Education & the Workforce Committee
Everyone here agrees our children deserve better. They deserve the opportunity to receive a better education and pursue a better life. That’s why improving K-12 education continues to be such an important priority at the federal, state, and local levels. By empowering parents to do what’s best for their child, school choice has been an instrumental part of that effort.
When we passed legislation last year to improve K-12 education, empowering parents was one of our primary goals, because we know parents can make the most meaningful difference in their child’s education. Several reforms in the Every Student Succeeds Act help parents do what’s best for their child’s education by expanding school choice, reforms such as: increasing access to quality charter schools and magnet schools; protecting home schools from federal interference; and launching a pilot program that will encourage excellent schools to enroll harder to serve students.
While these reforms are encouraging, education leaders in state capitals and local school districts are the real reason why the promise of school choice has touched the lives of so many parents and children. The progress we have seen over the last 25 years is remarkable.
The school choice movement began in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1990, where local leaders piloted the first private school choice program. Known as the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, the pilot provided low-income families scholarships to attend a quality school. Since then, the program has paved the way for thousands of students to receive a better education and inspired 27 other states to create different types of private school choice programs – many of which have been credited with helping students graduate not only from high school, but from college as well.
My home state of Minnesota was not far behind Milwaukee in expanding educational opportunities for students and families. In 1991, the state passed the nation’s first charter school law, providing parents an alternative public school option that better met their child’s needs. Today more than 40 states have passed charter school laws, opening the doors to thousands of schools that have served millions of students.
These are just a few examples of how school choice is helping students and families. Last week marked the 5th annual National School Choice Week, where more than 16,000 events in all 50 states showcased the success of school choice, from private school scholarships and public charter schools to homeschooling and education savings accounts. In all its forms, school choice has provided real hope to moms, dads, and children across the country.
Today, as we learn more about how states and local communities are expanding school choice, I encourage my colleagues to ask how we can support these efforts and help more children receive the education they deserve.
Carter Statement: Markup of H.R. 4293, the Affordable Retirement Advice Protection Act, and H.R. 4294, the Strengthening Access to Valuable Education and Retirement Support Act
Having owned and operated community pharmacies for nearly thirty years, I was very proud to provide retirement plans for my employees. When you’re a small business owner, your employees are like family, and you want what’s best for them. You want to help them build a comfortable future, and when they leave your business, you want them to enjoy the retirement they worked so hard to achieve.
Fortunately, I was able to do that for my employees. I worked with an advisor that I knew and trusted to set up a retirement plan, and as a result, my employees benefited. For me, providing that benefit was an important part of owning a small business, and it’s a priority for many other small business owners as well.
While working with our Democratic colleagues to develop these legislative proposals, Dr. Roe convened a hearing to explore the consequences of the Department of Labor’s fiduciary proposal and discuss the best way to protect affordable retirement advice. At that hearing, we heard from Rachel Doba, a small business owner from Indianapolis who started a civil engineering firm that focuses on local public works projects.
Ms. Doba has a trusted financial advisor who has helped provide retirement security for her 15 employees – who she called her family – as well as for herself. She considers her advisor a part of her team and her employees trust him to provide educational materials that will help the team make sound financial decisions. Ms. Doba explained that those resources are important to her both as an employer and as an individual saving for her own retirement, but she is concerned the department’s proposal puts all of that in jeopardy. And she’s not alone.
She and many employers like her are fearful that complicated and discriminatory new requirements will drive up costs and make it significantly harder – if not impossible – to help their employees plan for retirement. They simply don’t have the time, resources, or expertise to do that without the help of an advisor, so many of them will be forced to stop providing retirement advice to their employees all together. And that’s a big problem.
Small business owners provide hundreds of billions in retirement savings for millions of households. If even a fraction of those small business owners are unable to provide their employees with retirement plans as a result of the department’s flawed proposal, the impact on workers will be significant. Having had the privilege of helping my own employees save for their retirement, I know what cutting off such an important resource could mean for them and their families.
That’s why joining Dr. Roe’s effort to introduce a bipartisan alternative to the department’s proposal was so important to me. These proposals will ensure financial advisors act in their clients’ best interests. They will keep trusted retirement advice affordable for all families planning for retirement. And they will ensure small business owners continue to receive the help they need to provide the retirement plans their employees deserve.
