Thanks, Ms. Botton

It's Teacher Appreciation Week.

As Democrats, we know that our most important investments are the ones we make in our kids. That's why, for years, we've been on the cutting edge of education reform. From FDR signing the G.I. Bill to President Obama overhauling student loans, Democrats have consistently invested to provide our kids with a first-rate education and the tools necessary to drive our economy forward with more job creation and opportunity.

We also recognize that funding and programs alone won't solve all of our problems. Democrats understand that in order to create world-class institutions of learning, we have to reward, retain, and attract world-class teachers — teachers like my favorite teach growing up, Francine Botton. Ms. Botton was my fifth and sixth grade teacher at Magnolia Open Elementary School in Long Beach, New York, and like so many teachers across our country, she inspired me and all of my classmates to study hard and dream big. She was part mom, part educator, helping her students realize that anything was possible for us. She picked us up when we were down and pushed us when she knew we could do better.

Sadly, rather than reward these devoted professionals, Republican politicians continue to vilify our teachers. They use them as scapegoats for tough budgetary challenges and claim that they are part of the problem with our education system. As Democrats, we know that teachers like Ms. Botton are part of the solution — that effective, quality teachers are how we'll be able to provide every child in America with a world-class education.

President Obama understands this and has led the way with education reforms. Through the RESPECT project, the President has proposed a $5 billion grant to support states and districts in working with educators to develop innovative solutions that improve the teaching profession at every level. He launched the STEM Master Teacher Corps, an effort to recruit and reward 10,000 teachers in the critical fields of science, technology, engineering and math. He's also invested $800 million in scaling up innovative education reforms proven to help improve student achievement, and increase high school graduation and college completion rates.

These initiatives are in addition to the more than $4 billion our schools have received through Race to the Top, and they complement the President's plan to reform "No Child Left Behind," so that it works for States, not against them.

As we celebrate "Teacher Appreciation Week" and thank teachers like Ms. Botton, who helped me believe in myself during a time when most kids are unsure of themselves, let's recommit ourselves to supporting the professionals whose job is critical to developing the next generation of leaders, job creators and innovators.

If you're on Twitter, tweet #ThankATeacher this week.