House Education & Workforce Committee

Messer Statement: Hearing on “The Effects of the President’s Health Care Law on Indiana’s Classrooms and Workplaces”

Education & the Workforce Committee - Thu, 09/04/2014 - 12:00am
Congress needs to hear directly from those who have been forced to make difficult decisions as a result of the law’s employer mandate, which requires employers to provide expensive government-approved health insurance or face steep fines if they don’t.    

Put simply, the Federal government should not be taxing schools and small businesses to pay for the President’s health care law. It just isn’t right. And, if we really care about our economy and our nation’s future we will do something about it. 

Dave Adams, the Superintendent of Shelbyville Central Schools, first brought this issue to my attention early last year when he said the employer mandate will cost his schools $794,000 each year. Bob Yoder, Assistant Superintendent of Southern Hancock School Corporation, estimated its price tag at $450,000 per year. Their stories are not unique, unfortunately.  

That’s why I have introduced legislation to exempt schools from this onerous provision. We can’t fund the President’s health care law at the expense of education. 

Small businesses are being harmed, too. Businesses statewide have been forced to reduce worker hours and scale-back their workforce to balance new budget constraints imposed by the law. That’s why I have introduced legislation that will exempt most small business from this tax, too.  

Nate LaMar, the International Regional Manager of Draper, Incorporated in Spiceland, rightly notes that the law’s fees and taxes don’t stop with the employer mandate. There are very strong feelings about the President’s health care law on both sides of the aisle.  I respect the views of those who believe deeply that it is the best way to address the challenges in our health care system.  

I would hope that most could agree, however, that our nation’s school children and hourly workers should be forced to pay the price of that law.

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Congress Coming to Greenfield

Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 09/02/2014 - 12:00am

The open enrollment period for insurance plans mandated by the Affordable Care Act is just months away. For most Hoosiers, that means a bigger bite out of their monthly budgets next year. Health insurance premiums in Indiana will go up an average of 13% in 2015 according to a study conducted by the Health Research Institute. That means individual Hoosiers can expect to pay about $497 per month for insurance without government subsidies. That’s not affordable, despite the law’s title.

Employers across the state are facing the same harsh reality. Business owners and cash-strapped school corporations are grappling with how to deal with a provision of the law that requires them to provide costly health insurance that many of their employees neither want nor need. These schools and businesses are facing big fines if they don’t. That’s bad for business and terrible for students.

Shelbyville Central Schools estimates the Affordable Care Act will cost $794,000 annually. Southern Hancock School Corporation estimates the cost at $450,000. To help deal with the increased strain on already cash-strapped budgets, bus drivers, teachers’ aides, and other support staff have already had their hours reduced.

The largest school district in Indiana, Fort Wayne Community Schools, has calculated that it would either face $10 million of added compliance costs or be forced to pay $8 million in fines to the IRS to comply with the mandate. The district has been forced to cut the hours of more than 600 part-time cafeteria workers and teachers’ aides as a result.

Small business owners have to make the same tough choices. The law’s redefinition of what is means to work full-time—30 hours—makes more employers with fewer employees subject to the same fines as schools unless they provide costly insurance. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, these tough choices will reduce labor force compensation and push as many as 2.3 million people out of the workforce over the next seven years. This “new normal” for our nation’s workforce is not OK.

The House of Representatives has acted to stop this damage by voting to repeal, delay, and defund this law.  But the Senate has failed to follow suit.  They need to hear your voices.  That’s why the Committee on Education and the Workforce, of which I am a member, has decided to hold a field hearing in Greenfield entitled “The Effects of the President’s Health Care Law on Indiana’s Classrooms and Workplaces.”  It’s a chance for Hoosier school and business leaders to express their concerns to Congress and draw attention to the harm the President’s health care law is having on students and workers.  

