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The U.S. House of Representatives today approved the Smarter Solutions for Students Act (H.R. 1911), legislation that will prevent subsidized Stafford loans from doubling on July 1st. Introduced by Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Higher Education and Workforce Training Subcommittee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC), H.R. 1911 reflects President Obama’s request for a long-term, market-based solution to the student loan issue.
"Today the House has taken action to prevent interest rates from doubling on millions of student loan borrowers," said Chairman Kline. "President Obama asked for a long-term, market-based solution and that is precisely what we have delivered. It is now up to the Senate to move forward with its own ideas to solve the problem, so we can come together and send a bill to the president. The American people sent us here to tackle tough issues, not kick the can down the road. The time to act is now. Students, families, and taxpayers cannot afford further delay."
"Campaign promises and political posturing should not play a role in the calculation of student loan interest rates," said Rep. Foxx. "As we’ve seen, Washington’s involvement in the rate-setting equation is a recipe for uncertainty and confusion. Borrowers deserve better. The Smarter Solution for Students Act puts an end to the temporary fixes that have failed to strengthen our nation’s student loan system and offers simplicity, rate caps and an assurance that interest rates are immediately in line with the free market – a need particularly acute in this jobless economy. If President Obama and Senate Democrats are serious about a long-term solution to the student loan interest rate problem, they will immediately consider and build on the ideas put forth in the Smarter Solutions for Students Act ."
The House also recently approved the Improving Postsecondary Education Data for Students Act (H.R. 1949). Sponsored by Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN), the legislation will help enhance transparency in higher education.
"Few decisions in life are bigger than whether to attend college and which college to attend," said Rep. Messer. "Yet many families find it a challenge to wade through the complicated maze of statistics available for this important decision. Through this bill, we hope to simplify the process and help students get access to the information they really need to make good decisions while lessening the burden on colleges and universities that have far too many reporting requirements today."
"I want to thank Representative Messer for his leadership on the legislation," said Chairman Kline. "In the coming months, the committee will continue the important task of reauthorizing the Higher Education Act. Information is critical as families and students plan for college. We have to find better ways to give them the information they need without burying schools in paperwork. This legislation will help strengthen that effort and I look forward to working with all my colleagues on this issue."
To learn more about H.R. 1911, visit edworkforce.house.gov/smartersolutions
To learn more about H.R. 1949, visit edworkforce.house.gov/betterdata
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Moments ago, House Education and Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) urged his colleagues to support this responsible proposal:
We have an opportunity today to get politicians out of the business of setting student loan interest rates. We have an opportunity to provide students more stability in the long run by putting an end to quick fixes and campaign promises. And we have an opportunity to build upon common ground with the administration and advance a bipartisan solution that’s a win for both students and taxpayers.
Similar to a plan put forth in President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget request, H.R. 1911 would set federal student loan interest rates using a formula based on the 10-year Treasury note. Not only will the bill prevent student loan interest rates from doubling on July 1, 2013, the Smarter Solutions for Students Act will also provide certainty for millions of borrowers by tying interest rates to the free market rather than the political whims of Washington.
To learn more about the Smarter Solutions for Students Act, click here edworkforce.house.gov/SmarterSolutions.
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Today the House will vote on the Improving Postsecondary Education Data for Students Act (H.R. 1949). Sponsored by Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN), the legislation will help strengthen higher education transparency and ensure students and families have access to the data they need to choose the right college.
During debate on the House floor, Rep. Messer highlighted the need to improve higher education data and explained how H.R. 1949 will help guide the committee’s efforts to provide students with the most relevant information:
Few decisions in life are bigger than whether to attend college and which college to attend. Yet many families struggle to wade through the complicated maze of statistics to find the information they need to make fully informed, cost-conscious decisions...Through the Improving Postsecondary Education Data for Students Act, we hope to simplify the process and help ensure students can access the information they need to make good decisions while lessening the burden on colleges and universities that have far too many reporting requirements today.
To learn more about the Improving Postsecondary Education Data for Students Act, visit edworkforce.house.gov/BetterData.
Bipartisan compromise is tough to find in Washington right now — but when there is opportunity for agreement, we owe it to the American people to take action.
In the coming weeks, millions of student-loan borrowers could see their interest rates double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. We’re in this predicament because politicians put themselves in charge of setting interest rates, guaranteeing uncertainty for students and more infighting in Congress.
Students deserve a long-term solution that gets Washington out of the business of setting student-loan interest rates. Fortunately, President Obama agrees. In his budget for the next fiscal year, the president offered a plan to tie rates to the free market.
Heartened by the president’s proposal, Republicans put together a similar measure, the Smarter Solutions for Students Act, which the House will consider on Thursday. Just like the president’s plan, our legislation will apply a market-based interest rate to all federal Stafford and PLUS loans, ensuring borrowers will be able to take advantage of today’s low rates.
By tying rates to the market, the Smarter Solutions for Students Act sets a predictable formula for interest-rate calculations, insulated from the politics and posturing of Washington. Additionally, we protect students from high interest-rate environments by imposing a fair and reasonable cap.
