House Education & Workforce Committee

Roe Statement: Hearing on “Discussion Draft to Modernize Multiemployer Pensions”

Education & the Workforce Committee - Thu, 09/22/2016 - 12:00am
We are here to discuss an issue that is vitally important to Americans from all walks of life: retirement security. This is a leading priority for millions of hardworking men and women, and that is why it’s a leading priority for Republicans and Democrats alike.

Strengthening retirement security has always been a difficult challenge with no easy answers. It’s one that demands thoughtful dialogue, bipartisan cooperation, and meaningful reforms. That’s exactly what our committee has been engaged in for several years now.

Since 2012, the committee has focused on examining and advancing bipartisan reforms to the multiemployer pension system. Over 10 million Americans rely on multiemployer pension plans. Unfortunately, many plans are severely underfunded due to an aging population, a weak economy, and fewer participating employers. To make matters worse, the federal agency insuring those plans—the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation or PBGC—is also headed for insolvency. As a result, workers, retirees, businesses, and taxpayers are at risk.

Fortunately, Congress has already taken action to help address this crisis. With the support of employers and labor leaders, Congress passed and President Obama signed into law important reforms to improve PBGC’s long-term stability, provide trustees with the tools they need to rescue failing plans, and prevent retirees from losing everything. These reforms represent significant progress, but there’s more work to be done.

Our focus now turns toward modernizing the multiemployer pension system for today’s workers and tomorrow’s retirees. A lot has changed since multiemployer pensions were developed decades ago. As union leaders, employers, and retiree and taxpayer advocates have expressed for years—it’s long past time to bring the system into the 21st century.

So, what does a modern multiemployer pension system look like? I hope we can dive deeper into this important question today. Before we begin, I’d like to explain a few guiding principles.

First and foremost, our goal is to strengthen retirement security. America’s workers deserve better than retirement plans based on empty promises and designed for yesterday’s workforce. In the 21st century, workers should have more retirement plan options that meet their needs.

While we take steps to modernize the system for the future, we must also protect workers and retirees in traditional multiemployer pension plans. We will continue to do everything possible to ensure those who have spent their lifetimes working hard and providing for their families can spend their retirement years with security and peace of mind. That means employers—even those who transition to modern retirement plans—should be required to sufficiently fund existing multiemployer pension commitments.

Second, a modern multiemployer pension system will improve the competitiveness of America’s businesses. In the 21st century, employers shouldn’t have to choose between growing their businesses or offering their employees secure and stable benefits. More flexibility through alternative plan options will empower employers to expand their businesses and create good-paying jobs—all while contributing toward their employees’ retirement.

Finally, we need to deliver greater protection for taxpayers. Unlike traditional defined benefit plans, these new multiemployer pension plans should not be covered by the PBGC. The last thing we need to do is to add more financial strain on an agency projected to go bankrupt in less than 10 years. And the last thing taxpayers need is to foot the bill for a multi-billion dollar bailout.

These are the overarching principles behind the discussion draft Chairman Kline recently released. His proposal would provide workers and employers a new retirement plan option known as “composite plans,” which combine the flexibility of 401(k)-style defined contribution plans with the lifetime income provided by defined benefit pension plans.

The draft proposal reflects input from employers, labor leaders, and retiree and taxpayer advocates. Still, we need more feedback. As its title suggests, this is a draft meant to spur a conversation. So, we want to hear from all of you and the broader public. How can we make this proposal best serve the interests of workers and employers?

We also welcome your views and ideas on reforms to improve PBGC’s fiscal health. Although we took steps to address PBGC’s shortfalls in 2014, more work is desperately needed, including further premium increases. The stakes couldn’t be higher: people’s retirement benefits—their livelihoods, their futures—are in jeopardy, and kicking the can down the road will only make the problem worse and unfairly threaten taxpayers with a bill they can’t afford.

We don’t always agree on everything. But I appreciate the bipartisan work this committee has done over the years to strengthen retirement security and tackle the challenges facing the multiemployer pension system. I hope we can continue what we started by advancing further reforms and modernizing the system for today’s workers and future generations. 

Rokita Statement: Hearing on “Supplanting the Law and Local Education Authority Through Regulatory Fiat"

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 09/21/2016 - 10:00am
When the committee last met to discuss the Every Student Succeeds Act, we heard concerns from state and local education leaders that the administration is not implementing the law in a way that respects its letter and intent. Since that time, the Department of Education has released a regulatory proposal so unprecedented—and so unlawful—that it demands its own examination.

The proposal I’m referring to is the department’s proposed “supplement, not supplant” regulation. This proposal changes the long-standing policy that federal funds supplement—rather than supplant—state and local resources. For years, the rule was applied differently depending on how many low-income students a school served. As a result, schools faced different requirements—some more onerous than others. That changed with the Every Student Succeeds Act—legislation that was passed with overwhelming support from both Republicans and Democrats.

Now, according to the law, the rule should be enforced equally across all schools. Districts only have to show that funds are distributed in a way that doesn’t take into account federal resources, and Congress deliberately chose not to prescribe a specific approach or outcome. The law also clearly prohibits the secretary of education from interfering in the process. However, that is exactly what this proposed rule would do, and the consequences will be significant.

