House Education & Workforce Committee
In 1947, Congress passed the Taft-Hartley Act, which amended the National Labor Relations Act to allow states to prohibit compulsory union membership. Known as a “right-to-work” law, this state-based policy ensures union membership cannot be a condition of employment and employees cannot be required to pay union dues and fees. Twenty-six states and territories have passed right-to-work laws. In April, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) invited public comment on whether the board should adopt a rule permitting unions to collect fees from nonmembers for grievance processing. Such a change would depart from long-standing labor policy and undermine employee protections provided under state right-to-work laws.
Tomorrow’s hearing will provide members an opportunity to explore right-to-work laws and how suggested changes to the grievance process would affect workers. To learn more about the hearing, visit www.edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.
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The Honorable Pete Ricketts
State of Nebraska
Ms. Elise Gould
Senior Economist and Director of Health Policy Research
Economic Policy Institute
Mr. Mark Mix
National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation
Mr. Walter Hewitt
United Way of Southeastern Connecticut
Gales Ferry, CT
Mr. Brian Pannebecker
Hourly Product Worker
Ford Motor Company
Mr. Robert Bruno
University of Illinois
Among other events in Finland and Estonia, the bipartisan congressional delegation met with:
- Members of the Finnish parliament’s education committee. Members discussed with their Finnish counterparts a broad range of educational issues, including addressing the high number of students who drop out of school, improving the teacher training system, special education, and connecting education to the needs of the workforce.
- Leaders at Aalto University and its design factory. The university strives to deliver to students an “innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem” to learn. Following a discussion on the university’s approach to education, members toured the “design factory.” Through the design factory, businesses, teachers, and researchers work together to provide students a place to freely innovate new technologies that, if successful, might be made available to consumers.
- Estonian Ministry of Education Secretary General, Janar Holm. Mr. Holm described the Estonian elementary and secondary education system, including details about the strong leadership at the municipal level. Members also broadly discussed with Mr. Holm Estonian policies governing vocational education and higher education.
- Members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Estonia. Guests provided a brief overview of their particular businesses and described the ease with which individuals can start a business in Estonia. The guests also discussed the challenge they face finding skilled workers and the importance of advancing the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
The congressional delegation also met with Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Roivas and senior leaders in the Finnish and Estonian ministries of foreign affairs. These discussions focused on the significant concerns stemming from Russian aggression and provocation in the region, as well as the threat posed by Islamic extremism.
“We are deeply grateful to our transatlantic allies for their warm hospitality,” said Chairman Kline. “We learned a lot in a few short days, and I know what we’ve learned will help our ongoing efforts to improve education and workforce competiveness. Just as importantly, I hope our bipartisan congressional delegation has helped to strengthen the relationship between the United States and these key allies.
Meeting with Estonian Prime Minister, Taavi Roivas.
Meeting with members of Finland's parliament serving on the education committee.
The bipartisan delegation includes the following members:
- Rep. John Kline (R-MN), chairman of the Committee on Education and the Workforce and member of the Committee on Armed Services;
- Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), chairman of the Committee on the Budget and member of the Committee on Ways and Means;
- Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Secretary of the Republican Conference, member of the Education and the Workforce Committee, chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, and member of the Committee on Rules;
- Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), member of the Education and the Workforce Committee, chairman of the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, and member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform;
- Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL), member of the Committee on Financial Services and the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology;
- Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), member of the Committee on Education and the Workforce, member of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, and ranking member of the Subcommittee on the Environment; and
- Rep. Rick Allen (R-GA), member of the Committee on Education and the Workforce and Committee on Agriculture.
To see more pictures of the delegation’s visit to Finland and Estonia, click here.
To learn about the delegation’s visit to Norway and Sweden, click here.
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Private employers who do business with the federal government provide important services to America’s taxpayers and are overwhelmingly responsible and law-abiding. Bad actors who choose to operate outside of the law and deny employees basic protections should not be rewarded with taxpayer dollars.That is why we already have a system in place to deny federal contracts to these bad actors. Instead of promoting more government overreach and more regulations, the administration has a responsibility to ensure the current system is enforced and used effectively.
