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House Education & Workforce Committee

INFOGRAPHIC: The Growing Demand for Quality Charter Schools

Education & the Workforce Committee - Mon, 05/05/2014 - 3:00pm

To kick off the 15th annual National Charter Schools Week, the House Education and the Workforce Committee has put together an infographic to highlight the growing demand for quality charter schools:

                                               

 

The charter school movement has grown significantly since it began more than twenty years ago. But with more than one million students' names  on charter school waitlists, it is increasingly clear charter schools need a revamped federal law that will make it easier to start, replicate, and expand quality charter schools to better meet the needs of students and their families.

That’s why House Republicans and Democrats have joined together to advance the Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act  (H.R. 10). Introduced by Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA), this bipartisan legislation will support the growth of successful charter schools and help ensure more children have access to these innovative institutions.

To learn more about H.R. 10, visit edworkforce.house.gov/qualitycharters

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ICYMI: Kline bill would give charter schools a boost

Education & the Workforce Committee - Mon, 05/05/2014 - 12:00am

 


Proponents created public charter schools, in part, to use them to incubate new educational approaches, then replicate the successes. Charters started in Minnesota about 20 years ago, and today there are thousands of them with nearly a million students nationwide.

But not nearly enough of the highest-quality programs have been emulated. For a variety of reasons, few schools have used the best charter school strategies to improve learning for more students.

That’s why a proposed federal bill that would encourage states and districts to help grow high-quality charter programs merits support. The measure was sponsored by U.S. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., who serves as chairman of the House education committee, and U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the panel, which passed the bill in a 36-3 vote last month.

Charter programs are public schools that are created and operated outside traditional public school districts by independent boards. Under state law, charters can set some of their own labor and curriculum rules to find innovative ways to improve student achievement.

Currently, the federal Department of Education operates two general grant programs for charter schools. Under the new bill, called the Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act, those programs would be consolidated into one and refocused. The DOE would continue to award grants to high-quality charters and facilities assistance through the states.

However, a significant difference is that the bill would expand an existing DOE grant competition for charter management organizations. That would open up opportunities for charters in states that don’t win or compete for federal funding.

The measure also clarifies states’ ability to use “weighted lotteries,” which give preference to low-income students and other disadvantaged children in admissions. In addition, it would allow students who graduate from one charter school to continue in an affiliated school in higher grades without having to go back through a lottery.

And the federal department could more actively disseminate information about successful programs to help other public schools improve.

The revamped program would wisely offer incentives for states to help develop charters and make it easier for the successful ones to open more schools. Currently, charter operators can get federal grants to open new schools, but not to expand existing, successful models.

And Kline’s bill would increase federal financial support for charters. It would authorize about $300 million per year in spending on help for charters, up from the roughly $250 million spent in the most recent budget.

Charter opponents note that the proposal fails to address concerns about failing charters — though the bill states that funding goes only to high-quality, effective schools. As the congressman points out, states and authorizers have and must use the ability to close programs that aren’t working.

Nearly the same legislation was proposed in 2011 as part of the much-needed overhaul of the No Child Left Behind Act. The charter school portion had broad bipartisan support then. But the larger bill to renew NCLB never made it to the Senate floor.

The House and Senate have not been able to reach agreement on an overall education bill — even though the reauthorization is several years overdue. And while it would be preferable get the larger bill done, passing the smaller charter school portion would be better than getting nothing at all accomplished.

Kline’s bill is scheduled to be heard on the House floor this week, which also happens to be National Charter Schools Week. That should be perfect timing for legislation that would help charters fulfill the lofty goals of their supporters.

NOTE: According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, approximately 2.5 million children are enrolled in charter schools nationwide.

To learn more about the Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act, which the House is expected to consider later this week, click here.

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***MEDIA ADVISORY*** Kline Announces Hearing on Union Efforts to Organize Student Athletes

Education & the Workforce Committee - Thu, 05/01/2014 - 2:30pm

House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) today announced the committee will examine a recent decision by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that classifies certain student athletes as “employees” for the purposes of collective bargaining. The hearing, entitled "Big Labor on College Campuses: Examining the Consequences of Unionizing Student Athletes," will take place on Thursday, May 8 at 10:00 a.m. in room 2175 Rayburn House Office Building.

“The NLRB’s decision represents a radical departure from longstanding federal labor policies,” said Chairman Kline. “Classifying student athletes as employees threatens to fundamentally alter college sports, as well as reduce education access and opportunity. The committee has a responsibility to thoroughly examine how the NLRB’s decision will affect students and their ability to receive a quality education.” 

BACKGROUND: On March 26, in Northwestern University, the NLRB Regional Director for Region 13 found “grant-in-aid scholarship players for [Northwestern University’s] football team who have not exhausted their play eligibility are ‘employees’ under [the National Labor Relations Act].” The Regional Director ordered a representational election to determine whether a majority of the scholarship athletes support the College Athletes Players Association (CAPA), a new union formed with the support of and funding from the United Steelworkers. On April 25, the student athletes at Northwestern University voted in the representational election; however, the ballots have been impounded pending appeal to the full board.   

To learn more about the hearing, visit www.edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.  

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Kline Delivers Remarks on Multiemployer Pension Reform at Bloomberg Government Event

Education & the Workforce Committee - Thu, 05/01/2014 - 12:00am

Good morning. I appreciate that kind introduction and would like to begin by extending my thanks to Bloomberg Government for hosting us this morning, as well as to the Quality Construction Alliance for its support of today’s event. You are shining light on an important issue that frankly hasn’t received the attention it deserves.

President Reagan once said that “status quo… is Latin for ‘the mess we’re in.’” I would like to discuss for a few moments the mess we face in the multiemployer pension system and the urgent need to enact bold reforms.