The hearing, held by the Committee’s Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions, will bring together members of Congress from around the state and nation to hear first-hand how this law is hurting Hoosiers.  The hearing is scheduled to take place on Thursday, September 4, 2014, at 10 a.m. at Greenfield City Hall located at 10 S. State Street in Greenfield.  

I look forward to bringing Congress to Greenfield and invite you to join us on September 4th.

Unemployed by ObamaCare

Education & the Workforce Committee - Fri, 08/22/2014 - 12:00am
The president’s policies are hurting working families, and a leading culprit is the fatally flawed health care law. In September, Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee Chairman Phil Roe (R-TN) will hold a field hearing in Indiana to examine ObamaCare's impact on schools and workplaces across the Hoosier state. Members at the hearing will have a lot to discuss. The Wall Street Journal explores the latest evidence of how workers and job creators are struggling thanks to the president’s health care law:
   

Most of the political class seems to have decided that ObamaCare is working well enough, the opposition is fading, and the subsidies and regulation are settling in as the latest wing of the entitlement state. This flight from reality can't last forever, especially as the evidence continues to pile up that the law is harming the labor market.

On Thursday the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia reported the results of a special business survey on the Affordable Care Act and its influence on employment, compensation and benefits. Liberals claim ObamaCare is of little consequence to jobs, but the Philly Fed went to the source and asked employers qualitative questions about how they are responding in practice.

The bank reports that 78.8% of businesses in the district have made no change to the number of workers they employ as the specific result of ObamaCare and 3% are hiring more. More troubling, 18.2% are cutting jobs and employees. Some 18% shifted the composition of their workforce to a higher proportion of part-time labor. And 88.2% of the roughly half of businesses that modified their health plans as a result of ObamaCare passed along the costs through increasing the employee contribution to premiums, an effective cut in wages.

Those results are consistent with a New York Fed survey, also out this week, that asked "How, if at all, are you changing (or have you changed) any of the following because of the effects that the ACA is having on your business?" For "number of workers you employ," 21% of Empire State manufacturers and 16.9% of service firms answered "reducing."

To complete the triptych, an Atlanta Fed poll earlier this month found that 34% of businesses planned to hire more part-time workers than in the past, mostly because of a rise in the relative costs of their full-time colleagues. ObamaCare may be contributing to that surge to the extent the law's insurance mandates and taxes increase spending on fringe benefits for people who work more than 30 hours.

Liberals will dismiss this as merely anecdotal or of minor impact, but it makes sense that ObamaCare's labor effects would be concentrated in some industries with relatively low-wage or marginal workers. The data points also help explain why the number of people employed part-time surged by 12% during the recession but the rate hasn't fallen even as the economy has improved. Or why labor force participation is the lowest since the late 1970s.

Chief White House economist Jason Furman put out a report in July that attempted to explain this collapse in the share of Americans working. He attributed about half the decline to an aging population and a sixth to the conventional expected result of the downturn. But he simply threw up his hands and assigned a third of the responsibility to an "unexplained" category.

Our view is that Mr. Furman's gnomes were wrong to gloss over government-fueled labor distortions like ObamaCare. People are responding at least in part to the incentives to work fewer hours or not at all, as the research of University of Chicago economist Casey Mulligan on marginal tax rates has shown. But there are also simply fewer jobs available that would have been created in the past, as the Fed surveys show.

Slow growth is the great tragedy of the Obama Presidency, and maybe these findings will eventually get past the liberal Iron Dome of only positive thoughts. 

***MEDIA ADVISORY*** Roe to Hold Indiana Field Hearing on Health Care Challenges Facing Schools and Workplaces

Education & the Workforce Committee - Thu, 08/21/2014 - 12:00am

On Thursday, September 4, at 10:00 a.m., Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Chairman Phil Roe (R-TN) will hold a field hearing entitled, “The Effects of the President’s Health Care Law on Indiana’s Classrooms and Workplaces.” The hearing will take place at Greenfield City Hall, 10 South State Street, Greenfield, Indiana.

