He authored legislation that became law -- the Volunteers for Children Act -- that gives volunteer organizations that work with children, such as scouting and sports groups, access to FBI fingerprint-based background checks to ensure that they are not inadvertently hiring child molesters.
He has also cosponsored legislation toughening the penalties levied at those who hurt children and, most recently, has joined forces with the Administration and Congress to fight child predators. His Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, which has passed both the House and Senate, will overhaul the way we track and monitor predatory pedophiles. He has also introduced and cosponsored legislation designed to eliminate child pornography and exploitive child modeling web sites.
Over the years, Mark also has worked closely with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and John Walsh (host of Fox TV’s America’s Most Wanted) on a variety of child protection programs. Among the latest of these is a program designed to show children how to protect themselves from online predators.
On the education front, Mark strongly believes that our children are the key to the nation’s future. Since he was elected into Congress in 1994, he has been working with both Republicans and Democrats to help reduce children illiteracy and improve educators’ job benefits. He has consistently supported measures that will give all of our young people the opportunity to become educated, successful members of society.
This past year, he voted to increase funding for No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), Head Start and Pell Grant programs. He also supports funding for pre-college opportunity programs like TRIO and GEAR UP and is an advocate for students’ right to have access to a safe and productive learning environment with federally funded programs like Safe and Drug-Free Schools.
Mark is a strong proponent of NCLB’s program called Reading is Fundamental (RIF). This productive program helps educate parents to create a literacy-rich home environment for their children through motivation activities in communities. RIF’s motto to children is that reading is both fun and fundamental. Mark’s district has benefited from RIF’s activities and materials, helping increase FCAT scores and improving schools’ Annual Yearly Progress marks (AYP).
As technology rapidly advances, Mark feels that students should have the ability to integrate the use of computer software into their daily learning regimen. As a strong supporter of NCLB’s Enhancing Education Through Technology program, Florida’s rural and urban schools alike have received technical assistance through the recruitment of highly qualified teachers and state coordinators.
Mark also is a firm believer in finding and supporting innovative ways to encourage our children’s educational horizons, including participating in the annual Congressional Art Competition, a program that reaches out to high school students in Florida and the nation to showcase their creative talents.