Why is multiemployer pension reform so important? Because the path we’re on is not sustainable; the path we’re on will force businesses to close their doors and lay off workers; the path we’re on will expose taxpayers to greater risk of a multi-billion dollar bailout; the path we’re on will destroy the retirement security of families across the country.

More than 10 million Americans participate in a multiemployer pension plan, including roughly three and a half million retirees. These men and women helped build our roads and bridges; they transported goods from factory floors to store shelves; they delivered energy to power our homes and businesses; they made it possible to reach into space and helped keep our homeland safe.

For decades these men and women worked hard providing for their families and helping to make this nation the greatest on Earth. The same is true for those in the workforce today, the teamsters, builders, miners, machinists, and store clerks – to name a few – who labor every day to meet the needs of their loved ones and country.

Throughout their careers, these men and women were promised that a multiemployer pension would ensure financial security during retirement. Each year in the workforce was another year closer to a retirement filled with hope, a retirement built on the expectation this promise would be kept and their future was financially secure. Yet for many Americans, this promise is now in jeopardy.

The multiemployer pension system is a ticking time bomb that will inflict a lot of pain on homes and workplaces. According to the best information available, multiemployer plans have $818 billion in benefit liabilities yet only $397 billion in assets, which means collectively plans face a $421 billion funding shortfall. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation – the federal backstop to defined benefit plans – warns its multiemployer pension program will be insolvent in fewer than 10 years, thanks to more obligations and fewer resources. I’ll let the technical experts discuss later today the underlying causes of these challenges.

However, there is one leading culprit worth mentioning: A persistently weak economy. The same failed policies that foster high unemployment and stagnant wages also exacerbate the problems plaguing the multiemployer pension system. Returning to policies that promote robust growth would go a long way toward restoring the prosperity every working family needs.

Unfortunately, an economy firing on all cylinders can’t save the most severely troubled pension plans from insolvency. One of the largest plans pays $5 in benefits for every $1 it receives in contributions. Another plan has roughly six retirees for each active employee. These are systemic problems that afflict other plans as well. It is only a matter of time before a sizable number of large plans go bankrupt.

What happens then? For starters, the men and women in these plans will fall onto PBGC and many – if not most – will have their benefits cut. The PBGC will then be overwhelmed and unable to continue offering the support it has provided for nearly four decades, leaving some retirees with nothing. Finally, we will see a domino effect across the system, placing plans that are in good shape now on the brink of ruin in the future, spreading risk and uncertainty to more employers, workers, and retirees.

This is not a pretty picture by any means, but we have to be brutally honest about the magnitude of the challenges that exist. It’s easy to think we are dealing with just dollars and cents. Fundamentally we are dealing with the livelihood of real people, our friends, neighbors, and relatives. Lives were built around a promise and we have to help find a way to keep that promise.

The good news is there is an effort underway to address the problem. A group of business and labor representatives has put forward a package of reforms entitled, “Solutions, Not Bailouts.” Crafted by the National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans, or NCCMP, the proposal reflects key principles that should be a part of any serious legislative reform.

First, the proposal provides a framework for a modern multiemployer pension system. Twentieth-century policies can’t keep up with a 21st century workforce. It’s time to start being more creative about the options workers should have to plan for their retirement.

Second, the proposal encourages greater employer participation. We need to stop the exodus of employers from the multiemployer system. Just as important, we need to remove barriers that discourage new employers from joining. Expanding the pool of participating employers will reduce risk and strengthen the system.

Third, the proposal provides trustees with new tools to restore deeply troubled plans back to financial health. When they are out of options and fighting for survival, multiemployer plans need more flexibility to avoid insolvency. One idea in particular has attracted a great deal of attention, one that would allow for a reduction in earned benefits. A few years ago such an idea would have been unthinkable, but we are forced to confront a hard truth.

If we do nothing, benefits will be cut. Let me repeat that: If we do nothing, benefits will be cut. It’s only a question of when and by whom. We could sit back, let these plans fail, and watch the federal government inflict maximum pain on the maximum number of people. Or we can allow those responsible for these plans to adjust benefits as a last resort and in a way that accounts for the needs of its participants. The choice NCCMP offers is between an axe in the hand of a first year med student or a scalpel in the hand of a trusted surgeon.

Fourth and finally, the proposal protects taxpayers. By offering new alternatives to the old model, inviting more employers into the system, and saving troubled plans, NCCMP has laid out a path that will put multiemployer pensions on more sound financial footing and help end the threat of a taxpayer bailout.

The president of the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department described the package of reforms as “reasonable and workable.” The head of the Associated General Contractors of America said it’s a “pragmatic, reasonable…self-sufficient approach” to preserve these pensions. It’s not every day you see labor and management working side-by-side on such an important issue. NCCMP has shown what’s possible when we work together in good faith. That is precisely what we intend to do in Congress.

Under the leadership of our subcommittee chairman, Congressman Phil Roe, we have held half a dozen hearings to examine the problems and possible solutions. We are actively engaging key stakeholders, including employers, union leaders, and retiree advocates. We are also working with members on both sides of the aisle and on both sides of the Capitol, as well as the administration, to find common ground and unite behind a responsible legislative solution.

I know some of what’s being discussed is controversial and not everyone agrees with the ideas that are on the table. We welcome the debate and opposing views. If you have suggested reforms that embody the principles I’ve just discussed, we want to hear from you. But we need to hear from you soon.

With each passing day there are fewer choices and tougher decisions to make. We have to get this done. We have to get this done for employers struggling to run successful businesses. We have to get this done for taxpayers already drowning in red ink. More importantly, we have to get this done for those men and women clinging to the promise they can enjoy a retirement that is financially secure. I look forward to working together on this important effort. Thank you.

