by Colleen Flaherty
Tammy Baldwin made history this past election. When she defeated former Gov. Tommy Thompson in her bid for a U.S. Senate seat, she became Wisconsin’s first female senator and the first openly gay senator in U.S. history. While Baldwin admits this is an important milestone, her win means much more than that.
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“I didn’t run to make history. I ran to make a difference,” said Baldwin in her victory speech.
Baldwin was awarded an “A” in the NEA’s most recent Legislative Report Card for her work in the U.S. House of Representatives. As someone who has constantly fought for the marginalized and overlooked, one of her most important goals in elected office has been providing the best education for all students.
“I have spent my career in public service with a deep commitment to providing every child a great school and a quality education so they can realize their dreams,” said Baldwin
This isn’t her first time making history. In 1993, she was the first lesbian elected to the Wisconsin Assembly at a time when there were very few openly gay politicians nationwide. As a state legislator, she fought tirelessly for teachers and education funding for Wisconsin public schools in her time as chairperson of the Education Committee.
In 1998, she was elected to her first of seven terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. In her time as a representative, she has been a friend to public education. She has sponsored legislation to improve access to early learning and child care programs. She supported the emergency K-12 funding in the Recovery Act that saved approximately 286,000 jobs in public schools across the country.
“I am a strong believer in investing early to build a foundation for success. That’s why I have fought to protect and expand our investments in early childhood education programs and will continue to do so in the U.S. Senate,” said Baldwin.
In her new role as senator, she has been assigned to the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) alongside former teacher and middle class advocate Elizabeth Warren. This committee plays a critical role concerning education policies and programs from pre-K through higher education.
As a committee member, Baldwin said she will continue her fight to make higher education affordable, a cause she championed in the House. As a representative, she voted to reauthorize the Higher Education Act in 2008, supported doubling the maximum number of Pell Grants and voted to overhaul the student loan program, which took away more than $60 million of profit that big banks were making off of students, all while working to prevent student loan interest rates from skyrocketing.
“I look forward to continuing my work to make higher education more affordable for students and focusing on support for our technical schools and jobs training programs,” said Baldwin. “Providing everyone a quality, affordable education is the most important thing we can do to compete and win in the global economy.”
In order to strengthen and grow the middle class, we must keep our commitment to investing in our educators and public schools. As we work to move our economy forward, I believe a strong investment in education must be at the foundation of our efforts, and building that foundation will be a top priority of mine in the U.S. Senate.