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11th Congressional District, Republican Primary

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The questions

All candidates were invited to respond to questionnaires, although not all chose to participate. Click on a candidate's name to see the unedited response to each question.

Biographical information & experience
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    Biggert
Biggert
Birthdate: 8/15/1937
Occupation: Member, House of Representatives
Marital status: Married
Spouse: Rody P. Biggert

Education:

J.D. Northwestern University School of Law

Civic, professional, fraternal or other affiliations:

See Attached Resume

Have you held elective or appointive political office or been employed by any branch of government?

See Attached Resume

Please list jobs or contracts you, members of your immediate family or business partners have had with government.

Campaign information
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    Biggert
Biggert

Campaign headquarters: TBA
Website: www.biggert.com
Campaign manager: TBA
Campaign budget: Whatever is necessary
Name your five biggest campaign contributors and the amount they contributed.
See latest filings with the Federal Election Commission

What are your top priorities for the nation?
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    Biggert
Biggert

My top priority is getting the economy back on track and putting people back to work. For millions of families in Illinois and around the country, no other challenge is more urgent than addressing the day-by-day stress and wrenching uncertainty that has resulted from the loss of a paycheck, a drop in income, or uncertainty about having a job next week or next month.

Over the last year, Congress and the President have only just begun to take the steps needed to achieve recovery, with a handful of major bipartisan breakthroughs, including landmark patent reform and three new trade agreements that will open new markets for an estimated $13 billion in American exports. In addition, last summer's budget agreement will trim $2.1 trillion in excess spending over the next decade. These measures, which I fought to enact, should serve as a model for future bipartisan cooperation on legislation to restore our Triple-A economy.

But Congress must do more to cut the debt and give American businesses the economic security they need to grow. One area that holds enormous potential to create jobs and boost U.S. competitiveness is broad-based tax reform. By simplifying the tax code, closing loopholes, lowering tax rates, and giving taxpayers some certainty, we can create a pro-growth environment that rewards innovation and job creation. But to do this, we must enact a tax policy guided by sound economic principles, and not simply increase taxes on job creators and investors.

Secondly, we need to end the regulatory nightmare. In 2011 alone, the Administration proposed over 400 new regulations that have the potential to burden job creators with more than $70 billion in new compliance costs. Businesses cannot grow and invest when they face that kind of uncertainty and red tape. That's why we need to review and defund economically significant regulations that will stifle the ability of businesses to produce more goods and put people back to work.

What are your top priorities for your congressional district?
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    Biggert
Biggert

Job creation and economic recovery, transportation and technology are the most important priorities for my congressional district.

In addition to my work in Washington, I have focused my efforts here at home on helping unemployed and underemployed workers find jobs and assisting small business owners who are struggling to make it through this recession find new business opportunities. With the help of many great employers, agencies, municipalities and other talented personnel, I have been holding jobs and business fairs to help people in these tough times. I plan to continue this outreach so area residents know my office and I are here to help.

Another priority must be to address the rising unemployment among young veterans that have recently been discharged from the military. Recent reports estimate our youngest veterans, aged 18 to 24, experience a 30.4% unemployment rate compared to 16.9% for non-veterans in the same age group. Minority veteran unemployment is even higher. That is why another top local priority is to work with local veteran organizations, businesses, and workforce investment boards to do all we can to give our brave men and women the assistance they need to find employment and succeed in civilian life. We cannot forget the sacrifices they've made for our country.

Nowhere is the need for infrastructure improvements as apparent as here in the new 11th CD, where population growth has been explosive. That is why my top local priority is to pass a long-term transportation reauthorization bill so we can give our communities the resources they need to provide a modern, safe and efficient transportation system.

Next, we must build on our local science assets, including Argonne and Fermi National Laboratories, the Illinois Math and Science Academy, and our outstanding universities. Science research and education is the foundation for the innovative solutions that will enable us to overcome many of our greatest challenges – from economic stagnation and dependence on foreign energy to curing diseases and addressing national security threats. Support for math and science education, ensuring local research institution funding, and helping small businesses commercialize research innovations are vital to the future of job creation and are among my top priorities for the district.