That’s why joining Dr. Roe’s effort to introduce a bipartisan alternative to the department’s proposal was so important to me. These proposals will ensure financial advisors act in their clients’ best interests. They will keep trusted retirement advice affordable for all families planning for retirement. And they will ensure small business owners continue to receive the help they need to provide the retirement plans their employees deserve.
Kline Statement: Markup of H.R. 4293, the "Affordable Retirement Advice Protection Act," and H.R. 4294, the "Strengthening Access to Valuable Education and Retirement Support Act"
We are here to improve protections for those who rely on the help of financial advisors when saving for retirement. This effort began four and a half years ago, when Congressman Phil Roe held the first congressional hearing on the Department of Labor’s proposed changes to the rules governing retirement advice. At the time, Chairman Roe raised concerns that the department’s expansive proposal would hurt the very people it was intended to help, and those concerns were shared by Republicans and Democrats alike.
Due to the leadership of Congressman Roe and others, the department would later withdraw its proposal. We had hoped that would mark the beginning of a more collaborative effort between Congress and the administration, one that would improve in a responsible way policies affecting retirement advisors. In fact, we have repeatedly expressed our willingness to do just that.
Unfortunately, the department has insisted on a different approach. After withdrawing its proposal in 2011, the department went back behind closed doors to draft a new regulation that suffers from the same fatal flaws as the first. It creates a convoluted regulatory scheme that will drive up the cost of retirement advice. Men and women will lose access to their trusted financial advisors. Providing basic information about retirement planning will be severely restricted, and it will be much harder for small business owners to provide retirement plans to their workers.
This regulatory proposal will hit low- and middle-income families the hardest. Wealthier Americans can already afford to hire professional advisors who direct and manage their investments on a near daily basis. Low- and middle-income families cannot. These families have fewer means to invest, and they often just need some help getting started and staying on the right track. The Department of Labor is threatening the ability of these families to find the help they need at a cost they can afford.
These concerns have been expressed time and again by lawmakers in both parties serving on both sides of the Capitol. The question is: What are we going to do about it? Are we going to cross our fingers and hope the administration gets this right? Or are we going to put forward our own ideas to improve the law and protect families saving for retirement? The stakes are too high for Congress to sit back and do nothing.
Fortunately, Republicans and Democrats are committed to a responsible, bipartisan alternative. That is why Congressman Roe, along with Representatives Buddy Carter, Richard Neal, John Larson, and Peter Roskam developed the legislation we are now considering. Despite important differences, the bills before us today and the department’s regulatory proposal are similar in two important ways.
First, they would both require financial advisors to serve their clients’ best interests. There has never been any argument over whether a ‘best interest’ standard is the right standard, but there are clear differences on how to implement it. This bipartisan legislation strikes the right balance between raising the bar on financial advisors and ensuring individuals have access to basic advice, like whether to roll money from one retirement account to another.
Second, both the legislation and the department’s proposal recognize that transparency is vital to empowering individual investors. The legislation builds upon existing policies requiring advisors to disclose meaningful information to their clients, including how the advisor is compensated for his or her services. Unlike the proposed regulation, the bipartisan legislation provides investors with the information they need to make an informed decision and then lets them make the decision that’s best for their families.
Raising the bar on financial advisors and increasing transparency are how you strengthen protections for retirement savers. This bipartisan legislation accomplishes both in a way that doesn’t harm the men and women who rely on the help of their trusted financial advisors.
In closing, I’d like to briefly discuss the process, because I suspect some of our colleagues will as well. More than two months ago, Congressman Roe and others invited anyone wishing to craft a bipartisan alternative to the department’s proposal to join the effort. Not a single Democrat on this committee accepted the invitation. Yet here we are, considering a bipartisan proposal, in an open legislative process, where Republicans and Democrats are free to offer their ideas.
This is a stark contrast to the department’s own regulatory process. No one here has seen the latest draft of the department’s proposal. No one knows what – if any – changes the department has made in response to public concerns. And no one will have an opportunity to review or comment on the final proposal before it is imposed on millions of families.
The hardworking men and women trying to save for their retirement deserve better than an extreme, partisan scheme jammed through a flawed regulatory process. This legislation provides members of Congress an opportunity to vote on a responsible, bipartisan alternative that will strengthen the retirement security of working Americans, and I urge my colleagues to support it.