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***MEDIA ADVISORY*** TOMORROW: Kline to Speak at Pension Reform Event Hosted by Bloomberg Government

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 04/30/2014 - 12:00am

On Thursday, May 1, 2014 House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN) will deliver remarks on multiemployer pension reform at an event hosted by Bloomberg Government and sponsored by the Quality Construction Alliance. 

More than 10 million individuals participate in a multiemployer pension plan. Unfortunately, the pension system faces significant challenges that threaten the retirement security of American families. For almost two years, the committee has been closely examining the current state of the multiemployer pension system and possible reforms. In his remarks on Thursday, Chairman Kline will discuss key principles for reform, as well as address a specific proposal released by the National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans, a coalition representing both business and labor leaders.  

WHO:            House Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN) 

WHAT:          A discussion hosted by Bloomberg Government on multiemployer pension reform 

WHEN:          Thursday, May 1, 2014
                       8:30 a.m. ET 

WHERE:        Bloomberg Government
                       1101 K. St. NW
                       Suite 500
                       Washington, D.C. 20005 

NOTE: Members of the media and general public wishing to attend must register with Bloomberg Government. The event will be streamed live on Bloomberg Government’s website. For more information, click here

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Kline: Prioritize Funding for Special Needs Students

Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 04/29/2014 - 4:45pm

House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) today urged the Obama administration and House Appropriations Committee leadership to increase support for students with disabilities by prioritizing federal funding for Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Following a hearing with Education Secretary Arne Duncan on the president’s budget and policy priorities for the Department of Education, Chairman Kline said, “Years ago the federal government pledged to provide critical support to special needs children, yet Republicans and Democrats alike have repeatedly failed to keep that promise. As I told Secretary Arne Duncan earlier today, parents and school leaders aren’t asking for new competitive grants or funding for duplicative early childhood programs – they’re begging for more support for the nation’s most vulnerable students. It’s time to reassess our priorities, and I am going to do everything in my power to advocate for a renewed federal commitment to children with disabilities.”

Chairman Kline also joined House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX), and Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Chairman Todd Rokita (R-IN) in submitting a formal request for a $1.5 billion increase in IDEA Part B funding in the Fiscal Year 2015 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, bringing the total funding to $13 billion.

In the letter, the members state:

Although our requested increase still falls short of the federal government’s commitment to special needs children, such a meaningful increase would generate significant new funding for all states and districts, giving policymakers and educators more freedom to use state and local funds to strengthen general and special education in their communities.

As our nation struggles with debt levels that have eclipsed the size of the entire U.S. economy, difficult choices must be made. We must stop wasting taxpayer dollars on new and ineffective programs and instead work toward meeting our basic obligation to ensure special needs children are prepared for success after high school. We urge you to renew Congress’s commitment to these students, their families, and their educators.

To read the letter, click here. To view a chart illustrating how the requested increase in funding would help school districts, click here.

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Kline Statement: Hearing on "Reviewing the President’s Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Proposal for the Department of Education”

Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 04/29/2014 - 12:00am

Each year, the secretary comes before this committee to discuss the administration’s policies and priorities for the Department of Education. And each year, he is faced with the undesirable task of defending a bloated budget full of new, unproven programs, burdensome federal mandates, and competitive grants that pressure schools to adopt the president’s preferred policies.

For fiscal year 2015, the budget request for the department clocks in at an incredible $82.3 billion. This includes nearly $70 billion in discretionary spending and $13 billion in mandatory funding for pet projects, such as the president’s Preschool for All proposal and new teacher preparation initiatives – both of which, I might add, are redundant to dozens of existing federal programs.

We have discussed time and again the fact that more programs and higher spending have had little measurable impact on students’ academic achievement. Though the administration has pumped billions of dollars into the nation’s education system since 2009, student achievement remains largely unchanged.

Families, school leaders, and taxpayers deserve a better way forward. Rather than continue to throw good money after bad and pile new program on top of old, we need an administration that will work with Congress to advance lasting solutions to the challenges facing schools nationwide.

But instead of supporting our efforts to strengthen K-12 education, the Obama administration has implemented a convoluted, temporary waiver scheme that makes the secretary of education the sole arbiter of elementary and secondary education policy.

Instead of helping us address problems in postsecondary education through the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, the Obama administration continues to push for shortsighted mandates and federal price controls that will limit innovation and levy new regulatory burdens on colleges and universities.

And instead of working with us to ensure the federal government fulfills its basic commitment to students with disabilities by prioritizing funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Obama administration has opted to ramp up spending on untested and often duplicative programs. Worse, the president’s budget threatens to further reduce IDEA funding for most districts by shifting the funds into yet another competitive grant program.

Each of these initiatives is undermining progress in the nation’s schools and preventing students from accessing the quality education opportunities they need for success. The House Education and the Workforce Committee has advanced a number of proposals that will reshape our education system and provide teachers, school administrators, and postsecondary education leaders with the flexible framework necessary to more effectively serve students.

For example, last summer the House approved the Student Success Act, legislation to restore state and local control in K-12 education, empower parents, and reduce federal burdens in the classroom. The Student Success Act is the first bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that has been considered in either the House or Senate in more than a decade.

Mr. Secretary, you have repeatedly noted the importance of reauthorizing this law. Clearly, many differences remain. Though prospects may seem unlikely, I believe we all share a sincere desire to find enough common ground to craft a solution that puts students first. But we need support from the administration, not more waivers that serve as roadblocks to real reform.

In addition to our progress in reforming K-12 education, the committee has spent more than a year preparing to reauthorize the Higher Education Act. We’ve held more than a dozen hearings to examine myriad issues facing postsecondary institutions and students, and moved legislation to enhance transparency and eliminate federal regulations that will disproportionately harm low-income students and threaten the strength of our higher education system.