The nation's economy has yet to recover. What are the causes of the weak economy, and what should be done to speed its recovery?
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    Biggert
Biggert

The downturn began when the housing bubble burst, but our ongoing economic challenges stem from a wide variety of factors, from the unavailability of credit to turmoil in the Middle East that has driven up the price of energy. From my work with job creators, especially small business owners in our area, it's clear that paralyzing economic uncertainty, driven by the policies coming out of Washington, has lengthened and deepened the recession. From the Administration's health overhaul to the Dodd-Frank Act, new taxes, new spending, thousands of new rules and regulations, new studies, reports and unanswered questions are adding up to create an environment that limits the availability of credit and makes it harder for entrepreneurs to invest in jobs.

That's why we must act immediately to cut the debt, and give American businesses the certainty they need to start growing again. That means easing the tax and regulatory burdens that stand in the way of capital formation, reaching new markets, or hiring new employees.

In order to accomplish those goals, we must end the gridlock and political games that are standing in the way of progress. The House has passed dozens of pro-growth initiatives to reduce job-killing regulations, fix the tax code, and increase competitiveness for American manufacturers. But Senate leaders have refused to even vote on the bills. Leaders in Washington need to quit playing games and make jobs – not politics – the top priority.

In addition, Congress must extend the payroll tax cut to give individuals and businesses the certainty they need to plan for their economic futures, invest, and create jobs. We also must continue the progress that was achieved last year in opening up foreign markets to U.S.-made goods. The trade agreements with Colombia, South Korea, and Panama were major victories for U.S. workers, and their passage should be a model for future, bipartisan cooperation.

Should revenue increases, in the form of new taxes, higher taxes or more broadly imposed taxes, be part of the solution to crafting a more balanced federal budget and reducing the national debt?
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    Biggert
Biggert

Americans aren't taxed too little – the government still spends too much. According to the Congressional Budget Office, fiscal year 2011 will mark the third straight year that the debt has grown more than $1 trillion. The 2011 shortfall is the third largest since World War II, exceeded only by 2010 and 2009. Taxing our way to a balanced budget would require tax rates to more than double, and raising taxes on our nation's job creators would make it even more difficult for them to hire new workers, much less keep their doors open. Seniors and families working to make ends meet don't deserve tax increases; they deserve tax relief.

That is why serious reduction in the national debt can only be accomplished if policy makers on both sides agree to make spending cuts the primary focus. However, revenues can and should be part of the solution. During negotiations last year, I wrote to members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction encouraging them to seek revenue increases as the natural byproduct of effective broad-based tax reform and pro-growth financial policies. Tax reform holds enormous potential to boost U.S. competitiveness, create jobs, and generate revenues through economic growth. By broadening the tax base, eliminating gimmicks, and closing loopholes, we can create a system that rewards innovation instead of clever accounting. Tax reforms I support also would eliminate shelters used overwhelmingly by upper-income taxpayers while lowering rates on all wage earners. But to accomplish these goals, we have to enact a tax policy guided by sound economic principles, and not simply increase taxes on job creators and investments.

Many Republican members of Congress have signed the Grover Norquist pledge not to support a tax increase of any kind at any time. Have you, or would you, sign this pledge? Why or why not?
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    Biggert
Biggert

I signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge to oppose increases in marginal income taxes during my first campaign for Congress in 1998 because I believed then, as I believe now, that Americans aren't taxed too little – the government still spends too much. Since then, I've continued to fight for balanced budgets, and promoted polices that raise revenue through growth -- not new burdens on hardworking American families and job creators.

I have never signed a pledge against any “tax increase of any kind at any time.” That's an inaccurate portrayal of the Americans for Tax Reform pledge that I signed. The pledge is far more specific in its opposition to an increase in “marginal income tax rates” and the net elimination of “deductions and credits.” This prohibition does not apply to other sources of tax revenue, nor would it conflict with reforms to broaden the tax base and apply a simpler, fairer tax rate.

What is the role of compromise in ending the political deadlock on fundamental goals such as entitlement reform and deficit reduction? When and how would you compromise?
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    Biggert
Biggert

I do not believe that compromise is a bad word. After all, the alternative is “my way or the highway,” and that's why too little is being accomplished in Washington.

