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Updated: 49 min 34 sec ago

Kline, Rokita Statements on Student Success Act

Fri, 02/27/2015 - 12:00am
House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee Chairman Todd Rokita (R-IN) issued the following statements regarding House consideration of the Student Success Act:

“Providing the Department of Homeland Security the resources it needs to defend our country has been a Republican priority for weeks,” said Chairman Kline. “I am disappointed we are unable to complete consideration of the Student Success Act this week, but national security must always come first. I look forward to continuing to discuss with my colleagues the conservative reforms in this legislation, and I expect we will have an opportunity to finish this important work soon.”

“The Student Success Act is a strong, conservative bill that will get Washington out of our nation’s classrooms,” said Rep. Rokita. I had hoped we could advance the legislation today and move one step closer to a new law that empowers parents and education leaders. However, funding the Department of Homeland Security had to be the priority. I am confident we will continue this effort in the coming weeks.”

To learn more about the Student Success Act, click here.

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Redundant, ‘Alice in Wonderland’ Executive Order Creates Bureaucratic Nightmare

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 6:30pm

The Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, chaired by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), and the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions, chaired by Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN) today held a hearing to examine the effects of Executive Order 13673, which may deny employers federal contracts if they or their subcontractors violated or allegedly violated various federal labor laws. Witnesses and members discussed how the administration’s executive overreach is not only redundant, but how it will create a bureaucratic nightmare that impedes the operation of the federal government and results in less efficient services for taxpayers.

“We can all agree bad actors who deny workers basic protections, including wage and overtime protections, should not be awarded federal contracts funded with taxpayer dollars," noted Rep. Walberg. "The federal government has had a system in place for decades which, if used effectively, would deny federal contracts to bad actors. Rather than dealing with these contractors directly under the existing system, on July 31, 2014, President Obama signed an executive order adding a burdensome, redundant, and unnecessarily punitive layer onto the federal procurement system.”

Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL) addressed the administrative nightmare unleashed by the order, arguing “the result of this new process will be a significantly delayed contracting process that limits both healthy competition and the efficient delivery of goods to the U.S. government at a reasonable price to taxpayers … Rather than impose additional layers of bureaucracy the administration would be better served working with Congress and stakeholders to ensure the rules and regulations implementing our laws are modernized and streamlined."

Labor attorney Willis Goldsmith echoed these concerns: "the Alice in Wonderland-like structure of the Executive Order makes it completely unworkable in the real world … [it] is so Byzantine and riddled with uncertainties that it will be impossible to predict how it will be applied in the contracting universe, leading to gross uncertainties among the regulated community as to who will qualify for a contract or not."

"I have little doubt that if the Executive Order is implemented as written, purchases by the federal government will grind to a halt,” warned Angela Styles, former Administrator for Federal Procurement Policy at the Office of Management and Budget. “Whether it is the purchase of equipment necessary for our warfighter, getting checks out the door to our senior citizens, or ensuring the safety of our food, none of it gets done without federal contractors ... Simply put, there are not enough hours in the day or employees in the federal government to implement this Executive Order.”

Summing up the sentiments of the panel, Stan Soloway, President and CEO of the Professional Services Council said, “[the Executive Order] poses a number of implementation challenges that renders it unworkable. It would also create a number of unintended consequences, and most notably, is completely unnecessary … this E.O. has too many undefined terms, too few objective standards, and too much potential for adversely affecting the federal procurement process.”

“We all share the same goal,” concluded Chairman Walberg, “however, rather than implement another layer of bureaucracy, the administration should work with Congress and stakeholders to use the existing system to crack down on bad actors and ensure the rights of America’s workers are protected.”

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

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Here’s the Right Way for Conservatives to Start Fixing No Child Left Behind

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 12:00am

On Friday, the U.S. House will vote on the Student Success Act (H.R. 5). The bill would revamp the Bush-era No Child Left Behind Act (formally known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act). It’s a promising bill and one that deserves the enthusiastic support of conservatives.
 