As we continue working toward a rewrite of the Higher Education Act, I urge the secretary to abandon the intrusive polices and punitive regulatory proposals outlined in the president’s budget and instead work with us to craft legislation that will help meet our shared goals of improving transparency, affordability, and access to postsecondary education.

Before I yield to my distinguished colleague, Mr. George Miller, for his opening remarks, I want to make one final request to Secretary Duncan. After each hearing, the committee members on both sides of the aisle submit to your department questions for the record. As our time here in the hearing is limited, these supplemental questions help us continue our oversight of the department’s programs and policies.

However, I am troubled by the significant delay in response to these questions. Just a few days ago, the committee finally received answers to the questions submitted to the secretary after this hearing almost one year ago. I sincerely hope this will not be the case with the questions you receive following today’s hearing.

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Five Questions for the Secretary of Education

Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 04/29/2014 - 12:00am

Today Education Secretary Arne Duncan will testify before the House Education and the Workforce Committee on the department’s budget and policy priorities for the upcoming fiscal year. Nearly one year has passed since the secretary last appeared before the committee, and members are eager to discuss the president’s latest education proposals. Here are five questions for the secretary that should help get the conversation started:

  1. Mr. Secretary, why do you want to spend billions of dollars on new programs instead of working to meet our commitment to students with disabilities?
    President Obama’s budget proposals have consistently and significantly underfunded the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The president’s latest budget would further reduce the federal contribution to special education for most school districts by shifting the funding to yet another competitive grant program. How does the department justify billions in new spending while ignoring its existing promise to special needs children?
     
  2. When will the administration pressure Senate leaders to complete the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act? Secretary Duncan has repeatedly acknowledged the importance of reauthorizing the nation’s K-12 education law, known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  However, the administration continues to focus its attention on a convoluted and temporary waiver scheme that is undermining congressional efforts to rewrite the law. The House has approved the Student Success Act; it’s time for the Senate to move forward with its education legislation so we can craft a final bicameral agreement for the president’s signature. Mr. Secretary, when will you urge Democratic leaders in the Senate to bring comprehensive education reform up for a vote?
     
  3. Will the administration shelve its punitive postsecondary regulatory agenda and instead work with Congress to strengthen our higher education system?
    The Obama administration continues to press forward with multiple new regulations, including upcoming teacher preparation program regulations announced just last week. Many of these proposals will disproportionately harm low-income students, and several have been widely rejected by Congress, institutions, and even the federal court system. Right now there is an effort underway in Congress to improve the nation’s postsecondary education system through the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Mr. Secretary, isn’t it time you joined that effort rather than continue to push the administration’s education agenda through more executive actions, federal mandates, and new programs?
     
  4. Mr. Secretary, are you concerned about the negative consequences facing students, educators, and schools as a result of the fatally-flawed health care law? For more than three years, the nation has been grappling with the realities of President Obama’s health care law. We are learning more each day about how the resulting increase in health care costs, decrease in full-time jobs, and loss of existing health coverage harms families and workplaces. However, the repercussions of the health care law for the nation’s education system have received less attention. Mr. Secretary, are you aware of the higher costs facing many school districts as a result of this law? What steps is the administration taking to try to help students, school administrators, and higher education leaders manage the unexpected challenges resulting from the health care law?
     
  5. How will the president’s proposed Preschool for All initiative work better than existing federal and state early childhood initiatives? President Obama’s budget requests $1.3 billion (and a total of $75 billion over 10 years) for an expansive new early childhood education program. At a recent committee hearing, Chairman Kline joined his committee colleagues in questioning the wisdom of piling another preschool initiative on top of dozens of existing federal early childhood programs, many of which are not working as effectively as we’d hoped. Mr. Secretary, can you explain why it is more important to create a new program instead of reforming and strengthening current initiatives?
Tune in at 10am ET to see committee members discuss these and other critical education issues with Secretary Duncan. Click here to watch a live webcast, or click here to learn more about today’s hearing.

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***MEDIA ADVISORY*** Secretary Duncan to Discuss Education Department's Fiscal Year 2015 Budget and Policy Priorities

Education & the Workforce Committee - Fri, 04/25/2014 - 12:00am

On Tuesday, April 29 at 10:00 a.m., the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, chaired by Rep. John Kline (R-MN), will hold a hearing entitled, “Reviewing the President’s Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Proposal for the Department of Education.” The hearing will take place in room 2175 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

In his Fiscal Year 2015 budget proposal, President Obama requested $68.6 billion in discretionary spending for the Department of Education, a $1.3 billion increase over last year’s funding level. This is on top of $6.4 billion in mandatory spending for Pell Grants, $1.3 billion in mandatory funding for a new universal preschool program, $4 billion in mandatory funds for new state grants to improve public higher education systems, $647 million in mandatory funds for a new College Opportunity and Graduation Bonus, and $5 billion in mandatory funding to reform the teaching profession, among other mandatory expenses, bringing the total education budget request for Fiscal Year 2015 to $82.3 billion.

Tuesday’s hearing will provide members an opportunity to review the administration’s budget request and examine the department’s education policies. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will offer testimony and answer members' questions during the hearing. To learn more about this hearing, visit www.edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.

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WITNESS LIST


The Honorable Arne Duncan
Secretary
Department of Education
Washington, D.C.  

Kline, Walberg Statement on Respirable Coal Dust

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 04/23/2014 - 12:00am

House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Workforce Protections Subcommittee Chairman Tim Walberg (R-MI) today released the following joint statement after the Department of Labor announced a final rule concerning respirable coal dust: 

For too long a flawed regulatory process has stymied efforts to provide stronger black lung protections. No miner should go to work without the best standards in place to guard against this deadly disease. And there is no good reason why industry, labor, and MSHA can’t come together to find agreement on what those safety standards should be. 

