House Education & Workforce Committee
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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