will lead to increased education attainment for millions of individuals.”

The legislation has the support of the Virginia Community College System, American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers, American Association of Community Colleges, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, Institute for Higher Education Policy, and Student Veterans of America, among others.

A full list of organizations and higher education systems lending their support for the bill can be found here. For the full text of the bill, click here. 

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced that the College of William and Mary (W&M) will receive $1,199,858 in federal funding to recruit Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) students to become secondary school mathematics and science teachers.

“This critical funding will support the recruitment of math and science teachers to six high need school districts,” said the Senators. “Enhancing STEM education is a critical priority, and we are thrilled that William & Mary students and the National Science Foundation are partnering with schools in the local community to pursue this important endeavor.”

The funds, awarded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), will provide scholarships and stipends to help encourage outstanding mathematics majors to explore a career in education, help students sustain an enduring commitment to teaching STEM, and develop students' ability to connect effectively with diverse communities. As a result of the project, William & Mary hopes to prepare and place 33 new teachers to work with six high needs school districts in rural, suburban and urban schools in Gloucester, New Kent, York, Williamsburg-James City, Newport News and Hampton counties.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine announced $9,442,626 million in federal grant funding through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for Head Start programs throughout Virginia.

“We are thrilled to announce funding through Head Start to ensure young children in Virginia have the resources they need,” the Senators said. “We strongly believe in efforts to support early childhood development that can promote  kids’ readiness for school and beyond.”

The following localities and organizations will receive funding:

  • Child Development Resources Inc. in Williamsburg will receive $1,558,265.
  • Fauquier Community Action Committee Inc. in Warrenton will receive $1,152,617.
  • Northern Virginia Family Service in Oakton will receive $5,324,853.
  • Prince William County Public Schools will receive $1,406,891.

As Governors and Senators, Warner and Kaine have advocated for investments in early childhood education. Head Start programs promote school readiness for children under 5 years old from low-income families through health, education, and social services.

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner (D-VA) issued the following statement on the passing of Dr. Charles W. Steger Jr., President Emeritus of Virginia Tech:

“I’ve known Charles Steger for more than thirty years, and in that time, I always knew him not only as an advocate for Virginia Tech, but for educational opportunity for all Virginians, at every level. I was proud to call him my friend, and I have incredibly fond memories of our fight together to get Tech into the ACC. I know that Dr. Steger will be missed by the whole Tech family.” 

 

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WASHINGTON— After funding cuts threatened the future of National Defense Cadet Corps (NDCC) programs at Goochland High School and Mountain View High School, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) stepped in to help save their programs. 

In November 2017, the Goochland and Stafford County School Boards received notifications from the U.S. Marine Corp (USMC) that they would no longer be eligible for federal funding for the National Defense Cadet Corps programs at Goochland and Mountain View high schools. The funds cover a range of expenses including travel, training, uniforms, and supplies for students who participate each year. After intervention from the Senator’s offices, the Secretary of the Navy authorized the USMC to convert 20 former NDCC programs into U.S. Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) programs, which continue to be eligible for federal funding. Goochland and Mountain View High Schools were on the list of approved schools that qualified for the new recognition.

“JROTC programs teach important values like teamwork, moral character, good citizenship, and service to the nation,” the Senators said. “We are glad to be able to work with the Department of Defense to preserve federal funding for these important programs.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine announced $1,000,000 in federal funding from the National Science Foundation to support high-achieving students with demonstrated financial need as they pursue the cybersecurity program at Old Dominion University (ODU).

“Ensuring students have the support they need to pursue careers in cybersecurity is critical to building our federal workforce and defending the nation’s economic and national security,” the Senators said. “We are thrilled that ODU and the National Science Foundation are partnering to help make that a reality for more students.”  

The funding will provide up to 18 scholarships for students in the cybersecurity program as well as additional mentoring and program activities.

As Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Warner has been a strong voice for protecting the integrity of our election systems, introducing bipartisan legislation to bring accountability to online political ads and secure our elections. He is also the author of bipartisan, bicameral legislation that would provide states and local government funding to counter cyberattacks. As cofounder of the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, Warner has been a leader in calling for the protection of consumers’ personal information and timely disclosure of data breaches, authoring legislation to hold credit reporting agencies accountable for such breaches.

Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, also co-chairs the Senate Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus and has become a leader in the Senate on policies to prepare students for careers in cybersecurity.  Last year, key provisions of Kaine’s DoD Cyber Scholarship Program Act of 2017, which would improve and expand an existing DoD scholarship program for students pursuing degrees in cybersecurity fields, were included in the committee-passed Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act. The DoD Cyber Scholarship Act creates a jobs pipeline from Centers of Academic Excellence (CAE) to the Department of Defense.