While we intend to carefully review the regulation, today’s announcement should not be the end of this important discussion. No doubt stakeholders will continue to raise concerns with the new rules and offer ideas for improvement. We strongly urge the administration to engage those affected by the regulation, to guarantee the best tools, technologies, and practices are present in every mine. Only then can we ensure every miner is safe from the threat of black lung.  

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ICYMI: Administration Awarded Two Pinocchios for Gainful Employment Claim

Education & the Workforce Committee - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 12:00am



                         

Despite facing broad opposition from the education stakeholders, elected officials, and the federal court system, the Obama administration is moving forward with a so-called gainful employment regulation that will harm low-income students and threaten the strength of our higher education system.

In their zeal to gin up public support for its misguided regulatory proposal, the administration is citing some misleading facts. Chief among these false claims is the idea that 72 percent of proprietary school programs have graduates earning less than high school dropouts. Now The Fact Checker at the Washington Post is calling out the department for making such a “bogus” claim:

In straining for a striking factoid, the Education Department went too far. Officials calculated a relatively high figure for the earnings of high school dropouts, compared to other available data. Then they compared it to average wages that likely were adversely affected by recent graduates unable to find employment.

Not only were these two data points apples and oranges, but the entire comparison to high school dropouts is fairly bogus. There’s a reason academic researchers have not tried to compare the earnings of graduates for-profit colleges to the earnings of high school dropouts — it also would be considered an apples and oranges comparison unworthy of research.

Academic research suggests there are real differences in earning power between attendees of for-profit colleges and high school dropouts. That’s also intuitive, suggesting there is something basically wrong with the statistic.

The Obama administration should stick with the facts and withdraw this misguided regulatory venture. The American people deserve no less.

To read the rest of The Fact Checker’s post, click here.

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Committee Advances Legislation to Ensure Workforce Democracy, Protect Employee Privacy

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 1:00pm

The House Education and the Workforce Committee, chaired by Rep. John Kline (R-MN), today approved two pieces of legislation to roll back an attempt by the National Labor Relations Board to weaken workforce democracy and employee privacy. The Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act (H.R. 4320) and the Employee Privacy Protection Act (H.R. 4321) will ensure access to a fair union election process and empower workers to safeguard their personal privacy.

“I am pleased the committee has advanced legislation to defend the rights workers and employers have enjoyed for decades,” said Chairman Kline. “The Obama board is determined to advance a radical rule that will stifle employer free speech, cripple employee free choice, and jeopardize the privacy of workers and their families. It’s unconscionable for Congress to sit on the sidelines and do nothing. The steps we’ve taken will ensure a fair union election process, one that allows employers to speak with employees, protects a worker’s right to make an informed decision, and safeguards the privacy of working families.”

“Today the committee acted not only to push back broadly against the NLRB’s ambush election rule,” said Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN), chairman of the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions, “but also to protect the privacy of American workers. Employees have the right to form a union, but the unionization process must be open, transparent, and fair. Every worker deserves to make his or her own decision about whether to join a union, free from intimidation or coercion—by the union or the employer.”

During the markup, Democrats offered several non-germane amendments in an attempt to distract from the NLRB’s ambush election proposal and the president’s failed policies. “Working families are hurting in the Obama economy,” said Chairman Kline. “Rather than work with us to change direction, Democrats are trying frantically to change the subject. Today’s antics are further proof that Democrats have different priorities than working families. More rules, mandates, and regulations will not provide the jobs and opportunity struggling families desperately need.”

BACKGROUND: In February the NLRB proposed sweeping changes to long-standing labor policies in an attempt to speed up union elections. Under the board’s proposal, union elections could occur in as few as 10 days, providing employers no time to communicate with their employees and undermining the ability of workers to make an informed decision, and worker privacy will be compromised. The legislation approved by the committee will:

•  Guarantee workers have time to gather all the facts to make a fully-informed decision in a union election. No union election will be held in less than 35 days.

•  Ensure employers are able to participate in a fair union election process. The bill provides employers at least 14 days to prepare their case to present before a NLRB election officer.

•  Reassert the board’s responsibility to address critical issues before a union is allowed to represent workers, such as questions concerning voter eligibility or allegations of misconduct during the election.

•  Empower workers to control the disclosure of their personal information. Employers would have seven days to provide a list of employee names and one additional piece of contact information chosen by each individual employee.

•  Rein in union red tape and protect employee freedom in the workplace. Offered by Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) as a response to the board’s Specialty Healthcare decision, an amendment to H.R. 4320 was passed that would restore the traditional standard for determining the unit of workers to be included in the union.

To learn more about the Workforce Democracy Fairness Act, click here. To learn more about the Employee Privacy Protection Act, click here. To access markup materials or view an archived webcast, click here.


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Kline Statement: Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute for H.R. 4320

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 12:00am

Before I highlight the technical change included in the amendment, I’d like to help set the record straight and review briefly the specific policies embodied in the legislation. Despite what our Democratic colleagues may suggest, the legislation largely codifies a union election process that has worked well for decades.

Not too long ago, former acting general counsel Lafe Solomon described the NLRB’s ability to process elections as “outstanding” and an example of “excellent casehandling performance.”  Our goal is to take the regulatory framework that helped create this outstanding record and make it part of the law, which is the best way to prevent an activist board from upending effective policies through bureaucratic fiat.

For example, H.R. 4320 ensures employers can participate in a fair election process. The legislation stipulates that no election hearing can begin in fewer than 14 days from the time an election petition is filed, providing all parties the opportunity to identify their concerns and prepare their case. The legislation also allows parties – employers and unions – to raise relevant and material issues throughout the pre-election hearing.