The committee held a hearing on the president’s executive order in February and found that its proposed structure would be redundant, unworkable, and unnecessary. We also learned that it would inflict harm on small businesses, workers, and taxpayers. We plan to carefully review the administration’s proposed regulation and guidance, but based on what we know so far, this regulatory scheme will not serve the nation’s best interests.
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Kline Leads Congressional Delegation to Discuss Education and Workforce Policies with Transatlantic Allies
Among other events in Norway and Sweden, the delegation:
- Met with members of the Labor and Social Affairs committee of the Norwegian parliament. Members of the delegation discussed with their Norwegian counterparts challenges regarding the country’s rising unemployment, immigration, and regulatory climate, as well as the importance of the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP). The meeting also discussed the need to raise the stature of vocational education and ensure students are obtaining skills for industry-demand jobs.
- Joined a working lunch with the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO) and Norwegian Educators. A representative from NHO discussed the need to deliver educational resources that are relevant to the demands of area businesses. The representative also described the country’s “two plus two” initiative, which provides students two years of educational instruction followed by two years of apprenticeship training. A representative for Norwegian Educators provided a brief overview of the Norwegian education system and the challenges it faces.
- Visited the Fryshuset youth center and gymnasium in Stockholm, Sweden. Founded in 1984, Fryshuset provides creative and constructive activities to help youth develop into productive members of society. The center offers a number of sports and music-related activities and innovative educational programs. Members of the delegation discussed with Fryshuset leaders and participating youth the successes and struggles confronting the center.
- Participated in a roundtable discussion with members of the Swedish parliament’s education and labor committees. Members of the delegation and their parliamentary counterparts addressed Sweden’s recent decline in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and the difficulties Sweden faces reversing the decline. The discussion touched on a broad range of education issues, including teacher quality, school choice, and STEM education.
- Held separate meetings with members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Sweden and representatives from Sweden’s government, business, and labor sectors. These meetings focused on the importance of the proposed T-TIP as a way to boost economic growth and job creation by providing greater access to free and fair trade.
The congressional delegation also participated in a number of meetings with senior leaders in the Norwegian and Swedish ministries of foreign affairs and defense, and joined a working dinner hosted by the speaker of the Swedish parliament. These discussions focused on the threat posed by Islamic extremism, as well as the significant challenges stemming from Russian aggression and provocation in the region.
“Our nations are wrestling with many of the same challenges,” said Chairman Kline, “and it was a pleasure to speak directly with our transatlantic allies about important issues facing our schools and workplaces. Our bipartisan delegation is grateful for the frank discussions and a robust exchange of ideas, and we hope this visit will strengthen our relationship with these vital friends and allies in Northern Europe.”
Members attend a working dinner hosted by the speaker of the Swedish parliament, Urban Ahlin, and other members of parliament and the Swedish foreign service.
Congressional delegation meet with members of the Labor & Social Affairs committee of the Norwegian parliament.
- Rep. John Kline (R-MN), chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and member of the House Armed Services Committee;
- Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), chairman of the House Committee on the Budget and member of the House Committee on Ways and Means;
- Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Secretary of the Republican Conference, member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, chairwoman of the Higher Education and Workforce Training Subcommittee, and member of the House Committee on Rules;
- Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, chairman of the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, and member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform;
- Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL), member of the House Committee on Financial Services and the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology;
- Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, member of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, and ranking member of the Subcommittee on the Environment; and
- Rep. Rick Allen (R-GA), member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and House Committee on Agriculture.
To see more photos from Norway and Sweden, click here.
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“When you’re talking about a program of this size and cost, making sure that it is operating as efficiently and effectively as possible is imperative,” Chairman Walbergnoted. “Concerns have been raised that FECA benefits are too generous and can discourage an employee’s return to work. So we are here today to explore how Congress can modernize the FECA program, to ensure taxpayer dollars are being used in a smart and responsible way, and to make certain this program is serving federal employees as intended.”
Witnesses agreed on the need to reform the FECA program, which has not been meaningfully updated in 40 years. They discussed a specific proposal included in the Obama administration’s fiscal year 2016 budget blueprint for the Department of Labor. The administration’s proposed reforms are intended to, among other changes, improve return-to-work procedures, streamline claims processing, and update benefits levels.
