Strong Schools Mean a Stronger Economy

"I applaud Congresswoman Hirono's longstanding commitment to early childhood learning. Her leadership and support… will play an important role in fulfilling President Obama's commitment to give America's children the educational tools they need to succeed."

-U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

Just as a house with no foundation will not stand, or a tree without roots cannot grow -- a nation without strong public schools, and a deep commitment to lifelong learning, cannot prosper.

I suspect you and I agree that education isn't just another "issue" we hear about on the news or see debated in political campaigns. Education is essential. Strong public schools are the key to a stronger economy -- for Hawaii and our entire country.

I know the life-changing power of a good education firsthand. When I was nearly eight years old, my mother planned carefully and courageously to flee her abusive marriage in Japan, and brought us to America to start a new life. We arrived in Hawaii with little more than the clothes on our backs.

The financial struggles our family endured were many. She raised three children as a single parent. It was my mother's courage, her abiding faith in the promise of America, and her deep commitment to educating her children that made me who I am today.

Strong public schools and commitment to early-childhood learning have the power to shape the minds and futures of every child in Hawaii. No child is expendable. None of our keiki can ever have their American Dream denied. Not even one.

It's why I believe commitment to public education may be the most important quality Hawaii needs in our next United States senator. Our state, our children, our families, and our future cannot abide a U.S. senator whose dedication to strong public schools is open to question. In Hawaii, we have suffered the shameful consequences when politicians squabble over, rather than strengthen, our local schools. The people of Hawaii have no tolerance for embarrassments like "Furlough Fridays" that shortchange our keiki, their futures, or our economy.

A deep personal commitment to education has also guided my work in Congress since I began representing Hawaii there in 2007.  I'm proud to be an active member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce -- where I've been an outspoken advocate for fixing and reforming the No Child Left Behind Law, and have helped secure more than $115 million in federal education funding for Hawaii's children, teachers, and schools. 

Education -- particularly early-childhood education -- was also my top priority when I was honored to serve as Hawaii's lieutenant governor. I was proud to work with parents and teachers, business leaders, and local communities to create our state's Pre-Plus program. I've built on that work in Congress, where it was humbling to be named Pre-K Now's "National Pre-K Champion" in recognition of my work preparing America's children to thrive in kindergarten years before they first arrive in the classroom. Those efforts include winning a provision in the 2007 reauthorization of America's Head Start program that ensures preschool teachers are trained only by people with demonstrated expertise in infant and toddler development, and writing The Providing Resources Early for Kids (PRE-K) Act to establish a federal grant program that supports states in providing high-quality preschool opportunities for America's youngest children.

As I look to the U.S. Senate, I want to see more focus on our children, their futures and the critical impact strong schools have on our nation's continued prosperity. Education truly is, as many have called it, "the great equalizer." My own life, my own experiences, is a testament to this. By focusing on education -- especially subjects like math and science and technology -- we can help prepare our children for the jobs and careers of tomorrow, and provide Hawaii's businesses with the educated workforce they need to thrive and innovate.

Education means economic opportunity. And in the U.S. Senate, you will never have to doubt that, every single day, I'm taking every opportunity to strengthen Hawaii's public schools.