As Chairman Kline explained when the regulation was proposed, it threatens to impose a multi-billion dollar regulatory tax on schools across the country. To comply with the policy, many school districts will have no choice but to change their hiring practices and relocate their teachers. Other communities may have to raise taxes because they simply don’t have the resources to meet this new burden. Some districts may have to do both.

Regardless of how a district must cope with the new regulation, the bottom line is that schools will be forced to make decisions based on getting the numbers to work—not on what’s best for their students—and the federal government will have unprecedented control over local education funding.

The department has said that its proposal will provide schools “flexibility,” but it really just dictates a short list of bad options. And, at the end of the day, it will be America’s poorest neighborhoods that are impacted most. That is the last thing Congress intended when it passed the Every Student Succeeds Act.

In fact, Congress considered similar reforms during debate of the legislation that focused on a separate provision, comparability. Instead, Congress specifically chose not to touch that provision and flat out rejected adopting a policy like the one the department is now trying to impose.

The department insists their “supplement, not supplant” proposal is not related to comparability, but even the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service has explained how this proposal is essentially an indirect way to amend the comparability provision. In short, this regulatory scheme is an attempt to accomplish something Congress specifically chose not to do. And anyone who was involved in passing the Every Student Succeeds Act knows that—whether they are willing to say so or not.

Still, even if the department were confused about the intent of the law, nothing excuses the fact that what it is proposing is simply unlawful. Again—as you can see in this language taken directly from the law—the Every Student Succeeds Act specifically prohibits the secretary from “prescribing the specific methodology a local education agency uses to allocate state and local funds to each school receiving assistance.” The department claims that is not what they’re doing, but with its limited list of options, it’s clear that is exactly what is happening. That’s why we have called on the department to throw this punitive policy out and to implement the law as it was written and intended.

For too long, our schools were forced to contend with a failed, top-down approach to education. That all changed with the Every Student Succeeds Act, but it seems the department hasn’t learned its lesson and is intent on undermining those important, bipartisan reforms. We will do everything in our power to ensure that doesn’t happen.

This hearing is part of our efforts to protect students, families, and taxpayers from this unprecedented and unlawful regulatory scheme—and just as importantly, to help every child receive an excellent education. The best chance we have to accomplish that critical goal is to ensure the Every Student Succeeds Act is implemented according to the letter and intent of the law.

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today and how they see this proposal impacting their local communities and schools across the country.

 

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Curbelo Statement: Debate on H.R. 5963, the Supporting Youth Opportunity and Preventing Delinquency Act

Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 09/20/2016 - 2:30pm
Helping kids succeed in life is a priority we all share. That’s why we work to make sure all children have access to the education and the opportunities necessary to achieve their goals and build fulfilling futures for themselves.

Unfortunately, too many children don’t realize that success is even an option for them. Too many others believe their chance has passed or don’t know how to seize it. As a result, they make decisions that put them on the wrong path and—in some cases—in the juvenile justice system. These are the children this legislation will help.

H.R. 5963 includes a number of positive reforms, all aimed at improving services to keep at-risk youth out of the juvenile justice system and help juvenile offenders turn their lives around.

First, the bill’s reforms will set these children up for long-term success. They will help them gain the skills they need to become productive members of society or a second chance to reach their full potential. These reforms will also give state and local leaders the flexibility to meet specific and unique needs of vulnerable kids in their communities.

The legislation also prioritizes what works, focusing on evidence-based strategies that will help reduce juvenile delinquency. It will also give policymakers, state and local leaders, and service providers a better understanding of the best ways to serve kids across the country.

Finally, the bill improves oversight and accountability to ensure juvenile justice programs are delivering positive results for children and to protect the taxpayers’ investment in these important programs.

These are all commonsense measures that will reform the juvenile justice system and improve public safety. But more than that, they will provide opportunities for kids to build successful, fulfilling lives—especially for young men and women who never thought that kind of life was possible.

I was happy to partner with our ranking member, Bobby Scott, on this important piece of legislation, and I am proud of the work we have done together. Mr. Scott has long been a champion of this effort, and with this bipartisan effort, we have put forward a good bill that will help more children in this country achieve success in life.

I would also like to thank our colleagues in the Senate—especially Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse—for their leadership and hard work, as well as Chairman John Kline, Amy Jones, Leslie Tatum, and the rest of the Education and the Workforce Committee staff. They have all helped pave the way for the reforms in the bill before us today, and I look forward to working with them to complete this important effort.

 

Curbelo Statement: Markup of H.R. 5963, the Supporting Youth Opportunity and Preventing Delinquency Act

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 09/14/2016 - 10:05am
Every child deserves the opportunity to achieve a lifetime of success. That’s why we worked together to empower parents and restore local control to K-12 education with the Every Student Succeeds Act. It’s why we advanced five bipartisan bills that will help more Americans pursue a higher education. And it’s why we advanced the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, a bill that will help students acquire the knowledge, skills, and experience they need to compete in the workforce.