“The federal workforce comprises dedicated, hard-working women and men who are committed to serving the public,” said Leonard Howie III, director of the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP). Howie noted his office is “fully committed to seeing that all injured workers receive the medical care and compensation they deserve, as well as the assistance needed to return to work when able to do so. FECA reform will enable OWCP to achieve those goals more effectively.”
Scott Dahl, Inspector General of the Department of Labor, echoed these concerns, stating, “The department must ensure that FECA benefits are provided in a timely manner to eligible workers, but it must also strive to ensure that compensation benefits are only paid to those who are truly injured and unable to work, and medical benefits are paid for necessary services that were actually provided. We believe that the legislative recommendations we have proposed … would contribute to greater program integrity.”
Hearing participants acknowledged the need to carefully consider the impacts of proposed changes on current and future beneficiaries. “FECA continues to play a vital role in providing compensation to federal employees who are unable to work because of injuries sustained while performing their federal duties,” argued Andrew Sherrill, director of Education, Workforce, and Income Security at the Government Accountability Office. “As policymakers assess proposed changes to FECA benefit levels, they will implicitly be making decisions about what constitutes an adequate level of benefits for FECA beneficiaries before and after they reach retirement age.”
“Throughout this process,” Chairman Walberg concluded, “it’s important that we keep in mind both our responsibility to taxpayers and our commitment to the men and women who make up our federal workforce … I am hopeful that the insights and analysis of those here today will help us better understand the department’s proposal and continue to build on past bipartisan efforts to better meet the needs of a 21st century workforce and more effectively use taxpayer dollars.”
To learn more about today’s hearing, read witness testimony, or to watch an archived webcast, visit www.edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.
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Since 1916, the FECA program has acted as a critical resource for federal employees who have suffered an injury or illness because of a work-related activity. Today, the program covers approximately three million workers and, last year alone, paid out nearly $3 billion in benefits. Despite the significance of the FECA program, it has been nearly 40 years since the law was meaningfully updated.
When you’re talking about a program of this size and cost, making sure that it is operating as efficiently and effectively as possible is imperative. Concerns have been raised that FECA benefits are too generous and can discourage an employee’s return to work. So we are here today to explore how Congress can modernize the FECA program, to ensure taxpayer dollars are being used in a smart and responsible way, and to make certain this program is serving federal employees as intended.
Fortunately, we’re not starting from scratch. Reforming the FECA program is something members in Congress and those in the administration have been working on in recent years. During the 112th Congress, Chairman Kline and I, along with our former Democratic colleagues George Miller and Lynn Woolsey, introduced the Federal Workers’ Compensation Modernization and Improvement Act to begin addressing reforms proposed by the administration. That bill passed the House by a voice vote in 2011 and was accompanied by a request to GAO to examine the potential impacts of certain reforms.
Unfortunately, the bill was never considered in the Senate, but since then, we’ve continued to examine reforms the Department of Labor has put forward. Strengthening the law remains a priority for this committee, and today, we will hear from the department, GAO, and others to see what the path to reform looks like now and how the administration’s proposals would affect the program and its beneficiaries. By fully understanding the options and impacts related to reform, we will be better positioned to modernize the FECA program, improve its integrity, and enhance its efficiency.
As with any reform process, updating the FECA program will require some tough choices, but I think we can agree that something needs to be done. Our challenge will be reforming the program in a way that will use taxpayer dollars more wisely while ensuring the programs continues to support those it was set up to assist. Throughout this process, it’s important that we keep in mind both our responsibility to taxpayers and our commitment to the men and women who make up our federal workforce. Striking a balance between the two is not easy, but I believe it can be done.
I am hopeful that the insights and analysis of those here today will help us better understand the department’s proposal and continue to build on past bipartisan efforts to better meet the needs of a 21st century workforce and more effectively use taxpayer dollars. With that, I will now recognize the senior Democratic member of the subcommittee, Representative Frederica Wilson, for her opening remarks.
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“The federal government has long invested taxpayer dollars in programs that provide healthy meals and snacks to low-income students and families,” said Chairman Rokita. “Congress has a responsibility to ensure taxpayer dollars are well-spent. That’s why we are here today. Recent reports from independent government watchdogs raise concerns about waste, fraud, and abuse in the administration of these programs. These concerns should be shared by every member of the committee.”