Across the country, workers and employers are struggling with the consequences of the president’s health care law. For example, in response to a survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, businesses generally expect health care costs to increase by 10 percent next year and a majority cited the health care law as the reason. The survey also revealed the law was leading employers to raise the number of part-time employees, lower employee compensation, and increase consumer prices. 

The House Education and the Workforce Committee is examining how many of these same consequences are affecting the nation’s K-12 and higher education systems. Through testimony and the committee’s YourStory initiative, school leaders have shared stories of health care costs going up and staff work-hours being cut.

The field hearing will provide members an opportunity to learn how the health care law is affecting Indiana’s schools and workplaces. For more information about the field hearing, visit www.edworkforce.house.gov/hearings. Media interested in attending the field hearing must RSVP to Liz Hill at liz.hill@mail.house.gov

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Kline, Alexander Call for GAO Study on Education Department’s Waiver Requirements

Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 08/12/2014 - 12:00am

House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), senior Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, today requested a study from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the Department of Education’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) waiver policies.

In a letter to GAO, they wrote, “In 2011, the department began issuing waivers to states regarding specific requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act, and to date, 42 states and the District of Columbia have received ESEA waivers. In order to receive waivers, these states were required to comply with a new set of requirements, not authorized by Congress, related to standards and assessments, school accountability, and teacher and principal evaluation systems.”

The lawmakers noted the supporting documentation required to obtain waivers in their home states, which ranged from more than 700 to more than one thousand pages. “However, Congress has little information about how the department utilizes the data required of these and other states to grant, deny, renew, or revoke a state waiver,” they wrote. “Additionally, Congress has little insight into how states are impacted by the time and cost associated with applying for and implementing these waiver requirements.”

“Finally, the department has recently altered various requirements for certain states regarding implementation timelines for teacher and principal evaluation systems. At the same time, other states have had their waivers put on ‘high risk’ status, and Washington recently had its waiver revoked, over issues related to teacher and principal evaluation systems. The department has provided no justifications for these seemingly contradictory decisions.”

To read the full letter, click here.

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NLRB’s Latest Assault on America’s Workplaces

Education & the Workforce Committee - Fri, 08/01/2014 - 12:00am

One has to ask what exactly the Obama National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has against America’s workplaces. In recent years, the NLRB has restricted workers’ access to the secret ballot, advanced a rule that would stifle employer free speech and cripple worker free choice, and tried to dictate where private employers can create jobs.

Now the NLRB has opened a new front in its war on workplaces. The agency’s general counsel, long-time union operative Richard Griffin, issued a decision that would overturn a franchise model in place for years. Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) described the decision as “detached from reality” and noted:

While the board is considering this very issue, the general counsel is trying to rewrite the franchise model workers, employers, and consumers have known for decades. This is yet another activist decision from the general counsel's office. Big Labor has scored once again at the expense of workers and employers.

Andrew Puzder, chief executive officer of CKE Restaurants, a company that includes iconic names such as Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., describes what’s at stake for workers and employers:

If the NLRB's new interpretation of the rules—which McDonald's has vowed to contest—becomes the law of the land, it will be tantamount to rewriting an existing contractual relationship by government fiat in ways the parties never contemplated and to their mutual detriment. Franchisers would inevitably pass the costs of jointly managing their franchisees' employees on to their franchisees. Franchisees would find themselves unable to control their labor costs, a key controllable expense and an important element of their profitability.

It's a lose-lose scenario for everyone—except for the labor unions that have long dreamed of organizing restaurant workers nationwide. Even if that dream were realized, though, there would soon be fewer workers to unionize as franchise restaurants began to shut down. The NLRB's attack on the franchise business model is especially unfortunate because franchising plays an integral role in the U.S. economy.

The question is: Who benefits from the NLRB’s new legal invention? The Wall Street Journal has the answer:

This is a bonanza for trial lawyers who will be able to shake down the parent company for alleged labor violations at franchisees whose pockets aren't as deep. The other beneficiary is Big Labor. Workers have long had to petition franchisees to form a union. Under Mr. Griffin's law, they can leap-frog their direct managers to corporate headquarters, which are more vulnerable to political pressure and less sensitive to local markets.

