VICKY'S VIEW: Back to the Books
Back to the Books
Over the past several weeks students across Missouri’s Fourth Congressional District have returned to school. As our young people restart old routines, cheer at football games, get to know new classmates and teachers, and experience the first hints of fall, I wanted to share some important education-related items that Congress has been working on.
Promoting Career and Technical Education
This summer the President signed into law H.R. 2353, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, on July 31st. Currently, there are 6.7 million unfilled, in-demand jobs throughout the United States for which employers can’t find skilled workers. Thanks to this new law, which I supported, American students will be better prepared to fill in-demand jobs in their local communities and businesses will have access to trained workers. Specifically, the law gives state leaders the flexibility to direct more federal funds to CTE programs and allows them to create their own measurements for CTE program success. It also encourages stronger partnerships between local employers, business leaders, and schools to develop CTE education and performance goals to match workforce needs in the community.
Making our School Lunches Better
Recently, I introduced H.R. 6541, the Local Control of School Lunch Act. My bill ensures school lunch decisions are made at the local level so that parents, teachers, and administrators can work together to decide what is best for their children. Current federal rules for the National School Lunch Program require schools to use a one-size-fits-all formula that either leaves kids hungry because they don’t have enough, or throwing away large quantities of food they don’t like or want. This has got to stop. Local school officials and parents - not Washington bureaucrats - know what is best to serve our kids.
Helping Alleviate Student Debt
This week the House took up and passed the Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act, H.R. 3179, to strengthen financial literacy by improving counseling for federal student loan recipients. Many students are simply not aware of how much take home pay they can expect at a first job, how much monthly payments will be for their debt, or even what the job market is for jobs related to their major. This is a massive problem. I am pleased to have authored a provision in the bill that I believe would help fix the problem, by encouraging colleges and universities to conduct face-to-face counseling (instead of an online notification) for any student who takes out a student loan. The impending economic crisis caused by waves of students defaulting on their student loans is a bipartisan issue, and we must work together to make sure our students are informed.
Fighting for Rural America
Negotiations between the House and Senate on the 2018 Farm Bill are underway. As one of the few working farmers serving in Congress, I am pleased to serve as a conferee where I will help iron out differences between the two versions of this important bill. Our first public conference meeting was Wednesday, and I am hopeful we will continue to move forward in an efficient manner to ensure all Americans have access to a safe, affordable food supply.
Currently the bill prioritizes a strong safety net and crop insurance programs for our farmers, fully funds the foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) vaccine bank, increases access to rural broadband, and makes common sense reforms to conservation programs. Additionally, it empowers states with more flexibility so they can make decisions closer to the local farmers, ranchers, and landowners involved in federal programs.
It is imperative that able-bodied adults (without young dependents) who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, or food stamps, work or actively look for employment. We want every SNAP recipient to feel the pride of bringing home a paycheck and supporting their family, which is why the House version of the Farm Bill makes historic investments to provide out-of-work Missourians and other Americans with the job training skills they need to gain meaningful employment. Additionally, our bill would allow SNAP recipients to train for 20 hours a week in lieu of working if they cannot find a job. I will update you as this negotiation process moves forward.
Photos of the Week
I was excited on Wednesday morning to get to work on resolving differences between the House and Senate 2018 Farm Bill. This bill will help farmers feed our nation’s families, and it will match unemployed and underemployed recipients with open jobs (through work training) so they can find work to support themselves and their families.
This week I had the opportunity to put together special United Service Organizations (USO) care packages for service members’ spouses. We owe these selfless patriots our gratitude for the sacrifices their family goes through for our nation.
The Torchbearer Award is awarded by the Chaplains Alliance to individuals who have carried the high torch of religious liberty for military personnel. I was honored on Wednesday evening to receive this year’s award.
How Tax Reform is Working for You
Tax reform continues to have positive results across America. Debbie McFarland, the owner of McFarland Interiors, wrote in The Kansas City Star about how tax reform is helping her business and employees. She writes about the tax deduction, “With these added funds, I am able to upgrade my equipment, invest in new product lines and hire more contractors. According to a list compiled by Americans for Tax Reform, I am one of just hundreds of businesses across the country to reinvest its tax code savings into its employees. No wonder small business and consumer sentiment are pivoting around all-time highs as both groups have more cash on hand because of these tax cuts.”
Weekly Dose of Good News
As I drove through Harrisonville Tuesday morning, I saw four “Now Hiring” advertisements within two blocks of each other. These are great signs of the times; more jobs are being created as a result of our booming economy! America added 201,000 jobs in August and 4 million since November 2016! Wage growth has also risen, with a 2.9% increase in average hourly earnings for the year. These are all signs that America is on its ways up and that we’re on the right track.