Mazie knows firsthand how important a quality education is for our keiki. When she came to the United States from Japan as a child, she learned to speak English in Hawaii’s public schools. Mazie went on to graduate from Kaimuki High School and the University of Hawaii, becoming the first in her family to attend college. Mazie recognizes the challenge of college affordability, having paid for her undergraduate and law school educations through a combination of working and student loans.
Because of her understanding of how impactful early education can be for our keiki, Mazie has worked continuously for its protection and is nationally recognized for her leadership in advocating for universal Pre-K. She has introduced legislation to expand Pre-K in Hawaii and across the U.S. through federal-state partnerships. She has also spoken out against cuts to early education funding, and helped facilitate grants to expand early childhood education for Native Hawaiians. In addition to expanding access to early education, Mazie supports increasing grant funding for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education for Native Hawaiians and other minorities, and worked with her colleagues from Hawaii to reauthorize the Native Hawaiian Education Act, which funds Native Hawaiian education programs across the state. The reauthorization was included as part of the 2015 Elementary and Secondary Education Reauthorization Act.
Skyrocketing college tuition has put higher education out of reach for many families. Mazie has teamed up with some of Congress’s biggest education champions, including Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), to tackle the issue of college affordability by introducing the Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act. This bill would help ensure that Pell Grants can keep up with the cost of college, and that families can rely on their Pell Grant support for their entire higher education journey. She also successfully championed a provision to restore year-round Pell Grants to help students who are taking summer and winter classes. She was an original co-sponsor of Senator Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act, aimed at providing relief for students struggling under the weight of their loans, and has been a longtime supporter of legislation to allow student loans to be discharged in bankruptcy.
Mazie recognizes that Hawaii’s future economy relies on creating good-paying jobs, and ensuring that we retain the homegrown talent of our island students, especially through increasing opportunities for women and minorities in the STEM fields. Mazie brought the Senate Small Business Committee to Maui in 2016 to share what federal agencies are doing to support STEM education, and to make sure that federal decision makers heard directly from Hawaii’s educators, students, and others about their needs and successes.
She has led on these issues by authoring the STEM Booster Act, which would provide resources for promoting diversity and inclusion in STEM fields through mentoring, internships, and other outreach to underrepresented communities. In 2015, Mazie successfully included provisions of her STEM Opportunities Act in the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act, which was signed into law by President Obama, to promote inclusion in the higher education STEM fields.
Mazie also introduced the Patsy T. Mink Gender Equity in Education Act, which would provide states, universities, school districts and schools with more resources to implement Representative Patsy Mink’s landmark Title IX law, which promotes gender equity in educational opportunities.