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House Education & Workforce Committee

***MEDIA ADVISORY*** TOMORROW: Committee to Examine NLRB Ambush Election Rule

Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 03/04/2014 - 9:30am

On Wednesday, March 5 at 10:00 a.m., the House Education and the Workforce Committee, chaired by Rep. John Kline (R-MN), will hold a hearing entitled, “Culture of Union Favoritism: The Return of the NLRB’s Ambush Election Rule.” The hearing will take place in room 2175 of the Rayburn House Office Building.  

On February 6 the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a proposed rule that will dramatically alter long-standing policies governing union elections. The board’s proposal will significantly shorten the time between the filing of a petition for a union election and the election date. Among other provisions, the rule provides employers just seven days to prepare a case to present before an NLRB regional officer and eliminates review by the board of contested issues raised before the election. The proposal also limits the opportunity for a full and fair hearing of issues that may arise during the election proceedings and allows union organizers to have greater access to employees’ personal information. 

As a result of the board’s proposal, the ability of employers to communicate with employees will be severely restricted and the right of workers to make an informed decision in union elections will be crippled. Wednesday’s hearing will provide members the opportunity to examine the proposed rule and its effects on workers and employers. To learn more about this hearing, visit www.edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.  

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WITNESS LIST 

Mrs. Doreen S. Davis
Partner
Jones Day
New York, NY

Mr. Steve Browne
Executive Director of Human Resources
LaRosa
Cincinnati, OH
Testifying on behalf of the Society for Human Resource Managemet

Ms. Caren Spencer
Attorney
Weinberg, Roger, and Rosenfeld
Alameda, CA

Mr. William Messenger
Staff Attorney
National Right to Work Legal Foundation
Springfield, VA

***MEDIA ADVISORY*** House Education and the Workforce Committee to Host Field Hearings in Nevada and Arizona

Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 03/04/2014 - 12:00am

The House Education and the Workforce Committee will host two field hearings during the week of March 17, 2014 to discuss ways education and skills training can strengthen our economy.

“A quality education and job training system is crucial to the strength and success of America’s workforce,” Chairman John Kline (R-MN) said. “Higher education institutions, career and technical education schools, and workforce investment boards each play a valuable role in encouraging local economic growth by providing individuals with the skills and training needed to fill in-demand jobs. As the House Education and the Workforce Committee works to advance policies that support a more robust workforce, these field hearings will allow us to talk with community leaders about state and local solutions to education and workforce needs.”

On Tuesday, March 18 at 2:00 p.m., Chairman Kline will join Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV) in Nevada’s 3rd District for a field hearing entitled, “Reviving our Economy: How Career and Technical Education Can Strengthen the Workforce.” The hearing will take place at Southwest Career and Technical Academy, Coyote Ballroom, located at 7050 West Shelbourne Avenue in Las Vegas, Nevada.

On Thursday, March 20 at 9:00 a.m., Chairman Kline will join Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) in Arizona’s 5th District for a field hearing entitled, “Reviving our Economy: Supporting a 21st Century Workforce.” The hearing will take place at Arizona State University Polytechnic Campus, Student Union-Cooley Ballroom B, located at 7001 East Williams Field Road in Mesa, Arizona.  

More information about these field hearings, including witness lists, will be posted atwww.edworkforce.house.gov/hearings. Media interested in attending the Nevada field hearing must RSVP to Greg Lemon with Rep. Heck’s staff at greg.lemon@mail.house.gov. Media interested in attending the Arizona field hearing must RSVP to Kristine Michalson with Rep. Salmon’s staff at kristine.michalson@mail.house.gov.

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POSTPONED: Hearing to Examine the Role of Charter Schools in K-12 Education

Education & the Workforce Committee - Mon, 03/03/2014 - 12:00am

Due to weather conditions, tomorrow's House Education and the Workforce Committee hearing entitled "Raising the Bar: The Role of Charter Schools in K-12 Education" has been postponed.

The hearing will be rescheduled for Wednesday, March 12 at 10:30am in room 2175 Rayburn House Office Building. Additional details will be posted at www.edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.