The reforms are different, but the goal is the same: putting people on a pathway to success. And that’s the reason we are here today.

Since 1974, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act has coordinated federal resources to improve state juvenile justice systems. By focusing on education and rehabilitation, the law supports state efforts to put some of the most vulnerable kids across the country on the right path. That includes both keeping at-risk youth out of the juvenile justice system and giving kids who are already in the system a second chance to turn their lives around.

Over the years, these programs have made a real difference in the lives of many children—children like Sloane Baxter. As Sloane explained to us at a hearing last year, he was on the wrong path as a teenager and eventually ended up in the District of Columbia’s juvenile justice system. Sloane was detained in a youth detention center and later participated in a community-based alternative program called Boys Town.

Ranking Member Scott and I recently visited that same program, and it was easy to see how it helps kids like Sloane grow into productive, responsible, and healthy individuals. Today, Sloane is a high school graduate, works as a coffee barista, and runs his own home improvement business. He is on the right path, and he described that experience to us, saying:

“I easily could have become a statistic ... Instead, I’m a tax-paying, contributing member of society. There is that same possibility in every other young person as long as you, me, all of us are willing to not give up on them before they even really get to start.”

That possibility—that potential—is the reason we are considering this bill today. Introduced by Representative Curbelo and Ranking Member Scott, it reauthorizes and improves current law to help state and local leaders explore and implement better ways to serve at-risk youth and juvenile offenders in their communities. The bill will deliver state and local leaders flexibility to meet the needs of vulnerable children; support prevention services for at-risk youth; and focus on proven strategies that will produce results. It will also improve accountability and oversight to protect taxpayer dollars and help ensure the system is working.

Mr. Curbelo will discuss in greater detail the positive reforms in the bill. These reforms will deliver a collaborative and comprehensive system that brings parents, teachers, and community members together to help kids reject a life of crime and seize opportunities to achieve a lifetime of success. I urge my colleagues to help us put more children on the right path by advancing the Supporting Youth Opportunity and Preventing Delinquency Act.

In closing, I would like to note that this has long been a priority for Ranking Member Scott. I thank him for his leadership in championing this effort, and I commend both him and Representative Curbelo for working together to deliver bipartisan reforms that will make a real difference in the lives of a lot of children. I will now recognize Ranking Member Scott for his opening remarks.

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Kline Statement: Markup of H.R. 5963, the Supporting Youth Opportunity and Preventing Delinquency Act

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 09/14/2016 - 10:00am
Every child deserves the opportunity to achieve a lifetime of success. That’s why we worked together to empower parents and restore local control to K-12 education with the Every Student Succeeds Act. It’s why we advanced five bipartisan bills that will help more Americans pursue a higher education. And it’s why we advanced the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, a bill that will help students acquire the knowledge, skills, and experience they need to compete in the workforce.

The reforms are different, but the goal is the same: putting people on a pathway to success. And that’s the reason we are here today.

Since 1974, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act has coordinated federal resources to improve state juvenile justice systems. By focusing on education and rehabilitation, the law supports state efforts to put some of the most vulnerable kids across the country on the right path. That includes both keeping at-risk youth out of the juvenile justice system and giving kids who are already in the system a second chance to turn their lives around.

Over the years, these programs have made a real difference in the lives of many children—children like Sloane Baxter. As Sloane explained to us at a hearing last year, he was on the wrong path as a teenager and eventually ended up in the District of Columbia’s juvenile justice system. Sloane was detained in a youth detention center and later participated in a community-based alternative program called Boys Town.

Ranking Member Scott and I recently visited that same program, and it was easy to see how it helps kids like Sloane grow into productive, responsible, and healthy individuals. Today, Sloane is a high school graduate, works as a coffee barista, and runs his own home improvement business. He is on the right path, and he described that experience to us, saying:

“I easily could have become a statistic ... Instead, I’m a tax-paying, contributing member of society. There is that same possibility in every other young person as long as you, me, all of us are willing to not give up on them before they even really get to start.”

That possibility—that potential—is the reason we are considering this bill today. Introduced by Representative Curbelo and Ranking Member Scott, it reauthorizes and improves current law to help state and local leaders explore and implement better ways to serve at-risk youth and juvenile offenders in their communities. The bill will deliver state and local leaders flexibility to meet the needs of vulnerable children; support prevention services for at-risk youth; and focus on proven strategies that will produce results. It will also improve accountability and oversight to protect taxpayer dollars and help ensure the system is working.

Mr. Curbelo will discuss in greater detail the positive reforms in the bill. These reforms will deliver a collaborative and comprehensive system that brings parents, teachers, and community members together to help kids reject a life of crime and seize opportunities to achieve a lifetime of success. I urge my colleagues to help us put more children on the right path by advancing the Supporting Youth Opportunity and Preventing Delinquency Act.

In closing, I would like to note that this has long been a priority for Ranking Member Scott. I thank him for his leadership in championing this effort, and I commend both him and Representative Curbelo for working together to deliver bipartisan reforms that will make a real difference in the lives of a lot of children. I will now recognize Ranking Member Scott for his opening remarks.