Here’s why we’re shifting away from fixed rates. First, fixed rates function problematically as both a floor and ceiling for borrowers. They sound like a great plan until lower rates become available in the market — something we’re seeing today.
Second, administering federal student-loan programs comes with a cost. We readily acknowledge politicians don’t have the know-how to pick static interest rates that will work for borrowers and fund student-loan programs without leaving taxpayers on the hook for students’ low interest rates.
The Smarter Solutions for Students Act is the product of numerous hearings and discussions with higher-education experts. It’s been written in good faith. Despite our best efforts, however, this responsible legislation has already come under fire from some congressional Democrats. These defenders of the status quo are angry that the Smarter Solutions for Students Act will allow interest rates to fluctuate with the market, and claim a better plan is to simply extend current rates for another year or two at a cost of roughly $8 billion. We respect their views, but their plan just passes the buck, once again.
Students deserve better. They shouldn’t have to watch Congress hold their interest rates hostage, or see them used as bargaining chips each election year. They shouldn’t have to deal with the uncertainty that comes with waiting for Congress to cobble together another temporary fix to keep interest rates in line with the market.
That’s what the Smarter Solutions for Students Act is all about. It will put an end to the quick fixes and campaign promises that have failed to strengthen our nation’s student-loan system. Our proposal offers predictability, simplicity and the flexibility to take advantage of low interest rates whenever possible. In fact, should this legislation be enacted this summer, most student-loan borrowers will see their interest rates drop as much as 2 percentage points. It’s a win for students, and a win for taxpayers.
There is growing consensus in Washington that tying rates back to the free market is the right way forward. Instead of finding excuses to politicize the issue, this should be an opportunity to build on common ground as we look to address the big challenges facing the nation’s education system. We hope the administration and our colleagues in the House and Senate will stand by the president’s proposal and help us move the Smarter Solutions for Students Act swiftly through Congress and onto his desk.
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We’re here today to address a crisis of Washington’s own making. Several years ago, Congress decided politicians – not the free market – were better equipped to set student loan interest rates. Politicians set a fixed rate of 6.8 percent for all loans, and then decided to advance legislation based on a campaign promise that would temporarily phase this rate for subsidized Stafford loans down to 3.4 percent.
Last summer, with the expiration of the lower rate scheduled for July 1, 2012, debate about student loans reached a fever pitch. The president began touring college campuses, calling on Congress to prevent the increase that his own party set in motion back in 2007.
As I said at the time, no one wanted to see interest rates double – particularly at a time when 1 out of every 2 college graduates was struggling to find a full time job. But we need to move away from a system that allows Washington politicians to use student loan interest rates as bargaining chips, creating uncertainty and confusion for borrowers.
When Congress approved legislation to temporarily stave off the Stafford Loan interest rate increase, my colleagues and I lent our support with the promise that we would use this time to work toward a long-term solution that better aligns interest rates with the free market.
The Smarter Solutions for Students Act accomplishes this goal by simply moving all federal student loans – except Perkins loans – to a market-based interest rate system. This responsible legislation builds upon a proposal put forth by President Obama earlier this year.
The Smarter Solutions for Students Act is a narrow piece of legislation that will provide a lasting solution to the problem facing the federal student loan program. Unfortunately, some critics would rather kick the can down the road and simply extend the current arbitrary rates at a taxpayer cost of roughly $8 billion dollars. They want to continue the failed status quo and leave politicians in charge of setting rates.
Earlier this week, the Washington Post called it a “weird fact” that student loan interest rates “aren’t pegged to anything real, just to the whims of Congress, which inevitably uses student loans as political playthings.” Students deserve better. They shouldn’t have to watch as Washington holds their interest rates hostage each election year. They shouldn’t have to deal with the uncertainty that comes with waiting for politicians to cobble together another temporary fix to keep interest rates in line with the market.
We have an opportunity today to get politicians out of the business of setting student loan interest rates. We have an opportunity to provide students more stability in the long run by putting an end to quick fixes and campaign promises. And we have an opportunity to build upon common ground with the administration and advance a bipartisan solution that’s a win for both students and taxpayers.
I urge my colleagues to support the Smarter Solutions for Students Act and reserve the balance of my time.
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Once again Washington is working to prevent subsidized Stafford Loan interest rates from doubling. The House is expected to vote tomorrow on the Smarter Solutions for Student Act, legislation that provides a permanent solution on behalf of students and taxpayers.
Just yesterday Education Secretary Arne Duncan assured Congress that the Obama administration wants a long-term solution. However, a new statement from the department calls into question the veracity of the secretary’s testimony:
THEN: “The fact that we can’t think long-term, the fact that we can’t take a tough issue, deal with it, move it off the table, and move onto other issues I just don’t understand that thinking. So we are interested in a long-term fix, we are interested in it being budget-neutral and look forward to continue conversations with you and others to find some common ground.” (Testimony before the House Education and the Workforce Committee, 05/21/13)
NOW: “Given the impending July 1 deadline, an extension that protects students against higher rates while Congress develops an alternative solution is another reasonable option.” ("Statement from Secretary Duncan on Preventing Student Loan Interest Rates from Doubling on July 1," 05/22/13)
Remarkably, it appears Secretary Duncan was also being less than candid when he suggested a willingness to work together to “find some common ground.” Earlier today the White House threatened to veto the only plan that meets the president’s goal for a market-based, long-term solution.
