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Kline Statement: Hearing on “Examining the Policies and Priorities of the U.S. Department of Education”

I want to extend a warm welcome to Acting Secretary of Education John King, who is with us to discuss the policies and priorities of the Department of Education. Dr. King has been at the helm of the department since January and was recently nominated by the president to serve as the next secretary of education. Congratulations on your nomination, Dr. King.
We understand this is the beginning of a busy week for you on Capitol Hill. You have graciously agreed to join us today to speak broadly about the department’s priorities, and you will return tomorrow to discuss specifically the department’s efforts regarding the Every Student Succeeds Act. Replacing No Child Left Behind was a leading priority of this committee for many years. We are eager to learn how the department plans to implement the new law in a way that adheres to the letter and intent of the law.
While that’s a conversation we will have in more detail tomorrow, it does reflect in some ways on today’s hearing. In fact, as we consider the work that lies ahead this year, there are two lessons we can learn from our efforts to improve K-12 education.
First, the American people want commonsense reforms that empower individuals, not federal bureaucrats. Families across the country face a number of difficult challenges, including stagnant wages, rising college costs, and a lack of full-time jobs. Unfortunately, the response by many in Washington is to call for more government, more programs, more spending, and more rules and regulations. We’ve tried this top-down approach for years and it hasn’t worked. It’s time we looked for other opportunities to provide more authority and flexibility to states and local communities, while also ensuring a more limited and accountable federal government.
Second, we have shown what’s possible when we work together in good faith for the common good. We saw a problem, agreed the status quo wasn’t working, and came together to enact a practical solution. Both sides brought to the table very different ideas and principles, but we were able to hold on to our principles and still find common ground. Because we did, we delivered real results for the American people and they expect similar results in the months ahead.
It’s for these reasons many of us are disappointed with the president’s budget request. It would provide the department with tens of billions of dollars in new spending to create and administer new entitlement programs, as well as numerous new competitive grant programs that put the department in charge of picking winners and losers. This additional burden to the taxpayer would not provide students and families a more efficient, effective, and accountable agency. Instead, these dollars would be used to grow an already bloated bureaucracy.
No doubt these proposals are well intended, but they will ultimately divert limited taxpayer resources away from existing services that are vitally important to low- and middle-income families. The American people aren’t interested in continuing the same failed policies, but that’s precisely what the president’s budget would do. It doubles down on the false hope that the federal government can create the opportunity and prosperity families desperately need.
We know there is a better way. We recently proved there is a better way. There are a number of issues that deserve our attention, such as expanding access to an affordable college education, improving career and technical education, and the successful implementation of our recent reforms to K-12 education. Dr. King, I hope we can work together on these and other important issues in a way that builds on our recent success by placing less faith in the schemes of Washington and more faith in the American people.


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