House Education & Workforce Committee
By Christopher Beach
With control of all three branches of government, Republicans are set on unraveling President Obama's education legacy and pushing an unprecedented amount of funding and authority back to states.
Leading this charge is Rep. Virginia Foxx, the newly appointed chairwoman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee. Her mission, as she told RealClearPolitics in an interview for the new episode of the “First 100 Days” podcast series, is to make the federal government “as minimal as possible.”
In fact, the North Carolina Republican has no qualms about abolishing the entire Department of Education. “If the Lord put me in charge, I would do it,” Foxx said. But she admitted, “I do not think it's politically feasible.”
Instead, the GOP is busy chipping away at specific Obama-era regulations related to the nation's new education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). And the Trump administration just took an axe to Obama's controversial Title IX transgender restroom rules. Foxx approved of the decision and added that Obama had circumvented the legislative process and tried to “interpret into the law something that was never intended.” (At the time of her interview with RCP, the administration's decision was imminent but had not yet been issued.)
You might describe Foxx as a strict constitutionalist. The seven-term congresswoman is a staunch believer that powers not specifically granted to Congress or the executive branch by the Constitution should be delegated to the states, and that includes decisions involving education. Furthermore, she asserts that the federal government's intervention in education has not been effective.
Foxx pointed to the fact that the U.S. has spent over $3 trillion on Title I funding directed at improving outcomes for low-income students, yet “reading levels have not changed one bit since 1965.” “Something is wrong with this scenario,” she added.
(According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the Nation's Report Card, reading scores for fourth- and eighth-graders have ticked up marginally over the past several decades, but scores for 12th-graders have remained stagnant and, in recent years, actually decreased.)
In interviews and in person, the committee chairwoman is not known to hedge or mince words. Her moxie and direct style are partly shaped by her remarkable personal journey from abject poverty to unlikely success. Growing up in Appalachia, her family didn't have electric power or running water until she was 14. At age 12, she took a job as a weaver to help provide for her family. She worked her way through high school as a janitor and became the first member of her family to graduate.
She talks openly about being raised in one of the poorest areas of the country, but stresses that it didn't stop her from succeeding. “That's what this country is about,” Foxx stated. Now, her personal goal is to protect the opportunity for anybody who grew up in similar circumstances to succeed also.
That's one reason she is an avid supporter of school choice. While Foxx did not specifically address how Republicans in Congress will go about it, she voiced support for Trump’s and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ desire to dramatically expand school choice. She also pushed back against critics, saying they’re trying to deny children in failing schools the opportunity at a better education.
After completing high school, Foxx graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and later earned both a master’s degree in college teaching and a PhD in education from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She worked as a research assistant and English instructor in higher education and later became the president of Mayland Community College.
As you might expect, she's well-versed in the issues of higher education and is a vocal advocate for expanding college opportunities, whether it be through industry certification programs, two-year college or four-year degree programs. In her opinion, the United States needs to elevate the status of people who chose not to get a four-year degree. She stressed that states should develop better career and vocational training programs for students who don't want to go on to college.
To listen to the full interview, click here.
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The rules and regulations implementing federal wage and hour standards are overly complex, burdensome, and outdated, creating significant challenges for workers and small business owners. For Rhea Lana Riner, the confusing maze of rules and red tape forced her to confront costly litigation that could put her out of business and jeopardize valuable opportunities for families in need. She recently testified before the committee to share her story.
Arkansas Entrepreneur Tells U.S. House Panel That Regulations Threaten Survival of Company
By Frank E. Lockwood
An Arkansas woman who built a consignment sale empire told congressmen Thursday that federal regulations threaten the survival of her company.
Rhea Lana Riner told members of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce that she's been locked in a legal battle with the U.S. Department of Labor since 2013.
"If we lose, Rhea Lana's will no longer be able to provide its valuable service to families in need," she said.
Thursday's hearing focused on "Federal Wage and Hour Policies in the Twenty-First Century Economy." The entrepreneur from Faulkner County was the first of four people who addressed the subcommittee on workforce protections.
Riner started her children's clothing consignment company in 1997, holding the first sale in her Conway living room. A few friends gathered, buying and selling items. Since then, her business has mushroomed, with 80 franchises that operate in 23 states.
Many of the mothers who buy or sell gently used kids apparel also volunteered their time and helped run the consignment sales. In exchange, they're allowed to shop before the sale opens to the general public.
But in 2013, the Department of Labor said that Rhea Lana's Inc. was in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act because she was using volunteer labor.
Since then, the government agency and Riner have been fighting each other in federal court.
If Rhea Lana's loses, it faces penalties as high as $3.6 million, she said.
Riner portrayed the battle as a struggle between big government and small business, between hardworking moms and oppressive bureaucrats.
"We're continuing to fight for a mother's right to use her personal time as she sees fit to help her family," she said.
To read more, click here.