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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine announced $1,199,405 in federal funding for Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) to recruit STEM students and prepare them to become secondary school mathematics and science teachers. VCU will collaborate with the Richmond Metro Area’s school districts to address a shortage of math and science teachers that the area has faced for years. 

“We are proud to announce critical funding to support the recruitment of math and science teachers in the Richmond Metro Area,” said the Senators. “Enhancing STEM education is a top priority, and we are thrilled that VCU students and the National Science Foundation have displayed a commitment to pursuing this important endeavor.”

The funding awarded through the National Science Foundation will provide 25 scholarships, stipends, and fellowships for students interested in pursuing teacher training in mathematics and science. The project will fund 12 STEM majors and 13 Masters of Teaching students over 5 years.

 

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Sen. Warner met with ARC Co-Chair last month in his Senate office in Washington

 

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the following statement after the U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed Tim Thomas, President Trump’s nominee to be the Federal Co-Chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission: 

I was proud to support Mr. Thomas’ nomination to lead federal efforts to foster economic development in Appalachia,” said Sen. Warner. “Despite the Administration’s attempt to defund the Appalachian Regional Commission, I worked with my colleagues on a bipartisan funding agreement this week that just increased its funding by $3 million—the highest level approved in decades. Now that he has been confirmed as its co-chair, I trust Mr. Thomas will carry out his duties with a clear focus on expanding economic opportunities in the region and I look forward to working together to achieve this.” 

The Appalachian Regional Commission is a federal-state partnership that has invested in 25,000 projects across Appalachia’s 420 counties. For more than fifty years, ARC has provided funding and support for job-creating community projects across the 13 Appalachian states, producing an average of $204 million in annual earnings for a region often challenged by economic underdevelopment. Since its inception in 1965, ARC has generated over 300,000 jobs and $10 billion for the 25 million Americans living in Appalachia.

A bipartisan Congressional budget agreement passed by Congress this week included a $3 million increase in additional funding for ARC, for a total of $155 million in FY18. In his budget plan, President Trump had proposed eliminating funding for the ARC entirely. In response, Sen. Warner and a bipartisan coalition of Senators who represent Appalachian states called on President Trump to reverse his proposal to zero out funding for this important federal-state partnership. In 2017 alone, Sen. Warner announced over $7 million in ARC grant funding for projects in Virginia’s Appalachian counties.

Sen. Warner serves as a co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Appalachia Initiative, which has laid out a roadmap for bipartisan legislation to jumpstart economic growth in the region. He has introduced bipartisan legislation to support and encourage public-private partnerships in Appalachia that improve regional infrastructure, encourage entrepreneurship, and create jobs.  

Mr. Thomas served on the state staff of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as a field representative based in the Senator’s Bowling Green office. A native Kentuckian, Thomas previously served in the administration of former Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher as a special assistant to the secretary of the Kentucky Environmental Cabinet, handling matters including legislative initiatives for the agency, according to the ARC In a meeting last month, Sen. Warner and Thomas discussed their shared priorities for Appalachia, including workforce development and combatting the opioid crisis.

 

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) met with Tim Thomas, President Trump’s nominee to be the Federal Co-Chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission. During the meeting, Senator Warner and Thomas discussed their shared priorities for Appalachia, including workforce development and combatting the opioid crisis.

“While I remain concerned about the Trump Administration’s proposal to defund the Appalachian Regional Commission, I was encouraged to hear Mr. Thomas lay out his priorities for an active ARC that carries out its mission of fostering economic development in Appalachia,” said Sen. Warner. “When it comes to jumpstarting the region’s economy, we need to take off our Republican and Democratic hats and work together. I encourage my colleagues from both parties to give fair consideration to Mr. Thomas’ nomination for this important post.”

The Appalachian Regional Commission is a federal-state partnership that has invested in 25,000 projects across Appalachia’s 420 counties. For more than fifty years, ARC has provided funding and support for job-creating community projects across the 13 Appalachian states, producing an average of $204 million in annual earnings for a region often challenged by economic underdevelopment. Since its inception in 1965, ARC has generated over 300,000 jobs and $10 billion for the 25 million Americans living in Appalachia.