I would like to note this 14-day period is merely a minimum amount of time. A regional director could provide more time if he or she thinks it is helpful or necessary. A key aspect of the current process is the discretion afforded regional offices in handling election cases, which helps provide time to foster comprise and agreement. Witnesses at previous hearings testified that the board’s proposed rule would encourage the exact opposite. By setting arbitrary deadlines, limiting concerns that can be raised during the pre-election hearing, and restricting regional office discretion, the board will actually invite more confrontation and prolong the process – something I am confident no one wants to see.

The Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act also reasserts the board’s responsibility to address outstanding issues before a union can begin representing workers. While many of us have broader concerns with the priorities of the Obama board, it still has a job to do. In their haste to rush union elections, the board would take itself out of the process almost entirely by refusing to review issues left unresolved before and after the election. Yet many of the issues it should address can alter the outcome of the election, such as questions surrounding voter eligibility or misconduct that may take place while workers are voting. H.R. 4320 requires the board to fulfill its responsibilities once the ballots are cast and before the union bargains on behalf of workers.

Finally, the legislation ensures workers have the time necessary to make a fully-informed decision. No election can be held in fewer than 35 days from the date an election is ordered. According to the most recent data, the median amount of time is now 38 days, placing the bill well in line with current practice. President John F. Kennedy once argued for a waiting period to “safeguard against rushing employees into an election where they are unfamiliar with the issues.” Republicans whole-heartedly agree, and believe 35 days is ample time for employees to learn the facts and make an informed decision.

Aside from these broader provisions, the amendment in the nature of a substitute contains a technical change to clarify that the legislation applies to all petitions for an election, regardless of the petitioner. By incorporating these changes into the amendment, we’ve ensured the underlying bill will effectively safeguard employer free speech and worker free choice. I urge my colleagues to support the amendment and the underlying bill.

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Kline Statement: Markup of H.R. 4321, the Employment Privacy Protection Act, and H.R. 4320, the Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 12:00am

Today the committee will consider H.R. 4321, the Employee Privacy Protection Act and H.R. 4320, the Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act. Together these proposals provide an appropriate congressional response to the National Labor Relations Board’s proposed ambush election rule.
 
I had hoped today’s meeting would not be necessary. Over the last several weeks this committee has tried to engage in a good faith effort to address concerns about the board’s proposed ambush election rule, specifically the rule’s effect on the rights of workers and job creators.

Under the board’s proposal, the right of employers to communicate with their employees will be severely restricted. Congress decided long ago it was in workers’ best interest to hear the views of both unions and employers during an organizing campaign, yet the board’s proposal takes a fundamentally different approach. An election could be held in as few as 10 days, providing employers little time to respond to a host of complicated legal questions and practically no time to speak to their employees.  As a result, employers will be silenced and debate will be stifled.

We heard a great deal during a recent oversight hearing about the influence outside voices can have on union elections. Our Democratic colleagues showed us a number of headlines from Tennessee. Here is one headline they didn’t discuss: “VW labor leader links SUV with works council.” Citing Volkswagen’s German labor chief, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported that a “works council labor board at the Chattanooga factory is important if the plant wants to produce other VW vehicles.” Reuters reports the same union boss has “threatened” to block additional investments in the southern United States if “workers there are not unionized.”

Are these comments an attempt by a union leader to “ambush” workers? Well, that’s not for us to decide today. But these comments illustrate that the debate over unionization is often spirited if not divisive. A vigorous debate can often get messy, but it still provides workers an opportunity to gather all the facts and make a fully-informed decision before casting their ballots.

That is why workers will be most harmed by the board’s proposed rule. Deciding whether to join a union is not a simple decision. The outcome of an election can affect workers’ future wages, health care, retirement benefits, work hours, and other employment conditions. Voters in federal elections have months to hear from all the candidates before deciding who will represent them in Washington. Don’t American workers deserve more than 10 days to decide whether they want a union negotiating over matters critical to their families’ well being?

Several weeks ago Representative Roe and I met with Chairman Pearce to raise these concerns and seek answers to some straightforward questions. For example, did the board consider soliciting public input before releasing its proposed rule?

Does the board seek to diminish employers’ due process rights by ignoring legal concerns that are not identified during an arbitrary seven-day window?

Is the board worried that providing personal information to union organizers will jeopardize the privacy of employees and their families?

And does the board honestly believe 10 days is enough time for workers to gather the facts, speak with friends, coworkers, and loved ones, and make an informed decision?

Unfortunately, Chairman Pearce failed to provide adequate responses to these and other important questions. We also asked the board to provide the public 30 additional days to comment on the proposed rule, yet even this reasonable, routine request was rejected.

We are left with only one conclusion: The board is utterly determined to jam through the regulatory process a flawed scheme that will stifle employer free speech and cripple worker free choice. Congress cannot sit idly by and let that happen. As lawmakers and the people’s elected representatives, we have a responsibility to act.

The Employee Privacy Protection Act and the Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act provide a responsible, commonsense response to the board’s radical ambush election rule. The legislation codifies, and in some ways strengthens, labor policies enjoyed for decades by workers, employers, and unions. The proposals will help ensure employers can continue to participate in a fair election process and workers have the time necessary to make an informed decision, as well as empower workers to protect their personal privacy. I urge my colleagues to support the legislation.

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Roe Statement: Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute for H.R. 4321

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 12:00am

Thank you, Chairman Kline, and thank you for convening today’s markup of H.R. 4321, the Employee Privacy Protection Act. In just a few moments I will address the technical change included in the substitute amendment. Before I do, I think it’s important to outline why this commonsense legislation is necessary.

I understand some are so wedded to the board’s destructive ambush election rule that they refuse to consider any alternative. That’s unfortunate, because H.R. 4321 will help modernize the union election process in a way that doesn’t pose additional privacy risks to workers and their families.