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By Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC)
What a difference an election can make. Across the country, there is renewed hope and confidence in the future. Expectations are high, as they should be. Now it’s time to do the hard work necessary to live up to those expectations.
For eight years, families and small businesses have lived with the consequences of failed policies and failed leadership. They have endured job growth that is sluggish, wages that are largely flat, college costs that continue to rise and health care costs that are still skyrocketing.
However, it is a new year with new leadership and new opportunities to deliver real solutions that will improve the lives of the American people. As the chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, I look forward to playing a leading role in this important effort.
We will start by rolling back the regulatory onslaught that is crushing schools, states, employers and working families. In recent years, new regulations have been finalized that affect virtually every aspect of American life.
Under President Obama, the Department of Education sought to control how local communities spend their K-12 education dollars. The department also dictated how states identify and improve under-performing schools, and it put hardworking taxpayers on the hook for tens of billions of dollars in student loans.
Meanwhile, the Department of Labor finalized extreme changes to overtime policies that would destroy jobs, reduce real income for families, raise costs on small businesses and make it harder for lower-skilled workers to climb the economic ladder. That’s enough damage from one agency, but for the Obama labor department, this barely scratches the surface.
We have also witnessed new rules restricting access to affordable retirement advice and a host of regulatory schemes that empower union bosses at the expense of workers and small businesses. The list goes on, but you get the picture.
Bureaucrats who have never owned businesses are micromanaging the decisions employers make every day. Central planners in Washington pretend they know better than teachers, principals, parents and faculty how best to educate America’s students. Enough is enough.
Working with the new administration, we will rein in the regulatory state. We will remind those employed by the federal government that they work for the American people, not the other way around.
We will work to undo the damage that has been done. We will also work to advance positive, conservative solutions to tackle some of our nation’s toughest challenges.
One of the first steps will be strengthening career and technical education (CTE). CTE has helped a lot of students gain the knowledge and skills they need to compete in the workforce. Recently, we came close to achieving reforms that would provide states more flexibility, reduce administrative burdens, improve accountability and better ensure students are prepared for in-demand jobs. It is my hope we will finish this important work in the coming months.
We also intend to take early action to help vulnerable youth get on the pathway to success by improving the juvenile justice system. Furthermore, we will continue our efforts to make higher education more accessible and affordable, deliver patient-centered health care solutions and help more Americans retire with financial security and peace of mind.
These and other important priorities will expand opportunities for students to learn and for Americans to climb the economic ladder. A new Congress and new administration mark a new beginning for this great country. We face a historic opportunity. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and seize this opportunity.
Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) is the Chairwoman of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
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In recent years, working families and small businesses have faced significant challenges as they’ve struggled through the slowest economic recovery since the Great Depression. Since 2009, the economy grew at an average annual pace of just 1.5 percent. The net result is limited opportunity for hardworking men and women.
In fact, the labor force participation rate has dropped to 62.9 percent — nearly the lowest level in decades. Wage growth remains largely stagnant, as the average hourly earnings for today’s worker is roughly the same as in 2009. Meanwhile, 7.6 million Americans are searching for work, and nearly six million individuals are working part-time hours when what they really need are full-time jobs.
We cannot accept this as the new normal. The American people have clearly spoken, and they expect their leaders in Washington to put the country on a better path and finally get the economy moving again, which means more and better paying jobs.
That’s why Republicans are committed to advancing a bold agenda that will remove barriers to job creation and empower more Americans to reach their full potential. As part of that effort, this subcommittee will examine the policies impacting America’s workforce, and ensure those policies support, rather than hinder, the ability of workers to succeed and employers to grow and hire.
A key part of this effort will be robust oversight of the policies under our jurisdiction, and as Chairwoman Foxx has made clear, a commitment to holding the administration accountable for how it enforces the law. There is too much at stake for families and small businesses to leave any stone unturned, whether it’s examining policies that are intended to promote safe and healthy workplaces, holding federal contractors accountable, or ensuring wage determinations under the Davis-Bacon Act are done accurately and fairly.
We have a lot of ground to cover in the coming months. And of course, an important part of our agenda — and the reason for today’s hearing — will be taking a close look at a law that affects practically every workplace in the country: the Fair Labor Standards Act. The law was signed over eighty years ago to address the challenges that existed during the Great Depression. It established important protections for workers, and has served as the foundation of our nation’s wage and hour policies ever since.
A lot has changed in those eighty years. For starters, things that are part of our daily life didn’t even exist back then — smartphones, iPads, and the internet, just to name a few. Advancements in technology have led to virtual workplaces, entire new industries, and flexible, innovative work arrangements. Most recently, we’ve seen the rapid rise in the so-called “sharing” economy.