As Chairman Kline said in response to this disappointing veto threat: “Today’s announcement proves the president would rather pick a partisan fight with Congress instead of work in good faith on a bipartisan solution.”
The American people deserve to know: Does the president support a long-term solution or not? And when will the Obama administration engage Congress in a serious discussion to address an important issue facing our families and students?
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House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN) today released the following statement after the Obama administration threatened to veto H.R. 1911, the Smarter Solutions for Students Act:
I’m disappointed the administration has threatened to veto the Smarter Solutions for Students Act. The legislation is based on the president’s own proposal, and provides a solid basis for negotiation through the legislative process.
The administration wanted a long-term solution that put the market – not Congress – in charge of setting student loan interest rates, and that’s exactly what the Smarter Solutions for Students Act will do.
The administration wanted to prevent student loan interest rates from doubling in July, and H.R. 1911 accomplishes that goal as well. In fact, most borrowers will see their interest rates drop by as much as 2 percent if this bill is enacted this summer.
The administration wanted to protect students against higher interest rates. The Smarter Solutions For Students Act includes a reasonable cap to keep interest rates from climbing too high and allows students to consolidate their loans into a low fixed rate upon graduation.
Finally, the administration wanted a proposal that was budget neutral, and H.R. 1911 generates roughly the same 10 year savings as President Obama’s own plan.
Today’s announcement proves the president would rather pick a partisan fight with Congress instead of work in good faith on a bipartisan solution. The president’s unfortunate position does not alter our intent to advance the bill through the legislative process or our resolve to develop a long-term solution that both the House and the president can support.
At a hearing in the Education and the Workforce Committee, Secretary Duncan offered his support for a long-term solution to address the student loan interest rate problem. His remarks can be viewed here.
The Smarter Solutions for Students Act (H.R. 1911) would take politicians out of the business of calculating student loan interest rates by moving all federal student loans (except Perkins Loans) to a new interest rate formula based on the 10-year Treasury Note, similar to a proposal put forth in President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget plan. To learn more about H.R. 1911, visit edworkforce.house.gov/SmarterSolutions.
Chair Berrien we are pleased to see you today. It has been a long time since the committee convened a hearing to examine the policies and priorities of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. We are grateful you’ve joined us and thank you for your service to our country.
Republicans and Democrats share the same goal: We want to ensure the American people work in an environment free of discrimination. Whether or not an individual succeeds in a workplace should be determined by merit and hard work, not the unlawful prejudice of their boss. For most employers, a person’s skills and drive to succeed are what matter most. However, bad actors will put personal bigotries before the talent and dedication of America’s workers.
A recent case out of Davenport, Iowa provides a stunning example of this difficult reality. According to reports, 32 men with intellectual disabilities were subjected to abuse and discrimination. The deplorable treatment these men faced included verbal and physical harassment, substandard living conditions, and inadequate medical care. EEOC is to be applauded for helping to bring those who committed these heinous acts to justice.
Federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination should be vigorously and fairly enforced. That’s why we are here today. There has been a significant shift in both the enforcement and regulatory priorities at EEOC in recent years. It is our responsibility to ask tough questions to ensure agency policies are in the best interests of workers and employers.
For example, does it serve the best interests of workers and employers when EEOC investigates businesses without evidence of wrongdoing? The agency has set a goal that up to 24 percent of all litigated cases be systemic in nature. At times, these investigations are launched without any employee alleging discrimination. Meanwhile, a backlog of more than 70,000 discrimination claims by workers continues to plague the commission.
At a time of high unemployment and record federal debt, every job and dollar counts. We should not be diverting scarce resources away from workers who believe they’ve been harmed in order to follow a hunch. And we should not be dragging our nation’s job creators through unnecessary and costly investigations without a factual basis of wrongdoing.
Does it also serve the best interest of workers and employers when the full weight of the agency’s litigation power is ceded to one individual? Congress created a commission of five members to ensure accountability within the agency. Yet for almost 20 years the commission has delegated that authority to the Office of General Counsel. Under only limited circumstances can the commission vote on the general counsel’s decision to intervene in litigation and these narrow exceptions are not always clear.
As a result, the general counsel has almost complete control over EEOC’s enforcement agenda. This cannot be what Congress intended and it’s having a real impact on the lives of workers. One case initiated by the general counsel was later rejected by a federal district judge. The judge described the commission’s actions as a “sue first, ask questions later litigation strategy” and noted that “dozens of potentially meritorious sexual harassment claims may now never see the inside of a courtroom.”
