Congressman Steve Cohen

Representing the 9th District of Tennessee

Education

Education is one of the top concerns among families in the Ninth District. I am proud to represent and work with the District's many schools, enrichment centers, and institutions of higher education serve to educate.

I meet regularly with groups including the Memphis Education Association and the Tennessee Education Association and I will continue to hear their concerns as Congress works on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and other legislation that affects Tennessee’s students. It is an honor to work closely with the esteemed colleges and universities in Tennessee’s 9th District; the opportunities they provide for our community are immense and I am committed to supporting them.

From my regular school visits to read with young learners and the meetings I hold with university officials and researchers to my communications with members of the House Education Committee, I enjoy every opportunity to learn about Memphis’s needs and to advocate for education at all levels.

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For 18 years, I worked tirelessly to initiate and pass the Tennessee Lottery to fund college scholarships, after-school programs, and pre-K education for Tennessee’s students.  Today, I am proud to continue working to improve education from the U.S. House of Representatives. Click on the banner below for more information on how the Tennessee Lottery can help you pay for college.

In keeping with my dedication to education, I have introduced the Restorative Justice in Schools Act, the MORE Teachers Act and the Positive Reduction of Incarceration by Maximizing Education (PRIME) Act.  In addition to these two bills, I have also co sponsored several bills in order to improve our educational system.

Legislative Highlights:

Congressman Cohen introduced the Private Student Loan Bankruptcy Act of 2015 (H.R. 1674).  The bill ensures privately issued student loans will once again be treated like other consumer debt and be dischargeable in bankruptcy.  Due to changes Congress made to bankruptcy laws 10 years ago, student loans made by private, for-profit lenders are currently very difficult to discharge in bankruptcy.

Congressman Cohen is a cosponsor of the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act (H.R. 1434).  This allows undergraduates with public or private student loans to refinance their loans at 3.86%, graduate students with public or private student loans to refinance their loans at 5.41%, and parents with loans for their children’s education to refinance their loans at 6.41%.

Congressman Cohen is a cosponsor of the Student Loan Tax Debt Relief Act (H.R. 2429).  This reduces the tax burden on student borrowers by excluding from gross income the income that results from the discharge of a student loan as a part of income-based and income-contingent and repayment plans.

Congressman Cohen is a cosponsor of the Stopping Abusive Student Loan Collection Practices in Bankruptcy Act of 2015 (H.R. 100).  This bill allows an individual whose student loan is discharged due to undue hardship to recover attorney’s fees and costs involved in the discharge proceeding if the position of the creditor was not substantially justified.

In 2015, Congressman Cohen, along with Congressman Mark Takano (D-CA) and Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-CA) introduced the Protections and Regulation for Our (PRO) Students Act (H.R. 2192).  This bill protects students from deceitful practices and bad actors in the for-profit college industry.  It provides stricter guidelines for colleges, ensures that students have access to important and accurate information and data, strengthens oversight and regulation, and holds schools accountable for violations and poor performance.

Congressman Cohen offered an amendment to the Student Success Act (H.R. 5), also known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Reauthorization Act to allow Title II funds to be used for restorative justice and conflict resolution training.  Using these techniques rather than suspension, expulsion or involving the police has been proven to reduce the School-to-Prison Pipeline.  The amendment passed the House on July 8, 2015.  The final bill (S. 1177), now law, makes funds available to states to provide professional development on restorative justice and conflict resolution, giving teachers the tools they need to address disciplinary problems in ways other than suspensions or by involving law enforcement, and giving students the chance to stay in school, and out of the school-to-prison pipeline.

Congressman Cohen introduced the bipartisan Protecting Our Students and Taxpayers (POST) Act of 2015 (H.R. 4101). This bill helps stop for-profit colleges from aggressively targeting veterans and active-duty service members by eliminating the powerful financial incentives that cause them to do so. This legislation requires for-profit colleges to derive a minimum of 15% of their revenue from non-federal sources in order to be eligible to receive any federal funding (without this legislation, the minimum is only 10%). It also eliminates various loopholes and accounting tricks that for-profit colleges have exploited.

Congressman Cohen is a cosponsor of the Equal Access to Quality Education Act (H.R. 2149).  This bill provides grants to partnerships between high-needs local educational agencies and institutions of higher education to establish or support teacher preparation programs and teacher induction and retention programs.

Congressman Cohen is a co-sponsor of the Put School Counselors Where They’re Needed Act (H.R.2022).  This bill authorizes a demonstration program to place additional professional secondary school counselors in high schools with drop-out rates of 40 percent or more. 

Restorative Justice in Schools Act

The Restorative Justice in Schools Act would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) to allow local educational agencies to use the funds to provide professional development activities that train school personnel to use restorative justice as a means of conflict resolution.

Restorative justice is a method that aims to resolve conflicts between students in a manner that focuses on the victim and the offender of a wrong-doing.  In employing this method, school personnel will focus on the victim and the offender by opening up a mediated dialogue between the two so that each is made more aware of the harm caused by the act.  By making the offender more aware of the harm that they have caused to the victim and the community, restorative justice allows the aggressor to take responsibility for his or her action.  Unlike traditional punishment, this can prevent the use of penalties such as incarceration that are often times, too harsh, expensive, and counter-productive, leading to repeat offenses.  This method also allows for victims to heal, reducing the inclination of the victim to become an aggressor, creating an adversarial atmosphere that is harmful to both parties.

With the passage of this legislation, we can equip our teachers and counselors with the necessary tools to use restorative justice as a means to resolve minor student conflicts.