The point is the American workforce has transformed dramatically, and the challenges facing workers and employers today are different than they were in the 1930s. However, our labor policies have failed to adapt. The rules and regulations surrounding the Fair Labor Standards Act are simply outdated. At the same time, small business owners are getting tied up in a complex regulatory maze that forces them to confront costly litigation and limits their ability to expand.
It is clear our nation’s wage and hour rules were designed for another era and no longer reflect the realities of the 21st century workforce. That’s why it’s so disappointing that the previous administration missed an opportunity to streamline and modernize these important worker protections. Instead, the Obama administration spent its time and resources advancing an extreme and partisan overtime rule that would stifle workplace flexibility and limit opportunities for career advancement.
I can tell you that small businesses in my district are breathing a sigh of relief that this fundamentally flawed rule was blocked by a federal judge. Countless small business owners were worried that they would have to cut their employees’ hours or even lay people off. Colleges, universities, and non-profits were bracing for an especially devastating impact. As an example for my home state, the rule would have cost the University of Alabama System 17 million dollars in just the first year, costs that would have likely been passed on to students in the form of higher tuition and fees.
Fortunately, we have a new administration that understands how misguided regulations often hurt the very individuals they’re intended to help. We also have a new Congress that is working to advance an agenda that will foster economic growth and deliver results for the American people.
Bringing our nation’s wage and hour rules into the 21st century will be an important part of the conversation. I look forward to hearing from our witnesses who can speak more to the challenges resulting from an outdated law and the need for positive reforms that will improve the lives of hardworking Americans.
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Rokita Statement: Hearing on "Providing Vulnerable Youth the Hope of a Brighter Future Through Juvenile Justice Reform"
Of course, juvenile justice reform isn’t just a concern for those of us here today. It’s something that has long been a national priority. Through their juvenile justice systems, state and local leaders are working to promote communities that are safe. Communities that help children learn and grow into productive members of society. Communities that provide opportunities for all children — regardless of their background or past mistakes — to pursue their dreams and achieve their goals.
For decades, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act has coordinated federal resources to help improve those state juvenile justice systems. The law primarily focuses on education and rehabilitation to support efforts keeping at-risk youth out of the system, as well as efforts providing juvenile offenders already in the system the second chance they need to move forward with their lives in positive ways.
Today, more than one million young men and women across the country are involved in the juvenile justice system. That includes children as young as ten all the way to those on the cusp of adulthood. That’s a noteworthy number on its own, but it doesn’t even include the countless others who are at risk of becoming involved in the system because of circumstances such as poverty, homelessness, or difficulties at home.
That statistic provides an idea of the size and scope of the juvenile justice system, but it’s even more important to understand what being a part of the juvenile justice system actually means for each of those two million kids. In many cases, it means being at a disadvantage, not fully understanding what potential the future holds, and not realizing that opportunities exist to turn things around.
In fact, youth who have been incarcerated are 26 percent less likely to graduate from high school than their peers and 26 percent more likely to engage in other unlawful activity and return to jail as adults.
We, as a society, have to help children avoid becoming one of those statistics, and we can accomplish that by helping some stay out of the system all together and by helping others come out of the system with the opportunities and the motivation they need to chart a better course for themselves. Given the social and economic challenges facing our country, that’s no small feat. However — through a collaborative effort among parents, teachers, and local community members — it can be done.
That’s why we are here today — to discuss our role in that collaborative effort and to begin considering what steps Congress can take to help state and local leaders better serve vulnerable youth in their communities.
Last year, we advanced a number of bipartisan reforms to provide state and local leaders the flexibility they need to meet the needs of youth in their cities and towns, focus on proven strategies, and improve accountability and oversight both to help kids succeed and protect taxpayers. Ultimately, these reforms would set kids up for long-term success, helping them gain the skills they need to become productive adults and promoting opportunities for them to achieve success throughout their lives. I’m certain those commonsense reforms will help guide the work ahead as we renew our effort to improve the juvenile justice system.
As a father, I want my children to have every opportunity they need to succeed in life, and I work very hard to ensure they do. I also work hard to ensure they understand it’s their responsibility to seize those opportunities. Unfortunately, not all children are in the same position, and those are the kids we are here for today. I look forward to continuing our work to provide them the hope of a brighter future.
By Reps. Tim Walberg (R-MI) and Francis Rooney (R-FL)
The Times’ Feb. 10 editorial, “House Republicans side with Wall Street against the little guy,” sadly resorts to worn out rhetoric and attacks about motive rather than engaging in an honest debate about ideas.
If we were to respond in kind, we would question the L.A. Times’ enduring faith in big government programs and their belief in a world without unintended consequences. But we won’t, because the readers of this paper deserve better.
Instead, here is why we oppose federal regulations that would be detrimental to the retirement security of private-sector workers. During the final days of the Obama administration, the Department of Labor created a regulatory loophole that would allow states to skirt a federal law designed to protect retirement savers.