 

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Kline Statement: Debate on H.R. 5587, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act

Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 09/13/2016 - 3:30pm
A quality education is vital to succeeding in today’s workforce. However, it’s important to know that a quality education doesn’t have to mean a four-year college degree. Career and technical education can be just as valuable, and for many individuals, it’s the path that’s best for them.

Earlier this year, members on the Education and the Workforce Committee heard from Paul Tse. Paul struggled as a student, but his life changed when he enrolled in a CTE program at the Thomas Edison High School of Technology in Silver Spring, Maryland. Today, Paul has a fulfilling career and not a dime of student loan debt.

There are countless other success stories just like Paul’s. The CTE classes Rob Griffin took as a high school student in Whitfield County, Georgia, prepared him for a successful career at one of the nation’s leading steel fabricators.

The hands-on experience Alex Wolff received at the Santa Barbara County Regional Occupational Program led to a rewarding career in electrical engineering. And Jasmine Morgan from the Atlanta area found her passion through CTE coursework and landed a job as a sports marketing specialist.

The goal of this legislation is to help more individuals write their own success stories. This bipartisan legislation will empower state and local leaders to tailor CTE programs to serve the best interests of the students in their communities. It will improve transparency and accountability, as well as ensure federal resources are aligned with the needs of the local workforce and help students obtain high-skilled, high-demand jobs.

These positive reforms are an important part of our broader agenda, A Better Way, which is aimed at helping more men and women achieve a lifetime of success. I want to thank Representatives Glenn Thompson and Katherine Clark for their leadership, and I urge my colleagues to support this legislation

 

Thompson Statement: Debate on H.R. 5587, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act

Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 09/13/2016 - 3:00pm
A weak economy and advances in technology have dramatically changed today’s job market, creating both challenges and opportunities for men and women entering the workforce. That is why equipping today’s students with the tools they need to remain competitive is essential. One way we can achieve that goal is by strengthening career and technical education programs for those eager to pursue pathways to success.

As co-chair of the Career and Technical Education Caucus, I have worked hard to increase awareness about the opportunities available through CTE. For some students, a four-year college is the best path forward. For others, a CTE program might be the best way to shape a fulfilling and successful future.

These state and local programs help individuals obtain the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in a number of different occupations and fields—fields like health care, technology, and engineering. However, the law that provides federal support for these programs has not been updated in more than a decade. Simply put: It does not address the new challenges today’s students, workers, and employers face.

That’s why I, along with my colleague Representative Katherine Clark, introduced H.R. 5587—a bill that works to modernize and improve current law to better reflect those challenges and provide more opportunities for students to pursue successful, rewarding careers.

Recognizing the importance of engagement with community leaders and local businesses, this bill empowers state and local leaders by providing them with the flexibility they need to best prepare their students for the workforce and respond to the changing needs of their communities. H.R. 5587 also promotes work-based learning and encourages stronger partnerships with employers to help students obtain jobs now and throughout their lifetimes.

I am also proud to say H.R. 5587 takes steps to reduce the federal role in career and technical education while ensuring transparency and accountability among CTE programs. By streamlining performance measures, the bill provides state and local leaders—rather than the federal government—with the tools they need to hold these programs accountable.

These are just some of the important reforms this bill makes to provide Americans with clear pathways to success.

 

Shutting Down For-Profit Schools Could Hurt More People Than It Would Help

Education & the Workforce Committee - Mon, 09/12/2016 - 12:00am

Shutting Down For-Profit Schools Could Hurt More People Than It Would Help
By Editorial Board

Never mind that the higher education plans of tens of thousands of students will be disrupted. Or that 8,000 people will lose their jobs. Or that American taxpayers could be on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in forgiven student loans. What is apparently of most importance to the Obama administration is its ideological opposition to for-profit colleges and universities. That’s a harsh conclusion, but it is otherwise hard to explain why the Education Department has unabashedly used administrative muscle to destroy another company in the beleaguered industry.

ITT Technical Institutes, one of the nation’s largest for-profit educational chains, on Tuesday abruptly announced that after 50 years in business it was shutting down more than 100 campuses in 38 states. The announcement, displacing an estimated 40,000 students, follows last month’s decision by the Education Department barring the school from enrolling new students using federal student aid and upping its surety requirements. The department said it was acting to protect students and taxpayers, noting the school had been threatened with a loss of accreditation and that it was facing a number of ongoing investigations by both state and federal authorities.

What is so troubling about the department’s aggressive move—which experts presciently called a death sentence—is that not a single allegation of wrongdoing has been proven against the school. Maybe the government is right about ITT’s weaknesses, but its unilateral action without any semblance of due process is simply wrong. “Inappropriate and unconstitutional,” said ITT officials.

Such unfairness sadly is a hallmark of the Obama administration policy toward higher education’s for-profit sector. It has singled out the industry for stringent employment and student loan rules and stepped up enforcement with stiff sanctions that, as The Post’s Danielle Douglas-Gabriel reported, have some companies on the brink of ruin.