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***MEDIA ADVISORY*** Committee to Examine the Role of Charter Schools in K-12 Education

Education & the Workforce Committee - Fri, 02/28/2014 - 10:00am

On Tuesday, March 4 at 10:00 a.m., the House Education and the Workforce Committee, chaired by Rep. John Kline (R-MN), will hold a hearing entitled, “Raising the Bar: The Role of Charter Schools in K-12 Education.” The hearing will take place in room 2175 of the Rayburn House Office Building.  

Charter schools encompass two key principles American families want from our nation’s education system: choice and flexibility. These institutions empower parents to play a more active role in their child’s education, open doors for teachers to pioneer fresh teaching methods, encourage state and local innovation, and help students escape underperforming schools. 

Tuesday’s hearing will provide members an opportunity to discuss the benefits of the successful charter school model while also exploring opportunities to improve charter school quality and expand access to this valuable school choice option. To learn more about Tuesday’s hearing, visit http://edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.  

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WITNESS LIST 

Ms. Deborah McGriff      
Chair of the Board      
National Alliance for Public Charter Schools   
Milwaukee, WI      

Mrs. Lisa Graham Keegan     
Chair of the Board      
National Association of Charter School Authorizers  
Peoria, AZ       

Mr. David Linzey 
Executive Director
Clayton Valley Charter High School
Concord, CA

Ms. Alyssa Whitehead-Bust
Chief of Innovation and Reform
Denver Public Schools
Denver, CO

Mr. Alan Rosskamm
Chief Executive Officer
Breakthrough Schools
Cleveland, OH

Foxx Statement: “Exploring Efforts to Strengthen the Teaching Profession"

Education & the Workforce Committee - Thu, 02/27/2014 - 12:00am
So often teachers are unfairly blamed for the problems in our nation’s school.  I had excellent teachers throughout my education and know many exceptional teachers.  In fact, my own experience highlights the difference a good teacher and educational opportunity can make in the life of a student.  While we will take an honest look at teacher preparation programs today, I want to commend the hardworking individuals on the frontlines of education every day.

I believe I speak for most, if not all, of my colleagues here today when I say there is an urgent need to address the sad state of teacher preparation programs in this country. According to the National Council of Teacher Quality’s 2013 Teacher Prep Review, teacher preparation programs at American colleges and universities “have become an industry of mediocrity, churning out first-year teachers with classroom management skills and content knowledge inadequate to thrive in classrooms with ever-increasing ethnic and socioeconomic student diversity.” 

The scathing report details myriad problems within teacher preparation systems, including overly-lenient admissions policies, outdated coursework, and a severe lack of hands-on classroom experience. In a piece for the Wall Street Journal, education consultant Harold Kwalwasser and Napa County Superintendent Dr. Barbara Nemko echoed the National Council of Teacher Quality’s findings, stating, “Too often, these future educators learn to ‘teach’ math, but they don't necessarily learn how to do the math itself.”

Without strong teacher preparation programs, we cannot make real progress in our efforts to improve K-12 schools, raise graduation rates, and help more children get on the path to a successful future.  It is time to shine a bright light on the problems with teacher preparation as we examine ways school districts, postsecondary institutions, organizations, and states are working together to challenge the status quo. 

Chairman Rokita has already discussed ways states and school districts are working to bring more effective teachers into the classroom, and reviewed our efforts in the Student Success Act to support state and local efforts to recruit, hire, and retain better educators.  

On the postsecondary level, four institutions have earned national recognition for their efforts to strengthen the teaching profession. Rigorous coursework, high academic standards, and extensive hands-on experience at The Ohio State University, Lipscomb University, Furman University, and Vanderbilt University have earned these institutions’ teacher preparation programs high marks from the National Council on Teacher Quality. We are fortunate to have Dr. Marcy Singler-Garbella from Vanderbilt’s Peabody College with us today to describe the institution’s efforts to ensure students graduate ready to move to the front of the classroom. 

As the committee continues to prepare for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, reducing regulatory burdens on higher education institutions remains a top priority. Like most postsecondary programs, teacher colleges are overwhelmed with reporting requirements, few of which have any real bearing on the quality of teachers produced by the programs.  