Under current election procedures, employers have seven days from the date an election is ordered to provide the National Labor Relations Board a list of names and home addresses for all employees eligible to vote in the election. This process has been around for decades, long before email and smartphones were available in virtually every household. It is woefully outdated and should be brought into the 21st century.

But more importantly, the current process is dangerous. The safety and well-being of our families is one of our greatest concerns. No doubt many of us have been shocked and annoyed to hear a knock at the door during dinner time or after the kids have gone to bed. Standing on the other side of the door could be a campaign worker trying to get out the vote or a local home improvement company trying to drum up business. Regardless of who it is, we all want to ensure our families are safe.

Unfortunately, some workers have lost that sense of security. Press reports continue to highlight cases where labor leaders have taken extreme measures to enforce solidarity with the union. In 2012, SEIU tried to organize human service workers at a nonprofit operating group homes in the northeast. According to the Cape Cod Times, the union was accused of “intimidating and misleading employees on the job and tracking them down at home.” A union in Missouri was accused of using aggressive tactics against employees of a local construction company. The company’s owner said the union “started making threats of bodily harm, started following me and my wife to our home, started following my employees to their homes.”

These are two examples, but even one example is too many. Republicans agree the current process can be modernized. However, the board’s approach would move our country in the wrong direction, exposing workers to more acts of intimidation, coercion, and even violence. And remarkably, the board would force employers to be complicit in this type of extreme and unlawful behavior.

Under the board’s ambush election rule, employers would have just two days to provide union organizers with employees’ names, home addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses, and work schedules. This would ensure unions can contact employees not just at home, but at work, on the way to the store, leaving church, or picking up the kids from soccer practice.

Working families deserve better than this. Are all unions out to threaten workers? Of course not. Is protecting workers from union intimidation a valid concern? Absolutely. The Employee Privacy Protection Act doesn’t stop unions from reaching out to workers; it simply says it’s up to each individual worker to decide how the union contacts him or her. Under the legislation, employers would have seven days to provide a list of employee names and one additional piece of contact information chosen by the employee. The amendment in the nature of a substitute includes a technical change to clarify only one piece of information is required.

Let’s empower workers to control their personal privacy during union organizing campaigns by supporting the amendment and the underlying bill. I yield back the balance of my time.

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Charter Schools: We Want to Break Through the Partisan Gridlock

Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 12:00am



By Representatives Todd Rokita (R-IN) and Jared Polis (D-CO)

As strong advocates for parental school choice, we were pleased that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was open to learning about the tremendous opportunities that charter schools can offer students and families. His decision to allow continued access to high-quality charter school options will ensure that the best curriculum, programs and school performance guide where parents enroll their children in school, not their ZIP code.

Nationally, this debate is alive and well within and between our parties. However, for us, school choice is a place where we see the greatest potential and need for bipartisan agreement.

On Tuesday, the House Education and the Workforce Committee, on which we both serve, will consider the Success and Opportunity Through Quality Charter Schools Act (HR 10). This bill, offered by Chairman John Kline, R-Minn., and ranking member George Miller, D-Calif., strengthens and improves the federal Charter Schools Program by offering common sense policies that both of our parties can get behind.

As the chairman and a member of the Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee, we are in a position to bring together the best ideas from across the political spectrum to protect and enhance our education system to support individual choice and school improvement.

First, the bill strengthens the mechanism by which public charter schools are held accountable to students, families and taxpayers. The promise of public charter schools is that they are free to be innovative when it comes to instruction, scheduling, human capital policies and mission. Divorced from the public school system’s bureaucracy, they are able to experiment, but must be held accountable to parents, communities and the public. By providing incentives for states to adopt best practices for charter school oversight, the bill strengthens this system so that high-performing public charter schools are replicated and low-performing public charter schools are closed.

Second, this bill has a laser focus on quality. Under HR 10, states such as Indiana and Colorado would have the opportunity to apply for grants to build innovative public charter schools fulfilling diverse missions. This program rewards states with strong charter school laws concerning governance, facilities and funding to contribute to building a school choice ecosystem where students with a wide range of learning styles benefit. The bill creates additional incentives for schools to achieve and replicate academic excellence by providing substantial funding to a program that awards grants directly to the highest performing public charter schools. This program helps to seed the growth of high-performing public charter schools in states that have yet to fully embraced school choice and do not have state grants available.

Finally, the Kline-Miller bill supports equity. We are proud that public charter schools, which are funded by state and local tax dollars, do not charge tuition, do not have entrance requirements and do not discriminate against students on any basis. This bill clarifies this definition, and builds in stronger protections to ensure that students with disabilities and disadvantaged students have access to public charter schools. We hope these protections will help to convince our colleagues on both sides of the aisle that public charter schools are a valuable part of the education ecosystem.

For too many students and families, their neighborhood public school is not working for them. This is not a knock on traditional public schools; there are many excellent ones that serve their communities well. Maybe a student has a unique learning need that is not being met by their current public school. Perhaps a student would prefer the option to learn online through a state-funding online high school. In too many communities, a neighborhood public school that has been failing students and families for generations is the only option. This is unacceptable.

Public school choice is both effective and empowering. Families know what is right for their children better than legislators do, and should have the opportunity to choose. HR 10 would strengthen an already effective program by focusing on accountability, quality and equity. This is a place where we are thrilled to work across the aisle for students and families, and we urge our colleagues to put partisan fights aside and do what is best for our children.

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Rokita Statement: Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute for H.R. 4366

Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 12:00am

We talk a lot in this committee about helping people build better lives. Whether through more flexible work schedules, stronger job training programs, or smarter student loan terms, advancing commonsense policies that will make life work for more Americans is a top priority.

The Strengthening Education through Research Act is part of this effort. The committee has spent countless hours exploring the challenges and opportunities facing the nation’s K-12 education system. In classrooms nationwide, teachers and school leaders need quality research to identify the best ways to raise student achievement and encourage progress.

