Over the next few weeks, students across Southwest Alabama will head back to school. The start of a new school year always comes with special emotions for students, parents and teachers.
In Washington, I am the only Member of Congress from Alabama who serves on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, which has jurisdiction over K-12 education. Through this position, I am able to advocate for our local teachers, students and parents.
When it comes to education policy, my top priority is always to return control and authority to the local level. I do not want bureaucrats in Washington telling teachers back in Alabama how to do their job. It is exactly this kind of top-down, Washington-knows-best mentality that has failed our students for many years.
Each August, I convene a meeting of our local school superintendents to preview the new school year and discuss issues that impact our local students and teachers. We held the meeting last week in Bay Minette, and our discussion was very informative.
Their top concern this year is school safety, and I agree with them. I know our local administrators are taking steps to ensure that every student remains safe at school, and I am committed to working with our local leaders to make sure they have the resources they need.
For example, the House has passed legislation to increase grant funding for school safety programs. We need to set aside more money for school resource officers and other tools to help keep our schools safe.
In almost every school shooting, warning signs were there, but they went unreported or officials did not know how to properly respond. I want to change that.
I am also working on legislation that would help make information and research available to all our school officials. This information would help our teachers, counselors, and principals better spot students who are at a high risk of potentially becoming a school shooter.
Another issue important to our schools is career and technical education. I’ve been to many of our local schools and seen these programs firsthand. They work incredibly well, and we need to do more to support them.
I’m pleased to report that just last week President Trump signed the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act into law. This bipartisan bill passed both the House and the Senate without a single dissenting vote.
Since it wasn’t controversial, the national news media ignored the bill, but it is a monumental achievement that will go a long way toward getting students the skills they need to thrive in the 21st Century economy.
See, career and technical education is all about matching the needs of the workforce with students. Despite what some want you to believe, students don’t need to go to a four-year college to be successful. In fact, many students who go through a career/technical education program go on to make more money than those with a regular four-year degree.
We have more unfilled jobs in our country today than we have unemployed Americans. That’s a good thing, but it means we need to do a better job of training the workforce of tomorrow. By passing this bill, we took a big step in the right direction.
So, as our students head back to school over the coming weeks, I am going to continue advocating for stronger local control over education and fighting for the issues that our local leaders say are important, like school safety and career/technical education.
I wish all our students, teachers, principals, faculty and parents all the best as they kick off a new school year!
U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.