Roe Statement: Markup of H.R. 4293, the "Affordable Retirement Advice Protection Act," and H.R. 4294, the "Strengthening Access to Valuable Education and Retirement Support Act"
When the Department of Labor first proposed changes to the rules governing retirement advice, we had concerns. We completely agreed – and still do – that financial advisors should be required to act in their clients’ best interests. Instead, our concerns were focused on the details of the department’s proposal.
It became clear that rather than help individuals obtain high-quality retirement advice, the proposal would make retirement planning harder for those most in need of assistance. So we, along with a number of our Democratic colleagues, called for the department to rethink its proposal. We held hearings and wrote letters, and eventually, the department decided to go back to the drawing board. Unfortunately, when they released their revised proposal last year, it was similarly flawed.
Once again, it became clear the department’s approach would make retirement advice unaffordable or inaccessible for low- and middle-income families. Once again, we heard from small business owners who explained how they will be unable to offer their employees retirement plans if the department’s rule goes into effect. And once again, we weren’t alone in our concerns.
Much like with the department’s first proposal, our Democratic colleagues in both the House and the Senate spoke out against the rule. In fact, nearly 100 House Democrats – including members of this committee – wrote to Secretary of Perez about concerns they were hearing, concerns that the proposal could limit the ability of certain individuals to access retirement advice. Those House Democrats also urged the department to seek a balanced approach that protects individuals while still protecting access to retirement investment advice for all Americans.
That’s exactly the approach we took in developing the two proposals we’re considering today. With the administration clearly intent on pushing forward a flawed proposal, I – along with several colleagues from both sides of the aisle – began working to come up with a legislative solution. We developed a set of principles to guide that effort, and after much work and collaboration, we put forward these two bills.
Some say we should wait until the department finalizes its proposal. In other words, we should wait until it’s too late. Instead, we drafted a bill that gives the administration a chance to get it right. If they release a responsible rule, Congress will approve the plan, and it will go into effect. If not, our bipartisan alternative will do what the department couldn’t.
These proposals will strengthen retirement planning by requiring financial advisors to look out for their clients’ best interests. They will enhance transparency and accountability with several clear, simple, and relevant disclosure requirements. And they will protect access to high-quality, affordable retirement advice for all workers, retirees, and small business owners. I’m confident our bipartisan solution will ensure more Americans are able to successfully plan for their futures and, as a result, are able to look forward to their hard-earned retirement.
The changes in the proposed substitute amendment make a number of technical and clarifying changes to the original bill. I urge my colleagues to support the substitute, as well as the underlying bill, and I yield back the balance of my time.
Workforce Protections Subcommittee Chairman Tim Walberg (R-MI) issued the following statement today in response to enforcement changes announced by the Department of Labor's (DOL) Wage and Hour Division:
Once again the administration is pushing regulatory policies that will harm the workers and job creators they claim they want to help. This is part of a larger effort that will threaten the livelihoods of small business owners and destroy opportunities for workers and entrepreneurs to succeed in today's economy. Every day countless individuals are working to start their own businesses and shape an innovative 21st century workforce, and the president and his allies insist on imposing outdated policies that will hold them back. Adding insult to injury, the administration denied the very men and women impacted by this new regulatory scheme a chance to voice their views and concerns. We need to focus on solutions that will create – not destroy – opportunities for working families to achieve the success they deserve.
BACKGROUND: In recent years, the Obama administration has made a concerted effort to redefine what it means to be an employer. Discarding years of settled labor policy, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a decision in August 2015 that expanded the definition of employer to include those who have "indirect" or even "potential" control over practically any employment decision. This followed a decision by NLRB General Counsel Richard Griffin who determined McDonald's Inc. was a joint employer with various franchises.
Also in August 2015, news reports revealed a draft memorandum to expand joint employer liability for workplace safety and health violations. The committee wrote to Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez in October 2015 to request information on this proposed change to health and safety enforcement. In a written response on November 18, 2015, the department denied any new enforcement guidance had been created and stated the "Department did not coordinate with the [NLRB]" in preparing the draft memorandum.
However, on January 13, 2016, the committee received new information which calls into question the veracity of the department's previous assurances, including emails between department and NLRB officials expressing a desire to "compare notes" on joint employer policies. The committee has since renewed its request for all documents, communications, and information related to this matter. The full letter and more information on the committee's oversight are available here.