Too many in Washington have forgotten that the voters sent them there to solve problems – not just to get re-elected or make the opposition look bad.
As a former school board president and long-time community volunteer, I have a proven track record of listening to constituents and bringing people together to find solutions that work. I approach my work in Congress with the same spirit, which is why I was honored when my peers on the other side of the aisle elected me one of the "Ten Most Bipartisan" members of the House.

This past year, I put that philosophy to work as Chairman of the House Insurance and Housing Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over the nation's flood insurance program. Working with every group – from insurers to consumers to environmentalists, realtors and others – and every member of Congress, representing diverse areas across the nation, we crafted compromise legislation to finally revamp and reauthorize our nation's outdated flood insurance program. Starting with a working draft (instead of a bill), and taking input from all sides, we addressed everyone's concerns; no one got everything but everyone was satisfied. Passed out of committee by a vote of 54-0 and by the full House by a vote of 406-22, the bill became one of a handful of major reform packages passed by the House in 2011.

In short, Americans have had enough of "my way or the highway" governing. They want solutions. And whether it's cutting waste, creating jobs, or reforming entitlement programs, I'll continue to put results over politics.

Does the Social Security program need reform? What exactly should be done?
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    Biggert
Biggert

Millions of individuals have paid hard-earned dollars into Social Security with the understanding that they will receive a retirement benefit in exchange, and I have no intention of breaking that promise. But we can't continue to expect a system created for our world in 1935 to work the same way for our world in 2012 and beyond. Americans are living longer, working longer, investing more for their own retirement, and relying less on traditional pensions provided by their former, life-long employers. The most recent Social Security Trustees report confirmed these pressures when it announced last May that the Trust Fund would run dry in 2036. It's clear that we must act now. That's why, in April, I supported the House Republican Budget, which requires the Social Security Trustees, the President, and Congress to enact bipartisan reforms that will keep the Social Security Trust Fund solvent for future generations.

How would you reform Medicare? Be as specific as possible.
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    Biggert
Biggert

Medicare is an indispensable program that provides critical health care to millions of seniors. Unfortunately, as it is currently structured, the growth in Medicare spending is consuming an ever-increasing piece of the overall federal budget, jeopardizing the program's solvency. Sensible reform now is the only way to preserve our safety nets – and avoid harmful cuts – in the decades to come.

The first thing we can do to start saving Medicare immediately is to repeal ObamaCare, which took $500 billion from the Medicare system to create a new entitlement, and is already driving up overall health care costs at a rate faster than if nothing had been done at all. By replacing the misguided health care law with consumer-friendly solutions that will actually reduce the cost of health care, such as medical liability reform, Associated Health Plans, and allowing the purchase of health insurance across state lines, we will bring down the cost of health care for everyone, including seniors.

Long term, Medicare must be structurally reformed to ensure its benefits will be available for generations to come. That's why I supported the House Republican Budget plan, which would force insurers to compete for Medicare customers and protect and preserve Medicare so that it is sustainable and reliable for its customers in the future.

Specifically, starting in 2022, new beneficiaries would receive guaranteed coverage options and premium support through a restructured model that promotes competition among insurers, much like members of Congress have today. Those who are sick or cannot afford care would receive more help, and savings would be reinvested into Medicare – not siphoned off for government-run healthcare. Seniors will choose the plan that works best for them, and those plans would be covered through premium support from Medicare – not a voucher. Those with higher health risks or greater financial need would get more support.

Is there a problem of a growing income and wealth gap in the United States? Is there a problem of unequal opportunity? What, if anything, should government do about this?
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    Biggert
Biggert

As Americans, we are all born with the fundamental rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. For most of us, that means the opportunity to work hard, reap the rewards of our labor, and strive to leave our children better off than ourselves. And as a mother of four and grandmother of nine, I consider it a personal -- as well as governmental -- responsibility to ensure that future generations of Americans all have a chance to pursue their dreams. Unfortunately, the recent economic downturn has made it even harder for those without means to grasp the first rungs on the ladder to prosperity. That is why, as Co-Chair of the House Caucus on Homelessness, I have worked hard to ensure that every homeless child in America has access to a safe place to sleep and a quality education. It's also why I have made education and scientific competitiveness central to my work in Washington. We must do our part, every day, to ensure that the doors to success are always open for our children.