There is no question that there are shady for-profit colleges and universities that take advantage of students by saddling them with debt and failing to give them marketable skills. They should not be in business. But then the same can be said for some public and private schools, whose wretched weaknesses the government seems glad to overlook.

To read the op-ed online, click here.


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Rethinking Pathways to Prosperity

Education & the Workforce Committee - Thu, 09/08/2016 - 12:00am

Career and technical education helps students acquire the education, skills, and experience they need to compete and succeed in the workforce. That’s why Reps. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA) and Katherine Clark (D-MA) introduced—and the committee unanimously approved—the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (H.R. 5587). In an op-ed for U.S. News and World Report, Charles Sahm, director of education policy at the Manhattan Institute, writes that the bipartisan bill will “help young people place their feet on the ladder to economic prosperity.”
 

Rethinking Pathways to Prosperity
By Charles Sahm
September 1, 2016

Across the political spectrum, there is wide agreement that strengthening career and technical education is key to improving economic and social mobility. Still, in these polarized, hyperpartisan times, it seems far-fetched that Congress could pass a thoughtful, bipartisan piece of legislation that would help young people place their feet on the ladder to economic prosperity. But as Congress returns from recess next week just such a bill is awaiting a vote.

The legislation, titled the "Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act," modernizes and reforms the Carl D. Perkins Act, which has funded career and technical education programs since 1984. It emerged from the House Education Committee via a unanimous 37 to 0 vote in June.

Like the recent reauthorization of the federal government's main education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, the Perkins reauthorization gives more discretion to the states. It doesn't seek to micromanage policy but rather requires states to measure and report certain targeted outcomes. The new law also incentivizes stronger engagement with employers, the utilization of "work-based learning" and programs that lead to attainment of "recognized postsecondary credentials" …

The best, most secure jobs of the 21st century will require some sort of post-secondary degree or industry-recognized credential. But that doesn't mean that every student need go directly from high school to a four-year college. It's time to rethink some of our rigid views around higher education in the United States. Other nations with higher mobility rates tend to make more use of apprenticeships and technical education.

If passed, the new Perkins Act would be a small but important step toward making sure that students get on the pathway to prosperity that's right for them.

To read the full op-ed, click here.

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Reforms Needed to Modernize the American Workforce

Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 07/19/2016 - 2:30pm

Helping Americans succeed in the workforce is a leading priority for members on the Education and the Workforce Committee. That’s why the committee unanimously passed a bill to strengthen career and technical education and help prepare more students for today’s high-demand jobs. Mark MacCarthy, vice president for public policy at the Software & Information Industry Association, wrote in The Hill how this bipartisan proposal will “ensure that technical education can anticipate the demand for jobs and equip the next generation labor force to meet these challenges.”
 

Reforms Needed to Modernize the American Workforce
By Mark MacCarthy
July 18, 2016

Siri will update you on the weather, share a joke, and tell you what’s on your calendar – but what she won’t tell you is that she’s the reason many fear technology is the enemy of jobs. Not Siri alone of course, but the myriad of ways technology is automating systems and eliminating the need for manual processes has created a growing uneasiness about the future of work.

While this fear is very likely overstated, there is no question that technology is reshaping the way work gets done. It is time for policymakers, industry and educators to fully recognize this change, and do more to adjust to the modern business environment.

In a display of bipartisan unity July 7, the House Education and Workforce Committee took a significant step towards doing just that. With its unanimous passage of the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, the Committee began the process of streamlining and modernizing the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act – first passed in the Reagan Administration – to better meet the needs of today’s students and businesses.

The Perkins Act provides federal support to state and local career and technical education, or CTE, programs, which are created and operated by state and local education leaders. These programs prepare high school and postsecondary students with academic, technical, and employability skills. But over the years, they have clearly struggled to keep up with the realities and challenges facing today’s workers and businesses.

The proposed reauthorization will strengthen connections between CTE programs and business and industry. Doing so will help more precisely identify the career fields, along with the skills and credentials, needed regionally. The legislation also calls for a new biennial needs assessment that will ensure programs stay current as workforce needs evolve. These reforms will help CTE programs make certain students can compete for the particular types of jobs that exist locally – now, and in the future ...

If the House passes the current reform bill and the Senate follows with quick action, we will make meaningful progress to ensure that technical education can anticipate the demand for jobs and equip the next generation labor force to meet these challenges.

To read the full op-ed, click here.
 

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Foxx Statement: All Education Is Career Education

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 07/13/2016 - 12:00am
For far too long, there has been a discrepancy in what students are learning in the classroom and what employers say they need in the workplace. The passage of the bipartisan Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act in 2014 was an important step for the millions of Americans who are looking for work and for the employers who have job opportunities that remain unfilled due to the “skills gap.” However, great jobs are still going unfilled, Americans are still missing out on rewarding careers, and many businesses are still suffering.

The Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act has provided federal support to state and local career and technical education programs for more than 30 years. H.R. 5587, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, updates the law to reflect today’s economic needs and the challenges that students and workers currently face.