To recap: The NLRB has made a decision that upends decades of legal practice; workers and employers will be harmed by the decision, while labor bosses and trial lawyers stand to benefit. Just another day at the office for the Obama NLRB.

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Kline Statement on NLRB Joint Employer Decision

Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 07/29/2014 - 12:00am

House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) issued the following statement after National Labor Relations Board General Counsel Richard Griffin determined McDonald’s Corp. and its franchisees are “joint employers”:

This decision is detached from reality. While the board is considering this very issue, the general counsel is trying to rewrite the franchise model workers, employers, and consumers have known for decades. This is yet another activist decision from the general counsel's office. Big Labor has scored once again at the expense of workers and employers. Let’s hope wiser heads prevail and this absurd decision is rejected.

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House Advances Bipartisan Legislation to Support Youth Victims of Sex Trafficking

Education & the Workforce Committee - Fri, 07/25/2014 - 12:00am

The House of Representatives today approved the final bill in a series of legislative reforms aimed at strengthening support for youth who are victims of sex trafficking. The proposed bills would improve identification and assessment of child sex trafficking victims and enhance existing services for runaway and homeless youth.

“We have a moral obligation to do all we can to serve children who are victims of sex trafficking,” said Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN). “No victim should be denied critical support because of outdated policies or fall through the cracks of a child welfare system. The legislation passed by the House will fix these flaws and strengthen our response to this national crisis. I want to thank Representatives Bass, Heck, and Beatty for helping to lead this important, bipartisan effort.”

Each year an estimated 300,000 children become victims of sex trafficking. Many of these children were once involved in a state child welfare system, yet their experience with sexual exploitation may go undetected. The House-passed bipartisan legislation would enhance support services for victims and improve the child welfare response to trafficking:

  • Strengthening Child Welfare Response to Trafficking Act. Introduced by Reps. Karen Bass (D-CA), John Kline (R-MN), Tom Marino (R-PA), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Michelle Bachmann (R-MN), and Louise Slaughter (D-NY), the legislation (H.R. 5081) will improve practices within state child welfare systems to identify, assess, and document sex trafficking victims. H.R. 5081 passed the House by a vote of 399 to 0 on Friday, July 25.
                  
  • Enhancing Services for Runaway and Homeless Victims of Youth Trafficking Act. Introduced by Reps. Joe Heck (R-NV), John Kline (R-MN), and Bobby Scott (D-VA), the legislation (H.R. 5076) will improve support provided specifically to runaway and homeless youth who are victims of trafficking. H.R. 5076 passed the House by voice vote on Wednesday, July 23.

The House also passed earlier this week H.R. 5111, legislation introduced by Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-OH) that would add the term “child sex trafficking” to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s CyberTipline reporting areas to reinforce that these children are victims, not criminals. H.R. 5111 passed the House by a vote of 409 to 0 on Thursday, July 24. 

To learn more about the legislative proposals, click here.

To watch Chairman Kline’s floor remarks on H.R. 5076, click here

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Kline Applauds Passage of Higher Ed Bill to Improve Student Financial Counseling

Education & the Workforce Committee - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 12:00am

The House of Representatives today approved bipartisan legislation that would improve financial counseling support for college students and their parents. Passed by a vote of 405 to 11, the Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act (H.R. 4984) is the third in a series of bills passed by the House to strengthen the nation’s higher education system.

Authored by Representative Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and cosponsored by Reps. Richard Hudson (R-NC) and Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), the Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act:

  • Ensures both students and parents who participate in a federal loan program receive interactive counseling each year that reflects their individual borrowing situation.
                                                                                                
  • Informs low-income students about the terms and conditions of the Pell Grant program through annual counseling that will be provided to all grant recipients. 
                                                                                              
  • Directs the secretary of education to maintain and disseminate a consumer-tested, online counseling tool institutions can use to provide annual loan counseling, exit counseling, and annual Pell Grant counseling.