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House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) issued the following statement after the Department of Labor released unemployment data for December 2015:
It is always good to hear that more Americans are back to work, but we cannot forget the very real challenges countless men and women continue to face. Millions of workers are unemployed or unable to find full-time jobs, and at the same time, stagnant wages have left many families falling further behind. The status quo isn’t good enough. We can do better and must do better. Next week, the president has an opportunity to show he agrees by outlining a unifying agenda that will deliver the opportunity and prosperity every American deserves.
Walberg Statement: Hearing on “How the Administration's Regulatory Onslaught Is Affecting Workers and Job Creators"
Recent months have shown signs of economic improvement and signs of continued concern. Roughly eight million Americans are still unemployed and searching for work, and an additional six million are working part-time hours when they really need and want full-time jobs. And that doesn’t include the millions of individuals who are so discouraged by meager job prospects that they have dropped out of the workforce entirely. Meanwhile, those with jobs are facing fewer opportunities to advance and earn higher wages.
Some will say the problems facing workers and job creators can be solved with more spending, more government mandates, and more regulation. Perhaps we will hear some of those claims today, but that’s the same failed approach the Obama administration has pursued over the last seven years. The results have been an anemic economy, sluggish job growth, and most importantly, less opportunity and prosperity for millions of hardworking men and women.
Time and again we have called on the administration – including those at OSHA and the Department of Labor more broadly – to pursue a different, more responsible course, and time and again our calls have been rebuffed. The most recent example was the release of the administration’s regulatory agenda, which doubles-down on the same extreme regulatory approach that has made the problems plaguing the country worse at the expense of those struggling the most.
Let me be clear: Federal policies do play an important role in ensuring safe and healthy workplaces and protecting the basic rights of hardworking men and women. That’s not what we are here to discuss today. The question isn’t whether there should be rules of the road for workers and employers to follow. The question is how we ensure those rules are implemented fairly, responsibly, and in a way that promotes the best interests of both workers and their employers.
Unfortunately, more often than not, what we’ve seen from this administration is an overly punitive and unnecessarily burdensome approach. Adding insult to injury, often these rules and regulations are being developed and changed without any public input. This regulatory approach is holding us back, and that is the focus of today’s hearing.
We know there are areas where we can make meaningful change without creating costly consequences and unintended harm. For example, Chairman Kline and I have said we are open to modernizing current overtime rules to strengthen protections for workers and help employers fulfill their legal responsibilities. Instead, we have to confront a proposal that will limit workplace flexibility, make it harder for workers to advance up the economic ladder, and impose a significant burden on small businesses.
Earlier this year, Nicole Berberich, director of Human Resources at the Cincinnati Animal Referral and Emergency Center, testified about the challenges employers are already facing because of complicated federal wage and hour regulations. She also explained that small businesses like the one she works for are likely to experience the burdens of these regulations disproportionately. And she added that those burdens will continue to worsen with the expected overtime changes.
At a separate hearing, Eric Williams – who worked his way up from a crew member at a fast-food restaurant to become a franchisee and chief operating officer of CKE Restaurants – shared his fears that the administration’s overtime proposal “will severely limit hardworking, talented Americans from realizing their dreams.” He worries that, because of the proposal, some employees “may never reach their potential.”
The overtime proposal is just one example of this administration’s misguided approach to regulating. At another hearing, Drew Greenblatt, a steel wire manufacturer from Baltimore, spoke to us about how government policies are hindering growth and how he and others in his industry find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place. He explained his situation as between, “A rock of harsh and unforgiving global economic competition and a hard place of inflexible and ever-proliferating regulations.”
It should be clear to anyone who is listening that the current regulatory onslaught is making life harder for working families and small businesses owners, not better. According to a study commissioned by the National Association of Manufacturers, federal regulations cost more than $2 trillion in lost economic growth annually. And the American Action Forum estimates that the administration imposed more than $181 billion in new regulatory costs during 2014 alone. These are staggering statistics that, in many ways, represent lost wages and fewer jobs for American workers.
Today we will hear from our witnesses how this unprecedented regulatory approach has created troubling concerns for workers and small businesses during the past year. My hope is that by demanding more responsible regulatory policies, we can ensure a prosperous 21st century workforce.
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As my role as Subcommittee Chairman of Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, I’ve personally visited dozens of schools and talked to parents, teachers, students, and local education leaders.
No Child Left Behind’s high-stakes testing, which requires every child to be caught up to grade level in one year is unworkable.
Currently, the Secretary of Education, through waivers, can run schools by executive fiat, imposing requirements on state testing standards and conditioning receipt of federal funds on adopting Common Core Standards.