Maximizing Oppoertunity and Retaining Experienced Teachers (MORE Teachers) Act

I introduced the Maximizing Opportunity and Retaining Experienced Teachers Act (MORE Teachers Act) to help address teacher shortages and retain qualified, experienced teachers. The legislation, which is supported by both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, would make teachers who teach in geographic areas with teacher shortages and those who teach an underserved subject matter eligible for up to $17,500 of federal loan forgiveness if they stay in their position for 5 years.

Current loan forgiveness programs under the Taxpayer-Teacher Protection Act of 2004, a law sponsored by then-Chairman of the House Committee on Education and Workforce John Boehner (OH-08), provide $5,000 of loan forgiveness for Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) and Federal Direct Loans for most teachers after five years of teaching. STEM teachers and special education teachers can receive up to $17,500 in loan forgiveness after five years. My MORE Teachers Act would simply amend this law to make teachers who are teaching in geographic and subject matter shortage areas eligible for the higher loan forgiveness amount.

Positive Reduction of Incarceration by Maximizing Education (PRIME) Act

The Positive Reduction of Incarceration by Maximizing Education (PRIME) Act as a means to promote the choice of education vs. incarceration.  About one in every ten young male high school dropouts is in jail or juvenile detention, compared with one in thirty-five young male high school graduates. This legislation arises out of research that has demonstrated increased education is directly related to reduced incarceration.   America's youth must be exposed to the concrete benefits of academic accomplishment.

A positive public awareness campaign will increase public appreciation for the correlation between failed education and increased incarceration. Public awareness campaigns can serve as positive and useful vehicles for disseminating information to our youth.  This legislation would authorize the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to use existing resources to establish public awareness campaigns focused on promoting the advantages of continued education among youth. With the passage of this bill we can reduce the incarceration rate of our youth.

Throughout my career in Congress, I have helped pass several bills aimed at improving educational access and standards for students elementary to collegiate, including: 

H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which became law in February of 2009, created and saved two million jobs, 300,000 of which are teaching and education-related jobs, according to the Congressional Budget Office. It also increased the amount in the Pell Grant scholarship by $500 for eligible students, and provided $2.4 billion in federal support to help colleges and universities as enrollments escalate.

H.R. 4872, the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA), was part of the broader "Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010." SAFRA increases Pell Grants, making college loans more affordable, and strengthens community colleges - while reducing the federal deficit by ending wasteful student loan subsidies to banks. More specifically, SAFRA invests $36 billion over 10 years to increase the maximum annual Pell Grant scholarship to $5,550 in 2010 and to $5,975 by 2017. Starting in 2013, the scholarship will be linked to match rising costs-of-living by indexing it to the Consumer Price Index. This includes an investment of $13.5 billion to fund a shortfall in the Pell Grant scholarship program due to increased demand for the scholarship. It also invests $750 million to bolster college access and completion support for students. It will increase funding for the College Access Challenge Grant program, and will also fund innovative programs at states and institutions that focus on increasing financial literacy and helping retain and graduate students. SAFRA makes federal loans more affordable for borrowers to repay by investing $1.5 billion to strengthen an Income-Based Repayment program that currently allows borrowers to cap their monthly federal student loan payments at 15 percent of their discretionary income. These new provisions would lower this monthly cap to just 10 percent for new borrowers after 2014. Additionally, the act invests $2.55 billion in Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions to provide students with the support they need to stay in school and graduate, and provides $2 billion in a competitive grant program for community colleges to develop and improve educational or career training programs.

H.R. 1380, the Josh Miller Helping Everyone Access Responsive Treatment in Schools Act of 2009 (HEARTS Act) has been passed in an effort to raise the health and safety standards of our schools.  The act provides funding to purchase automated external defibrillators for use in elementary and secondary schools served by the local educational agency, and to provide training to enable elementary and secondary schools served by the local educational agency.

H.R. 4247, the Keeping All Students Safe Act, was passed in order to prevent and reduce the use of physical restraint and seclusion in schools. This act will protect our youth from physical or mental abuse, aversive behavioral interventions that compromise health and safety, and any physical restraint or seclusion imposed solely for purposes of discipline or convenience, in order to ensure physical restraint and seclusion are imposed in school only when a student's behavior poses an imminent danger of physical injury to the student, school personnel, or others.

H.R. 4137, the Higher Education Opportunity Act.

More on Education

March 24, 2017 Enewsletters

Dear Friend,

February 28, 2017 Press Release

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] — Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) tonight released the following statement on the address by President Donald Trump to a joint session of Congress:

February 3, 2017 Enewsletters

Dear Friend,

February 1, 2017 Press Release

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) today attended a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Hearing entitled Building a 21st Century Infrastructure for America with FedEx Chairman and CEO Fred Smith.

January 11, 2017 Press Release

Washington, D.C. (Jan. 11, 2016) — Today, Congressmen Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-TN), and Steve Cohen (D-TN) sent a letter to Congressmen Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, to request a hearing on school bus safety.

December 16, 2016 Enewsletters

Dear Friend,

December 14, 2016 Press Release

[MEMPHIS, TN] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) today announced that the Shelby County Board of Education has been awarded an $11,530,676 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to support Head Start projects.

October 28, 2016 Enewsletters

Dear Friend,

October 27, 2016 Press Release

[MEMPHIS, TN] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) expressed concern about Tennessee Promise freezing the HOPE Scholarship Program in the wake of rising college tuition costs in Tennessee. For 20 years in the Tennessee General Assembly, then-State Senator Cohen worked to create the Tennessee Education Lottery that funds the HOPE and ASPIRE programs that have provided nearly $4 billion to Tennessee’s best and brightest students.