I recently returned to the halls of my high school. It’s been quite a few years since I attended Lincoln Southeast High School as a student, and I was delighted to learn of the wonderful opportunities for current students from Principal Brent Toalson.

As I passed by the lockers, bustling classrooms, and friendly faces of students, I reflected on my own time at Lincoln Southeast studying the periodic table, reading “The Odyssey,” and dreaming of the future. There were teachers I adored, and even some I feared. But I would not be who I am today if not for their dedication to my learning.

My experience at Lincoln Southeast was not unique. Nebraska schools from Omaha to Scottsbluff, and everywhere in between, are filled with dedicated teachers who work hard every day to prepare the next generation of leaders for success. Our teachers exercise great patience and often go the extra mile to create engaging lessons that will reach every student and provide the right tools for future careers.

Providing a quality education for our children is the greatest investment we can make as a nation. I have firsthand knowledge of the important role this plays in our children's future. My mother was a teacher, and I served on my local school board, the Nebraska School Finance Review Committee, and as president of the Nebraska Association of School Boards. These experiences helped with my work as a state lawmaker, and I continue to draw upon the knowledge I gained from these institutions as a member of the U.S. Senate.

That is why I strongly believe education decisions are best made at the local level. As part of my recent visit to Lincoln Southeast, I visited with Dr. Steve Joel, the superintendent of Lincoln Public Schools. During our time together, we discussed several important education policy issues, including the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which is a current issue before Congress.

In the Senate, we’ve had a successful year advancing policies to help Nebraska schools and Nebraska students.

Over the summer, we passed the Every Child Achieves Act, which is a bill that will provide states with greater control over their education policies. For years, requirements resulting from the No Child Left Behind law have caused over-testing and forced educators to “teach to the test” rather than provide students with the knowledge and tools they need. By ending the federal test-based accountability system, the Every Child Achieves Act would also give states the ability to determine how to use federally required tests for accountability purposes.

This legislation included a local governance amendment, which I introduced with the support of Senators Angus King of Maine and Jon Tester of Montana. The bipartisan amendment ensures that local school districts are not coerced into adopting misguided education requirements. It also ensures that local stakeholders have a stronger voice in both the regulatory and guidance processes.

With the Every Child Achieves Act, we can return control to local schools, parents, school boards, teachers, and communities so they can determine the best policies for their unique situation.

In closing, I would like to thank the great teachers and students at Lincoln Southeast who truly made my return to campus a wonderful experience. Enjoy the rest of the school year. Remember, once a Knight, always a Knight.

Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.