Unfortunately, as is so often the case during difficult times, some have turned away from protecting economic opportunity, and focused instead on fanning the flames of class envy for political gain. They would impose equality of outcomes -- rather than equality of opportunity -- through more taxes, more spending, and more borrowing. The result runs contrary to everything our Founders stood for, and it would paralyze the job-creating potential of the American economy. Instead, we should ensure the future competitiveness of the U.S. economy in a way that will lift the economic fortunes of all Americans. That means broad-based tax reforms to eliminate the tax shelters used primarily by upper-income taxpayers and lowering rates on all wage earners. It also means rethinking entitlements for those who need less help than others. But most of all, it means we should refuse to penalize success by placing an ever greater burden on those who create jobs, while ignoring the greatest threat to the economic security of future generations – our debt. Only by rewarding hard work, risk-taking, and innovation will we create the jobs and economic opportunities that are so vital to the prosperity of the middle class.

Who is to blame for the home mortgages collapse?
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    Biggert
Biggert

Asleep-at-the-switch regulators, underwriters, and rating agencies, mortgage scam artists, irresponsible speculators, and those in Congress who enabled Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to continue inflating the mortgage bubble all played a role in the housing crash. Sharing responsibility are those borrowers who lied about their income, and lenders who pushed loans on those who weren't ready to buy a home.

There is more than enough blame to go around, but I've found that the blame game is best left to others. My focus is on solutions. That's why, following the 2010 elections, I took on a new position as Chairman of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Insurance, Housing, and Community Opportunity.

From this post, I am leading efforts in the House to force the market and the Administration to make the changes necessary to revitalize the housing sector, return equilibrium to home values, and spare taxpayers from billions more in losses associated with the bailouts of Fannie and Freddie.

My colleagues and I are moving ahead with legislation to reform HUD's Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, renew oversight at the Federal Housing Administration, reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), and terminate failed housing programs that have delayed recovery. I've also brought in experts from the Chicago area to testify before Congress regarding our local challenges, from the absence of funding for housing counseling to Dodd-Frank's negative impact on commercial real estate. Already, we've made progress on these fronts, having restored funding for housing counselors and passed a five-year NFIP reauthorization that will remove uncertainty within flood-prone housing markets. And in the months and years ahead, I will work to advance these and other solutions to ensure that the American housing sector can once again become a source of job creation and economic security.

What, if anything, should be done to assist Americans whose homes are financially "under water" and face foreclosure?
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    Biggert
Biggert

Due to the housing crisis, millions of families are struggling every day to make mortgage payments on homes that have lost value. These “under water” loans are part of the problem, but the leading cause of foreclosure among American families is unemployment. That's why, when it comes to foreclosure prevention, the best answer is a steady paycheck, not a new government finance scheme that replaces one bad situation with another.

To date, the Administration's attempts to redirect billions in tax dollars through various loan modification and “investment” programs have fallen far short of their goals, and in many cases, made matters worse. For example, the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) was widely criticized for accelerating the eviction process because it allows banks and lenders to offload unwanted homes onto taxpayers.

In another example, homeowners in my area of suburban Chicago were offered trial home loan modifications under the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) only to be denied a permanent modification. Many of these homeowners were then charged late fees and back payments, and left deeper in debt and still facing foreclosure.

Families seeking help don't need false hope, they need jobs, and that's where we should be focusing our resources. Still, for some families, more help is needed, which is why my office often works directly with struggling borrowers, connecting local residents with HUD-approved housing counselors in our area. As a former real estate attorney, I know that these counselors are far better equipped than federal bureaucrats to guide families in communicating with their lender, seeking solutions, and navigating the arcane world of mortgage finance. Counselors also help new home buyers by guiding them into products that match their budget and needs – avoiding foreclosure down the road.

And when funding for these HUD-approved counselors dried up, I held a hearing to highlight the success of agencies like the DuPage Homeownership Center in reaching thousands of families through educational workshops and one-on-one counseling. As a result, $45 million for the program was restored in fiscal year 2012. Most importantly, unlike expensive experiments in tax-payer funded mortgage finance, these programs have a proven track record of success.