Finally, is it in the best interests of workers and employers when the commission pursues regulatory policies that may make workplaces less safe? In April 2012, EEOC revised its long-standing guidance on the use of criminal background checks. Should the background check reveal a criminal offense, employers will have to conduct an “individual assessment” and identify a “business necessity” that merits denying the individual employment.
However, this proposal has already been criticized by one federal court. As one federal judge noted almost 25 years ago, “Obviously a rule refusing honest employment to convicted applicants is going to have an disparate impact upon thieves.”
This policy also puts many employers at risk of running afoul of state or local laws that require background checks for certain positions of public trust, such as child care providers. Employers will bear the burden of any unintended consequences stemming from this regulatory change, not EEOC.
Yet they and the public were denied an opportunity to comment on the proposal before it became final. Public meetings on broader topics isn’t the level of openness and transparency the American people deserve. Shouldn’t workers and employers have an opportunity to comment on policy changes that affect their workplaces?
Chair Berrien, these are serious questions that I hope we can discuss with you today. I know that is a lot to address in one hearing. However, we hope this hearing starts a new, more open dialogue between the committee and EEOC. As I noted earlier, we all share the same goal and only when we work together can we move closer toward that goal. Thank you again for being with us today.
The House Committee on Education and the Workforce, chaired by Rep. John Kline (R-MN), today held a hearing with Education Secretary Arne Duncan to examine the administration’s budget and policy proposals. During the hearing, members spoke with Secretary Duncan about the need to address the upcoming student loan interest rate cliff with a lasting solution that will better serve students and taxpayers.
“The committee recently approved with bipartisan support the Smarter Solutions for Students Act,” said Chairman Kline, “legislation that mirrors the president’s proposal to tie student loan interest rates to the 10-year Treasury note… I hope the administration will work with us to move this bill quickly through the legislative process and into the president’s hands before the interest rate cliff hits millions of students on July 1st.”
In an exchange with Chairman Kline, Secretary Duncan affirmed his support for enacting a long-term solution to the student loan interest rate issue “sooner rather than later”:
We have to start taking on tough issues, we have to take them on in a bipartisan way and we have to think for the long haul… The fact that we can’t think long-term, the fact that we can’t take a tough issue deal with it, move it off the table move onto other issues, I just don’t understand that thinking. So we are interested in a long-term fix, we are interested in it being budget-neutral and look forward to continue conversations with you and others to find some common ground.
The Smarter Solutions for Students Act (H.R. 1911) will be up for consideration by the U.S. House of Representatives later this week. To learn more about the legislation, visit edworkforce.house.gov/SmarterSolutions.
To read witness testimony, opening statements, or watch an archived webcast of today’s hearing, visit www.edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.
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Congress has only begun working on student loans this year, and already it’s going better than last year’s debacle.
Election-year politics drove Congress and the White House to endorse a bumper-sticker policy — keep loan rates from doubling! — instead of looking at the substance. Lawmakers rushed to extend a 3.4 percent rate on certain new loans instead of allowing the rate to revert back to 6.8 percent. That doesn’t sound bad to borrowers, but it reflects the weird fact that those loan rates aren’t pegged to anything real, just to the whims of Congress, which inevitably uses student loans as political playthings.
This year, President Obama proposed pegging loan rates to the rate at which the government borrows, plus a relatively modest markup. On Thursday, the House Education and the Workforce Committee endorsed a similar policy. Its bill may reach the House floor this week. Other plans are being discussed in the Senate.
Though each plan differs in some important details, the basic point is that rates would reflect economic conditions instead of politics. Under any of the proposals, students — risky borrowers with little-to-no credit history — would still get a tremendous bargain relative to what private lenders would offer. But the size of that interest-rate subsidy wouldn’t unfairly fluctuate with Treasury yields. And generous income-based repayment programs would effectively limit the interest rate many borrowers would face over the course of repayment. Backers of the president’s plan and those behind the House’s say the proposals are designed to be roughly budget-neutral over 10 years. There’s no reason to delay passing such a policy.
Yet these plans are also limited. Interest-rate setting is just the beginning of the debate that lawmakers must have on student borrowing. For example, the Wall Street Journal recently profiled a woman who borrowed more than $300,000 in graduate student loans and used some of it to finance home repairs. But, depending on where she ends up working, she could be eligible for a massive principal and interest amnesty.
Instituting an income-based repayment program is an important piece of the system to ensure that students don’t face crushing debts after graduating. But lawmakers must also fix the kinks that may encourage excessive borrowing with too few restrictions, particularly for those who end up with large incomes.
Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), chairman of the House education committee, says that these and other issues will be part of a broader discussion Congress will have as it considers reauthorizing the Higher Education Act, which expires the end of this year. For the health of the country’s vaunted college and university system, not to mention the federal budget, lawmakers must maintain their strong start and do some serious policymaking this year.
To learn more about H.R. 1911, visit edworkforce.house.gov/SmarterSolutions.