While we agree on the need to strengthen data collection under the law, we must make sure the right kind of data is collected to provide helpful information.  I look forward to continuing conversations with my colleagues on ways to help states and schools report useful, timely information for policymakers, states, districts, institutions, prospective teachers, and the public. We also must ensure federally mandated reporting requirements do not create additional burdens or hinder the good work already underway.  

We must also continue monitoring actions by the Obama administration that would increase federal overreach and limit innovation in postsecondary education, especially with regard to the teaching profession.  I remain concerned about the direction of the administration’s spring 2012 negotiated rulemaking session, which did not result in consensus among participants. Though the regulations have yet to be released, I am wary of any new federal dictates on teacher preparation programs, program quality, and teacher effectiveness. These responsibilities are best left to states and institutions, not federal bureaucrats.


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Rokita Statement: “Exploring Efforts to Strengthen the Teaching Profession"

Education & the Workforce Committee - Thu, 02/27/2014 - 12:00am
Research has confirmed teachers have an enormous influence on student learning and performance. Outside of their parents, teachers are often the single greatest influence on students’ ability to build the best possible life for themselves.  Whether as a parent or in our own school days, many of us have had the fortune to witness firsthand the impact a truly exceptional educator can have on a child’s life. Effective teachers can motivate students to explore the unknown, think critically, and challenge expectations.   Because we fight, not only for our children, but for all people, so they can build better lives for themselves and their families, we must also find ways to see teachers achieve greater success.

Most educators earn a degree from an education program at a traditional four-year college or university. After obtaining the degree, the prospective teachers must then pass the state licensure or certification exams to become eligible to teach in that state. As the Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training will explain in her remarks, far too many teacher preparation programs – also known as ‘teacher colleges’- are underperforming, failing to ensure new educators are ready for success in the classroom.

States play a major role in improving teacher quality and preparation, as they have authority over the licensure and certification requirements. Recognizing teacher preparation programs aren’t making the grade, some states have proactively raised teacher preparation program standards, and taken steps to tie teacher effectiveness to license renewal. 

In Rhode Island, for example, the state board of education recently strengthened admission criteria and implemented policies to hold novice teachers accountable for improving student achievement. Additionally the state has forged valuable partnerships with local school districts to better align pre-service training with the needs of today's students.  We will learn more about the efforts underway at the state level from our witness, Dr. Deborah Gist, Commissioner of the Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

We also have with us today Ms. Christina Hall from the Urban Teacher Center, an alternative certification program based in Baltimore. These programs allow individuals who already have a postsecondary degree and work experience to earn certification to teach without completing a traditional teacher education program. 

Alternative certification programs have become increasingly popular in recent years, particularly with the release of studies confirming alternatively certified educators are just as effective as traditionally certified teachers. Additionally, the alternative routes help districts address educator shortages quickly and more efficiently, helping to ensure more students have access to good teachers. 

The House Education and the Workforce Committee has also been working to encourage more effective educators.  Last year, we successfully advanced the Student Success Act, legislation to revamp federal K-12 education law that includes a number of key provisions affecting teachers. 

First, the Student Success Act eliminates the antiquated “Highly Qualified Teacher,” or HQT, provision that values an educator’s degrees or credentials over his or her ability to motivate students in the classroom.  States, school districts, and teachers have criticized the policy for years, and it is past time we got rid of it. 

Second, the legislation includes language to support state or school district efforts to develop unique teacher evaluation systems, helping ensure educators can be fairly judged on their ability to raise student achievement. 

Finally, the Student Success Act also consolidates most of the teacher quality programs in current K-12 education law into a Teacher and School Leader Flexible Grant. The new grant program also absorbed some of the ideas behind the Teacher Quality Partnership grant program under the Higher Education Act. 

The Teacher and School Leader Flexible Grant supports creative approaches to recruit and retain effective teachers, and grants districts the authority to partner with higher education institutions and other organizations to improve teacher and school leader preparation programs. Additionally, states – alone or in partnership with state agencies of higher education – can use funds under the grant program to reform teacher certification, recertification and licensing; improve state teacher preparation programs; or improve alternative certification programs.