Is global warming real? Is it man-made? What, if anything, should be done about it?
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    Biggert
Biggert

I believe the science behind global warming is sound. Global warming is, however, a problem that demands global participation in pursuit of solutions. In order to address the impacts of global warming now, we need to deploy advanced energy technologies, promote conservation, and expand our domestic energy resources.

That's why I support tax incentives for investments in new advanced technologies for alternative-fuel infrastructure. The transportation sector is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gasses in the United States. By using natural gas or electric vehicles, for example, we can significantly reduce emissions throughout the transportation sector.

Similarly, I have worked to help a local municipality, Naperville, construct an alternative fuels infrastructure. By using local biomass from lawn and farm waste to power fleet vehicles, Naperville will enjoy dramatic decreases in municipal fuel costs and utilize landfill waste as a new domestic energy resource.

Another good way to reduce emissions is by conserving our resources, particularly in the building sector. As Co-Chair and Co-Founder of the Congressional High Performance Buildings Caucus, I am working to prioritize the deployment of green building technologies that can dramatically reduce the energy consumption of U.S. homes and buildings. In the U.S., buildings account for 39% of CO2 emissions, and conservation – in addition to alternative energy – must play a central role in any long-term strategy to combat global warming.

Last, as a senior member of the House Science and Technology Committee, I also continue to advocate for funding and policies that advance research and development at nearby Argonne National Lab. Technologies developed there in solar energy, plug-in hybrids, geothermal and fuel cell technology are just a few ways we can ultimately reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And I have long advocated for clean, carbon-free nuclear energy with new recycling technologies as the only long-term solution for reliable and plentiful electricity generation.

What is the role of the federal government in promoting "green" alternatives to fossil fuels? What are those alternatives?
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    Biggert
Biggert

The federal government plays an important role in supporting research and development efforts that have led to scientific breakthroughs and new technologies, particularly in “green” alternatives to fossil fuels. We should continue to make these investments in basic science research so the market can determine which advanced energy technologies work best as a “green” alternative for the consumer.

As a Senior Member of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee and original cosponsor of the America COMPETES Act, I continue to press the Department of Energy's Office of Science and the National Science Foundation to place a higher priority on the research and development of advanced solar, wind, nuclear, geothermal, lithium-ion batteries, hydrogen fuel cell, clean coal, and cellulosic biofuels. I long have advocated for investments in these areas as the best long-term solution to promote new energy resources without competing with other fuel and food supplies.

Is waterboarding a form of torture? On what basis do you make this assertion? Should the United States engage in waterboarding under any circumstances?
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    Biggert
Biggert

The intelligence community has never been more critical to the day-to-day safety of American citizens, and I strongly support giving our intelligence community the tools it needs to protect the American people. That said, America must serve as an example to the world when it comes to preserving human rights and the rule of law. That's why I've supported legislation in the past calling for the Department of Defense to update the Army Field Manual, prohibiting cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment of persons under the detention, custody, or control of the United States Government. As a result, waterboarding is expressly prohibited from being used in conjunction with intelligence interrogations.

Underscoring the effectiveness of the reformed interrogation techniques, the Special Interagency Task Force on Interrogation and Transfer Policies created by President Obama stated in August 2009, “the practices and techniques identified by the Army Field Manual or currently used by law enforcement provide adequate and effective means of conducting interrogations."

Our troops and military personnel perform their duties according to the highest standards. And it is important to allow our intelligence agencies to effectively carry out their information-retrieving practices to keep us all safer. However, any actions by U.S. officials that deny proper treatment to U.S. detainees must be dealt with quickly and strictly. These measures ensure that the war on terror is continued in a humane way, while still allowing our forces to obtain the information they need to be successful.

Do you support the legalization or de-criminalization of marijuana, either on a state or national level? Have you ever personally smoked marijuana?
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    Biggert
Biggert

I support our current policy, which bans the manufacture, sale and use of marijuana.