I’d like to begin with a brief overview of what’s in the administration’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The president has asked for more than $71 billion in discretionary funding for the Department of Education – up $5 billion from last year’s request and $3 billion from the year before.
This is on top of a request for $7 billion in mandatory funding for Pell Grants, $17.5 billion to “reform the teaching profession,” and $1.3 billion for a new universal preschool program – bringing the total budget proposal to a staggering $97.1 billion.
Without question, the president’s budget for the Department of Education has exploded over the last five years. The roughly $60 billion spent by the department in 2009 seems almost reasonable by comparison. Yet despite this significant increase in education spending, we haven’t seen any measurable improvements in student performance or graduation rates.
It’s time to acknowledge the fact that throwing more money into the nation’s education system is not the right answer to the challenges facing our classrooms. We’ve tried it for decades now. Since passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, federal spending on education has increased nearly every single year. But we just aren’t seeing results, so we need to work together on a new way forward that will better serve students and taxpayers.
Now let’s discuss an important item that is not in the budget.
Mr. Secretary, considering the glut of new spending in the president’s budget, the lack of funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is simply appalling. Per the law, the federal government is supposed to fund up to 40 percent of the costs of educating students with special needs, but once again, the administration’s budget does not even come close to that figure. In his budget request, President Obama’s contribution to IDEA remains at a paltry 15 percent.
I am concerned that instead of meeting our commitments and improving existing initiatives, the administration continues to propose more spending for new, untested programs. For example, instead of more IDEA funding, the president has proposed an expansive early childhood initiative. While we all recognize the value of quality early learning experiences, we must remember a number of programs with similar goals are already out there, including Head Start, the Child Care and Development Block Grant, and dozens of state preschool programs nationwide.
Reforming and improving existing programs throughout our education system should take precedence over new initiatives, and I believe this is one area Congress and the administration can work together. A large part of this effort must be rewriting the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
While I have made my concerns with the waiver process abundantly clear, I recognize the importance of freeing states and school districts from the law’s outdated metrics and regulations. However, this must be done through a full reauthorization of the law – not executive fiat.
Secretary Duncan, you and I agree on the importance of restoring local control and flexibility. You and I agree we must empower parents in our education system, and support school choice initiatives. And you and I agree teachers should be judged on their ability to motivate students in the classroom.
You have been repeatedly quoted in the press stating that you want Congress to reauthorize the law. The committee will soon renew its efforts to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and this time, I ask for the administration’s leadership as we work to advance legislation through the House and Senate, get through the conference process, and put a new law on the president’s desk before the end of the 113th Congress.
Let me end on a positive note. I appreciate that, like Republicans, the president has acknowledged the value of moving student loan interest rates back to a market-based system. As you know, the committee recently approved with bipartisan support the Smarter Solutions for Students Act, legislation that mirrors the president’s proposal to tie student loan interest rates to the 10 year Treasury note.
I am grateful for the time you have spent working with us on this proposal, Mr. Secretary. Your input was very valuable. I hope the administration will work with us to move this bill quickly through the legislative process and into the president’s hands before the interest rate cliff hits millions of students on July 1st.
Again, thank you for being with us today. I would now like to yield to the senior Democratic member of the committee, George Miller, for his opening remarks.
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Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will testify before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Tuesday, May 21 to discuss the Department of Education’s priorities for Fiscal Year 2014. In advance of the hearing, the committee has compiled 5 key questions Secretary Duncan should address:
Question 1: Will the administration support the Smarter Solutions for Students Act, legislation that largely mirrors President Obama’s plan to address the upcoming student loan interest rate cliff?
The Smarter Solutions for Students Act (H.R. 1911), introduced by House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC), passed the committee with bipartisan support and is expected to come before the House of Representatives later this week. H.R. 1911 is similar to a proposal put forth in President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget plan that would move all federal student loans (except Perkins loans) to a market-based rate. Will the administration endorse H.R. 1911, or turn a blind eye under pressure from congressional Democrats?
Question 2: Is the department willing to work with Congress to reauthorize No Child Left Behind?
The Department of Education in 2011 began issuing temporary and conditional waivers from provisions under No Child Left Behind to states that agreed to adopt the administration’s preferred education reforms. This unprecedented executive overreach continues to undermine congressional efforts to rewrite the nation’s K-12 law. Secretary Duncan has repeatedly said he wants Congress to reauthorize the law, but will he support the committee’s efforts to do so in the 113th Congress?
Question 3: How will the president’s new Preschool for All proposal work better than existing federal and state initiatives?
President Obama’s budget requests $1.3 billion (and $75 billion over the next 10 years) for an expansive new early childhood education program. Chairman Kline has raised serious questions about the wisdom of piling another preschool initiative on top of several existing early childhood education programs, many of which are not working as effectively as we’d hoped. Can Secretary Duncan explain why it’s more important to create a new program instead of reforming and improving current initiatives?
Question 4: Why is the Department of Education requesting additional funding for new programs instead of meeting its existing commitments to students with disabilities?
