WASHINGTON | May 22, 2018
Today, the Committee on Education and the Workforce, chaired by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), held an oversight hearing
with Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos
to review the Department’s policies and priorities.
As Chairwoman Foxx said in her opening remarks:
“Secretary DeVos has made it clear that she is also a believer in local solutions for education challenges. It’s parents and the local school leaders they know and trust who are best equipped to make the decisions that will help improve education for all students. Most of the time, it should be our job at the federal level to stay out of their way. Sometimes there’s a need for legislation. Other times, it’s up to the Department to take a step back and let state and local officials respond to the needs of their communities.”
The committee hearing focused on reviewing the Department of Education’s work since the Secretary’s confirmation and the Department’s policy priorities looking forward. A number of key issues were discussed, including:
In the wake of the most recent school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, Secretary DeVos expressed her outrage and grief for the students, parents, and educators affected by the senseless attack. No student should fear for their safety within the walls of a classroom, and we must work tirelessly to prevent future tragedies from occurring. Secretary DeVos said:
“This Administration is committed to keeping our nation’s students and teachers safe at school. I have directed my department to do everything within the law to encourage those states and districts affected to take advantage of flexibilities so new funds appropriated under Title IV are useful . . .
“We are seeking input from students, parents, teachers, school safety personnel, administrators, law enforcement officials, mental health professionals, school counselors – anyone who is focused on identifying and elevating practical solutions.”
Postsecondary Education and the PROSPER Act
With more than six million unfilled jobs and over a trillion dollars in student debt, it is clear that the promise of postsecondary education is broken. We cannot afford to simply reauthorize the Higher Education Act; instead, we must reform it with the PROSPER Act. The Secretary told members:
“I want to commend you, Dr. Foxx, for your leadership on moving to reauthorize and reform the outdated Higher Education Act (HEA) through the PROSPER Act. This is an issue where we share great passion to help American education catch up to the needs of today’s – and tomorrow’s – students. I look forward to working with the full Congress to advance meaningful reform, and I know the President looks forward to signing it into law.”
The Every Student Succeeds Act
In 2015, President Obama signed the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) into law to reduce the federal role in education and restore state and local autonomy. To date, Secretary DeVos has approved 46 ESSA plans, and is working with the remaining six states to get their plans approval-ready. The Secretary told members:
“ESSA’s overwhelming bipartisan message was clear: States and local communities, not the Federal Government, are best positioned to improve education for every student in America . . .
“[T]he true test of ESSA will be how States, school districts, and schools turn their plans into action and embrace the flexibility the law allows.”
The Department of Education is presently undergoing the process of reviewing federal rules and regulations under its jurisdiction. In accordance with President Trump’s Executive Order, the Department is working to remove regulations and guidance that no longer prove relevant, necessary, or in students’ best interests. Secretary DeVos testified:
“We are removing old and outdated regulations and guidance letters from the books, including the many rendered obsolete as you have updated and amended laws.”
Secretary DeVos closed her testimony by reiterating that local solutions are often the best avenue to provide students with an excellent education and lifelong success, saying:
“[W]e must rethink the Department. We have developed a reorganization plan to more efficiently serve students and the taxpayer. The Department must protect the rights of students, especially the most vulnerable, while empowering parents, teachers, and local leaders to identify the best ways to meet the unique needs of the students they serve.”
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