It is time for a change and this bill is the Every Student Succeeds Act.
This bill originated in my Subcommittee as H.R. 5, the Student Success Act, which I co-authored with Chairman Kline. When I was appointed to the conference negotiating team, my goal was to make sure the conservative reforms and policies in the Student Success Act were kept in our final product.
We were successful. This bill, as the Wall Street Journal puts it, is the largest transfer of federal control to the states in twenty- five years.
This bill empowers states and ends federally mandated, unproductive, high-stakes testing, the core of No Child Left Behind.
It provides flexibility, so voters and taxpayers through their locally elected officials, can decide for themselves what success looks like. It recognizes that “one size does not fit all” when it comes to determining academic standards.
It is time we put our children first so we can compete in a global, 21st century world. It is time we trust parents, teachers, and local education leaders more than we trust federal bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. This bill is a huge step in that direction and I urge my colleagues to support it.
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For more than a decade, Washington has been micromanaging our classrooms. Federal rules now dictate how states and local communities measure student achievement, fix broken schools, spend taxpayer resources, and hire and fire their teachers.
No Child Left Behind was based on good intentions, but it was also based on the flawed premise that Washington knows what students need to succeed in school. And what do we have to show for it?
Less than half of all 4th and 8th graders are proficient in reading and math. An achievement gap continues to separate poor and minority students from their more affluent peers. In some neighborhoods, children are far more likely to drop out of high school than earn a diploma.
Parents, teachers, superintendents, and other education leaders have been telling us for years that the top-down approach to education isn’t working. Yet some still believe that more programs, more mandates, and more bureaucrats will help get this right. Well, those days will soon be over.
Today we turn the page on the failed status-quo and turn over to our nation’s parents and our state and local leaders the authority, flexibility, and certainty they need to deliver children an excellent education.
We reached this moment because replacing No Child Left Behind has long been a leading priority for House Republicans. For years we have fought to improve K-12 education with three basic principles: reducing the federal role, restoring local control, and empowering parents. The final bill by the House and Senate conference committee reflects these principles.
The bill reduces the federal role in K-12 education by repealing dozens of ineffective programs, placing unprecedented restrictions on the secretary of education, eliminating one-size-fits-all schemes around accountability and school improvement, ending the era of high-stakes testing, and preventing this administration and future administrations from coercing or incentivizing states to adopt Common Core.
The bill restores local control by protecting the right of states to opt-out of federal education programs and delivering new funding flexibility so taxpayer resources are better spent on local priorities. The conference agreement also returns to states and school districts the responsibility for accountability and school improvement. A set of broad parameters will help taxpayers know if their money is being well-spent, while ensuring state and local leaders have the authority necessary to run their schools.
And the bill empowers parents by providing moms and dads with the information they need to hold their schools accountable. The conference agreement also strengthens school choice by reforming programs affecting charter schools and magnet schools, and prevents any federal interference with our nation’s private schools and home schools.
Reducing the federal role. Restoring local control. Empowering parents. These are the principles we have fought for because these are the principles that will help give every child a shot at a quality education. Now, let me be clear, this is not a perfect bill. To make progress you find common ground. But make no mistake, we compromised on the details and we did not compromise our principles.
The American people are tired of waiting for us to replace a flawed education law. They are tired of the federal intrusion, the conditional waivers, and the federal coercion. Most importantly, they are tired of seeing their kids trapped in failing schools. Let’s do the job we were sent here to do. Let’s replace No Child Left Behind with new policies based on principles we believe in.
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Roe Statement: Hearing on “Principles for Ensuring Retirement Advice Serves the Best Interests of Working Families and Retirees”
Retirement security is something many Americans work hard to achieve, but doing so can be very challenging. While many individuals understand the need to plan for retirement, they don’t necessarily know the best way to do so. That’s why many workers rely on financial advisors to help them build a foundation for a secure retirement. And why too many others simply retire without the resources they need to remain financially stable.
Men and women who have worked hard all their lives want to enjoy their retirement – spending time with their grandchildren, taking up a new hobby, or finally getting through the to-do list they didn’t have the time to tackle before. They don’t want to worry about making ends meet or leaving their loved ones with a significant financial burden.
As policymakers, we should be doing everything we can to ensure workers are able to effectively plan for life after leaving the workforce. Unfortunately, we’re here today because a proposal from the Department of Labor is threatening to make it harder for workers to do that.