The Student Success Act (SSA) jettisons NCLB’s invasive system of federally mandated accountability and gives states the freedom to gauge school performance and decide what to do about poor-performing schools. It also puts an end to NCLB’s remarkable requirement that, as of 2014, 100 percent (!) of the nation’s students would be “proficient” in reading and math.

The SSA repeals the “highly qualified teacher” mandate, a bureaucratic paper chase whose most significant accomplishment was lending fuel to lawsuits attacking Teach For America (litigants had some success in California’s courts by arguing that TFA teachers failed to meet the “highly qualified” standard). It eliminates or consolidates 65 programs. It includes expansive new language intended to finally stop federal officials from pushing states to adopt Common Core (or any other particular set of academic standards).
 
The SSA is school-choice-friendly. It boosts funding for charter schools. In a significant win, it allows Title I funds to follow low-income children to the district school or charter school of a parent’s choice. This is a big deal. It doesn’t allow private-school choice — which would be even better — but the votes simply aren’t there in the House (much less the Senate) to let Title I funds flow to private schools. Meanwhile, allowing those funds to follow children to charter schools would be an important precedent.

The Student Success Act requires that states continue to regularly assess students in reading, math, and science and publicly report the disaggregated results, to the chagrin of some conservatives — but that’s misguided. It’s not inconsistent for conservatives to want Washington out of the nation’s schools while still keeping an eye on what taxpayers are getting for their federal education dollar. Moreover, competitive federalism and educational choice benefit when parents, voters, and taxpayers have comparable data on school outcomes that can inform their decisions. Finally, shorn of NCLB’s pie-in-the-sky accountability mandates, once-a-year tests will no longer distort schooling and infuriate parents in the way they have in recent years. Conservatives should be the party of transparency and citizen-fueled accountability, not of unaccountable federal largesse.

The SSA also features a few improvements over a similar bill that House Republicans passed in 2013. It does away with a provision that would have extended a bill of Obama overreach and gotten Uncle Sam further involved in telling states how to evaluate teachers. Instead, the SSA does away with troubled federal efforts to dictate teacher training, giving states much more flexibility in determining how to use those funds to recruit, prepare, and support teachers.

The Student Success Act won’t get Uncle Sam “out” of education. But that’s okay. After all, there’s no alternative proposal that will truly get him out either. Even those who’ve called for abolishing the Department of Education have been unwilling to eliminate (or even seriously cut) federal funds for low-income students, students with special needs, Pell Grants, or student loans. And those programs combine to make up the lion’s share of what the federal government does in education. That disconnect means the calls for getting the feds “out” mostly amount to hollow rhetoric.
Moreover, there is a legitimate, limited federal role in schooling. From Lincoln’s Morrill Act in 1862, to Eisenhower’s 1958 post-Sputnik push, to Reagan’s 1983 call to arms in A Nation at Risk, we’ve recognized a national interest in schooling. But Washington should limit its involvement to those things that are appropriate to its appropriate role in our federal system. In this case, that particularly entails unwinding intrusive mandates, eliminating duplicative programs and red tape, and insisting on transparency when it comes to academic results and how federal tax dollars are spent.

The SSA would end Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s unprecedented and troubling use of waivers. While the secretary of education has the authority to “waive” various provisions of NCLB, Duncan has taken this routine discretion and abused it — herding states into adopting an Obama education agenda. States have felt intense pressure to comply, given their yearning for relief from NCLB’s astonishing mandate that, as of 2014, federally prescribed remedies would be imposed at any school where 100 percent of students aren’t “proficient” in reading and math. Duncan’s wish list has included race-based performance targets and a clear message that states will fare best if they stand by the Common Core. The Student Success Act would end the ability of Duncan, and of his successor, to engage in such shenanigans.