The law, known in shorthand as ERISA, was signed by President Ford more than 40 years ago. Congress passed the law because it recognized employers would need clear rules of the road that applied across state lines if employees were going to have retirement options through work.
Upon signing the law, Ford said the American people will have “greater assurances that retirement dollars will be there when they are needed.” The Obama administration’s regulatory actions undermine these long-standing assurances.
What spurred the new regulation? An effort developing across states (and in a few cities and counties) to create government-run IRAs for private-sector workers. Businesses that currently do not offer a retirement option would be forced to auto-enroll their employees in this government-run plan and be forced to deduct from their workers’ paychecks the money to fund these plans. States can impose onerous restrictions and penalties on both employers and employees.
The regulatory loophole the last administration created during its waning days gave states and cities the federal green light they needed to set up these government-run retirement plans.
For us, this debate is not whether state-run IRAs are or are not a good idea, although we have our concerns, including the risks that taxpayers are exposed to and whether these government-run plans will discourage small businesses from offering workers private-sector options.
These concerns are especially relevant in states that have a history of mishandling the pension promises made to their public-sector workers. In fact, according to one estimate, states have more than $5 trillion in unfunded pension obligations.
States such as California should be free to experiment and find new ways to encourage more retirement savings. The crux of this debate is whether states should receive a sweetheart deal and be free to do an end-run around policies that have long protected workers and retirees. We believe they should not, and that is why we have introduced resolutions that would close the regulatory loophole created by the Obama administration.
How we strengthen the retirement security of working families is an important debate to have. As part of that discussion, we would question whether more government is the answer, especially when the government’s involvement threatens to undermine the very private-sector options that have helped countless Americans retire with financial security and peace of mind.
For the sake of workers, employers, retirees and taxpayers, let’s have that debate. Just as important, let’s have that debate in good faith and with open minds. We hope that’s the kind of debate even the editors at the L.A. Times believe is worth having.
Walberg Statement: Hearing on "Restoring Balance and Fairness to the National Labor Relations Board"
After years of struggling through an anemic economy, sluggish job growth, rising health care costs, and stagnant wages, the American people are expecting — in fact, they are demanding — a new direction for this country. They want policymakers to advance a bold, pro-growth agenda that will reduce the regulatory burden on small businesses, deliver a stronger, healthier economy, and provide hope and prosperity to families and future generations.
The American people are looking for a better way, and that is precisely what this Congress — working with the new administration — is committed to delivering. Restoring balance and fairness to the National Labor Relations Board will play an important role in this effort.
More than 80 years ago, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the National Labor Relations Act to guarantee the right of workers to organize and collectively bargain over terms and conditions of employment, such as wages and benefits. Approximately 10 years later, Congress would reform the law to enact a basic set of protections for employers as well, such as the right to communicate with their workforce on employment and union-related matters.
Together — both the original law and the subsequent amendments to the law — are designed to provide a level playing field between employers and union leaders. But more importantly, they are designed to protect the right of workers to make free and informed decisions about whether they want to join a union.
A neutral arbiter was created to maintain the balance Congress established in the law, protect worker free choice, and serve as an unbiased judge over labor disputes. The goal was to have an impartial referee who would apply the rules of the game fairly and objectively. That neutral arbiter was the National Labor Relations Board, although you wouldn’t know it from the actions it has taken in recent years.
We have repeatedly seen the Obama NLRB overturn long-standing labor policies and put in place new policies designed to empower special interests. It’s why the board adopted an ambush election rule that chills employer free speech, cripples worker free choice, and jeopardizes the privacy of workers and their families. It’s why the board endorsed a new joint employer standard that will destroy jobs and make it harder for entrepreneurs and small businesses to pursue the American dream.
It’s also why the board is advancing a micro-union proposal that gerrymanders the workplace, thereby limiting the workplace mobility of employees and tying up employers in red tape. And it’s also why the NLRB is expanding the power of union organizing on college campuses, whether it’s organizing graduate students, student athletes, and others.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of the extreme, partisan actions the NLRB has taken in recent years. As Republicans raised concerns with the harmful consequences of these policies, our colleagues told us not to worry; these were all innocent changes that will improve the lives of working families. Meanwhile, workers have less time to make informed decisions in union elections, micro unions are being certified across the country, and small business franchisees are uncertain about the future. None of this has helped invigorate the slowest economic recovery since the Great Depression.
Small business owners and entrepreneurs deserve better. Workers and their families deserve better. And this Congress will demand better. In the weeks and months ahead, we will do everything we can to turn back this failed, activist agenda and restore balance and fairness to the board. We will work to protect the rights of workers and employers, and help create an environment where businesses can grow and all workers can achieve a lifetime of success.
For years, the federal government operated under the flawed idea that Washington knows best when it comes to education. Policies put in place in recent decades vastly expanded the federal footprint into K-12 schools and prevented state and local education leaders from delivering the high-quality education all children deserve. Something needed to change, yet under the Obama administration the problem only got worse.