In his FY2018 budget, President Trump proposed eliminating funding for the ARC entirely. In response, Senator Warner and a bipartisan coalition of Senators who represent Appalachian states called on President Trump to reverse his proposal to zero out funding for this important federal-state partnership. In 2017 alone, Senator Warner announced over $7 million in ARC grant funding for projects in Virginia’s Appalachian counties, including:

  • Falls Mills Senior Center Project (Tazewell County) - $500,000. This grant to the Appalachian Agency for Senior Citizens, Inc., in partnership with the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors, will help build a community service and senior facility at the Falls Mills Elementary School site.
  • Alleghany Highlands Drone Zone (Covington, Va.) - $100,000. This grant will be matched with $100,000 in local funds to complete a feasibility study and design, marketing, and business plan for the new “Alleghany Highlands Drone Zone,” a business accelerator program and facility to support local enterprises in this emerging industry. It is anticipated that space for 12 businesses will be available in a city owned building that has been identified for renovation, and the project is expected to support the creation of three to five new businesses a year, according to ARC.
  • Floyd Regional Commerce Center (Floyd County) - $1,081,958. This grant leverages $30 million in private investment—will fund approximately 0.21 miles of access road, an industrial cul-de-sac, as well as pedestrian and bike path to facilitate Floyd County’s development of the Floyd Regional Commerce Center. The Floyd County Economic Development Authority estimates that completion of the Commerce Center would promote economic development with the potential to support more than 100 new jobs in the region.
  • William King Museum of Art (Abingdon, Va.) - $500,000. This grant will help the William King Museum of Art will help fund Phase 1 of a larger cultural campus expansion project. The funds will go towards access improvements, additional parking and renovating a currently vacant facility that will become the new Center for Studio Art and Education. With the improvements at the campus, 10 artisans will take up residency at the facility, 2 jobs will be created and 2,500 new visitors are anticipated. In addition to ARC funds, local sources will provide $657,000, bringing the total project funding to $1,157,000. 
  • Southwest Virginia Early Childhood Workforce Development (Abington, Va.) - $99,933. This grant will help United Way of Southwest Virginia assist 70 workers obtain child care credentials and improve child development services for 20 existing businesses in a 13-county area. In addition, the grantee will provide training and other assistance to individuals who wish to establish their own childcare programs in underserved areas, resulting in 10 new enterprises capable of serving 120 children. In addition to ARC funds, local sources will provide $61,783 in matching funds. 
  • Project Discovery Program (Abingdon, Va.) - $75,844. This grant will help People Incorporated of Virginia expand its academic advancement and college attendance program to serve more low-income, first-generation college-bound high school students. The project will provide assistance to 60 students with college readiness skills and financial opportunities. The project will serve Dickenson, Buchanan, Russell, and Washington Counties. In additional to ARC funds, local sources will provide $39,391, bringing the total project funding to $113,235.
  • Frog Level Phase II Water Project (Lee County) - $500,000. This grant will help provide reliable public water supply to Lee County as well as support economic development for the newly-established school of veterinary medicine. In addition to ARC funds, state sources will provide $948,680, and local sources will provide $108,652, bringing the total project funding to $1,557,332.
  • Cool & Connected Pennington Gap Project (Pennington Gap, Va.) - $7,500. This grant will help the city of Pennington Gap fund the renovation of space and the creation of a community computer center at the basement of the Lee Theatre, purchase computer equipment, and provide Wi-Fi access in Leeman’s field. In addition to ARC funds, Sunset Digital Communications will provide $4,000, bringing the total project funding to $11,500.
  • Cool & Connected Jonesville Project (Jonesville, Va.) - $7,500. This grant will help fund the renovation of a community computer center in Jonesville, Virginia at an existing town-owned building located in the town’s Cumberland Bowl Park. The minor renovations will include computer equipment and Wi-Fi access at the park. In addition to ARC funds, Sunset Digital Communications will provide $4,000, bringing the total project funding to $11,500.
  • Tacoma Sewer Project (Wise County) - $500,000. The grant will help the Wise County Public Service Authority begin a project that will provide public sewer collection to a previously unserved community of 48 households and two businesses, and eliminate public and environmental health concerns related to improperly disposed raw sewage. In addition to ARC funds, state sources will provide $750,000, and local sources will provide $155,901, bringing the total project funding to $1,405,901.
  • Lyric Theater Project (St. Paul, Va.) - $300,000. This grant will help the Town of St. Paul renovate and stabilize the interior and exterior of the Lyric Theater to stabilize the building. The renovation will equip the building to hold conferences, events and performing arts for visitor and tourists. The facility will be affiliated with The Crooked Road Music Heritage Trail. In addition to ARC funds, local sources will provide $135,000, bringing the total project funding to $435,000.
  • Spearhead Trails in SW Virginia Project (Coeburn, Va.) - $92,300. This grant will help the Southwest Regional Recreation Authority (SRRA) to fund a study that will examine existing and potential economic benefits of the Spearhead Trails on the surrounding region, identify priorities for future development, and help SRRA develop a sustainable organizational model. SRRA was chartered by the Commonwealth of Virginia in 2008 to support outdoor recreation and tourism investment in the Coalfields of Southwest Virginia. In addition to ARC funds, state sources will provide $30,000 and local sources will provide $7,700, bringing the total project funding to $130,000.
  • Donnkenny, Breaks and Tivis Pump Stations Replacement Project (Dickenson County) - $441,740. This grant will help replace three deteriorating below-ground pump stations with above-ground facilities that meet current design standards. The new pump stations will provide water to 571 households and 10 businesses in distressed communities, as well as to nine tourism-related businesses in the Breaks Interstate Park, and will ensure that reliable infrastructure is in place to support future economic development, particularly that which is related to tourism. In addition to ARC funds, state sources will provide $150,000, and local sources will provide an additional $102,260, bringing the total project funding to $694,000.