Finally, the SSA allows D.C. Republicans to say what they’re for when it comes to education and not just what they’re against. When conservatives simply insist that they want “to get Washington out of schools,” they tend to get outmaneuvered by reform-minded liberals who talk about equal opportunity and then roll out laundry lists of new educational programs to promote it. The Student Success Act reflects a principled, limited federal role. It calls for states to regularly assess students, be transparent about their performance, and abide by sensible restrictions on the use of federal funds. At the same time, it rolls back federal regulations that have stymied schools and makes it easier for states to promote charter schools and public school choice. It deserves conservative support.

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Reduce the Federal Footprint in America's Classrooms

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 12:00am

The current K-12 education system is failing our students, and state and local attempts to make it better have been hampered by an enormous federal footprint. Parents and education leaders have lost much of their decision-making authority to Washington bureaucrats, and the Secretary of Education has bullied states into adopting the Obama administration’s pet projects.

Unsurprisingly, student achievement levels remain worrisome – just 36 percent of eighth grade students read at grade level and only 35 percent are proficient in math.

For far too long, our schools have been governed by a top-down approach that stymies state and local efforts to meet the unique needs of their student populations. We can’t continue to make the same mistakes and expect better results; America’s students deserve change.

Fortunately, this week, the House of Representatives has an opportunity to chart a new course with the Student Success Act, legislation that reduces the federal footprint in the nation’s classrooms and restores control to the people who know their students best: parents, teachers and local leaders.

The Student Success Act gets Washington out of the business of running schools. It protects state and local autonomy by prohibiting the Secretary of Education from coercing states into adopting Common Core or any other common standards or assessments, and by preventing the Secretary from creating additional burdens on states and school districts.

The bill reduces the size of the federal education bureaucracy. Currently, the Department of Education oversees more than 80 programs geared towards primary and secondary education, most of which are duplicative and fail to deliver adequate results for students. The bill eliminates over 65 of these programs and requires the Secretary of Education to reduce the department’s workforce accordingly.

The Student Success Act repeals onerous, one-size-fits-all mandates that dictate accountability, teacher quality, and local spending that have done more to tie up states and school districts in red tape than to support education efforts. It returns responsibility for classroom decisions to parents, teachers, administrators, and education officials.

The bill also provides states and school districts the funding flexibility to efficiently and effectively invest limited taxpayer dollars to boost student achievement by creating a Local Academic Flexible Grant.

Finally, the Student Success Act reforms the regulatory process to keep the Secretary of Education from exercising authority he does not have and provide the public with greater transparency and accountability over the development of new rules affecting K-12 schools.

Education is a deeply personal issue. After years of the Secretary of Education running schools through executive fiat, we understand that people are concerned about what a new K-12 education law will do. That is why a number of key principles have guided our efforts to replace the law since we began the process more than four years ago: reducing the federal footprint, restoring local control, and empowering parents and education leaders.

Those principles are reflected throughout the legislation, including specific safeguards that protect the right of states to opt-out of the law, as well as the autonomy of home schools, religious schools, and private schools. Organizations such as the Council for American Private Education, the Home School Legal Defense Association, and Committee on Catholic Education of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops have expressed support for policies in the Student Success Act because they know it will keep the federal government out of their business and preserve their cherished rights.

A host of administration bureaucrats is attempting to defeat these much-needed changes. They know each reform that returns flexibility and choice to parents and school boards represents a loss of power in D.C. It’s time we put the interests of America’s students above the desires of Washington politicians.

By reversing the top-down policies of recent decades, the Student Success Act offers conservative solutions to repair a broken education system. It would finally get Washington out of the way and allow parents, teachers, and state and local education leaders the flexibility to provide every child in every school a high quality education.

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Walberg Statement: Hearing on "The Blacklisting Executive Order: Rewriting Federal Labor Policies Through Executive Fiat"

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 12:00am

Federal contractors are essential to government operations. Most employers provide quality, cost effective services while complying with labor and employment law. Unfortunately, there are a few bad actors. We can all agree bad actors who deny workers basic protections, including wage and overtime protections, should not be awarded federal contracts funded with taxpayer dollars.