For years, the last administration used regulations, waivers, and pet projects to unilaterally exert its control over education. Its heavy-handed, one-size-fits-all policies only increased the federal role in America’s classrooms, moving K-12 education in the wrong direction.
That’s why Republicans and Democrats came together to pass the Every Student Succeeds Act.
Enacted just over a year ago, the law was built on three important principles: empowering parents, reducing the federal role, and restoring local control. It sent a clear message that the American people were done with the top-down approach to education. Unfortunately, the administration didn’t get the message.
The Department of Education continued using rules and regulations to push its failed education agenda — the same agenda Congress rejected with overwhelming bipartisan support.
We’re here today to put a stop to two of those rules.
The resolution under consideration, H. J. Res. 57, will roll back a regulation implementing accountability provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act. The law empowers states to develop ways to hold schools accountable to the students and parents they serve and ensure taxpayer dollars are being spent responsibly. The department’s accountability rule, however, does the exact opposite.
Not only does it impose prescriptive accountability requirements on state education leaders, but it also violates specific prohibitions the law places on the Secretary of Education’s authority.
We also considered a few moments ago H. J. Res. 58, which will block implementation of a regulation that significantly expands the federal government’s involvement in teacher preparation. Yet another example of Obama overreach, the teacher preparation rule essentially creates a federal system for evaluating teacher performance. It would be virtually impossible to implement and could lead to fewer teachers serving low-income students.
Together, these two resolutions of disapproval will move us toward limiting the federal role in education and protect the local control promised with recent education reforms.
I want to thank Representatives Rokita and Guthrie for their work to fight against the flawed policies of the past and for leading the way in delivering a more positive, more limited, and more responsible federal role in education.
I urge my colleagues to support both resolutions, and I yield back the balance of my time.
I rise today in strong support of H. J. Res. 57, and I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Under No Child Left Behind, states and school districts were forced into a rigid one-size-fits-all accountability system that heavily dictated how they would gauge and address school performance. The system represented a top-down approach to K-12 education, and it didn’t work.
That’s why, a little more than a year ago, Congress passed — and former President Obama signed into law — the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act. With this law, Republicans and Democrats worked together to reform our education system and ensure all children are able to receive the education they deserve. It represents a fundamentally different approach to education and — in the words of one superintendent — empowers local leaders “to dream and lead and transform public education in this country.”
Unfortunately, after the bill became law, the Obama administration began its attempt to roll back these bipartisan reforms.
With the Every Student Succeeds Act, Congress promised to reduce the federal role and restore state and local control over K-12 education. The law empowers states to develop their own policies to hold schools accountable to parents and taxpayers. For accountability to work, it must be driven by the state and local leaders who are best equipped to directly address the issues in their schools.
Unfortunately, the Obama administration’s flawed accountability regulation would reestablish the Washington-knows-best approach to accountability — an approach that is deeply flawed. Not only does the regulation dictate prescriptive accountability requirements, it violates many of the prohibitions the law places on the Secretary of Education. As we all saw, that top-down approach simply doesn’t work.
That’s why we repealed No Child Left Behind and passed a bill to transform K-12 education. Our students deserve better than the failed policies of the past, and that’s what the Every Student Succeeds Act — if implemented as Congress intended — offers.
States are already working to implement the law in their school districts, and I want to be very clear that this resolution in no way does anything to stymie those efforts. Instead, this resolution gives states the certainty they need to continue moving forward, confident their plans will be reviewed by the Department of Education against the requirements of the statute with deference to their judgement, as the law requires. We are also committed to working with the new administration to ensure states receive the support they need, consistent with the limits placed by the statute.
By passing this resolution and blocking implementation of the Obama administration’s flawed accountability rule, we can ensure that the promises we made under the Every Student Succeeds Act — to restore state and local control of K-12 education — are kept.
I urge my colleagues to support H. J. Res 57 and protect those important bipartisan reforms. I reserve the balance of my time.
The purpose of the resolution under consideration is simple: Reining in the federal role in education and protecting the state and local control promised to students, parents, and education leaders.
Under the Higher Education Act, teacher preparation programs are required to provide certain information to state leaders to help determine the effectiveness of those programs. The state then submits an annual report card to the Department of Education that highlights the quality of their teacher preparation programs.
Additionally, the Higher Education Act provides TEACH Grants to high-achieving students who commit to teaching math, science, reading, or a foreign language at high-need schools. To ensure taxpayer dollars are being used responsibly, the law requires that grant recipients attend an institution that provides “high-quality teacher preparation and professional development services.”
In 2012, the Obama administration began a rulemaking process to develop federal criteria for state teacher preparation report cards. For the first time — and without congressional authorization — the rule that came out of that process tied eligibility for TEACH grants to the state’s teacher preparation report card. That flawed and controversial rule is the reason we are here today.
