WASHINGTON, D.C. | May 21, 2013 -
I’d like to begin with a brief overview of what’s in the administration’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The president has asked for more than $71 billion in discretionary funding for the Department of Education – up $5 billion from last year’s request and $3 billion from the year before.
This is on top of a request for $7 billion in mandatory funding for Pell Grants, $17.5 billion to “reform the teaching profession,” and $1.3 billion for a new universal preschool program – bringing the total budget proposal to a staggering $97.1 billion.
Without question, the president’s budget for the Department of Education has exploded over the last five years. The roughly $60 billion spent by the department in 2009 seems almost reasonable by comparison. Yet despite this significant increase in education spending, we haven’t seen any measurable improvements in student performance or graduation rates.
It’s time to acknowledge the fact that throwing more money into the nation’s education system is not the right answer to the challenges facing our classrooms. We’ve tried it for decades now. Since passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, federal spending on education has increased nearly every single year. But we just aren’t seeing results, so we need to work together on a new way forward that will better serve students and taxpayers.
Now let’s discuss an important item that is not in the budget.
Mr. Secretary, considering the glut of new spending in the president’s budget, the lack of funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is simply appalling. Per the law, the federal government is supposed to fund up to 40 percent of the costs of educating students with special needs, but once again, the administration’s budget does not even come close to that figure. In his budget request, President Obama’s contribution to IDEA remains at a paltry 15 percent.
I am concerned that instead of meeting our commitments and improving existing initiatives, the administration continues to propose more spending for new, untested programs. For example, instead of more IDEA funding, the president has proposed an expansive early childhood initiative. While we all recognize the value of quality early learning experiences, we must remember a number of programs with similar goals are already out there, including Head Start, the Child Care and Development Block Grant, and dozens of state preschool programs nationwide.
Reforming and improving existing programs throughout our education system should take precedence over new initiatives, and I believe this is one area Congress and the administration can work together. A large part of this effort must be rewriting the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
While I have made my concerns with the waiver process abundantly clear, I recognize the importance of freeing states and school districts from the law’s outdated metrics and regulations. However, this must be done through a full reauthorization of the law – not executive fiat.
Secretary Duncan, you and I agree on the importance of restoring local control and flexibility. You and I agree we must empower parents in our education system, and support school choice initiatives. And you and I agree teachers should be judged on their ability to motivate students in the classroom.
You have been repeatedly quoted in the press stating that you want Congress to reauthorize the law. The committee will soon renew its efforts to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and this time, I ask for the administration’s leadership as we work to advance legislation through the House and Senate, get through the conference process, and put a new law on the president’s desk before the end of the 113th Congress.
Let me end on a positive note. I appreciate that, like Republicans, the president has acknowledged the value of moving student loan interest rates back to a market-based system. As you know, the committee recently approved with bipartisan support the Smarter Solutions for Students Act, legislation that mirrors the president’s proposal to tie student loan interest rates to the 10 year Treasury note.
I am grateful for the time you have spent working with us on this proposal, Mr. Secretary. Your input was very valuable. I hope the administration will work with us to move this bill quickly through the legislative process and into the president’s hands before the interest rate cliff hits millions of students on July 1st.
Again, thank you for being with us today. I would now like to yield to the senior Democratic member of the committee, George Miller, for his opening remarks.
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