No

Iran, according to a new United Nations report, is covertly at work building a nuclear bomb. Should Iran be stopped, and how? Please explain the merits of international sanctions versus military action.
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    Biggert
Biggert

Iran simply cannot be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons. I supported legislation, now law, to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions by imposing sanctions against companies that supply Iran with gasoline or support Iran's domestic energy production. And just last month, with my support, the House passed legislation cracking down on Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which controls Iran's nuclear program and much of the economy.

There's no question that the sanctions are hurting Iran's economy. To be truly effective in halting Iran's nuclear quest, these sanctions must be aggressively enforced and they cannot be unilateral. The international community must agree that doing business with Iran will only empower the rogue nation, jeopardizing the safety of everyone.

The Obama Administration should continue its commitment to work through diplomatic and political channels, such as those established by the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions Act, before any consideration should be given to military engagement.

How would you define "success" for the United States in the war in Afghanistan? Do you support the President's plan and timetable for withdrawing American troops?
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    Biggert
Biggert

A stable Afghanistan is a prerequisite to preventing al-Qaeda from reestablishing a strong presence in the region. From my visits there, I know well the importance of showing the Afghan people that we are resolute in our commitment to eradicating terrorist threats and providing the security they need to quickly establish a stable civil society and field fully-trained Afghan security forces. At the same time, it is they who are responsible for the future of their country – not us. That's why, ultimately, America's military and political strategies in Afghanistan must focus on the need for the Afghan government to establish its own security forces to protect its people and end the region's reign as a top breeding ground for terrorist activities.

While I don't believe we can accurately predict the day in which Afghan forces will be prepared to assume control of their own security, I strongly believe that our troops should not be in Afghanistan one day longer than absolutely necessary. And an open-ended commitment on the part of American forces in Afghanistan is not in the best interest of our nation, neither militarily nor fiscally. Absent a deliberate, yet responsible, transfer of security responsibilities from American forces to Afghanis, the Afghan government does not have the necessary incentives to make a good faith effort to take control of their own affairs.

I am confident President Obama and his top U.S. and NATO Commander, Gen. John Allen are working closely with President Karzai and the Afghan government to implement their strategy for building Afghan security institutions and drawing down the size and scope of U.S. involvement in the fledgling democracy. That's why, as a Member of Congress, I've consistently supported measures, such as the recently enacted National Defense Authorization Act, to ensure that our military has all the resources it needs to complete its mission in Afghanistan.

The No Child Left Behind Act is overdue for reauthorization. Do you support the Administration's blueprint for reauthorization, the bill that recently passed the Senate Education Committee, or some other alternative?
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    Biggert
Biggert

Congress has a lot of work to do to help improve public education, starting with the long-overdue reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). While there are provisions in both the Administration's blueprint and the Senate Education Committee's drafts of education reform with which I agree, I continue to work with my colleagues on the House Education and the Workforce Committee to craft comprehensive legislation to fix what's wrong with No Child Left Behind, and give America's students the competitive edge they need to compete in the global economy.

First, we need to address the current federally directed nature of America's K-12 education evaluation system. I am concerned about the many complaints I have received that NCLB forces “teaching to the test” and “high-stakes testing,” which forces teachers to abandon many creative, enriching aspects of their curriculum in favor of a one-size-fits-all approach. Our nation's educational system must recognize that the federal government is not well suited to measure student and teacher performance. More effective student and teacher evaluation systems are already being implemented in states like Illinois, and the federal government should work to foster, rather than stymie, these efforts.

Second, in order to truly understand how to best help a student's performance, it's important to track each child's progress. One of the biggest failings of NCLB is that it did nothing to track individual growth, so I support the use of growth models, which provide parents and teachers with the real-time information they need to improve each individual student's performance in the classroom. School performance should reflect the progress schools are making to educate students, not penalize them for falling short of arbitrary federal standards.

Third, as a former school board president, I am a strong proponent of local control of our schools. I would like ESEA to give additional flexibility to states and schools to address the challenges of special education and Limited English Proficiency students. States have come up with innovative ways to address these challenges without sacrificing accountability, and they should be allowed to implement them.

The race
The candidates
Judy Biggert

Jack Cunningham was removed from the ballot after the video below was recorded.

The district
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