Earlier this week, the House also passed with overwhelming bipartisan support legislation to spur innovation and strengthen transparency in higher education. Speaking of the progress being made to reauthorize the Higher Education ActEducation and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) said:

The House continues to make strong, bipartisan progress toward strengthening our nation’s higher education system. The legislation advanced today will help students and families make smart choices about paying for a college education. I want to thank Representatives Guthrie, Hudson, and Bonamici for their bipartisan leadership on this important legislation. By working across the aisle, we can help make a difference right now in the lives of students and families. I encourage the Senate to follow our lead and look forward to continuing this bipartisan effort in the months ahead.

To learn more about H.R. 4984, click here.

To learn more about the effort to reform the Higher Education Act, visit http://edworkforce.house.gov/highered/.

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Kline Statement: H.R. 4984, the Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act

Education & the Workforce Committee - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 12:00am

Every family knows the cost of pursuing a higher education is out of control. It’s felt intensely each and every day by countless Americans; by parents who worry how they will put their kids through college; by students who fear they will be left with a pile of debt and no job prospects; by working men and women who hope a degree will let them reach the next rung on the economic ladder.

We know that solutions to the college cost crisis must ultimately come from states and institutions. But there are things Congress can do right now to keep the dream of a postsecondary education within reach.

Helping students find the right institution is one way we can make a difference. Yesterday the House passed with strong bipartisan support the Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act. The legislation will arm students with the best information available in a format that is easy to understand, information that includes key facts such as an institution’s costs, completion rates, and student loan debt.

Students and families currently face a tsunami of information that is mostly confusing, conflicting, and unnecessary. The bill streamlines the information and how it is delivered, enabling students to be smart shoppers in the college marketplace.

However, picking an institution is only half the challenge. Families then have to figure out how to pay for it, and far too many are unprepared to make those tough decisions. Some students choose loans and debt when other assistance in the form of grants and scholarships are readily available. And those that do opt for student loans often have no real concept of what they’re getting into or what it means for their future.

Clearly current policies promoting financial literacy are coming up short. That is why I am pleased to support the Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act. The bipartisan legislation includes a series of reforms that will help students and families make wise financial decisions about their postsecondary education.

For example, the bill ensures borrowers – both students and parents – receive annual counseling that reflects their personal situations and requires consent each year before receiving a federal loan. The legislation also makes sure low-income individuals who rely on Pell Grants are informed about the terms and conditions of their grant.

The bill also delivers more robust counseling upon graduation, requiring that information on a borrower’s loan balance and anticipated monthly payments be provided. Finally, the legislation directs the Secretary of Education to maintain a consumer-tested, online counseling tool that will help institutions put this important information into the hands of those who need it.

This legislation is part of a broader effort to strengthen our nation’s higher education. Neither this bill nor the bills passed earlier this week are a silver bullet to challenges we face. However, by working together, we can begin to make a difference in the lives of students and families. That is precisely what the House is doing.

I want to thank the bipartisan authors of the legislation, Representatives Brett Guthrie, Richard Hudson, and Suzanne Bonamici. I urge my colleagues to support the bill and reserve the balance of my time.

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Kline Statement: H.R. 5076, the Enhancing Services for Runaway and Homeless Victims of Youth Trafficking Act

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 12:00am

Each year an estimated 300,000 innocent children fall victim to sex trafficking right here in the United States. The victims can be homeless or runaway youth; others are simply taken from their parents in the blink of an eye. The victims’ families are our neighbors, friends, and loved ones.

As a father of two and grandfather of four, for me it is impossible to fathom the pain and suffering they must feel, knowing their son or daughter is trapped in a modern-day slave trade filled with darkness and hopelessness. While we will never fully comprehend the grief these families are forced to bear, we can as a nation fight this heinous crime with every tool available.

