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Rokita Statement: Hearing on "Improving Department of Education Policies and Programs Through Independent Oversight"

A free and democratic society requires government transparency and accountability. We all want the federal government to serve the best interests of every American – those directly affected by federal programs and those whose tax dollars fund federal programs. To get there, we need to know what’s working and what isn’t. And we need to know the steps an agency should take to turn things around. 

The Department of Education administers roughly 80 programs tied to K-12 schools; 80 programs just at the elementary and secondary education level. It requires a massive bureaucracy to administer so many programs, and the greater the bureaucracy the greater the opportunities for mismanagement. That is why the House has taken action that would begin streamlining these programs, because a more efficient Department of Education can do a better job supporting our nation’s schools.

However, even the leanest federal agency can still be susceptible to waste, fraud, and abuse. We must remain vigilant in our oversight, both in Congress and the offices of our independent partners. The Government Accountability Office and inspectors general are at the forefront of this important effort. Their knowledge and investigative authority are vital tools in the fight against government corruption and mismanagement.        

Chairwoman Foxx noted several reports by GAO affecting higher education policies with recommendations that remain open. Here are just a few examples affecting K-12 education policies:

  • “Education Could Do More to Assist Charter Schools with Applying for Discretionary Grants”;
  • “Students with Disabilities: Better Federal Coordination Could Lessen Challenges in the Transition from High School”;                                                          
  • “Selected States and School Districts Cited Numerous Federal Requirements as Burdensome, While Recognizing Some Benefits”; and
  • “Education Research: Further Improvements Needed to Ensure Relevance and Assess Dissemination Efforts.”

Each report embodies a new opportunity to serve the American people more effectively and spend taxpayer dollars more wisely. President Reagan once noted, “Government is the people’s business, and every man, woman, and child becomes a shareholder with the first penny of tax paid.” I am fighting for all those people so that they can build better lives for themselves and their families. It is our responsibility to protect their tax dollars and ensure the American people receive the highest level of government service they expect. 

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