The administration has said this proposed rule – known as the “fiduciary rule” – will require retirement advisors to put the best interests of their clients above their own financial interests. That, of course, is an admirable goal and one we agree is worth pursuing. Financial advisors should act in their clients’ best interests, and Republicans have long said we are open to modernizing current rules in a way that provides more protections to those seeking retirement advice.
However, as witnesses explained at a committee hearing this summer, the department’s rule – as proposed – will impose on financial advisors a host of costly new mandates and burdensome regulations that will have far reaching consequences for those most in need of assistance. And as with most well-intended Big Government schemes, it’s the people who need help who are hurt the most.
Many low- and middle-income families will lose access to some of the most basic retirement advice. These individuals – who already have fewer resources to invest – will no longer be able to seek guidance from trusted financial advisors and could be forced to pay exorbitant fees or fend for themselves online. Additionally, small business owners will be denied assistance in choosing the best investment options for their employees, leaving many small businesses unable to offer any retirement plan at all.
The proposal is so extreme and unworkable that it is drawing serious concerns from both sides of the aisle. A significant number of Democratic policymakers in both the House and the Senate have written to the department about the proposed rule, calling its anticipated effects “troubling” and urging the department to “seek a balanced approach.” This committee sent a letter with a similar request, asking for the withdrawal of the proposal and encouraging the department to work with Congress on a more responsible approach.
Now, if this all sounds familiar, there’s a good reason: We’ve been through it before. Nearly five years ago, the department pursued a similar regulatory proposal, and similar bipartisan concerns were raised. The difference is that last time around, the department listened to those concerns, withdrew its proposal, and went back to the drawing board to develop a new – albeit similarly flawed – rule. This time, the department seems determined to ignore legitimate bipartisan concerns and force its misguided rule on the American people.
That’s why I am working – along with a number of my Republican and Democrat colleagues on this committee and the Ways and Means Committee – to develop a legislative solution that will accomplish what the Department of Labor has failed to. Our proposal will strengthen retirement security, but, unlike the department’s approach – it will do so without hurting working families and small businesses.
To guide this effort, we developed a set of important principles that our bipartisan solution will reflect, such as protecting access to the retirement advice workers, retirees, and small business owners need and ensuring retirement advisors serve their clients’ best interests. Let me repeat that: their clients’ best interests. We believe that financial advisors should look out for their clients’ best interest, but we also believe the rules governing financial advice should do no harm to those saving for retirement.
Today’s hearing is an opportunity to further explore these principles, to hear what our witnesses believe a workable best interest standard looks like, and to continue our work to introduce a responsible legislative proposal that will help individuals save for their retirement. I look forward to our discussion and to the work ahead.
Rep. Phil Roe, M.D. (R-TN): Restoring Local Control to K-12 Education
Since I was sworn in to Congress in 2009, I've proudly served on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. A former mayor, I am keenly aware of the importance of our educators and school administrators. They shape the future of our communities, and their work greatly affects the economy, which is why I've made it a point to regularly visit schools around Tennessee's first congressional district.
Everywhere I go in the district, I hear from teachers, parents, administrators and students who all tell me that we need to return control of our education system to the local level. Many are frustrated by No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and worry about the Department of Education's attempts to control education policy by conditional waivers, leaving states and school districts with uncertainty and little control over their schools. I think we can all agree that NCLB was well-intentioned, but it has failed our students and made things more difficult for our educators.
I was honored to be asked to serve as a conferee for the House and Senate conference committee tasked with ironing out the differences in separate bills passed by the House and Senate this summer to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). I was glad to see strong bipartisan support behind the framework agreed to by leaders of the House and Senate Education Committees, and we have released the legislative text of the conference report.
One of my highest priorities in these discussions was bringing peace of mind to the parents and teachers I've heard from about the adoption of the Common Core State Standards Initiative. While these standards were developed in a process that began as a state-led initiative, in recent years concern has increased as the Department of Education has required states to adopt these standards as a condition for receiving federal grants or relief from the punitive mandates of No Child Left Behind.
The House bill took away the department's ability to require Common Core as a condition of federal grants, which ensures the decision on whether or not to adopt Common Core will truly be left up to the states — as it should be — and I am proud that important language was included in the final bill, known as the Every Student Succeeds Act. The bill also protects local control by prohibiting the secretary of education from adding any new requirements on states and schools not required in law.