For that very reason, the federal government has had a system in place for decades which, if used effectively, would deny federal contracts to bad actors. In the event that a contractor fails to maintain a satisfactory record of integrity and business ethics, the contracting agency can suspend or debar the contractor, disqualifying the employer from contracts government wide.

Rather than dealing with these contractors directly under the existing system, on July 31, 2014, President Obama signed an executive order adding a burdensome, redundant, and unnecessarily punitive layer onto the federal procurement system.

The executive order will require employers to report instances in which they, or their subcontractors, have violated or allegedly violated various federal labor laws and equivalent state laws during a proceeding three year period. Prior to awarding a contract, each agency’s contracting officer and a newly created Labor Compliance Advisor will review this information and decide whether the employer’s actions demonstrate a lack of integrity or business ethics.

While the new reporting requirements are significantly burdensome, particularly for small employers, the subjectivity of the decision making process and deprivation of due process are deeply troubling. The Labor Compliance Advisor will advise the contracting officer as to whether an employer’s record amounts to a lack of business integrity.

However, this subjective determination will include alleged violations, creating a new, dangerous precedent that employers are guilty until proven innocent. Ultimately, the employer could be blacklisted based on alleged violations that are later found to have no merit, putting some good employers on the brink of going out of business.
 
We all share the same goal, however, rather than implement another layer of bureaucracy, the administration should work with Congress and stakeholders to use the existing system to crack down on bad actors and ensure the rights of America’s workers are protected.

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Byrne Statement: Hearing on "The Blacklisting Executive Order: Rewriting Federal Labor Policies Through Executive Fiat"

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 12:00am

The vast majority of federal contractors are responsible employers who obey the law and do right by their employees. 

There will always be, as the Chairman noted, bad actors who deny workers basic protections and we can all agree they should not receive taxpayer dollars for work on federal contracts.

However, even the most responsible employer can occasionally run afoul of labor and employment laws, or simply be accused of doing so.

The Executive Order we’re examining today unfairly shifts the regulatory burden to employers while removing the burden of proof from labor violation claims, resulting in a much less efficient system of government acquisition for both taxpayers and those seeking government contracts.

Furthermore, the Executive Order’s ban on pre-dispute arbitration clauses is a direct violation of the Federal Arbitration Act, which ensures the validity and enforcement of arbitration agreements - a practice that the United States Supreme Court has repeatedly reaffirmed.

The President has exceeded his authority to make such a change and is in direct violation of the law.

What’s worse – through its new reporting requirements, this Executive Order shifts an incredible regulatory burden to contractors themselves by requiring prime contractors, some of which have thousands of subcontractors, to collect information on their subcontractors related to 14 different federal labor and employment laws and over 500 different state laws.

For example, the Fair Labor Standards Act is the cornerstone of worker wage and hour protection. However, the regulations implementing that law are flawed and outdated.

Even the Department of Labor, which enforces the Fair Labor Standards Act, has run afoul of the law’s requirements from time to time.

This will have a major effect on these sub-contractors, many of them small businesses with limited resources to handle such an undertaking.

Many will be forced to divert resources to handle this new administrative task that will not have to be completed just once, but every six months.

These aggressive new regulations are going to unreasonably block responsible parties from participating in federal government contracts while seriously affecting the willingness of new employers to even seek federal contracts in the first place.

The result of this new process will be a significantly delayed contracting process that limits both healthy competition and the efficient delivery of goods to the U.S. government at a reasonable price to taxpayers.

Instead of helping employers comply with complicated regulatory requirements, the administration has added yet more red tape to the federal procurement system that has the potential of blacklisting responsible employers when there is already a system in place for weeding out truly bad actors.

To make matters worse, contracts will be put in jeopardy by alleged violations.

This could be particularly devastating for employers that are the target of union corporate campaigns or competitors who simply want a competitive edge against their competition.

This highly elevates the risk of frivolous complaints and the loss of business.