Witnesses identified examples of misused taxpayer dollars in three of the largest federal child nutrition programs: the Supplemental Nutritional Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); the National School Lunch Program (NSLP); and the School Breakfast Program (SBP).
In WIC, for example, there have been incidents of recipients and vendors fraudulently selling federal benefits to other individuals. Director of Education, Workforce, and Income Security at the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Kay Brown, stressed the negative consequences of this practice, noting, “Improper use of WIC benefits undermines the integrity of the program and its ability to provide key nutrition assistance and services to vulnerable populations.”
Ms. Brown recognized the lack of information about how much fraud occurs in WIC and recommended “[the Department of Agriculture] collect more information to assess the national extent of attempted online sales of WIC formula benefits and determine cost-effective techniques states can use to monitor them.”
Her colleague, Acting Director for the Forensic Audits and Investigative Service, Jessica Lucas-Judy, expressed similar concerns about the school lunch and breakfast programs, both of which have been designated as “high-error” programs by the Office of Management and Budget. In a survey conducted by GAO, nearly half “of the households that self-reported household income data and size information were not eligible for the free or reduced-price-meal benefits they were receiving because their income exceeded eligibility guidelines,” she stated.
The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) under the Department of Agriculture has “taken several steps to implement or enhance controls to identify and prevent ineligible beneficiaries from receiving school-meals benefits,” she acknowledged.
However, each witness concluded more work must be done. Assistant Inspector General at the Department of Agriculture, Gil Harden, said, “Overall, our audit work has shown that FNS has many opportunities to improve how it oversees NSLP, SBP, and WIC. In some cases, it needs to strengthen its own controls directly. In other cases, it needs to improve how it communicates requirements to local authorities that operate the program.”
“We need to get limited funds to those children who need it the most,” Chairman Rokita concluded. “That’s our goal here, and that should be the goal of all of government. Please help us … so we can get these funds to the kids who desperately need them.”
To learn more about today’s hearing, read witness testimony, or to watch an archived webcast, visit www.edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.
Kline Praises Passage of Bipartisan Legislation to Strengthen Support for Victims of Youth Sex Trafficking
- Strengthen support provided specifically to runaway and homeless youth who are victims of trafficking, which was introduced in the Enhancing Services for Runaway and Homeless Victims of Youth Trafficking Act of 2015 by Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV), along with Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN), committee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA), and Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI).
- Improve practices within state child welfare systems to identify, assess, and document sex trafficking victims, which was introduced in the Strengthening the Child Welfare Response to Trafficking Act of 2015 by Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), along with Chairman Kline.
Chairman Kline praised the passage of the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act:
Congress has responded to a national crisis with new tools to fight a heinous crime that affects millions of innocent individuals each year, including hundreds of thousands of youth. I applaud my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for recognizing the seriousness of this crime, reaffirming our commitment to the victims and their families, and sending this critical piece of legislation to the president’s desk.
To learn more about the committee’s efforts to support victims of youth sex trafficking, click here.
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Rokita Statement: Hearing on "Addressing Waste, Fraud, and Abuse in Federal Child Nutrition Programs"
Last month, the Committee on Education and the Workforce held a hearing to discuss the importance of federal child nutrition programs, many of which need to be reauthorized by Congress later this year. Members engaged in a robust discussion about these programs, and we understand the role healthy food plays in a child’s physical, mental, and emotional development. However, tackling waste, fraud, and abuse must be a priority as we work to ensure eligible students who are most in need have access to nutrition programs.
The federal government has long invested taxpayer dollars in programs that provide healthy meals and snacks to low-income students and families. Through the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act and the Child Nutrition Act, it is estimated Congress will spend over $21 billion this fiscal year on a number of programs that include the Supplemental Nutritional Program for Women, Infants, and Children or WIC, the National School Lunch Program, and the School Breakfast Program.
Congress has a responsibility to ensure taxpayer dollars are well-spent. That’s why we are here today. Recent reports from independent government watchdogs raise concerns about waste, fraud, and abuse in the administration of these programs. These concerns should be shared by every member of the committee for two important reasons.
First, taxpayer dollars are being misdirected toward individuals who do not need, or are eligible for, federal assistance. The Government Accountability Office has uncovered several troubling examples of fraud and abuse in the WIC program. Reports have also found WIC recipients and vendors reselling supplemental foods to non-WIC eligible individuals, defrauding the federally funded program for millions of dollars.