We all agree that accountability is important, particularly when it comes to ensuring our students receive the high-quality education they deserve. However, it’s also important that state and local leaders have the flexibility they need to make decisions that affect the schools and programs in their local communities.
Teacher preparation should be addressed through reauthorization of the Higher Education Act — not unilaterally by executive fiat. That’s exactly what the Obama administration did by forcing its one-size-fits all approach to education on teacher preparation programs.
The rule requires states to track new teachers across three performance levels: student learning outcomes, employment outcomes, and employer surveys. In doing so, it essentially creates a federal mandate for teacher evaluations that Congress explicitly rejected with the Every Student Succeeds Act. The regulation assumes the federal government knows better than local education leaders when it comes to what makes an effective teacher, and to make matters worse, it will also result in fewer teachers opting to teach students in low-income neighborhoods and schools.
Teachers play an important role in helping students learn and succeed—both in and out of the classroom. Unfortunately, as it did so often, the Obama administration overreached and took a flawed approach to preparing teachers to meet the needs of their students. The teacher preparation rule blatantly ignores the principles guiding recent bipartisan education reforms and will make it more difficult for state and local leaders to help ensure teachers are ready to succeed.
The resolution under consideration — H. J. Res 58 — will block the implementation of this misguided policy and protect state and local control over decisions affecting their teachers and students. The federal government has played too large a role in education for far too long. I urge my colleagues to vote in support of this resolution, and help rein in the federal government’s role in education.
Thank you, and I reserve the balance of my time.
These are exciting times in higher education. Institutions across the country are providing their students new opportunities to earn a degree. As a result, we are seeing more diversity on campuses, and the idea of a “traditional student” has been turned on its head. Today’s students come from a wide range of backgrounds. They are at various stages in their lives and careers. And they have new, unique, and changing needs.
Perhaps the only thing that hasn’t changed in recent years is the importance of a higher education. A postsecondary degree or certificate is still vitally important to helping individuals pursue successful and fulfilling careers. It is also essential in helping many men and women achieve their own dreams and goals and earn success in their lives.
Thankfully, today there are more opportunities for more individuals to pursue higher education than ever before. However, America’s higher education system is also facing a number of significant challenges.
For one, the cost of college is going up. Since 2005, average tuition and fees have increased by 25 percent four-year private nonprofit institutions. At four-year public institutions, they have increased by more than 40 percent.
What do we have to show for that rise in costs? Have graduation rates gone up?
Actually, it is estimated that among students who started colleges in the fall of 2010, only 55 percent had earned a degree or certificate by 2016.
We’ve worked in recent years to make changes that will strengthen America’s higher education system and help ensure a college degree is accessible and affordable. It’s clear that more has to be done.
Fortunately, with reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, we have an opportunity to do just that — advance bold, responsible, and meaningful reforms. We also have a strong foundation already in place.
Through years of hearings, roundtables, meetings, and legislative action, this committee — including many of the members here today — developed a set of principles that will guide the work ahead.
The first is empowering students and families to make informed decisions. Choosing a college or university is an important decision that will have a lasting impact on a student’s life. It’s vitally important that individuals have the information they need to choose the right school and make decisions about how to pay for their education.
The second principle is simplifying and improving student aid. There are currently six different types of federal student loans, nine repayment plans, eight forgiveness programs, and 32 deferment and forbearance options — each with its own rules and requirements. The current system is too complex, and it leaves students and their families confused about their financial options and responsibilities.
Third, we must work to promote innovation, access, and completion. For years — and particularly in the past eight years — the federal government has tied states and institutions up in red tape. That red tape has made it more difficult for students to complete their education quickly and affordably. It has also gotten in the way of innovation that would make it easier for students to pursue and earn a college degree. It’s time for the federal government to get out of the way.
The fourth and final principle is providing strong accountability and a limited federal role. Today, institutions are subject to a great deal of federal reporting requirements and regulations. In fact, rules and regulations across the federal government currently impose an estimated $27 billion in compliance costs on colleges and universities. Unfortunately, those costs are often passed on to students in the form of higher fees and tuition.
We need to repeal unnecessary reporting requirements and address many of the harmful and misguided regulations imposed by the former administration. However, we should do so while also delivering strong, commonsense accountability in federal programs.
It’s clear that we have our work cut out for us, but inaction is not an option. Today marks the beginning of the next phase in our effort to strengthen America’s higher education system for students, parents, institutions, and taxpayers. I look forward to the important work that lies ahead. Let’s get to work.
Committee Head Slams NCAA Unionization Memo From Labor Board Counsel
By Sean Higgins
The chairwoman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee is calling on Richard Griffin, the general counsel for the National Labor Relations Board, to "abandon his partisan agenda or step down immediately."
The catalyst was a Jan. 31 memo from Griffin that said NCAA football players at private colleges and universities are employees under the National Labor Relations Act and therefore entitled to unionize.