In particular, I’m pleased that the bill streamlines the number of performance measures for postsecondary programs and aligns them with the performance measures in WIOA, retaining that law’s precedent-setting accountability standards that let taxpayers and lawmakers see clearly which programs work—and which programs don’t.

This bipartisan bill goes a long way toward ensuring that individuals who pursue a technical education have the knowledge and skills they need to succeed.

However, I believe it’s time we acknowledge that all education is career education and stop dividing the path to a high school degree into two tracks.

Students pursue education to develop the necessary skills to find a job, preferably a career, in a chosen field. It’s the same objective whether the student is pursuing a medical degree at an Ivy League university or taking automotive performance courses at the local community college.

Unfortunately, there is an unnecessary stigma attached to career and technical education. It’s too often referred to as the “other” track, with the incorrect implication that it’s the path individuals take if they won’t be able to handle the rigors of college. In reality, students who pursue CTE complete a diverse curriculum where they learn important skills for succeeding in the workplace, such as problem-solving, research, time management, and critical thinking. They are more engaged, perform better and graduate at higher rates than their college-bound counterparts. We should be celebrating that success and studying how we translate it across the board.

But as long as we have two educational tracks, we have a problem in the way people perceive those who choose career and technical education. We need to shift our perspective away from the idea that every student must attend an expansive and expensive four-year program to succeed in the workforce. Educational success is about more than just a degree. It’s about quantifiable skills that employers need in their employees.

 

Kline Statement: Debate on Bills to Strengthen Higher Education

Education & the Workforce Committee - Mon, 07/11/2016 - 12:00am
This bill is one of several bipartisan reforms the House is considering today that will help strengthen higher education and put more Americans on a path to success.

A quality education is crucial to succeeding in today’s workforce. Unfortunately, our costly, bureaucratic, and outdated higher education system leaves too many Americans behind.

We all know the tough challenges that exist. College costs continue to rise. A dizzying maze of student aid programs discourages students from pursuing a degree or credential. Complex federal rules impede innovation and make it harder for students to pursue a degree more quickly and at less cost.

The net result is that it’s become harder and harder for Americans to realize the dream of a higher education. Without the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the workforce, many men and women struggle to find good-paying jobs and earn a living to provide for their families.

Those who are fortunate enough to earn a degree are often saddled with student debt they can’t afford and unprepared to start their careers in an increasingly competitive and changing economy.

We have to do better. We have to open more doors to opportunity and help more Americans reach their full potential.

The bipartisan package of higher education reforms we’re considering is a positive step toward achieving that goal.

Together, these reforms will empower students and their parents to make informed decisions; simplify and improve the student aid process; enhance existing support for institutions serving minority students; and ensure strong accountability for taxpayer dollars.

We have more work to do to strengthen higher education, but today we are making important progress.

I want to thank my Republican and Democrat colleagues for putting their differences aside and working together to help more Americans pursue their dream of a college degree.

 

Thompson Statement: Markup of H.R. 5587, "Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act"

Education & the Workforce Committee - Thu, 07/07/2016 - 10:05am
As co-chair of the Career and Technical Education Caucus and the sponsor of H.R. 5587, I am happy to have an opportunity today to discuss this bipartisan legislation.

It’s no secret that our country continues to face significant economic challenges, and it’s no surprise that many men and women are worried about their future and their family’s future. Just last week, a Gallup poll found that 54 percent—just 54 percent—of Americans believe today’s young people will live a better life than their parents.

As a father, I can say there is nothing a parent wants more for their children than a life that is better than their own. When you hear that only half of all Americans expect their children to have a brighter future than they did, it becomes clear that we need to do better. And we can do better—not just for our own kids but for the neighbor who can’t find a job, the friend from church who struggles to make ends meet, or the high school student who doesn’t believe he or she has what it takes to succeed.

With the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, we have an opportunity today to advance reforms that will help these and many other Americans—especially young Americans—obtain the knowledge and skills they need to break the cycle of poverty and achieve a lifetime of success. The bill will modernize and improve current law to better reflect the challenges and realities facing students, workers, and employers.

The bill will empower state and local leaders by simplifying the application process for receiving federal funds and providing them more flexibility to use those resources to respond to changing education and economic needs. These reforms will help state leaders focus on preparing students for the workforce—not duplicative or overly prescriptive federal requirements—and enable them to determine the best way to do so.

Other reforms will help ensure career and technical education is providing students the skills they need to compete for in-demand jobs that exist in their local communities now and in the future. To accomplish that goal, the legislation promotes work-based learning and encourages stronger engagement with employers—both in developing and evaluating career and technical education.

To increase transparency and accountability, H.R. 5587 streamlines performance measures to ensure secondary and postsecondary programs deliver results, helping students graduate prepared to secure a good-paying job or further their education. The bill also includes measures to provide students, taxpayers, and state and local leaders the information they need to hold CTE programs accountable for delivering those results.

Finally, H. R. 5587 will reduce the federal role in career and technical education and limiting opportunities for the federal government to intervene in state and local decisions, and preventing political favoritism.