Senator Warner serves as a co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Appalachia Initiative, which has laid out a roadmap for bipartisan legislation to jumpstart economic growth in the region.

Mr. Thomas currently serves on the state staff of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as a field representative based in the senator’s Bowling Green office. A native Kentuckian, Thomas previously served in the administration of former Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher as a special assistant to the secretary of the Kentucky Environmental Cabinet, handling matters including legislative initiatives for the agency, according to the ARC.

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), along with Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), pressed U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to continue an experimental pilot program that has already helped put 41 low-income high school students on the pathway to college by allowing them to take courses for college credit through Central Virginia Community College in Lynchburg.

In 2016, the Department began a dual enrollment Pell experiment that will allow an estimated 10,000 eligible high school students taking college-credit courses to access, for the first time, federal Pell Grants to pay their tuition costs. In a letter, Sens. Warner and Portman urged Secretary DeVos to commit to collecting data that will help policymakers evaluate the success of the experiment and glean best practices. The letter is a follow-up to a similar letter Sens. Warner and Portman sent in April, which was signed by 16 bipartisan Senators.

“Students who get a head start on college tend to perform much better than their peers, but it’s a simple fact that lower-income students face unique financial challenges in jumpstarting their college educations,” said Sen. Warner. “Central Virginia Community College is leading the way in promoting our understanding of how broader access to the Pell Grant program will help push eligible dual enrollment students one step closer to college completion and success.” 

“As the Commonwealth continues working towards its goals for credential attainment and workforce readiness, we must continue promoting access for low- and moderate income students,” said John Capps, President of Central Virginia Community College. “CVCC is proud to have been selected as a dual enrollment Pell experimental site, and will continue working with state and federal partners to ensure its success. We should take advantage of every opportunity to learn from this process, identify best practices, and bring them to scale.” 

Central Virginia Community College is one of 42 sites nationwide participating in the experiment. As of fall 2017, 41 students participating in the experiment at Central Virginia Community College have been awarded Pell Grants totaling $193,720, expanding opportunities for low-income students who might not have otherwise been able to access higher education. 

Sens. Warner and Portman have championed legislation that would permanently expand Pell Grant eligibility to early college high school students. Sen Warner also led efforts to expand access to dual and concurrent enrollment in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

A copy of the Senators’ letter is available here. The full text also appears below.

 

The Honorable Betsy DeVos

Secretary

U.S. Department of Education

400 Maryland Avenue, SW

Washington, DC 20202-1510

 

Dear Secretary DeVos:

We write to follow up with you regarding the bipartisan letter that we and 14 of our colleagues submitted in April 2017 regarding our interest in and commitment to the U.S. Department of Education’s ongoing institution-based experiment to provide access to Pell Grants for students participating in dual enrollment programs. As part of that letter, we also requested that the Department continue the experiment and determine an appropriate mechanism for evaluating this important project. A copy of the previous letter is attached. 

In the Department’s recent announcement of its information collection activities for the experimental site, entitled “Agency Information Collection Activities; Comment Request; Experimental Sites Initiative Reporting Tool 2017,” we were disappointed to see so few questions specifically addressing the dual enrollment experiment. There is significant useful information that can be gleaned from descriptive statistics, and we encourage the Department to amend its information collection activities for the experimental site for dual enrollment to include such questions.

We appreciate your consideration of this request.

 

 

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