The determination could have a major impact on college sports where the athletes have been long seen as students and therefore not eligible to unionize. Foxx said the only reason for the memo is to help unions seeking to organize the athletes.
"This partisan memorandum puts the interests of union leaders over America's students, and it has the potential to create significant confusion at college campuses across the nation. It's an affront to hard-working Americans for Griffin to double down on his extreme, Big Labor agenda, especially at a time when a new president is entitled to move the NLRB in a new direction," Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx said in a joint statement with Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., who is chairman of the labor subcommittee.
"Griffin should respect the will of the American people and rescind this memorandum immediately. If he is unwilling to set aside his extreme and partisan agenda, then he should step aside as general counsel," Foxx and Walberg added.
The five-member labor board is a quasi-independent federal agency that enforces the National Labor Rights Act. Though his title implies he is the board's top lawyer, Griffin's function is closer to that of a chief executive officer. He runs the day-to-day operations of the board and can initiate investigations and rulemakings on his own. Before serving on the board, Griffin was the top lawyer for the International Union of Operating Engineers. He also worked as an attorney for the AFL-CIO, the nation's largest labor federation.
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We are here today to stand up for workers, taxpayers, and small businesses.
We all agree employers who do business with the federal government should be held to high standards, and their employees deserve strong protections. That is why for decades, the federal government has had a system in place to deny contracts to employers who violate federal labor laws.
Time and again, Republicans in Congress urged the Obama administration to enforce the current system to ensure workers received fair pay and safe workplaces.
Instead, the previous administration did the exact opposite. It went in search of a problem that doesn’t exist. It took its eye off the ball, and we are here today to demand better.
The Obama blacklisting rule empowers government agencies to deny employers federal contracts for alleged violations of various federal labor laws and similar state laws. That’s right. Under this rule, bureaucrats can determine employers are guilty until proven innocent and then deny them the ability to do business with the federal government.
This is one important reason why a federal district judge recently blocked implementation of the rule, because it would have a chilling effect on the due process rights of American citizens. But that’s not the only reason why we are here today.
Rather than streamline the procurement process to better protect taxpayers and workers, the Obama administration added new layers of red tape onto a system plagued by delays and inefficiencies.
Simply put, this rule is a bureaucratic nightmare. It turns our already complex federal procurement process into a convoluted regulatory maze.
Despite what our Democrat colleagues will claim, this rule will actually hurt workers by making a system designed for their protection less efficient. Law abiding small business owners — the backbone of our nation’s economy — will be less inclined to bid on federal contracts.
As a result, we will see less competition in the federal contracting process. With less competition, hardworking taxpayers will be forced to pay more for goods and services provided to the U.S. government.
But perhaps most concerning is the threat this rule poses to our national security. Higher costs and a delayed contracting process will jeopardize the resources our Armed Forces depend on to keep our nation safe. With men and women currently stationed in harm’s way, this is simply unacceptable.
If workers, taxpayers, and small businesses stand to lose, then who stands to gain? The answer is Big Labor. Union leaders often file frivolous legal complaints to gain leverage against employers. This is just one more partisan rule that stacks the deck in favor of union leaders.
The facts are clear: this rule is fatally flawed. It is not in the best interest of workers, small business owners, our military, or hardworking taxpayers. It is also unnecessary, but you don’t have to take my word for it.
Last October, our colleagues in the Congressional Progressive Caucus — Representatives Keith Ellison and Raul Grijalva — said, and I quote, “The Department of [Labor] has full authority under current law to hold federal contractors accountable.”
I could not agree more. In fact, that’s what Republicans have been saying all along. I urge my colleagues to stand up for workers, small business owners, taxpayers, and our national security by supporting this commonsense resolution. Then let’s work together to ensure existing policies are enforced and workers have the protections they deserve.
It is with that goal in mind that we enacted legislation to put K-12 education back in the hands of those who know best what students need — parents and state and local leaders. We also made significant progress advancing reforms to improve career and technical education, child nutrition assistance, and student privacy. Because there is still a lot of work to do before we reach our shared goal, we will continue working together to deliver the solutions our nation’s children and families deserve. We’re here today to discuss one of those solutions: school choice.
Across the country, efforts are underway to empower parents with more options when it comes to their children’s education. My home state of Indiana, for example, operates a scholarship program to help children from low-income families, children in failing schools, or children with special needs receive the high-quality education necessary to succeed both in the classroom and in life. The state also provides tax credits to individuals and employers who donate to nonprofit organizations that award scholarships to students. And as I’m sure our witness Mr. Kubacki [coo-bah-key] will explain, Indiana’s charter school community has been helping students succeed for years.
Because of these and similar efforts nationwide, charter schools are currently serving close to 3 million students, and nearly 400,000 kids are benefitting from a private school choice program – more than ever before. While these numbers help illustrate the growing popularity of school choice, they don’t fully capture the hope and opportunity school choice provides.