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) stated the federal government would fund up to 40 percent of the additional costs of educating students with disabilities. However, President Obama’s budget does not even come close to that figure with contributions to IDEA set at 15 percent. How does the department justify billions in new spending without keeping its promise to special needs children?
Question 5: What efforts are being taken to evaluate the department’s initiatives to eliminate duplication and waste?
Since the passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, federal education spending has increased nearly every year. The Department of Education now administers more than 80 programs tied to K-12 classrooms. Yet despite this massive bureaucracy, studies show American students are falling behind their international peers – making it even more crucial to reevaluate the federal role in the nation’s classrooms. Will the secretary acknowledge that it’s time for a new way forward – one that doesn’t assume more federal dollars is the only way to improve student achievement and put kids on the path to success?
To learn more about tomorrow’s hearing, click here.
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On Wednesday, May 22 at 10:00 a.m., the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, chaired by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), will hold a hearing entitled, “Examining the Regulatory and Enforcement Actions of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.” Commission Chair Jacqueline Berrien is scheduled to testify. The hearing will take place in room 2175 of the Rayburn House Office Building.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal anti-discrimination laws in the nation’s workplaces. Laws under the jurisdiction of EEOC include the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Federal law generally protects individuals from employment discrimination based on age, disability, genetic information, national origin, race, religion, or sex.
EEOC has traditionally focused its enforcement activities on individual complaints of discrimination. However, the agency has recently shifted more attention toward systemic discrimination that involves an alleged pattern or practice of discrimination. The commission has set a goal that up to 24 percent of all litigated cases be systemic in nature.
Furthermore, EEOC has also advanced new policies surrounding the use of criminal and background checks, which may affect employers’ ability to effectively protect their workers and customers. Wednesday’s hearing will provide members an opportunity to thoroughly examine the policies and priorities of EEOC. To learn more about the hearing, visit http://edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.
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Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
On Tuesday, May 21 at 10:00 a.m., the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, chaired by Rep. John Kline (R-MN), will hold a hearing entitled, “Reviewing the President’s Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Proposal for the U.S. Department of Education.” The hearing will take place in room 2175 of the Rayburn House Office Building.
In his Fiscal Year 2014 budget proposal, President Obama requested $71.2 billion in discretionary spending for the Department of Education, an 8.4 percent increase over current fiscal year funding levels. This is on top of $7.1 billion in mandatory spending for Pell Grants, $1.3 billion in mandatory funding for the new universal preschool program, and $17.5 billion in mandatory funding to support the teaching profession, bringing the total budget request to $97.1 billion.
Tuesday’s hearing will provide members an opportunity to review the administration’s budget request and examine whether an increase in department spending is the best approach to both fiscal and education policies. The Honorable Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, will offer testimony and answer members' questions during the hearing. To learn more about this hearing, visit www.edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.
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House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee Chairman Phil Roe (R-TN) issued the following statements today after the U.S. House of Representatives approved H.R. 45, legislation that would repeal President Obama’s government takeover of health care:
“Our nation is mired in a jobs crisis and the president’s health care law is making it worse,” said Chairman Kline. “Time and again employers have described the difficult choices ObamaCare is forcing them to make, including raising costs on customers and reducing the number of hours employees can work. This flawed law is bad for workers and job creators. As long as ObamaCare remains on the books, robust job growth will be stymied and the hope for commonsense health reforms will be diminished. It’s time to repeal this law so we can put more Americans back to work and advance real reforms to lower health care costs.”
“The greatest problems with the American health care system are cost and access,” said Rep. Roe. “We need health care reform in this country, but we need patient-centered health care reform, where patients, their families and their physicians make health care decisions- not government bureaucrats or insurance companies. Health care should not be a partisan issue. I stand ready to repeal this flawed bill and work with my Democrat colleagues on health care reform that will truly work for the American people.”
During floor debate, Chairman Kline highlighted the concerns of job-creators who have testified before the committee as part of its continued oversight of the health care law. To read Chairman Kline’s floor remarks, click here.
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Our nation is mired in a jobs crisis and the president’s health care law is making it worse. Since ObamaCare was first enacted in 2010, federal bureaucrats have written nearly 20,000 pages of new regulations. Meanwhile, America’s job creators are struggling to manage the full effects of the law in their workplaces.
Ed Tubel has owned and operated Sonny’s Real Pit Barbeque for more than 30 years. At a recent hearing in North Carolina, Mr. Tubel outlined the difficult choices he now faces, including higher prices for customers and fewer hours for workers.
Brett Parker, vice chairman of Bowlmor Lanes of New York testified in 2011 that his business may also have to shift workers to part-time hours in order to “protect existing jobs.”
As chief human resources officer with Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, Tina Haynes stated the college must consider cutting the number of courses offered to students. She also described the health care law as a “massive administrative burden that comes with unanticipated costs.”
And Gail Johnson, president and CEO of an early childhood learning center, warned in 2011 that ObamaCare would “force entrepreneurs to invest less into growing their business” and slow the growth of small businesses.