This executive order represents an overstep of authority by the President at the expense of employers and workers.

Rather than impose additional layers of bureaucracy the administration would be better served working with Congress and stakeholders to ensure the rules and regulations implementing our laws are modernized and streamlined.

Then the administration can work with good employers to ensure compliance rather than punishing them after the damage is done.

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Rokita Statement: H.R 5, the Student Success Act

Wed, 02/25/2015 - 12:00am

Every student deserves an effective teacher, an engaging classroom, and a quality education that paves the path for a bright and prosperous future. Unfortunately, despite the best of intentions, the nation’s current K-12 education law has failed to provide students this fundamental right. In fact, the law has only gotten in the way.

No Child Left Behind’s onerous requirements and the Obama administration’s waiver scheme and pet projects have created a one-size-fits-all system that hinders innovation and stymies local efforts to improve student learning. As a result, too many young adults leave high school today without basic knowledge in reading, math, and science; ill-equipped to complete college and compete in the workforce; and, consequently, deprived of one of the best opportunities they have to earn a lifetime of success.

Americans have settled for this status quo for far too long. Today we have an opportunity to chart a new course.

The Student Success Act departs from the top-down approach that has inefficiently and ineffectively governed elementary and secondary education and restores responsibility to its rightful stewards: parents, teachers, and state and local education leaders. 

First, the bill gets the federal government out of the business of running schools. It eliminates the dizzying maze of mandates that has dictated local decisions, and downsizes the bloated bureaucracy at the Department of Education that has focused on what Washington wants rather than what students need.

Second, the bill empowers parents and education leaders with transparency, choice, and flexibility. It ensures parents continue to have the information they need to hold schools accountable and helps more families escape underperforming schools by expanding alternative education options such as quality charter schools. It also provides states the flexibility to develop their own systems for addressing school performance, and the autonomy to use federal funds in the most efficient way.

With the Student Success Act, we have an opportunity to overcome a failed status quo. We have an opportunity to reduce the federal footprint in the nation’s classrooms. And we have an opportunity to signal to moms, dads, teachers, administrators, and state officials that we trust them to hold schools accountable for delivering a quality education to every child.

As the governor of my home state of Indiana Mike Pence said before the House Education and the Workforce Committee earlier month, “There’s nothing that ails education that can’t be fixed by giving parents more choices and teachers more freedom to teach.” I’m confident this bill does just that.

I urge my colleagues to join me in replacing a broken law with much-needed commonsense education reforms, and ask you to vote ‘yes’ on the Student Success Act.

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VIDEO RELEASE: Kline Urges Support for the Student Success Act

Wed, 02/25/2015 - 12:00am
The House of Representatives is currently debating the Student Success Act (H.R. 5), legislation to reduce the federal footprint in education, restore local control, and empower parents and local schools. House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) highlighted the challenges facing schools under burdensome federal policies and he urged his colleagues to place less faith in the Secretary of Education and more faith in parents, teachers, and education leaders by supporting the Student Success Act.
 

The Student Success Act provides states and school districts more flexibility to fund local priorities, not Washington’s priorities. The legislation eliminates dozens of ineffective or duplicative programs so that each dollar makes a direct, meaningful, and lasting impact in classrooms.
 
The bill strengthens accountability by replacing the current national scheme with state-led accountability systems, returning to states the responsibility to measure student performance and improve struggling schools.

The Student Success Act also ensures parents have the information they need to hold their schools accountable. It’s their tax money, but more importantly, it is their children and they deserve to know how their schools are performing.
 
The bill reaffirms that choice is a powerful lifeline for families with children in failing schools by extending the magnet school program, expanding access to high-quality charter schools, and allowing federal funds to follow low-income students to the traditional public or charter school of the parent’s choice.