Together the policies in the Student Success Act will encourage states to implement strategies that will help get better teachers, strengthen families, and enrich communities.  Unfortunately, this critical legislation to revamp the nation’s K-12 system has been awaiting Senate consideration for several months now. Once again, I urge the Senate to bring education reform legislation up for a vote as soon as possible. Our children deserve a better education law, and they deserve the greatest opportunity possible to build better lives for themselves.  

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Hearing Reviews Benefits of Self-Insured Plans

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 02/26/2014 - 2:00pm

The Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions, chaired by Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN), today held a hearing entitled, “Providing Access to Affordable, Flexible Health Plans through Self-Insurance.” During the hearing, members discussed the positive benefits enjoyed by workers and employers participating in self-insured health plans and expressed objections to regulatory efforts that would discourage the use of this important health insurance option. 

In his opening remarks, Rep. Roe said, “Employers who manage a self-insured health plan bear the financial risk of providing health benefits to workers. Employers will often work with a third-party to process claims and benefit payments. Many self-insured employers also purchase a product known as stop-loss insurance, a risk management tool that protects employers against catastrophic claims and high costs.” 

“It is worth noting just how vitally important this health insurance option has become,” continued Rep. Roe. “Support for self-insurance has grown because it can be tailored to the needs of the workforce and offers transparency to ensure the plan is managed in an efficient and effective way. Just as important, self-insurance helps control health care costs, which can lead to higher wages for workers and more resources for employers to invest in job creation.” 

Robert Melillo, an executive at USI Insurance Services, echoed the benefits of self-insurance. “A self-funded program allows a plan sponsor to customize, measure, evaluate, and manage each and every aspect of their benefit plan,” said Mr. Melillo. “I believe a plan sponsor’s choice to self-insure with the use of quality and customizable stop-loss insurance programs is essential if they have any chance of managing their future health care spending.” 

Subcommittee members listened to the story of one employer who has been able to offer employees comprehensive, affordable health coverage through a self-insured policy. Wes Kelley is the executive director of Columbia Power & Water Systems, a municipal utility for the City of Columbia and Maury Country in Tennessee.  

Speaking from personal experience, Mr. Kelley testified, “Over the past 22 years, our self-funded arrangement has allowed the utility to maintain above average benefits for our employees, dependents, and eligible retirees… These benefits are provided without the employees contributing to the cost of health insurance through their paycheck or otherwise. Furthermore, eligible early retirees and their dependents enjoy the same benefits as active employees.” 

Maintaining access to a vibrant self-insured marketplace is a priority for policymakers. Michael Ferguson, president and CEO of the Self-Insurance Institute of America, warned, “The administration may make this option more difficult by restricting the availability of stop-loss insurance. Specifically, it is believed that the federal agencies may ‘interpret’ the definition of health insurance coverage to include stop-loss insurance.” These concerns were confirmed earlier by a 2013 New York Times article citing administration officials interested in discouraging the use of stop-loss insurance.  

Chairman Roe urged the administration to abandon such a misguided effort, stating, “The administration must clarify its plans to potentially regulate in this area, and explain the legal basis it has to do so… The employers, workers, unions, and families who rely on these health plans deserve the truth now. Like every American, they were told if they liked their current health care plan they could keep it; they have a right to know whether they too will be on the losing end of the president’s broken promise.” 

To learn more about today’s hearing, or to watch an archived webcast, visit www.edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.  

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Roe Statement: Hearing on "Providing Access to Affordable, Flexible Health Plans through Self-Insurance"

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 02/26/2014 - 12:00am
Rising health care costs remains a significant challenge for workers and job creators nationwide. According to a survey released by the National Small Business Association, 91 percent of employers reported higher costs at their most recent health insurance renewal; one in four experienced cost increases of 20 percent or more. In a report released last Friday, the nonpartisan actuaries at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimate roughly two-thirds of small businesses will face higher insurance premiums as a result of the president’s health care law.