There are heroic efforts underway right now to locate victims of youth sex trafficking and return them to their families. Last week, the Education and the Workforce Committee had an opportunity to hear from John Ryan, head of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The center plays a vital role in a national effort to protect vulnerable youth, leading a partnership among law enforcement, government agencies, and private ventures like Honeywell, Google, and Lifetouch.

In my home state of Minnesota, the center has helped resolve cases involving 1,699 endangered runaways and 373 family abductions. The center’s 24-hour CyberTipline has provided law enforcement more than two million leads of child sexual exploitation.

The center and its staff provide an invaluable service to families; they stand on the front lines of this critical battle each and every day. Despite these and other achievements, we know more can be done to protect our most vulnerable youth.

Right now many kids are falling through the cracks of child welfare systems. Often they are not properly identified as sex trafficking victims when they enter the system and are then lost in the shuffle once they are in state custody. And too often runaway and homeless youth who are victims of sex trafficking do not receive the special help they need.

That is why I strongly support this legislation, which will enhance existing services for runaway and homeless youth. I am also proud to support legislation we will consider in just a few moments that will improve how state child welfare systems identify and respond to victims of youth sex trafficking. Finally, we will also consider legislation that ensures victims are properly identified when reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children CyberTipline.

Mister Speaker, we have to do more to address this national crisis. The bills the House is considering today move our country in the right direction. I am humbled to help lead this bipartisan effort and urge my colleagues to support the legislation.

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Video Release: Kline Urges Support for Victims of Youth Trafficking

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 12:00am
The House of Representatives today debated bipartisan legislation to strengthen support for victims of youth sex trafficking. The proposals would enhance existing aid for runaway and homeless youth and improve identification and assessment of child sex trafficking victims. House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) discussed the urgent need to assist victims of youth sex trafficking: 

 

Each year an estimated 300,000 innocent children fall victim to sex trafficking right here in the United States. The victims can be homeless or runaway youth; others are simply taken from their parents in the blink of an eye. The victims’ families are our neighbors, friends, and loved ones.

As a father of two and grandfather of four, for me it is impossible to fathom the pain and suffering they must feel, knowing their son or daughter is trapped in a modern-day slave trade filled with darkness and hopelessness. While we will never fully comprehend the grief these families are forced to bear, we can as a nation fight this heinous crime with every tool available.

To read Chairman Kline’s full remarks, click here.

To learn more about bipartisan efforts to strengthen support for victims of youth sex trafficking, click here.

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House Passes Legislation to Support Innovation, Strengthen Transparency in Higher Education

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 12:00am
The House of Representatives today approved two bipartisan legislative proposals that will spur innovation and strengthen transparency in higher education. The bills are part of a broader effort to improve postsecondary education through reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

“I am pleased the House has advanced bipartisan reforms to strengthen our nation’s higher education system,” said House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN). “Over the last several weeks, we’ve worked to find areas of common ground that would help more Americans realize the dream of a postsecondary education. By supporting innovation and strengthening transparency, these legislative efforts will make a difference in the lives of students and families. I urge our Senate colleagues to send these bipartisan bills to the president’s desk without delay.”

Authored by Representative Matt Salmon (R-AZ) and cosponsored by Reps. Susan Brooks (R-IN) and Jared Polis (D-CO), the Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project Act (H.R. 3136):
  • Promotes innovation in higher education by directing the secretary of education to implement competency-based education demonstration projects.
                                                                                                
  • Provides accountability by requiring an annual evaluation of each demonstration project to determine program quality.
                                                                                              
  • Delivers greater flexibility to institutions that want to provide students a more personalized, cost-effective education.

H.R. 3136 passed the House by a vote of 414 to 0. To learn more about the bill, click here

Authored by Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and cosponsored by Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN) and John Kline (R-MN), the Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act (H.R. 4983)

  • Requires the secretary of education to create a consumer-tested College Dashboard that would display key information students need when deciding which school to attend.
                                  
