As a father, I understand the importance for all parents in South Dakota to know that educators have the tools they need to ensure that children can reach their full potential.

Under Republican leadership, Congress has enacted important legislation to refine and strengthen our public education system through the reauthorization of federal K-12 education laws. By passing the Every Student Succeeds Act, Congress has returned flexibility and key decision making to states and local governments. Moreover, Congress ended federal mandates to adopt or maintain particular standards, including the Common Core State Standards. Now, South Dakota will be able to determine its own accountability system for schools and student curriculum.

Three of my proposals were included in this important legislation, one of which modernized the federal Impact Aid program, a program designed to assist local school districts that have lost tax property revenue due to the presence of tax-exempt federal property or activities.

Growing up in Murdo as a son of two educators, I understand the challenges communities across South Dakota face in ensuring a high-quality education for all students. South Dakota has more than 125,000 students across more than 77,000 square miles. The school districts across our state face different challenges than what districts in many other states face, and it is important for Congress to recognize the unique needs of rural areas as we consider public education.

I will continue to support education proposals that give schools the necessary resources and flexibility while keeping them accountable to taxpayers, parents, local school boards, and students.

Similarly, I recognize that access to higher education can provide individuals with the opportunities they need to find success in their careers. Unfortunately, students across the United States continue to face tough economic times as middle-class families struggle and the cost of higher education continues to grow.

That is why I introduced the bipartisan Employer Participation in Repayment Act with Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.). If enacted, this legislation would give individuals the flexibility they need to work with private companies to secure lower interest rates on their loans and permit employers to pay part of their employees’ loans back using pre-tax dollars.

College affordability proposals should focus on loan repayment options and student borrower protections. I believe that every student should have the chance to pursue higher education and that we must support legislation that will responsibly foster academic opportunities and address the problem of the rising cost of higher education. Additionally, we must enact policies that grow the economy and improve wages to support recent college graduates as they enter the workforce.

As your U.S. senator, I will continue promoting sensible reforms that expand opportunities for students and graduates to further their education and join the workforce.