Congressman Jim Himes (D-4th) reintroduced three bills on Thursday designed to help students in Connecticut and across the nation. The Supporting Early Learning Act expands on investments by the Obama administration into early education by establishing the Early Learning Challenge Fund. It would support states in building and strengthening high-quality early learning and development programs. The bill authorizes $350 million for this program in its first year to support two competitive grant programs - Quality Pathways Grants and Development Grants. Funds from both grant programs would be used to implement or improve early learning systems, to help these programs meet and sustain higher levels of quality standards, and to move more low-income children into higher-quality programs. The Total Learning Act promotes multimodal teaching, intensive parent involvement and access to important social services. According to a press release from Himes' office, the program has a proven track record in Bridgeport, with independent evaluations demonstrating strong gains in language in literacy skills by children who participate in the program. \u00a0The bill uses the lessons learned from this experience and scales the approach for use at the national level by providing grants to eligible community partnerships to assist in the implementation of advanced early learning curricula. The College Affordability and Innovation Act creates a new, evidence-based grant competition program to promote greater experimentation in delivering higher education to middle- and low-income students. The grants would go to innovative programs designed to reduce the amount of classroom time and decrease the costs of completing higher education degrees, such as competency-based courses, online education, and dual-enrollment or fast-track programs. In addition, the bill creates an independent commission of stakeholders, including students, faculty, and education experts to develop minimum accountability standards for making college more affordable, providing better access for middle- and low-income students, and providing value to students. "From preschool through higher education, we need to recommit to serving our students better," said Himes. "That means supporting our kids at the vital early stages, ensuring parents are involved and supported during their children's schooling, and finding innovative way to bring college costs down. This is an absolute priority for the people I represent, and it should be one of Congress's priorities as well."