WASHINGTON, D.C. | April 29, 2014 -
Each year, the secretary comes before this committee to discuss the administration’s policies and priorities for the Department of Education. And each year, he is faced with the undesirable task of defending a bloated budget full of new, unproven programs, burdensome federal mandates, and competitive grants that pressure schools to adopt the president’s preferred policies.
For fiscal year 2015, the budget request for the department clocks in at an incredible $82.3 billion. This includes nearly $70 billion in discretionary spending and $13 billion in mandatory funding for pet projects, such as the president’s Preschool for All proposal and new teacher preparation initiatives – both of which, I might add, are redundant to dozens of existing federal programs.
We have discussed time and again the fact that more programs and higher spending have had little measurable impact on students’ academic achievement. Though the administration has pumped billions of dollars into the nation’s education system since 2009, student achievement remains largely unchanged.
Families, school leaders, and taxpayers deserve a better way forward. Rather than continue to throw good money after bad and pile new program on top of old, we need an administration that will work with Congress to advance lasting solutions to the challenges facing schools nationwide.
But instead of supporting our efforts to strengthen K-12 education, the Obama administration has implemented a convoluted, temporary waiver scheme that makes the secretary of education the sole arbiter of elementary and secondary education policy.
Instead of helping us address problems in postsecondary education through the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, the Obama administration continues to push for shortsighted mandates and federal price controls that will limit innovation and levy new regulatory burdens on colleges and universities.
And instead of working with us to ensure the federal government fulfills its basic commitment to students with disabilities by prioritizing funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Obama administration has opted to ramp up spending on untested and often duplicative programs. Worse, the president’s budget threatens to further reduce IDEA funding for most districts by shifting the funds into yet another competitive grant program.
Each of these initiatives is undermining progress in the nation’s schools and preventing students from accessing the quality education opportunities they need for success. The House Education and the Workforce Committee has advanced a number of proposals that will reshape our education system and provide teachers, school administrators, and postsecondary education leaders with the flexible framework necessary to more effectively serve students.
For example, last summer the House approved the Student Success Act, legislation to restore state and local control in K-12 education, empower parents, and reduce federal burdens in the classroom. The Student Success Act is the first bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that has been considered in either the House or Senate in more than a decade.
Mr. Secretary, you have repeatedly noted the importance of reauthorizing this law. Clearly, many differences remain. Though prospects may seem unlikely, I believe we all share a sincere desire to find enough common ground to craft a solution that puts students first. But we need support from the administration, not more waivers that serve as roadblocks to real reform.
In addition to our progress in reforming K-12 education, the committee has spent more than a year preparing to reauthorize the Higher Education Act. We’ve held more than a dozen hearings to examine myriad issues facing postsecondary institutions and students, and moved legislation to enhance transparency and eliminate federal regulations that will disproportionately harm low-income students and threaten the strength of our higher education system.
As we continue working toward a rewrite of the Higher Education Act, I urge the secretary to abandon the intrusive polices and punitive regulatory proposals outlined in the president’s budget and instead work with us to craft legislation that will help meet our shared goals of improving transparency, affordability, and access to postsecondary education.
Before I yield to my distinguished colleague, Mr. George Miller, for his opening remarks, I want to make one final request to Secretary Duncan. After each hearing, the committee members on both sides of the aisle submit to your department questions for the record. As our time here in the hearing is limited, these supplemental questions help us continue our oversight of the department’s programs and policies.
However, I am troubled by the significant delay in response to these questions. Just a few days ago, the committee finally received answers to the questions submitted to the secretary after this hearing almost one year ago. I sincerely hope this will not be the case with the questions you receive following today’s hearing.
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