These men and women live each day with the consequences of the health care law. No doubt others from across the country have similar stories to tell. There are a number of good reasons why Congress should repeal the government takeover of health care. It is driving up the cost of care and millions will lose the health coverage they have and like.
But for many Americans one reason stands above the rest: Jobs. Our nation’s workers and employers cannot afford the Democrats’ job-destroying health care law. I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 45.
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The House Committee on Education and the Workforce, chaired by Rep. John Kline (R-MN), today approved two pieces of legislation designed to address a pair of problems facing the nation’s higher education system.
The Smarter Solutions for Students Act (H.R. 1911), introduced by Chairman Kline and Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) will address the upcoming student loan interest rate cliff scheduled for July 1, 2013 by returning all federal student loans (except Perkins loans) to market-based interest rates. H.R. 1911 was approved with bipartisan support.
Rep. Luke Messer’s (R-IN) Improving Postsecondary Education Data for Students Act (H.R. 1949), which passed the committee by voice vote, will direct the Department of Education to explore opportunities to enhance higher education transparency.
“The committee has taken an important step forward in the fight to strengthen the nation’s higher education system. Not only have we approved a proposal that will help students access the information they need to choose the right college, we also advanced legislation based on the president’s own proposal to tie student loan interest rates back to the free market,” said Chairman Kline. “My colleagues and I have been working to get politicians out of the business of setting student loan interest rates for years, and I am pleased the Smarter Solutions for Students Act received bipartisan support today. I want to thank Representatives Foxx and Messer for their leadership on these initiatives, and I look forward to bringing the legislation to the House floor for a vote in the coming days.”
"Student borrowers shouldn’t have to ride the roller coaster of political largesse wondering every year whether Congress will intervene in time to adjust their rates,” Rep. Foxx said. “The Smarter Solutions for Students Act puts an end to the temporary fixes and campaign promises that have failed to strengthen our nation’s student loan system – and allows students to take advantage of low interest rates when available while protecting them in high interest rate environments with a reasonable cap. This legislation offers predictability, simplicity, and will ensure interest rates are immediately in line with the free market– a need particularly acute in today’s jobless economy.”
“For most folks, choosing a college is one of the biggest decisions of their life,” said Rep. Messer. “Students and families need information to help them make good choices, but current transparency initiatives are often too hard to understand. We need to get rid of unnecessary data that just creates confusion and more burdensome reporting requirements for institutions. The Improving Postsecondary Education Data for Students Act will inform the committee’s efforts to reauthorize the nation’s higher education law, and help Congress better understand the information students and families need when selecting a college. I am pleased the bill received strong bipartisan support in committee and hope to see the same in a vote before the full House.”
To learn more about the Smarter Solutions for Students Act, click here.
To learn more about the Improving Postsecondary Education Data for Students Act, click here.
To read opening statements, review amendments, or watch an archived webcast of today’s markup, visit www.edworkforce.house.gov/markups.
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Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am pleased to offer this Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute to H.R. 1949, the Improving Postsecondary Education Data for Students Act.
Few decisions in life are bigger than whether to attend college and which college to attend. Yet many families struggle to wade through the complicated maze of statistics to find the information they need to make fully informed, cost-conscious decisions. Consequently, they may choose schools or programs that don’t meet their needs and leave them with high debt and limited career potential.
Through the Improving Postsecondary Education Data for Students Act, we hope to simplify the process and help ensure students can access the information they need to make good decisions while lessening the burden on colleges and universities that have far too many reporting requirements today.
As Chairman Kline detailed, the bill would require the Department of Education to evaluate the information colleges and universities are required to provide to determine what helps make students better consumers, and what simply buries them and the schools they attend under piles of paper.
In addition to technical changes, the substitute amendment makes a few key modifications to the underlying legislation.
Choosing the right college is an important step on the path to educational and professional success. The Improving Postsecondary Education Data for Students Act will help ensure students have access to the information they really need to make the best possible decision, while also reducing the burden of unnecessary reporting requirements for colleges and universities.
I want to thank Chairman Kline and Higher Education Subcommittee Chairwoman Foxx for their work on and support of this legislation. I also want to commend our Democratic colleagues for their contributions to this bill. I urge all of our colleagues to support the Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute and the underlying legislation, and yield back the balance of my time.
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Thank you, Chairman Kline, and thank you for your leadership on behalf of students and taxpayers to identify a sustainable solution to the student loan interest rate cliff.
As many of us know, on July 1, today’s 3.4 percent subsidized Stafford Loan interest rate is set to double to 6.8 percent for millions of current students – all because elected officials made a promise they couldn’t afford to keep for the long-haul.
Student borrowers shouldn’t have to ride the roller coaster of political largesse wondering every year whether Congress will intervene in time to adjust their student loans. And taxpayers shouldn’t be expected to foot the bill whenever members of Congress promise more than they can deliver.
For the sake of students, families, and taxpayers, before July 1 we need to move our federal student loan programs away from politics. Student loan rates should not be subject to the whims of Washington or seized as bargaining chips.