These reforms and others in this bipartisan bill will improve CTE for the many students who rely on it to help them pursue their dreams and accomplish their goals. And I’m confident they will also help more students do the same.

The substitute amendment I am offering makes a number of changes, including technical clarifications, to the underlying bill. Among them are changes to clarify eligibility requirements for postsecondary institutions and the innovation grants application process. Other changes will increase coordination between research and evaluation activities, improve professional development, and allow CTE funds to be used to support career and technical student organizations and to make instructional content widely available.

In closing, I’d like to thank Representative Clark and our colleagues on both sides of the aisle for the work they have done to move this bill forward. I urge all of my colleagues to support this important bipartisan legislation.

Kline Statement: Markup of H.R. 5587, "Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act"

Education & the Workforce Committee - Thu, 07/07/2016 - 10:00am
The committee meets to consider H.R. 5587, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act. Introduced by Representatives Glenn Thompson and Katherine Clark, this bipartisan bill will help more Americans—particularly younger Americans—compete and succeed in today’s workforce.

We are here because of inspiring individuals like Paul Tse. Paul is, in his own words, a proud graduate of a career and technical education program. These programs—created and run at the state and local levels—offer individuals the knowledge and hands-on training they need for a wide range of fields, from computer science and information technology to law enforcement and nursing. Successful CTE programs are often based on rigorous coursework and the workforce needs of local communities.

At a hearing the committee held in May, Paul testified how he struggled as a student in high school—poor attendance and lackluster grades. As his friends began making plans to go off to college, he remembered feeling embarrassed and helpless at the idea that he might be left behind. Then one day his life changed.

A family member suggested he look into a skilled trade as a possible career path. With the help of a guidance counselor, Paul enrolled in a CTE program at the Thomas Edison High School of Technology, located in Silver Spring, Maryland. His program focused on installing and maintaining heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems. Soon after graduation, he received two offers to join local businesses as an apprentice.

In the span of a few years, Paul has been a student, apprentice, journeyman, and now, project manager. He has a promising, fulfilling career, and I might add, not a dime of student loan debt. Speaking of his experience as a CTE student, Paul said, “I am the American dream,” and he urged us to help ensure every child in America has the same opportunities he did.

I think all of us want to hear more stories like Paul’s, and that’s why this legislation is so important. In recent years, we have taken significant steps to help individuals receive the knowledge and skills they need to succeed. We modernized an outdated workforce development system and improved K-12 education, important achievements that will make a positive impact in the lives of many Americans.

Today we can build on those efforts and help further spread the promise of a quality education to more Americans. Indeed, many of the same principles that guided those efforts are also reflected in this bill: restoring control to state and local leaders; enhancing transparency and accountability for taxpayers; ensuring a limited federal role; and better aligning programs with in-demand jobs.

It’s because of these principles the bill includes reforms to ease administrative burdens and increase funding flexibility at the state and local levels; it’s why the legislation encourages stronger partnerships with local business leaders; it’s why the bill empowers state leaders to set clear measures of performance that serve the interests of students and taxpayers; and it’s why the legislation reins in the authority of the Secretary of Education and restricts the ability of the federal government to interfere in state and local decisions.

These reforms will help prepare students for today’s workforce, not the workforce that existed years ago. A great education is the great equalizer, but not every individual chooses the same path. For those who have a particular skill, talent, or passion, career and technical education is often the key that opens the door to a lifetime of success. That’s true for Paul Tse, and with this legislation, it can be true for many others as well.

I want to thank Representatives Thompson and Clarke for introducing a bipartisan bill that will improve career and technical education and help Americans compete and succeed in the workforce. I urge my colleagues to support the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act.

Kline Statement: Hearing on “Next Steps in K-12 Education: Examining Recent Efforts to Implement the Every Student Succeeds Act”

Education & the Workforce Committee - Thu, 06/23/2016 - 12:00am
Welcome back, Secretary King, and thank you for joining us. When we last met, the process for implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act was just getting underway. We had a healthy discussion about the bipartisan reforms Congress passed and the president signed into law. Those reforms are designed to restore state and local control over K-12 schools.

That’s not just my own personal view. It’s the view held by governors, state lawmakers, teachers, parents, principals, and superintendents who recently wrote that, “[The Every Student Succeeds Act] is clear: Education decision-making now rests with states and districts, and the federal role is to support and inform those decisions.” It’s also the view of most honest observers. As the Wall Street Journal editorialized, the law represents the “largest devolution of federal control to the states in a quarter-century.”

The reason for this hearing and our continued oversight is to ensure the letter and intent of the law are followed. A critical part of our effort is holding your agency accountable, Mr. Secretary, for the steps that are taken to implement the law. When you were with us in February, you said, “You can trust that we will abide by the letter of the law as we move forward …”

That is a strong statement, and it is one of several commitments you’ve made that the department would act responsibly. But actions speak louder than words. In recent months, we have seen troubling signs of the department pulling the country in a different direction than the one Congress provided in the law.