  • Instructs the secretary to provide a link to the page of each institution listed on a student’s FAFSA to make sure students know this information is available.
            
  • Streamlines and eliminates unnecessary information and federal transparency initiatives.

H.R. 4983 passed the House by voice vote. To learn more about the bill, click here.

Earlier today, the House also passed legislation (H.R. 5134) introduced by Rep. Foxx that would extend the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity and the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance for one year.

To learn more about the committee’s effort to reform the Higher Education Act, visit http://edworkforce.house.gov/highered/ 

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Kline Statement: H.R. 3136, the Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project Act

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 12:00am

Across the country, millions of college students are getting ready to start the school year. They will soon say goodbye to family and friends and pursue their dream of a postsecondary education. Unfortunately, many Americans are struggling to turn that dream into reality.

The higher education system we know today is too costly, too bureaucratic, and outdated. Some are having a hard time fitting the traditional college experience into a busy lifestyle that already includes work, family, or both. Others are graduating with a pile of debt and no job prospects.

A college degree can open the door to a bright and prosperous future, yet too often obstacles stand in the way. Ultimately states and institutions must provide the answers students and families need, but Congress has a role to play as well.

First and foremost, we need to continue promoting policies that will get this economy moving again, so every college graduate who wants a job can find a job. We can also adopt commonsense reforms that will improve our higher education system.

Today the House will begin to do just that. We have an opportunity right now to advance reforms that will support innovation and empower students to make informed decisions about their college careers. H.R. 3136 is the first step in that effort.

The bipartisan Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project Act will allow institutions to expand an innovative approach to higher education, known as competency-based education.

This model of education defines a set of skills for a field of work and then measures student progress in acquiring those skills. Once a student demonstrates a level of skill or competency, he or she can move to the next step in the academic program.

Instead of awarding a student credit hours for time spent in class, competency-based education allows a student to learn at a pace tailored to his or her specific needs. If you’re a single mom, you may need more time to complete your degree while juggling the demands of work and kids. Or if you’re a dad out of a job with a family to support, four years sitting in a classroom is time you do not have.

Competency-based education holds tremendous promise. It allows students to earn a degree in less time and even at a lower cost than in a traditional education setting. Yet it is difficult for institutions to expand this innovative model under a system that values time over learning.

H.R. 3136 will help us move in a different direction. The legislation directs the secretary of education to authorize a number of demonstration projects to test and strengthen competency-based education.

Among other provisions, the legislation requires the secretary to focus on programs that are designed to reduce costs and the time it takes to earn a degree. The bill requires a thorough evaluation of each demonstration project so policymakers learn which programs demonstrate success and what specific roadblocks are standing in the way.

Mister Speaker, this is a good bill that will help make a difference in the lives of students and families. I want to thank the bipartisan authors of the legislation, Representatives Matt Salmon, Jared Polis, and Susan Brooks. I urge my colleagues to support the bill and reserve the balance of my time.

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Walberg Statement: Hearing on Improving the Federal Wage and Hour Regulatory Structure

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 12:00am

For more than 75 years, the Fair Labor Standards Act has provided America’s workforce with crucial federal wage and hour protections. Every day the vast majority of employers do their part to ensure workers enjoy these vital protections. Unfortunately, that is becoming an increasingly difficult challenge.

The current rules and regulations surrounding the law are exceptionally complex and outdated. Too often a maze of confusing regulatory requirements promotes the interests of trial lawyers, rather than working families. A report issued by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office reveals a broken regulatory structure that fosters unnecessary and costly litigation.

According to the report, “The number of FLSA lawsuits filed nationwide in federal district courts has increased substantially, with most of this increase occurring in the last decade.” The GAO report continues, “Since 1991, the number of FLSA lawsuits filed has increased by 514 percent, with a total of 8,148 FLSA lawsuits filed in fiscal year 2012.” A more than 500 percent increase in litigation during the last two decades; clearly something isn’t right.