The Smarter Solutions for Students Act will remove politics, uncertainty, and confusion from the rate-setting equation and instead anchor student loan interest rates on the 10 year Treasury Note – not just for four years – but for good.
By tying rates to the market, the Smarter Solutions for Students Act establishes a predictable rate for loan calculation, insulated from the politics and posturing of Washington.
Committee Republicans aren’t alone in finding the answer for predictability in the market. President Obama offered a similar market-based interest rate plan in his 2014 budget proposal and my colleagues on the other side of the aisle have also voiced openness to utilizing the market to set interest rates.
We hope to build on this common ground and continue working in good faith with all interested parties to improve the Smarter Solutions for Students Act and get it to the President’s desk.
Students, families, and taxpayers deserve a long-term solution – not more can-kicking from Washington.
The Smarter Solutions for Students Act puts an end to the temporary fixes and campaign promises that have failed to strengthen our nation’s student loan system. This legislation offers predictability, simplicity, and will ensure interest rates are immediately in line with the free market – a need particularly acute in today’s jobless economy.
The American people deserve the clarity, certainty, and protection the Smarter Solutions for Students Act offers. I am pleased to offer this Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute, which makes minor technical corrections to the bill, and urge my colleagues to support the underlying legislation.
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Today the committee will consider a pair of higher education bills designed to tackle two significant problems facing students.
The first piece of legislation before us today is H.R. 1949, the Improving Postsecondary Education Data for Students Act. Introduced by Rep. Luke Messer of Indiana’s 6th District, this legislation will inform the committee’s efforts to reauthorize the Higher Education Actand enhance transparency for students and families.
Information is crucial to help families understand their higher education options as well as the financial investment that comes with earning a postsecondary degree. In recent years Republicans have championed efforts to make clear, consistent information available to students about price, financial aid, demographics, and graduation rates.
However, during an April Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training hearing chaired by Rep. Virginia Foxx, we learned federal efforts to improve data collection and transparency aren’t working as well as we’d hoped. Many students still have difficulty accessing and understanding the resources they need to choose the right college.
As Michigan State University Dean of the College of Education Dr. Donald Heller explained in his testimony, “The internet has greatly helped to democratize access to information. What it has not done as successfully…[is] help people get access to the right information to meet their needs. And it is critical that we help prospective students to get the right information in their hands at the necessary times.”
By directing the Secretary of Education to examine opportunities to enhance higher education transparency, the Improving Postsecondary Education Data for Students Act will help us better understand the kind of information students have, want, and need when researching their higher education options.
This legislation takes an important step toward strengthening higher education transparency, eliminating unnecessary reporting requirements, and ensuring students have the resources necessary to choose the right college. I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 1949.
The second bill before the committee today is H.R. 1911, the Smarter Solutions for Students Act. Rep. Foxx and I recently introduced this responsible proposal to address the looming student loan interest rate cliff.
As we are all well aware, subsidized Stafford loan interest rates are scheduled to double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent in a few short weeks. Last year Congress took action to extend the lower rate for one year. I agreed to support the bill with the promise we would use this time to advance a long-term solution that gets politicians out of the business of setting student loan interest rates.
The Smarter Solutions for Students Act accomplishes this goal by simply moving all federal student loans – except Perkins loans – to a market-based interest rate system. This is similar to a proposal put forth in President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget request.
Under H.R. 1911, subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loan interest rates will be calculated based on the 10-year Treasury note plus 2.5 percent. We expect the legislation will drop Stafford loan interest rates to about 4.4 percent. Parent and graduate PLUS loan interest rates will be calculated using the 10-year Treasury note plus 4.5 percent, bringing these rates down to approximately 6.4 percent.
By tying interest rates back to the free market, the Smarter Solutions for Students Act ensures all borrowers can take advantage of lower interest rates when available. H.R. 1911 also protects borrowers against higher interest rates by imposing a reasonable cap of 8.5 percent on Stafford loan interest rates and 10.5 percent on PLUS loan interest rates.
Additionally, the legislation maintains students’ ability to consolidate their loans upon graduation and lock in a fixed interest rate for the life of the loan. And students can still take advantage of existing federal repayment and debt management initiatives, such as the income-based repayment programs, numerous loan forgiveness programs, and opportunities for deferment or forbearance.
We all recognize the urgent need to take action. No one wants to see student loan interest rates double on July 1st. The president put forth a plan in his budget to address the problem with a market-based solution, and my Republican colleagues and I worked in good faith to offer a proposal that largely mirrors the president’s. Despite claims to the contrary, we tried our best to make this proposal budget neutral to protect both taxpayers and borrowers. And we will continue to consider ideas to improve the proposal through the open legislative process.
We have an opportunity for bipartisan compromise on this matter – something that is exceedingly rare in Washington. The Smarter Solutions for Students Act is a responsible, long-term proposal that will strengthen federal student loan programs and provide more stability for taxpayers and students in the long run. I strongly encourage my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to lend their support.
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