Promoting policies that will lead to affordable health coverage is more urgent than ever. Today we will examine how self-insured plans help provide quality health care to millions of Americans at a more reasonable cost, and discuss why we should reject any effort that undermines this important health insurance option.

Employers who manage a self-insured health plan bear the financial risk of providing health benefits to workers. Employers will often work with a third-party to process claims and benefit payments. Many self-insured employers also purchase a product known as stop loss insurance, a risk management tool that protects employers against catastrophic claims and high costs. 

We have with us today a panel of witnesses who possess a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and experience in this area. They will explain in greater technical detail how the self-insured marketplace works. However, it is worth noting just how vitally important this health insurance option has become. 

Approximately 60 percent of all individuals covered by employer-sponsored health insurance are in a self-insured plan. Even unions are embracing the benefits of this approach; a majority of Taft-Hartley health plans are self-insured. Support for self-insurance has grown because it can be tailored to the needs of the workforce and offers transparency to ensure the plan is managed in an efficient and effective way. Just as important, self-insurance helps control health care costs, which can lead to higher wages for workers and more resources for employers to invest in job creation.

Across the country, we’re witnessing what happens when the federal government tries to force millions of individuals into a one-size-fits-all health care plan: costs go up, wages go down, and workers lose the coverage they like and the full-time jobs they need. Self-insurance is a legitimate option for workers and employers who cannot afford this government-run health care scheme. Perhaps that explains why some want to clamp down on the use of self-insured health care plans.

In February 2013 the New York Times reported Obama administration officials were “considering regulations to discourage small and midsize employers” from using stop-loss insurance, thereby undermining the ability to self-insure. This press report contradicted an earlier statement by Phyllis Borzi, Assistant Secretary for Employee Benefits Security at the Department of Labor, who vowed the administration was “not secretly writing a stop-loss regulation.” 

For months the committee has sought clarification, but as usual the administration is being less than forthcoming. The administration must clarify its plans to potentially regulate in this area, and explain the legal basis it has to do so. No more Friday news dumps, midnight regulations, or holiday surprises. The employers, workers, unions, and families who rely on these health plans deserve the truth now. Like every American, they were told if they liked their current health care plan they could keep it; they have a right to know whether they too will be on the losing end of the president’s broken promise. Let’s work together to make health care more affordable, instead of raising costs with more heavy-handed rules and bureaucratic overreach.

Before I conclude, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the resignation of our friend and former colleague Rob Andrews. Over the last few years, Rob and I sat side by side on this subcommittee, discussing important issues facing our nation’s families and workplaces, such as health care, labor relations, and retirement security. We had our disagreements, but we always shared a desire to advance the best interests of workers, employers, and retirees. 

There are a number of challenges that merit our attention, and the issue before us today is no exception.  We have to ensure federal labor policies are fair and protect the right of workers to join or not join a union. We also have to address the multiemployer pension crisis that grows more severe with each passing day. Rob and I spent many hours together examining the problems facing multiemployer pension plans and discussing possible solutions to protect workers, employers, retirees, and taxpayers. For the sake of those whose jobs and retirement security are at stake, I hope this committee can continue that spirit of bipartisan cooperation in the months ahead.


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ObamaCare’s Growing Threat to America’s Education System

Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 02/25/2014 - 12:00am

 The ObamaCare credibility gap continues to grow as new evidence of broken promises comes to light. Despite the administration’s repeated pledge health care reform would not harm employment, the New York Times reports teachers and school workers are already experiencing cuts to hours and income thanks to the president’s fatally flawed law:                       

  • Indiana schools curb student services, cut worker’s hours:
    Vigo County has reduced field trips for children and cut back transportation to athletic events. School employees who had two part-time jobs totaling more than 30 hours a week — for example, bus driver and basketball coach — were required to give up one of the jobs.

