WASHINGTON, D.C. | May 25, 2011
The bill before us today, the Setting New Priorities in Education Spending Act, introduced by my colleague Mr. Hunter, is the first in a series of reform bills geared toward streamlining and simplifying the federal role in education. It is an important first step that will help reduce the federal government’s footprint in K-12 classrooms and ensure taxpayer dollars aren’t wasted on unnecessary, inefficient elementary and secondary education programs.
Over the past several months, members of this committee have heard testimony from superintendents, state officials, and myriad school administrators. Many of these folks expressed frustration with the magnitude of federal education programs, some of which, school officials told us, offer very little benefit despite imposing significant regulatory burdens.
The Department of Education currently administers more than 80 programs tied to K-12 classrooms. Virtually every program has its own application process, reporting requirements, and eligibility criteria. It’s a complicated system levied on our schools, and the time and resources necessary to navigate this bureaucratic maze divert time and resources away from the classroom.
It’s time to lessen the burden on our schools by cutting the most unnecessary, duplicative education programs. The Setting New Priorities in Education Spending Act proposes to reduce the number of K-12 education programs by half, eliminating 43 wasteful federal elementary and secondary education programs.
Several of the programs targeted for elimination have not been funded in years – and some have never been funded at all. Many were defunded in the final fiscal year 2011 budget agreement, which received bipartisan support and was signed into law by the president. Others are redundant to more efficient education programs. And a few simply represent an inappropriate use of federal taxpayer dollars.
I would like to take a moment to make one point very clear. This bill is the first in a series of education reform bills the committee will consider this Congress. It is not intended to be an answer to all of the issues that must be addressed to improve education in America. It is a starting point that helps us narrow down the role of the federal government while making sure taxpayer dollars can be dedicated to the most efficient K-12 programs.
I believe if we set preconceived notions aside, work in good faith, and accept this legislation for what it is – a first step – we can find common ground on the next legislative pieces of this process. I look forward to a full and lively debate and to working with all of my colleagues on this package moving forward.