WASHINGTON, D.C. | February 5, 2013
The subject of today’s hearing has become somewhat of a tradition for the Education and the Workforce Committee. It’s important to start a new Congress with a fresh look at the challenges and opportunities confronting America’s schools and workplaces. We’ve been fortunate over the years to have governors and education and business leaders share their views on the issues facing the country, and I am pleased they are represented today as well.
During his inaugural address, President Obama noted, “This generation of Americans has been tested by crises that steeled our resolve and proved our resilience.” Our nation has always shown its true greatness in the most difficult of circumstances. This certainly defines the last recession and the challenges we continue to face.
In our classrooms, one out of four students will drop out of high school before they’ve earned a diploma. Students and families across the country are being buried under a mountain of college debt that now exceeds $1 trillion. Meanwhile, confusion and uncertainty surrounding the direction of the nation’s education system has only been exacerbated by the administration’s convoluted waiver scheme.
Those who complete their education are finding a difficult academic climate has been replaced by an even more difficult job market. Roughly eight million workers have been forced to accept part-time work when what they need is a full-time job. The cost of a family health care plan is expected to increase this year by 992 dollars. And let us not forget the more than 12 million Americans who remain unemployed and searching for work – now close to four years since the recession officially ended.
Some say we are currently stuck in a “jobless recovery.” Others suggest this is the worst recovery since the Great Depression. And following reports of negative economic growth in the final months of 2012 and a new uptick in unemployment, new concerns have emerged about whether we remain in a recovery at all.
No one questions the ability of the American people to rise above these tough times and work toward a brighter future. The question is whether their elected government can do so as well.
As policymakers, we have a lot of work ahead of us. Several key laws have expired and are in desperate need of reform. Federal deficits and debt continue to spiral out of control, undermining our economic growth and threatening the prosperity of future generations. Programs that serve our most vulnerable are on the path to bankruptcy. And the public’s confidence in our ability to tackle these tough issues continues to fall.
I hope in this new year we can begin a new era of reform. A critical part of that effort will be led by our state leaders and local officials – the men and women who remain constantly engaged with America’s workers and job creators. Their ideas, expertise, and common sense are imperative as we work to advance responsible solutions that will serve the best interests of the country today and into the future.
I know there are sharp differences on the committee, in the Congress, and across the capital city. Despite these differences, I am hopeful our vigorous debates will lead to meaningful action.