Unfortunately, the misuse of taxpayer dollars does not stop there. In the first review of payment errors since 2007, the Department of Agriculture found that in just one school year it made $2.7 billion of improper payments under the school lunch and breakfast programs. According to the Wall Street Journal, the majority of improper payments stemmed from individuals who received benefits for which they did not qualify. American taxpayers deserve better management and oversight, especially at a time when the national debt continues to reach new heights.
This brings me to the second reason why we are here today, and it is just as important. Each and every dollar spent on a federal program should have a direct, meaningful, and lasting impact on those it is intended to serve – not those looking to cheat the system. We must ensure federal nutrition programs effectively and efficiently serve the low-income children and families who desperately need this assistance. As a witness from last month’s child nutrition hearing so aptly put it, “When we aren’t able to give our children the nutrition they need, we fail them.”
Again, it is Congress’ responsibility to ensure this multi-billion dollar investment in child nutrition is in fact reaching the students who need it most. This committee is committed to that goal as it works to reauthorize these important programs. We look forward to learning from our witnesses about how to improve the fiscal integrity of federal child nutrition programs in order to serve our nation’s mothers, infants, children, and students that are most in need.
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Enacted in 1916, the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA) provides workers’ compensation benefits to federal employees who become injured or ill through work-related activity. The program covers approximately three million civilian federal workers and paid out nearly $3 billion in benefits in 2014. The law has not been meaningfully updated since 1974, and there are concerns that current, outdated benefit policies may be too generous and discourage employees’ return to work. The Department of Labor, in its Fiscal Year 2016 budget request, has proposed a series of reforms intended to improve the program.
Wednesday’s hearing will provide committee members with an opportunity to further evaluate the administration’s proposed reforms, as well as other possible legislative changes to reform the law. To learn more about the hearing, visit www.edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.
Mr. Leonard Howie
Director of Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs
Department of Labor
Mr. Ron Watson
Director of Retired Members
National Association of Letter Carriers
Dr. Andrew Sherrill
Director of Education, Workforce, and Income Security
Government Accountability Office
The Honorable Scott Dahl
Department of Labor
On Tuesday, May 19 at 10:00 a.m., the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, chaired by Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN), will hold a hearing entitled, “Addressing Waste, Fraud, and Abuse in Federal Child Nutrition Programs.” The hearing will take place in room 2175 of the Rayburn House Office Building.
In Fiscal Years 2015, it is estimated the federal government will invest approximately $21 billion in child nutrition programs that are intended to provide low-income students and families access to healthy meals. Recent reports from the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Agriculture and the Government Accountability Office examined waste, fraud, and abuse in the administration of these programs, raising concerns about whether the programs are effectively serving those most in need.
As Congress works to strengthen these programs, Tuesday’s hearing will give members an opportunity to examine possible solutions for preventing waste, fraud, and abuse in federal child nutrition programs. To learn more about this hearing, visit www.edworkforce.house.gov/hearings
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Mr. Gil H. Harden
Assistant Inspector General for Audit
Office of Inspector General
Department of Agriculture
Ms. Zoë Neuberger
Senior Policy Analyst
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
Ms. Kay Brown
Education, Workforce, and Income Security
Government Accountability Office
Ms. Jessica Lucas-Judy
Forensic Audits and Investigative Service
Government Accountability Office
Kline Statment: Hearing on "Examining the Federal Government's Mismanagement of Native American Schools"
I’d like to begin by thanking Dr. Roessel and Mr. Mendoza for participating in this hearing. We are disappointed that Kevin Washburn, Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs, declined an invitation to join us this morning. Mr. Washburn would bring an important perspective to this discussion, and it is unfortunate the public and members of the committee will not hear from him today. However, we are pleased to have a distinguished panel of witnesses and look forward to your testimonies.
Today’s hearing is part of an effort to begin addressing the challenges facing Native American schools. In recent months, the nation has learned a great deal about the deplorable conditions affecting Native American schools. A crisis has been festering for decades, and thanks in large part to the investigative work of the Minnesota Star Tribune and others, it is finally receiving the national attention it deserves.