  • Connecticut school districts forced to make tough choices:
    Mark D. Benigni, the superintendent of schools in Meriden, Conn…said in an interview that the new health care law was having “unintended consequences for school systems across the nation…Are we supposed to lay off full-time teachers so that we can provide insurance coverage to part-time employees?” Mr. Benigni asked. “If I had to cut five reading teachers to pay for benefits for substitute teachers, I’m not sure that would be best for our students.
  • New Jersey college instructors experience reduced hours, less pay:
    William J. Lipkin, an adjunct professor of American history and political science at Union County College in Cranford, N.J., said: “The Affordable Care Act, rather than making health care affordable for adjunct faculty members, is making it more unaffordable…and our hours are being cut, which means our income is being cut. We are losing on both ends.”
  • Ohio part-time faculty see less work:
    The University of Akron, in Ohio, has cut back the hours of 400 part-time faculty members who were teaching more than 29 hours a week, said Eileen Korey, a spokeswoman for the school. “We have more than 1,000 part-time faculty,” Ms. Korey said. “Four hundred would have qualified for health insurance. That would add costs that we cannot afford.”

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce has heard similar stories from teachers, professors, and school workers nationwide. The president’s health care law is hurting America’s students and threatening the strength of our nation’s education system.

Whether you are a student, parent, teacher, professor, or administrator, policymakers need to hear from you about the law’s effect on your local schools. To share #YourStory, visit www.edworkforce.house.gov/YourStory or e-mail the committee at TellYourStory@mail.house.gov.

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***MEDIA ADVISORY*** Subcommittees To Examine Opportunities to Strengthen the Teaching Profession

Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 02/25/2014 - 12:00am
On Thursday, February 27 at 10:00 a.m., the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, chaired by Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN), will join the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, chaired by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), in holding a hearing entitled, “Exploring Efforts to Strengthen the Teaching Profession.” The hearing will take place in room 2175 of the Rayburn House Office Building. 

Too often, bureaucratic hurdles, onerous requirements, and outdated mandates stand in the way of attracting talented young educators to the nation’s schools. Higher education institutions also struggle with copious reporting requirements that have little to do with preparing effective teachers for the classroom. 

Fortunately, there is a growing movement to change the status quo and improve teacher preparation programs. State and local education leaders are collaborating with postsecondary institutions to develop and implement innovative reforms that are helping to transform teacher and school leader preparation and revamp educator licensure and certification systems.  

As the committee continues working to strengthen the nation’s K-12 and higher education systems, Thursday’s hearing will provide members an opportunity to discuss efforts to support a new generation of effective educators in the nation’s schools. To learn more about Thursday’s hearing, visit http://edworkforce.house.gov/hearings. 


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WITNESS LIST


Dr. Deborah A. Gist
Commissioner
Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Providence, RI  

Dr. Marcy Singer-Gabella
Professor of the Practice of Education
Vanderbilt University
Nashville, TN

Dr. Heather G. Peske 
Associate Commissioner for Educator Quality
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Malden, MA 

Ms. Christina Hall
Co-Founder & Co-Director
Urban Teacher Center
Baltimore, MD

***MEDIA ADVISORY*** Subcommittee to Examine Benefits of Self-Insured Health Plans

Education & the Workforce Committee - Mon, 02/24/2014 - 12:00am
On Wednesday, February 26 at 10:00 a.m., the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions, chaired by Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN), will hold a hearing entitled, “Providing Access to Affordable, Flexible Health Plans through Self-Insurance.” The hearing will take place in room 2175 of the Rayburn House Office Building. 

Employers who manage a self-insured health plan assume the financial risk of providing health benefits to his or her workers. Rather than contract with an insurance company, self-insured employers pay directly for the workers’ health care claims and services. An employer may work with a third-party to help process claims and benefit payments. Self-insured plans are governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act; in 2011 these plans provided insurance to approximately 60 percent of all employees covered by an employer-sponsored health plan.

Many self-insured employers purchase stop-loss insurance to protect against catastrophic claims and high costs. Although stop-loss insurance is regulated by the states, in February 2013 the New York Times reported Obama administration officials “were considering regulations to discourage small and midsize employers” from using stop-loss insurance. In correspondence with the committee, the administration has refused to confirm or deny whether it will issue a regulation affecting stop-loss insurance.