By preserving local control and protecting state decision-making power on Common Core, we're making things easier for school districts to do what works best for them. As I've said before, just as a one-size-fits-all approach doesn't work for healthcare reform, it does not work for education. Each state, school district and student are different, and local administrators, teachers and parents — not the federal government — should make decisions based on what's best for their students.
While this bill is imperfect, I truly believe the conference committee has reached a strong agreement that reflects conservative priorities in education reform, priorities such as reducing the federal role and restoring local control. Make no mistake: A vote against this bill is a vote for the status quo that leaves the secretary of education with the power to coerce states into adopting Common Core.
On my way home after work just the other evening, I met a boy at the grocery store who was looking for some items on the shelves. He asked me for help in locating crushed pineapples because he told me couldn't read the words. I helped him and we found the crushed pineapples, but it hit me — this is why we want to invest in education. We have to have a system that ensures that boy and thousands of other children just like him are given the opportunity to succeed in life, and that starts with a good education.
A good education that gives his teachers and school administrators the resources and flexibility they need to educate students based on their own unique needs. Congress has a great opportunity to start helping that child and others like him by agreeing to the bipartisan, bicameral bill to replace No Child Left Behind, and I look forward to supporting the bill on the House floor.
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Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC): Replace No Child Left Behind to Improve Education, Empower Parents
As a child, my family’s home didn’t have electricity or running water. My parents, while dedicated and hardworking, were poor with little formal education.
Fortunately, I was pushed by the right people – teachers and administrators who wouldn’t let me settle for less than my best. In the mountains of North Carolina, I learned firsthand the power of education and its vital role in the success of individual Americans.
Unfortunately, today’s K-12 education system is failing our students.
Decades of Washington’s counterproductive mandates have resulted in stagnant student achievement, disappointing graduation rates and high school graduates entering college and the workforce without the knowledge and resources they need to succeed. Parents and education leaders have lost much of their decision-making authority to Washington bureaucrats, and the Secretary of Education has bullied states into adopting the Obama administration’s pet policies.
In November a House-Senate conference committee reached an agreement on a proposal to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, bringing Congress one step closer to replacing No Child Left Behind. As a grandmother, educator and former school board member, I know students are best served when teachers, parents and administrators are the driving force behind improving education. This proposal does just that by reducing the federal footprint in the nation’s classrooms and restoring control to the people who know their students best.
The compromise between the House-passed Student Success Act and the Senate-passed Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 gets Washington out of the business of running schools. It protects state and local autonomy by prohibiting the Secretary of Education from coercing states into adopting Common Core and by preventing the secretary from imposing requirements on states and school districts through executive fiat.
The proposal eliminates the burdensome, one-size-fits-all accountability system that has done more to tie up states and school districts in red tape than to support local efforts to educate children. It also reduces the size of the federal education bureaucracy by eliminating 49 ineffective and duplicative federal programs and requiring the Secretary of Education to reduce the department’s workforce accordingly.
If Congress fails to act, states will be forced to choose between the fundamentally flawed policies of No Child Left Behind, which doubled down on federal programs, mandates and spending, and the Obama administration’s controversial temporary, conditional waiver scheme, which has imposed the administration’s preferred policies and heightened the level of uncertainty shared by states and school districts. America’s students deserve better.
By reversing Washington’s one-size-fits-all micromanagement of classrooms, Congress has the opportunity to give parents, teachers and local education leaders the tools they need to repair a broken education system and help all children reach their potential. It’s time to get Washington out of the way.
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After nearly a year of legislative work, Congress is poised to replace No Child Left Behind and improve K-12 education. Both the House and Senate passed separate proposals to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act this summer, and now a bicameral conference committee has put forward a final proposal that will reduce the federal role in education, restore local control, and empower parents. The Wall Street Journal writes today that the conference agreement may not be perfect, but it would “represent the largest devolution of federal control to the states in a quarter-century.”
Review & Outlook: No Child Left Behind’s Successor
Conservative reformers have had major successes, notably on welfare in 1996. But when a reform doesn’t turn out as hoped, they need to adapt. A case in point is No Child Left Behind, which the GOP Congress is now preparing to leave behind.
This week the House plans to debate the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which lapsed in 2007 and needs revision. A bipartisan compromise has emerged from the Senate and House that isn’t perfect but would represent the largest devolution of federal control to the states in a quarter-century. It’s far better than the status quo that would continue if nothing passes.