The details we have learned are shocking: falling ceilings; broken water heaters; electrical hazards; rotten floors; and rodent-infested classrooms. At a school I visited earlier this year, blankets hang over the doors in a desperate attempt to keep out the cold air. In fact, thin metal walls are all that separate students from harsh winters in states like Minnesota and South Dakota. Meanwhile, classrooms lack the most basic school supplies, such as desks, chairs, and textbooks.
At a recent oversight hearing, we also learned that a bungling bureaucracy is undermining the health and safety of these Native American students, as well as their education. The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office notes that a disorganized bureaucracy and poor communication make it difficult – if not impossible – for schools to receive the services and support they need, and GAO warns that if these issues are not addressed, “it will be difficult for Indian Affairs to ensure the long-term success of a generation of students.”
More than a century ago, the federal government promised to provide Native American students a quality education in a manner that preserves their heritage, and we are failing to keep that promise. If these were our loved ones going to these schools, there is little doubt we would march down Pennsylvania Avenue to demand real change.
Jill Burcum, an editorial writer for the Star Tribune, said this at last month’s hearing: “As a mom, I thought many times that I would not be comfortable sending my children to school in these buildings … unfortunately, mothers of BIE students don’t have a choice, which is why action is required.”
The purpose of today’s hearing is not to assign blame. There is plenty of blame to go around. Instead, the purpose of this hearing is to understand the root causes of these persistent challenges and to demand better results. That is why we are pleased to have representatives from the Departments of Interior and Education. We are especially pleased to hear from you, Dr. Roessel, since you and your staff are on the front lines.
We understand the department plans to implement a number of internal changes intended to fix the system. We welcome that effort and are interested to learn more about it. Questions have been raised about whether this effort will address the fundamental problems facing the system or simply rearrange the chairs at the department. Questions have also been raised about whether this reorganization is taking place in a timely manner or being delayed by the same bureaucratic wrangling that has plagued these schools for decades.
The administration has a responsibility to answer these and other important questions, and to assure this committee, Congress, and the country that we are finally moving in a new direction. These vulnerable children and their families deserve no less.
In closing, I would note that there are tough challenges facing Native American students outside the jurisdiction of the Department of Interior, challenges that demand our attention as well. That is one reason why the Student Success Act provides greater flexibility to all public schools, so they can more effectively serve their unique student populations, including Native American students. Policies in place today assume every school faces the same set of challenges, but we know that’s not the case, and the Student Success Act would ensure federal policies reflect that reality.
Replacing No Child Left Behind continues to be a top priority and one that I am hopeful we will finish before the end of the year. However, the challenges facing these particular Native American students have been neglected for far too long and by members on both sides of the aisle. I encourage my colleagues to avoid political distractions that would merely shift the focus away from these unique, vulnerable children – they have waited long enough for the federal government to live up to its promises.
Every child in every school should receive an excellent education. That is the goal we are all working toward, and today’s hearing is an important part of that effort. With that, I will now recognize Ranking Member Scott for his opening remarks.
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WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Thursday, May 14 at 10:30 a.m., the Committee on Education and the Workforce, chaired by Rep. John Kline (R-MN), will hold a hearing entitled, “Examining the Federal Government’s Mismanagement of Native American Schools.” The hearing will take place in room 2175 of the Rayburn House Office Building.
There are 185 Native American schools serving more than 40,000 students across the country. Three separate divisions under the Department of Interior – the Bureau of Indian Education, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Management – and the Department of Education are responsible for ensuring Native American students receive an education comparable to their peers by providing schools with funding, academic support and operational support, as well as overseeing personnel, transportation, and financial management.
At a recent oversight hearing, members of the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education learned about the deplorable conditions of Native American schools, including falling ceilings, broken water heaters, and ventilation problems. Witnesses cited layers of federal bureaucracy for failing to provide Native American students safe and healthy schools. The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office reports the federal government’s efforts to restructure this ineffective system have not been implemented.
Thursday’s hearing provides members an opportunity to learn about how and when the Department of Interior and the Department of Education will implement reforms to improve Native American schools.
To learn more about the hearing, visit http://edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.