Wednesday’s hearing will provide members an opportunity to examine the benefits of self-insurance and discuss concerns about regulating stop-loss insurance at the federal level. To learn more about Wednesday’s hearing, visit http://edworkforce.house.gov/hearings

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WITNESS LIST

Mr. Michael Ferguson
President and Chief Executive Officer
Self-Insurance Institute of America 
Simpsonville, SC 

Mr. Wes Kelley
Executive Director
Columbia Power and Water Systems
Columbia, TN

Maura Calsyn, J.D.
Director of Health Policy
Center for American Progress
Washington, D.C.

Mr. Robert Melillo
National Vice President, Risk Financing Solutions
USI Insurance Services
Glastonbury, CT

Kline, Foxx Question President's Higher Education Executive Actions

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 02/12/2014 - 4:30pm

House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) today sent a letter to President Barack Obama seeking information on his plans to use executive authority to advance the administration’s preferred higher education policies.

Chairman Kline said, “Last summer we successfully worked with the Senate and the administration to enact a new law that cuts student loan interest rates and provides stability for borrowers. Through the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, we have an opportunity to build upon that bipartisan accomplishment and develop comprehensive policies to strengthen the nation’s higher education system for future generations. But we need the president to be an ally in that effort – not obstruct legislative progress with executive actions and reckless rulemakings.”

“The president needs to work with Congress so that we can bring the higher education community together and find common ground as we reauthorize the Higher Education Act this year. Unfortunately, we are off to a difficult start,” Rep. Foxx said. “The president’s repeated threats to circumvent Congress and the failure of his Department of Education to submit any plan or goals for the reauthorization are worrisome indicators. It’s my hope that they will come to the table and help us forge bipartisan solutions to the pressing issues we face in higher education.”

In the letter, Chairman Kline and Rep. Foxx write:

As we continue moving forward with our efforts to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, we hope to work in partnership with the administration to craft policies that will strengthen the law for students, families, teachers, and college leaders. However, your recent threats to circumvent Congress are a major obstacle in this process… We are disappointed the administration would threaten to subvert Congress on higher education policy... Instead, the department continues to propose prescriptive, one-size-fits-all policies that not only ignore the realities of our nation’s diverse higher education system, but are also strongly opposed by many higher education stakeholders.

The leaders request a briefing from the White House Domestic Policy Council later this month on the administration’s plans for future executive actions, as well as additional summits with higher education stakeholders.

To read the letter, click here.

Kline Statement on Executive Order Affecting Federal Contractors

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

House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) issued the following statement after President Obama signed an executive order affecting federal contractor employees: 

The president’s failed policies are crushing working families with high unemployment, rising health care costs, and stagnant wages. We need commonsense solutions that will create jobs and raise the wages of all Americans, not just a select few – and the president's action fails on both counts. Despite the president’s executive political ploys, House Republicans will continue to advance responsible reforms that help improve the lives of all working families.

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DOL Revokes Controversial Family-Farming Guidance

Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 02/11/2014 - 10:00am

– House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Subcommittee on Workforce Protections Chairman Tim Walberg (R-MI) released the following joint statement after the Department of Labor announced in a letter to the committee the withdrawal of controversial enforcement guidance affecting family farms: 

The department’s family-farming guidance was flawed and legally suspect. We are pleased this misguided policy has been withdrawn, and the department has recognized the legitimate concerns of policymakers and family farmers. Ensuring a safe and healthy work environment is a goal we all share. However, that goal cannot be reached when federal agencies rewrite the law through executive fiat. We hope the department will engage in a sincere dialogue with other federal agencies and concerned stakeholders to ensure our nation’s farmers are protected.

BACKGROUND: Since 1971 OSHA has been responsible for enforcing federal workplace safety and health standards. Congress has adopted statutory language since 1978 that prevents OHSA from inspecting farms with 10 or fewer employees. This policy has been signed into law by presidents dating back to the Carter administration. However, in 2011, without any public notice or review, the Obama administration released guidance that redefined “farming operations” in order to allow OSHA inspectors onto family farms.  