No Child Left Behind, signed by George W. Bush in 2002, was the product of an imperfect union between Republicans who wanted more school accountability and Democrats who wanted more spending. In return for more federal funds, states were required to test students annually and report the results. One hundred percent of students were supposed to rate proficient by 2014, and failing schools were required to restructure under federal guidelines.
Yet few of the law’s goals have been achieved. Some states dumbed down standards so more students would pass the tests. Then the Obama Administration issued blanket waivers from the law’s mandates—but only if states adopted Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s prescriptions for teacher evaluations and common academic standards.
Washington’s heavy hand has produced a political backlash that crosses ideological lines, uniting teachers unions who want less accountability with Republicans who want less federal control. The ESEA compromise tries to accommodate this revolt by balancing federalism and accountability.
Gone are No Child Left Behind’s proficiency benchmarks and mandated federal interventions. The Education Department wouldn’t be able to prescribe accountability systems and standards.
To read more, click here.
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- The final agreement … would mark a major transfer of power and authority over public schools from the federal government to states and local school districts. It would also mean a significant reduction in the legal authority of the U.S. education secretary. The deal would largely dismantle the federal accountability system created in 2002 by No Child Left Behind … It would also extinguish the system of waivers given by the Obama administration, in which states that wanted to escape the demands of No Child Left Behind agreed to embrace the preferred policies of the administration. — Washington Post
- The compromise sharply reduces the federal role in education, giving the states the authority to determine a school's performance … The Education Department also would be barred from mandating or giving states incentives to adopt or maintain any particular set of standards, such as the college and career-ready curriculum guidelines known as Common Core. — Associated Press
- Notably, the new legislation will go to great lengths to tie the hands of the secretary of the Department of Education by putting strict language where NCLB had left discretion to the department. — Desert News
- This will turn decisions about accountability back to the local level, [school district officials] say. "Some people might try to portray this as a free-for-all, or the wild, wild west, but that's not the case," said David Schuler, the superintendent of High School District 214 in the Chicago suburbs, and the president of the AASA, the School Administrators Association. "This would allow those conversations to move from D.C., in most cases, to our state capitol, and that's where they should be." — Education Week
- There would be less federally mandated testing in schools, and the remaining tests would not be tied to any federal consequences. The bill also prohibits the Department of Education from giving states special positive or negative incentives to adopt specific academic standards, as Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has been doing with Common Core using waivers from No Child Left Behind. — Washington Examiner
- This new ESEA gives power back to the states, which would now be in charge of fixing their most embattled schools, evaluating their teachers, deciding which tests to administer, determining how to use those tests to rank schools, how to educate dual-language learners, and on and on and on. In other words, we might finally be turning the corner on the era of federal micromanagement of K–12 education and leaving No Child Left Behind behind. — Slate
- It cuts down on the number of education programs in what they see as a bloated department and prevents a future secretary from overstepping his or her bounds the way they say Duncan did. States and districts, they say, will do a better job than Washington responding to the needs of poor and minority kids. – Politico
- Under the new K-12 law, school districts identified by their states as under-performing would be eligible for federal grants to make improvements, but the federal government wouldn't prescribe which reforms are necessary. The deal also would bar the U.S. Education Department from requiring states to adopt Common Core academic standards in exchange for federal grants. — USA Today
- The greatest change in the proposed law is a dismantling of the federal accountability system that defined whether K-12 schools were successful, prescribed actions to improve struggling schools, and imposed penalties on states and schools that failed to make progress. It also prevents the federal government from requiring states to evaluate teachers and principals and adopt specific academic standards. — Washington Post
Conservatives are also recognizing the stark difference between NCLB and the House-Senate proposal. Frederick Hess, director of education policy at the American Enterprise Institute, recently wrote in The Hill,
The new bill contains unprecedented language restricting the secretary of Education's discretion and eliminating his or her ability to use the law to shape state policy. It ends the invasive and problematic Race to the Top and School Improvement Grant programs. It contains strong language prohibiting federal officials from seeking to influence state academic standards (think of this as the "no more federal support for the Common Core" provision). It puts an end to the federal government telling states how to improve teacher quality or evaluate teachers.
This AEI scholar has also described the bicameral framework as striking a “ringing blow for the principle of limited government” and “a notable conservative victory.” Congress is expected to review and consider a final bill in the coming weeks. Before the end of the year, the American people should have a new K-12 education law that will help ensure every child receives an excellent education.
For more information on the framework, click here.
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