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

To watch a video of his remarks, click here

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***MEDIA ADVISORY*** TOMORROW: Joint Hearing on President’s Blacklisting Executive Order

Wed, 02/25/2015 - 12:00am

On Thursday, February 26 at 10:00 a.m., the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, chaired by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), and the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions, chaired by Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN), will hold a joint subcommittee hearing entitled, “The Blacklisting Executive Order: Rewriting Federal Labor Policies Through Executive Fiat.” The hearing will take place in room 2175 of the Rayburn House Office Building.
   
In July 2014, President Obama issued Executive Order 13673, which may deny employers federal contracts if they or their subcontractors violated or allegedly violated various federal labor laws. Based on information disclosed by the employer covering a three year period, each agency’s contracting officer and a newly created Labor Compliance Advisor will review an employer’s compliance history and decide whether the employer’s actions demonstrate a “lack of integrity of business ethics.” Employers have expressed concerns the executive order demands an unreasonable scope of reporting requirements, undermines their due process protections, disregards existing remedies to address labor law violations, and relies on a highly subjective review process.
        
Thursday’s hearing will provide members an opportunity to examine the effect of the president’s executive order on the federal procurement system, as well as concerns raised by employers and stakeholders.
                
To learn more about the hearing, visit http://edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.
           

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Kline Statement: H.R. 5, the Student Success Act

Wed, 02/25/2015 - 12:00am

This week, we have an opportunity to advance bold reforms that will strengthen K-12 education for children across America.
 
A great education can be the great equalizer, it can open doors to unlimited possibilities and provide students the tools they need to succeed in life. Every child in every school deserves an excellent education, yet we are failing to provide every child that opportunity.
 
Today, approximately one out of five students drop out of high school, and many who do graduate are going to college or entering the workforce with a subpar education. The number of students proficient in reading and math is abysmal. The achievement gap separating minority students from their peers is appalling. Parents have little to no options to rescue their children from failing schools.
 
A broken education system has plagued families for decades. Year after year, policymakers lament the problems and talk about solutions, and once in a while a law is enacted that promises to improve our education system. Unfortunately, past efforts have largely failed because they are based on the idea that Washington knows what’s best for children. We’ve doubled down on this flawed approach repeatedly and it isn’t working.
 
Federal mandates dictate how to gauge student achievement, how to define qualified teachers, how to spend money at the state and local levels, and how to improve underperforming schools. And now, thanks to the unprecedented overreach of the current administration, the Department of Education is dictating policies concerning teacher evaluations, academic standards, and more.

No one questions whether parents, teachers, and local education leaders are committed to their students, yet there are some who question whether they are capable of making the best decisions for their students.
 
Success in school should be determined by those who teach inside our classrooms; by administrators who understand the challenges facing their communities; by parents who know better than anyone the needs of their children.
 
If every child is going to receive a quality education, then we need to place less faith in the Secretary of Education and more faith in parents, teachers, and state and local leaders.
 
That is why I am proud to sponsor the Student Success Act. By reducing the federal footprint, restoring local control, and empowering parents and education leaders, this commonsense bill will move our country in a better direction.
 
The Student Success Act provides states and school districts more flexibility to fund local priorities, not Washington’s priorities. The legislation eliminates dozens of ineffective or duplicative programs so that each dollar makes a direct, meaningful, and lasting impact in classrooms.
 
The bill strengthens accountability by replacing the current national scheme with state-led accountability systems, returning to states the responsibility to measure student performance and improve struggling schools.

The Student Success Act also ensures parents have the information they need to hold their schools accountable. It’s their tax money, but more importantly, it is their children and they deserve to know how their schools are performing.
 
The bill reaffirms that choice is a powerful lifeline for families with children in failing schools by extending the magnet school program, expanding access to high-quality charter schools, and allowing federal funds to follow low-income students to the traditional public or charter school of the parent’s choice.
 
Finally, the Student Success Act reins in the authority of the Secretary of Education. We must stop the Secretary from unilaterally imposing his will on schools and this bill will do just that. 
 