The first troubling sign is the rulemaking process itself. There are a number of concerns about the integrity of the negotiated rulemaking committee, including the makeup of the panel, the lack of rural representation, and the accuracy of statements made by department staff. The point of the negotiated rulemaking process is to build consensus among those directly affected by the law, yet it seems the department decided to stack the deck to achieve its own preferred outcomes.

The second troubling sign surrounds the long-standing policy that federal funds are to supplement, not supplant, state and local resources. Prior to the Every Student Succeeds Act, this rule was applied differently depending on how many low-income students a school served; some schools faced more onerous requirements than others. Last year, Congress decided the rule would be enforced equally across all schools. Now, school districts must simply show that funds are distributed fairly without prescribing a specific approach or outcome. The law explicitly prohibits the secretary from interfering, yet that is precisely what your proposal would do. 

What the department is proposing would be both illegal and harmful to students and communities. It would impose a significant financial burden on states and force countless public school districts to change how they hire and pay their teachers. This regulatory effort is trying to achieve an end Congress deliberately rejected and that the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service warns goes beyond “a plain language reading of the statute.” No doubt you have good intentions, Mr. Secretary, but you do not have the legal authority to do this. I strongly urge you to abandon this flawed scheme.

The third troubling sign is the department’s accountability proposal. Let me note that there are policies in this proposal we are pleased to see, such as how states set long-term goals and measure interim progress. But in a number of ways, we also see the department’s bad habit for making decisions that must be left to states.

This is especially troubling given the law’s explicit prohibitions against federal interference, including how states compare school performance and identify schools for support. For years, states grappled with a rigid accountability system imposed by Washington. The Every Student Succeeds Act turns the page on that failed approach and restores these decisions back to state and local leaders. I urge you, Mr. Secretary, to adopt a final proposal that fully reflects the letter and spirit of the law. 

We are raising these concerns because it’s vitally important for the laws written by Congress to be faithfully executed. And just as importantly, we are raising these concerns because we want to ensure every child has the best chance to receive a quality education. We cannot go back to the days when the federal government dictated national education policy—it didn’t work then and won’t work now.

If the department refuses to follow the letter and intent of the law, you will prevent state leaders, like Dr. Pruitt from Kentucky, from doing what’s right for their school districts. You will deny superintendents, like Dr. Schuler of Arlington Heights, Illinois, the ability to manage schools in a way that meets the needs of their local communities. And you will make it harder for teachers, like Cassie Harrelson from Aurora, Colorado, to serve the best interests of the students in their classrooms.

Later, we will hear from these individuals because they represent the people we want to empower. Every child in every school deserves an excellent education, and the only way to achieve that goal is to restore state and local control. That’s what the Every Student Succeeds Act is intended to do, and we will use every tool at our disposal to ensure the letter and intent of the law are followed.

Foxx Statement: Markup of H.R. 3178

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 06/22/2016 - 11:30pm
Each year, families across the country face difficult decisions about where they can afford to send their children to college and what institution is the best fit for them. Students must wade through massive and often conflicting amounts of information in order to make an informed choice.

While the federal government has long provided students with financial assistance to pursue a postsecondary education, for many, the college selection and financial aid process is complicated, burdensome, and confusing. Taking time to fully understand the available data can be an aggravating task that may get put off and ultimately ignored, often with disastrous consequences

In 2008, Congress attempted to make information about colleges and universities more transparent with the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. That bill directed the secretary of education to collect and report on information from every college and university receiving federal student aid, including cost of attendance, the percentage of students receiving financial aid, and college completion rates. As a result, information from 7,000 colleges across the nation is now available to help students and their families plan for the future. But there is more that can be done.

Much of the data available because of the 2008 reforms does not take into account large numbers of students enrolled in higher education or fails to capture crucial information that students and families need. To make matters worse, many of the federal government’s efforts to increase transparency in higher education since 2008 have only added to the confusion and uncertainty many prospective students face.

That’s why I—along with my colleagues Mr. Messer and Mr. Sablan—introduced the Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act. This bill will improve the information students and their families need to make smart decisions about their education, providing a more complete picture of student populations on our nation’s college campuses. It will also begin to streamline the overwhelming maze of information currently provided to students and families at the federal level.

More specifically, the bill requires the secretary of education to create a consumer-tested College Dashboard. This dashboard will provide students with the key information they need to decide what school to attend—such as the completion rates of all students at that college or university, not just those attending college full time and for the first time.

To ensure students know this information is available to them, the bill also instructs the secretary to actively provide links to the College Dashboard pages of each institution that a student lists on his or her application for federal student aid. By improving and making more students aware of the information available, we can better assist them in making financially responsible decisions that will help them achieve the dream of obtaining a college degree.

Furthermore, this legislation will streamline many of the federal government’s existing transparency efforts—requiring better coordination between federal agencies and eliminating unnecessary initiatives.

It’s crucial that we continue to increase transparency in the country’s higher education system. The Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act is a positive step forward in that effort. The substitute amendment I am offering makes small technical changes to the base bill for clarity.

I urge my colleagues to support the amendment, as well as the underlying legislation

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