You would think employers are engaged in some coordinated national conspiracy to deny workers their rights. The truth is the vast majority of employers want to do the right thing and follow the law, but too often they unknowingly step into a regulatory trap. Even the Department of Labor has run afoul of wage and hour regulations and they are responsible for writing the rules and enforcing the law.

As litigation has increased, the number of guidance documents issued by the department has sharply declined. Between 2001 and 2009, the department released an average of 37 guidance documents each year. Yet in the last three years, the Obama administration has issued a total of seven – just seven during the last three years.

As the GAO notes, improving guidance “could increase the efficiency and effectiveness of [the department’s] efforts to help employers voluntarily comply with the law.” What’s the harm in assisting employers in understanding their legal responsibilities? Why wouldn’t we want to help employers understand their obligations, so they can stop spending time inside a courtroom and instead invest their resources into growing a successful business and creating jobs?

We’ve heard a lot in recent months and years about executive authority. We are told this is supposed to be a so-called year of action. Too often these actions stretch the limits of the law and even our Constitution. Yet when it comes to using a pen and phone to help employers understand a complex and confusing regulatory scheme, the Department of Labor can’t be bothered.

Earlier this year, the president issued an executive memorandum directing the secretary of labor to revise federal wage and hour regulations. There is obviously some agreement the rules are outdated and need to be improved. At that time, Chairman Kline and I said that if the president was beginning a sincere attempt to modernize current regulations, then the committee would support such an effort.

In fact, we hope we can be a partner in that effort and today’s hearing should certainly inform that work. We need responsible change that will bring these rules into the 21st century, while also safeguarding worker protections. The committee stands ready to assist, but more can be done to help employers comply with the law. The department has a job to do and we hope this government accountability report will encourage the agency to get to work.

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***MEDIA ADVISORY*** Subcommittee to Examine Regulatory Structure of Federal Wage and Hour Law

Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 07/22/2014 - 12:00am

On Wednesday, July 23 at 10:00 a.m., the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, chaired by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), will hold a hearing entitled, “Improving the Federal Wage and Hour Regulatory Structure.” The hearing will take place in room 2175 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets forth federal wage and hour protections for public- and private-sector workers. The Department of Labor estimates more than 130 million workers are affected by the law. A patchwork of conflicting interpretations and a complex regulatory structure have created an environment of legal uncertainty among employers and employees. A report by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) found a significant increase in FLSA-related litigation. The GAO recommended the department develop a systematic approach to identifying areas of confusion and improve administrative guidance for employers and employees. 

Wednesday’s hearing will provide members an opportunity to examine the growth of FLSA-related litigation and current compliance assistance efforts. To learn more about the hearing, visit http://edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.

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WITNESS LIST

Ms. Judith Conti
Federal Advocacy Coordinator
National Employment Law Project
Washington, D.C.

The Honorable Paul DeCamp
Shareholder
Jackson Lewis P.C.
Washington, D.C.

Ms. Nancy McKeague
Senior Vice President of Employer and Community Strategies, and Chief Human Resources Officer
Michigan Health and Hospital Association
Okemos, MI
**Testifying on behalf of the Society for Human Resource Management**

Dr. Andrew Sherrill
Director, Education, Workforce, and Income Security
U.S. Government Accountability Office
Washington, D.C. 

 

President Signs Bipartisan, Bicameral Job Training Reform Agreement

Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 07/22/2014 - 12:00am

House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) released the following statement after President Barack Obama signed into law H.R. 803, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act:

Today's achievement is the result of a lot of hard work and compromise by Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate. We rejected petty politics and put the best interests of working families first. Now we have a new law that will protect taxpayers and help put more Americans back to work. The American people deserve to see more of these bipartisan accomplishments. It is time to get back to work and find other areas of common ground that will help expand opportunity and prosperity for working families.

To learn more about the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, click here.

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