Dr. Charles M. Roessel
Bureau of Indian Education
U.S. Department of Interior
White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education
U.S. Department of Education
After Senate Democrats yesterday blocked a simple up or down vote to override President Obama’s veto of a Congressional Review Act resolution that would stop the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) ambush election rule, House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN), Senate labor committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN), House Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee Chairman Phil Roe (R-TN), and Senate Employment and Workplace Safety Subcommittee Chairman Johnny Isakson (R-GA) urged passage of their legislation to ensure fair union elections by ending the board’s damaging rule.
“The board’s ambush election rule will stifle employer free speech, cripple employee free choice, and threaten the privacy of workers and their families," said Chairman Kline."The American people deserve better, and that is precisely why this fight isn’t over. The legislative response we have proposed will ensure workers and employers have access to the fair union election process they deserve. It is time Washington Democrats stopped looking out for Big Labor’s interests and started focusing on what’s best for America’s hardworking men and women.”
“Republicans have not finished the fight against the NLRB’s ambush election rule, which can force a union election in as little as 11 days—before an employer and many employees even have a chance to figure out what is going on,” said Chairman Alexander. “It’s unfortunate that Senate Democrats have obstructed an opportunity to overturn this damaging rule, which sacrifices every employer’s right to free speech and every worker’s right to privacy—but I intend to continuing working in Congress to restore fairness to American workplaces.”
“While I am disappointed the Senate failed to override President Obama’s veto, I remain committed to working with my colleagues in the House and Senate to protect American workers from the NLRB’s overreach, " said Rep. Roe."Workers and employers deserve better, and it’s a shame the president and his political appointees continue to put the interests of labor bosses above the rights of hardworking Americans.”
“The National Labor Relations Board continues to skew the playing field between management and labor, and I am disappointed Senate Democrats are condoning that by blocking this vote,” said Sen. Isakson. “I have been fighting against these unfair rulings by the NLRB since President Obama took office. I will continue to fight to restore a level playing field, protect free speech and ensure that workers are afforded the opportunity to make informed decisions about their right to organize, while safeguarding their personal information and privacy.”
A Senate majority voted to stop the rule on March 4. A House majority voted to stop the rule on March 19. The president vetoed the resolution on March 31, but Democrats have objected today to a simple up or down vote to override this veto.
The NLRB’s rule – which went into effect on April 14 – can shortens the length of time in which a labor union certification election is held to as little as 11 days. In 2014, more than 95 percent of union certification elections occurred within 56 days. Additionally, the median number of days from petition to election was 38 days. These numbers surpass the performance goals set by the NLRB itself. The rule gives employers essentially no time to communicate with their employees before a union election and undermines the ability of workers to make an informed decision. In addition, it forces employers to provide employees’ personal information to union organizers without employees’ consent.
The legislative response introduced following the president’s veto by Reps. Kline and Roe and Sens. Alexander and Isakson would:
- Ensure workers have enough time to make an informed decision in a union election by prohibiting any election from taking place in less than 35 days.
- Provide employers at least 14 days to prepare their case to present before a NLRB election officer and protect the right to raise additional concerns throughout the pre-election hearing.
- Reassert the board’s responsibility to address critical issues before certifying a union, including voter eligibility and the appropriate unit of employees that will form the union.
- Empower workers to control their personal information by allowing each employee to determine the personal contact information that is provided to union organizers.
To learn more about the legislation introduced in the House, click here.
To learn more about the legislation introduced in the Senate, click here.
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The Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, chaired by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), today held a hearing to learn about efforts to improve higher education access and completion for low-income and first-generation students. Members discussed possible reforms to existing federal programs and how efforts at the institutional level can positively affect educational outcomes for disadvantaged students.
“This is a very personal issue for me. As someone who grew up in extreme poverty, I know firsthand what it takes to earn a degree in difficult circumstances as well as what that degree means for one’s opportunity for advancement,” Chairwoman Foxx said. “For many students, however, the idea of graduating feels like a distant dream. Higher costs, a confusing financial aid system, and insufficient academic preparation disproportionately deter low-income and first-generation students from accessing and completing a higher education.”
Addressing the challenges facing these disadvantaged students “requires a multi-faceted, comprehensive approach and commitment from multiple players,” advised Laura Perna, Director of the Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy at the University of Pennsylvania.