As the chairman explained in his opening remarks, H.R. 4366 will help ensure school leaders have access to more timely, relevant, and useful information on the most effective educational practices that will raise student achievement levels.

The amendment in the nature of a substitute makes a number of technical changes to strengthen the underlying legislation. First, the amendment clarifies the roles and responsibilities of the Director of the Institute of Education Sciences and the Evaluation and Regional Assistance Commissioner with respect to the operation of regional education laboratories. 

The amendment also defines an “eligible applicant” within each of the four research centers. The “eligible applicant” can then compete for funds to carry out each center’s research priorities. Both of these provisions will advance our central goal of streamlining and enhancing the Institute’s operations, while preventing duplication and overlap of research efforts.

Additionally, the amendment incorporates a proposal put forth by my colleague Representative Susan Brooks to encourage schools to support computer science and engineering instruction. The amendment will allow the Department of Education’s Comprehensive Centers to include these subjects when offering professional development and other technical assistance to states and school leaders on research-based teaching methods.

Finally, the amendment will clarify the responsibilities of the Institute and the secretary of education in evaluating the efficacy of programs operated under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and take steps to strengthen those evaluations.

The Supporting Education through Research Act will improve education research, protect taxpayers by enhancing program accountability, and help ensure more schools and students can benefit from effective education practices. I am pleased to offer this amendment in the nature of a substitute, and encourage my colleagues to support the underlying legislation.

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Messer Statement: Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute for H.R. 10

Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 12:00am

I am pleased today to offer the amendment in the nature of a substitute for H.R. 10, the Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act.

As Chair of the House School Choice Caucus, one of my top priorities is ensuring more families have access to high-quality education options. Supporting the growth of successful charter schools is an important part of this effort. 

I had the good fortune last month to join Chairman Kline on his trip to visit Minnesota charter schools, where I was impressed by the energy, excitement, and progress happening in the classroom. Charter schools like Minnesota’s Global Academy and Aspen Academy – along with the many exceptional charters in my home state of Indiana – are encouraging creativity, promoting parental engagement, and giving kids a shot at a better future. I’m especially proud that Ball State University in my congressional district sponsors 32 charter schools, which makes them the largest authorizer in the state.

The Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act will help more students and their families gain access to high-performing charter schools by supporting state efforts to start, expand, and replicate successful charter schools.  The amendment in the nature of a substitute will strengthen the underlying legislation by making a number of technical changes. However, there are three larger provisions included in the amendment that I’d like to highlight.

First, the amendment will address concerns about so-called “faux” charter schools, or schools that are reportedly trying to operate as charter schools but lack the autonomy necessary to be truly successful. The amendment requires schools receiving charter school funding meet the definition of a charter school, and be free from rules that inhibit flexible operation and management.

Second, the amendment clarifies that schools working to replicate a high-quality charter school model can do so under a new charter, if the state so requires. This provision is designed to ensure the legislation won’t interfere with current state requirements for charter schools to operate under new charters, even if a school is a replication of a high-quality charter school model.

The third and final change in the amendment that I’d like to mention is a provision that directs states to assist students and their families in identifying other school options in their area, should their current charter school close. No child should be trapped in a failing school, and this language will help ensure families have the resources they need when choosing a better school for their children.

For parents across the country, the Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act could be the key to a brighter future for their children. I strongly encourage my colleagues to join me in supporting the amendment in the nature of a substitute and the underlying legislation.

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Committee Approves Bipartisan Legislation to Support Charter Schools and Enhance Education Research

Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 12:00am

The House Education and the Workforce Committee today approved two pieces of legislation that will improve the nation’s K-12 education system. The Success and Opportunity through Quality Charters Act (H.R. 10) and the Strengthening Education through Research Act (H.R. 4366) both passed the committee with bipartisan support.

“I am pleased the committee approved with bipartisan support two pieces of legislation that will help raise the bar in our nation’s schools,” Chairman John Kline (R-MN) said. “By advancing proposals to encourage the growth of high-performing charter schools and help school leaders access more useful education research, we have taken an important step forward in the fight to improve K-12 education in America. These bipartisan proposals highlight the progress we can make when we work together in good faith, and I hope to build upon today’s success as I continue to advocate for a full reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. I thank my colleagues for their hard work on both proposals, and urge swift passage on the House floor.”

“These are two strong, bipartisan proposals to improve our nation’s education system,” said Rep. George Miller (D-CA), Senior Democrat on the Education and the Workforce Committee. “The Strengthening Education through Research Act strikes the proper balance between rigor and relevance, ensuring education research solves the real problems faced by students and those who work with them. And in reauthorizing the Charter School Program, H.R. 10 course corrects federal investments to ensure quality, accountability, and equity. But this is only part of the solution. More must be done to guarantee that all public charter schools are high-quality and equitably serve all students. Committee Democrats remain committed to reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to improve the quality and oversight of all schools—charter and noncharter—that receive Title I funds.”

Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN), chairman of the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, said, “Helping people build better lives is a top priority for this committee. Whether through more flexible work schedules, stronger job training programs, or smarter student loan terms, advancing commonsense policies that will make life work for more Americans is a top priority. The bills approved today are part of this effort, and I hope they will receive the same robust support on the House floor as they did today in committee.”

"I firmly believe that in order to successfully prepare our students for the workforce, our nation’s educators must be able to identify and have access to successful and proven techniques,” said Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY). “I am proud to be the lead Democratic co-sponsor of the bipartisan Strengthening Education through Research Act ​that will strengthen research, improve accountability, refocus the priority on equity in education for our most vulnerable student populations, and improve overall student success throughout our education system." 

To learn more about the Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act, click here. To learn more about the Strengthening Education through Research Act, click here. To access markup materials or view an archived webcast, click here.

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