At a committee hearing last year, we heard from a truly inspiring young woman named Denisha Merriweather. Explaining how school choice changed her life, Denisha said:
“The cycle of poverty is ending in my family, thanks to the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship … So many opportunities have been given to me, and I want to create the same for other children just like me.”
The cycle of poverty is ending in my family. Those are powerful words, and Denisha’s is a powerful story.
Not only did school choice provide her life-changing opportunities, but those opportunities have inspired her to help change the lives of others. Already the first in her family to graduate from high school and college, Denisha is now working to become the first in her family to receive a graduate degree. She is committed to using that degree to advocate for expanding educational opportunities to other disadvantaged children and families.
Denisha is just one of countless individuals whose lives have been changed because their families had a choice. With a new Congress and a new administration, we now have an opportunity to extend the power of school choice to other families as well. We will look for opportunities to advance school choice and continue our work to improve traditional public schools.
Make no mistake: These two efforts go hand in hand. We will never turn our backs on the millions of students who attend our nation’s public schools, but we also want to ensure parents have the opportunity to choose the best school for their children.
It won’t be easy. In fact, there is already opposition building against the idea of empowering parents with more choices. In many ways, this explains the smear campaign against Betsy DeVos, the president’s nominee to serve as Secretary of Education. She has shown her commitment to all children through her words, and more importantly, through her actions. Mrs. DeVos has dedicated her life to helping some of our nation’s most disadvantaged students. Because she stands firmly for parental choice, she is being attacked and maligned across the country.
No one on this committee would ever leave their child trapped in a failing school. No one. Yet, some would deny other parents the right to do what’s best for their children. If we are serious about improving K-12 education, we have to demand better. The Every Student Succeeds Act is the perfect example of what we can accomplish when we put the interests of students above politics. When we focus on policies — not press releases. I remain optimistic that this Congress will choose students and advance policies to ensure every child receives an excellent education.
Foxx Statement: Hearing on "Rescuing Americans from the Failed Health Care Law and Advancing Patient-Centered Solutions"
For nearly seven years, Americans have struggled as they’ve seen their health care costs skyrocket, their plans canceled, and their choices and access to quality care diminish. That is why for nearly seven years, Republicans have been fighting to provide the relief Americans desperately need.
This has never been about politics. The fight to repeal and replace Obamacare has always been about people. It’s been about people like Steve from my congressional district. Steve resides in West Jefferson, and he and his wife are paying 225 percent higher premiums than they were four years ago. Scott from Hickory, North Carolina, has had his health care plan canceled three times because of the law, and today he has access to only one insurance provider.
Michael from Winston-Salem has an $800 monthly premium for him and his daughter, and their deductible is over $14,000. Terry, a 70-year old retiree from Advance, is working part-time just to help pay his wife’s $900 monthly premium.
These stories aren’t unique to North Carolina. Working families across the country are suffering under a failed government takeover of health care. Remarkably, the consequences extend beyond higher insurance costs and limited plan options to fewer jobs and suppressed wages.
In fact, a recent study by the American Action Forum found Obamacare has destroyed 300,000 small business jobs and cost small business employees $19 billion each year in wages. An estimated 10,000 small businesses were even forced to close their doors because of the law’s burdensome regulations.
All of these individuals, families, and small business owners were promised far different. They were promised lower costs, more choices, and more competition. What they got was the exact opposite.
The reality is the 2010 health care law is completely unsustainable. It’s collapsing as we speak. We cannot stand by as the law creates even more havoc in the lives of the American people.
That’s why we are on a rescue mission to deliver the relief people need, and this committee will play an important role in the process. We have already taken steps to repeal Obamacare, and the Trump Administration is actively working to stabilize health insurance markets.
Once the law is repealed, there will be a stable transition to a patient-centered system. At least 4.7 million Americans have already been kicked off their health care plans under Obamacare, and the last thing Republicans want is to disrupt more people’s coverage.
We’re going to do this the right way. There won’t be a massive bill that no one has read and is jammed through Congress in the dead of the night. Instead, we will tackle the challenges of our broken health care system through step-by-step solutions that provide lower costs, more choices, and protect the most vulnerable among us.
We will put patients in control of their health care decisions. That means eliminating one-size-fits-all rules that drive up costs and restrict choices. All Americans should have the freedom to select a health care plan that meets their needs.
After years of costly federal mandates, we will empower small businesses to band together and provide affordable coverage for their employees. Additionally, we will preserve employee wellness plans that have been under attack in recent years by Washington bureaucrats.
Undoing the damage of Obamacare and achieving real health care reform won’t happen overnight. We will continue to hold hearings just like this one, and we will continue to receive input from governors, insurance commissioners, workers, and employers across the country.
Today’s discussion is an important step in this process. We look forward to hearing from all of you on how we can provide a better way forward on health care for the American people.