Heading Back to School
I can’t believe it is almost September. We’re dusting off our backpacks and lunchboxes in the Kilmer household, figuring out that first day outfit and stocking up on school supplies for the year ahead.
Across the region, college students are packing the car, and teachers are putting the final touches on their classrooms.
As we gear up for another year and students everywhere recommit to doing their best (and savor these final evenings without homework), it is a great time discuss the work Congress needs to do to ensure people get a top-notch education.
Working for Teachers
Last week I met with about 800 teachers from across Kitsap County gearing up for this year.
We talked about how Congress can do more to make one of the most important jobs in America a little easier.
Consider this quote from a policy researcher at Third Way:
“The average teacher coming out of school with a master’s degree in education today owes approximately $50,000 in student loan debt. To put that in perspective, that’s $8,000 more than the average debt for a candidate with a newly-minted MBA. Yet the average salary for this same master’s degree-holding teacher within their first five years of their career is less than $46,000.”
That doesn’t seem right. As the son of two school teachers, I admire the important work done by those who spend every day in the classroom investing in our kids. Folks shouldn’t have to think twice about whether teaching is a career path they can afford.
One way Congress could help right now is by passing the Teacher Loan Repayment Act, a bipartisan bill I introduced with Representative Susan Brooks from Indiana. Our bill would simplify and strengthen the existing student loan repayment programs that are complicated and inadequate. That would help teachers better afford their degrees and enable them to go into their chosen profession.
I also visited the Peninsula School District’s Back to School event and visited with the new Superintendent, Art Jarvis. Welcome aboard Art!
Making College More Affordable
Not everyone is going to go to college. But we know that more and more jobs will likely require a degree or certification beyond high school. That’s just one reason why Congress should make pursuing additional education more affordable.
We know as educational levels rise, so do incomes.
Education opens the door to opportunity. For many folks, including yours truly, financial aid is the key to that door. But our financial aid programs aren’t keeping pace with the rising costs of college.
That’s why I introduced the Opportunities for Success Act, which reforms the Federal Work Study program.
And, Congress can do far more to ensure that students can get a quality degree without ending up deep in debt, including modernizing the Pell Grant program.
Big thanks to Dorian and Miranda, interns that I got to meet at Fred Hutch when I took a tour a few days ago.
I’m working hard on opening doors to education because I think Congress needs to do a whole lot more to create more economic opportunity for more people in more places.
A few days ago, I called for a new national focus on workforce development at the Association of Washington Business Federal Affairs Summit in Tacoma.
I talked about how Washington is the nation’s #1 importer of talent.
That means more people from out of state are filling the open jobs in Washington than any other state (which is also contributing to our skyrocketing housing prices).
It means in too many towns in Washington, the largest export is our kids seeking opportunities somewhere else.
There’s so much Congress can do on this front. I’m pushing for Washington, DC to invest more in apprenticeships, help connect folks to the skilled trades, and to expand shop class and other career and technical education programs. In fact, in the weeks ahead, I’ll be introducing a new bill to provide more federal support to K-12 schools for career-connected learning programs that help young people develop skills that can lead to a job.
I also introduced the bipartisan Skills Investment Act, so folks can build funds over the course of their careers and use them to learn a new skill if they’re out of work or want to change gears in their career.
You can learn a little more about the AWB’s summit here.
Making Smart Decisions for our Economy
Finally, part of making progress for our economy means protecting the jobs we have.
I’ve written before about my concerns regarding the Trump Administration’s proposal to expand offshore drilling. I’m concerned that such an expansion could not only cause environmental damage – it could hurt our fisheries, our shellfish growers, and our tourism industry.
Last week at Rialto Beach, I joined Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson as well as Quinault Indian Nation President Fawn Sharp and members of our community to send a loud and clear message that Washington’s waters should be off limits to offshore drilling. Our state’s coastal waterways and oceans support 560,000 jobs and a $26 billion economy. We shouldn’t undermine that.
I also traveled to Aberdeen, where I talked with local businesses about the need for smart policy decisions in DC when it comes to trade.
Trade policy isn’t an abstract DC debate. The uncertainty caused by the mounting trade war has real impacts in our region. As I heard during my visit to the offices of Greater Grays Harbor Incorporated, these tariffs mean fewer orders for businesses in Cosmopolis and retaliatory markups on steel and sodium which makes it costlier to manufacture goods in Montesano and Elma.
All of that could mean higher prices, smaller paychecks and fewer jobs.
Good trade policy means more people around the world buying products stamped “Made in Washington.” I spoke with The Daily World about my meeting and the path forward.
Working for You
It’s been a busy two weeks traveling across the region. Here’s what else I’ve been up to:
Honoring those who serve
Last week in Elma I had the privilege of hosting a pinning ceremony for Vietnam veterans as part of the national commemoration of the Vietnam War. I was able to present a commemorative pin to 63 veterans in front of a large crowd at the Elma Eagles Club. To all who served: thank you.
Visiting Harbor Roots Farm
I had a great time touring the Harbor Roots Farm, which runs a sustainable farming apprenticeship program for folks looking for new skills and a job. Thanks for having me and for the great work you’re doing.
Kilmer at Your Companies
I hosted a whole bunch of Kilmer at Your Company visits over the last couple of weeks. I stopped into Grifols Biomat, Sound Credit Union, Startup253, and the Odd Otter in Tacoma. On Bainbridge, I visited Storyville Coffee Company and Office XPats. And I had an awesome tour of the Overstock.com facility in Elma, which opened last year and now employs more than 150 people.
Talking Farm Policy in Kitsap
I talked about the Farm Bill with some awesome farmers who work with the Kitsap Community and Agricultural Alliance and the Kitsap Conservation District. Big thanks to the Full Tilth Farm, Around the Table Farm, and Pheasant Fields Farm for hosting me.
Celebrating Local Culture
In addition to hitting a whole bunch of county fairs over the last couple of weeks, I enjoyed heading out to Neah Bay this past weekend for Makah Days. Sophie and I had fun participating in the annual parade, taking part in the ceremonial flag raising, eating some delicious salmon and fry bread, and enjoying an extraordinary celebration of the Tribe’s culture and heritage.
OK - that’s it for this update. Please holler if I can ever lend a hand. As always, it’s my honor to represent you.
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