Annually, the federal government invests more than one billion dollars in access and completion programs for low-income and first-generation students. Perna continued, “to maximize the return on investment in [these] programs, we need to know more about what components and services work, for which groups of students, in which context.”
Associate Vice Provost for Student Diversity at the University of California, Los Angeles, Charles Alexander, who oversees the university’s Academic Advancement Program (AAP), discussed his efforts to improve educational outcomes, urging institutions to build community partnerships and share best practices. Largely because of AAP’s ongoing efforts, Alexander testified, “African Americans and Latinos graduate at the highest rate ever … many AAP graduates continue their education by going into Ph.D. programs or professional degree programs … and a large number of AAP graduates focus their work on serving the poor and under-served.”
Chancellor of the Dallas County Community Colleges District (DCCCD) Joe May agreed with witnesses. Institutions should pursue “partnerships with other community organizations that are supporting the needs of similar populations,” he said. For example, the DCCCD’s efforts to share best practices within a state-wide organization, Texas Completes, “have led to an increase of 42 percent in certificates and an increase of 33 percent in associate degrees” since 2010.
“We have a responsibility to students, families, and taxpayers to ensure all of our investments in higher education deliver the intended results,” Chairwoman Foxx concluded. “As we work to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, we want to … study the effectiveness of existing strategies so that more disadvantaged students can achieve the dream of a higher education.”
To learn more about the Education and the Workforce Committee’s efforts to strengthen higher education, visit http://edworkforce.house.gov/highered/.
To learn more about today’s hearing, read witness testimony, or to watch an archived webcast, visit www.edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.
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Foxx Statement: Hearing on “Improving College Access and Completion for Low-Income and First-Generation Students”
I’d like to thank our witnesses for joining us to discuss strategies for improving postsecondary access and completion for low-income and first-generation students. We appreciate the opportunity to learn from you as Congress works to reauthorize the Higher Education Act.
This is a very personal issue for me. As someone who grew up in extreme poverty, I know firsthand what it takes to earn a degree in difficult circumstances as well as what that degree means for one’s opportunity for advancement. Some of the most rewarding experiences I have had as an educator involved helping disadvantaged students overcome obstacles to reach their goals and achieve success.
The Education and the Workforce Committee has held more than a dozen hearings about how to strengthen America’s higher education system for all those who choose to pursue a degree or credential – regardless of age, background, or circumstances.
Research shows students who attain advanced levels of education are more likely to succeed in today’s economy. For example, students who earn an associate’s degree are expected to earn 27 percent more than their peers with a high school diploma over the course of a lifetime.
For many students, however, the idea of graduating feels like a distant dream. Higher costs, a confusing financial aid system, and insufficient academic preparation disproportionately deter low-income and first-generation students from accessing and completing a higher education.
Recognizing the challenges facing these students, the federal government invests in numerous programs geared toward identifying and supporting disadvantaged students and the institutions that serve them. In addition to providing students need-based financial assistance, such as Pell Grants, the federal government also provides early outreach and support services to help students progress from middle school through college.
Programs such as GEAR UP and Upward Bound receive more than one billion of taxpayer dollars to support tutoring, family financial counseling, internships, research opportunities, and other preparatory and motivational services – all with the goal of improving access for low-income and first-generation students.
And our efforts don’t stop there. Because improving the educational outcomes for disadvantaged students is an important priority, the federal government directly supports institutions that focus on serving underrepresented students in an effort to help them complete a higher education.
While these efforts are well intentioned, there is a growing concern they are not reaching their goals. For example, according to a study published earlier this year by one of our witnesses, Dr. Laura Perna, the percentage of low-income students who have attained a bachelor’s degree has increased by just 3 percent since 1970. By comparison, the percentage of the wealthiest students who attained a bachelor’s degree has increased by 40 percent.
In other words, despite the federal government’s growing investment in access and completion programs over the last five decades, graduation rates for the most disadvantaged students have barely budged.
We have a responsibility to students, families, and taxpayers to ensure all of our investments in higher education deliver the intended results. Understanding how to strengthen these efforts for low-income and first-generation students is why our witnesses are here today. As we work to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, we want to learn about your efforts to pioneer new strategies and study the effectiveness of existing strategies so that more disadvantaged students can achieve the dream of a higher education.
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