Concerned by this blatant attempt to circumvent the law and the will of Congress, committee Republicans raised objections and urged the department to withdraw the guidance. In a letter received by the committee, the department announced it had removed the guidance from its website and will work with the Department of Agriculture and interested stakeholders on an appropriate policy. 

To read the letter from committee Republicans, click here

To read the response by the Department of Labor, click  here

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Foxx Statement: Hearing on "Serving Seniors through the Older Americans Act"

Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 02/11/2014 - 12:00am

Enacted in 1965, the Older Americans Act was established to help older individuals continue living independently in their homes and remain active in their communities. The Act combines federal, state, and local resources to support programs and services that address the needs of the senior population – now estimated at more than 41 million Americans. 

At the federal level, the Older Americans Act established the Administration on Aging, now known as the Administration for Community Living, to oversee most of the law’s programs. However, the Act largely relies on a national network of 56 state agencies on aging, 629 area agencies on aging, and nearly 20,000 service providers to plan, coordinate, and deliver services to local seniors.

Using formula based grants authorized under Title III of the law and other funding sources, State and Area Agencies on Aging develop programs tailored to meet the needs of local seniors. These programs provide supportive services such as transportation to and from doctor’s offices and pharmacies; financial support for senior centers and family caregivers; and disease prevention and health promotion activities.
 
But the Older Americans Act is perhaps best known for supporting key nutrition services, such as group and home-delivery meal programs, the latter being more commonly known as Meals on Wheels. States match 15 percent of their federal grant to ensure local agencies can provide nutritious meals to the elder population most in need. In Fiscal Year 2011, the most recent data available, more than 223 million meals were served to approximately 2.5 million people.

The Older Americans Act plays a vital role in helping seniors access services that promote health, independence, and longevity. In Fiscal Year 2010 alone, the law’s programs served nearly 11 million older Americans and their caregivers.

As we work toward reauthorizing the Older Americans Act, we must acknowledge the law faces challenges. The population of senior citizens has changed dramatically since the law was first drafted in the 1960s. U.S. Census projections estimate the number of Americans age 65 and over will increase from 40 million in 2010 to 72 million in 2030. This means that, for the next 19 years, roughly 10,000 Baby Boomers will turn 65 every day. As a result, many are concerned that the Older Americans Act cannot effectively meet the needs of the rapidly growing senior population – especially amid current fiscal constraints.

As we explore ways to strengthen the law, it is critical we seek to enhance program coordination and efficacy so that we may better serve those with the greatest social and economic needs. Equally important is preserving the law’s federalist structure, which balances a national framework of programs and funding with significant local flexibility in order to effectively meet the needs of local seniors.

Last year the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions approved the Older Americans Act Reauthorization Act of 2013. Today we have the opportunity to begin the committee’s process of exploring the best ways to improve the law’s flexible policies and targeted programs that are essential to providing care for America’s seniors.

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Kline, Roe Statements on Latest Unilateral ObamaCare Delay

Education & the Workforce Committee - Mon, 02/10/2014 - 5:00pm

House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Chairman Phil Roe (R-TN) released the following statements after the Obama administration announced its latest ObamaCare delay:  

“Another unilateral delay of the employer mandate further proves the president’s health care law is a threat to our nation’s workplaces,” said Chairman Kline. “Whether the employer mandate is enforced now or ten years from now, it will destroy jobs and reduce the take-home pay of working families. All Americans deserve permanent reprieve from this fatally flawed health care law. Instead of picking winners and losers through executive fiat, the president should work with Congress to scrap the law and replace it with responsible reforms the American people can support.” 

“I wish I could say I was surprised that the administration has once again bypassed Congress to implement another Obamacare delay, but I’m not,” said Rep. Roe. “The president still refuses to give the same protections to families as he’s giving to big business, but he’s also refusing employers the certainty they need to get back to doing what they do best: running their businesses. It’s both unfortunate and unacceptable that the president chooses to use his ‘pen’ instead of working with Congress and I’m disappointed that this is how President Obama chooses to govern. With each delay, it becomes more and more clear that this law is unworkable and needs to be replaced with patient-centered reform.” 

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