Perhaps that is why the White House and powerful special interests are teaming up to defeat this legislation. They fear the bill will lead to less control in Washington and more control in states and school districts. Let me assure the American people: that is precisely what this bill will do.
 
I urge my colleagues to help all children, regardless of background, income, or zip code, receive an excellent education by supporting the Student Success Act.

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Why Americans need a new education law

Tue, 02/24/2015 - 12:00am

Our country faces tough challenges: a slow economy, stagnant wages, and a weak job market. With the right set of bold reforms, our nation can once again be a land of opportunity and prosperity for every American who seeks it.

Toward that end, this week the House of Representatives will consider the Student Success Act, a commonsense proposal to fix a broken K-12 education system and help all children, regardless of background or zip code, receive an excellent education.

The fact of the matter is, the law governing our current K-12 education system, No Child Left Behind, is failing. It’s based on the false premise that Washington knows what’s best for schools, rather than parents, teachers, and administrators.

The evidence is there in the numbers. Though the federal government has more control over classrooms than ever before, just 38 percent of high school seniors are reading at grade level, and only 26 percent are proficient in math.
 
These poor results make it harder for young men and women to compete on the global stage. Out of 34 countries that participate in the Programme for International Student Assessment, the U.S. ranks 20th and 27th in science and math, respectively.

The American people should not have to settle for this status quo.

After years of an outsized — and unsuccessful — federal role in education, the Student Success Act gets Washington out of the business of running schools and restores responsibility for providing an effective education to states and school districts.

The legislation will end the era of one-size-fits-all prescriptions by repealing ineffective federal requirements governing accountability, teacher quality, and local spending that have proven to hamstring the ability of states and school districts to improve student learning.

The Student Success Act will downsize the bureaucracy at the U.S. Department of Education by eliminating nearly 70 ineffective, duplicative, and unnecessary federal programs, reduce the department’s staff accordingly, and replace this confusing maze of programs with a Local Academic Flexible Grant, providing states and school districts the flexibility they need to promote innovative reforms tailored to their unique student populations.

The legislation also reins in the Secretary’s authority, to ensure neither he nor his successors interfere or coerce states into adopting a specific set of standards or assessments, including Common Core.

In addition to reducing the federal footprint and restoring local control, the bill will expand parental choice to help more children escape underperforming schools, which is critical to charting a better path for students.

In my home state of Indiana, the Charles A. Tindley Accelerated School’s rigorous curriculum and laser-focus on preparing students for higher education has helped more than 80 percent of its alumni earn a bachelor’s degree.

The Student Success Act will support the replication of successful charter schools like Tindley, giving more students an opportunity to complete a college education and compete in the workforce.

It is no surprise the White House and powerful special interests are teaming up to derail this important effort. They continue to use scare tactics and budget gimmicks to mislead the American people, because they are worried a new law will lead to less control in Washington and more control in the hands of parents and local education leaders. Frankly, it will — and it's about time.

Opponents of reform would rather pile more mandates, bureaucracy, and taxpayer money onto a broken system. If we adopted their approach, then the federal footprint in classrooms would continue to grow and student achievement would remain stagnant.

The Student Success Act offers a responsible alternative — one that gives power back to the moms, dads, teachers, administrators, and state officials who can make the most direct, lasting impact in a child’s life.
    

# # #

Kline Statement on White House Education Report

Fri, 02/13/2015 - 12:00am

House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) issued the following statement in response to the White House education report released earlier today:

“The White House report pretends the president’s budget proposal is the law of the land. It isn’t and never will be. In fact, in past years, the president’s budget requests have been soundly rejected by both Republicans and Democrats. The White House has entered the realm of make-believe in order to falsely suggest states will lose money, when in reality the Student Success Act maintains current K-12 education spending and even increases funding for low-income students.

“The Student Success Act also offers states and families new opportunities to rescue children from failing schools. Encouraging good schools to serve more low-income students is the right thing to do. Ensuring low-income children receive the best possible education and their fair share of federal assistance is the right thing to do. It is disappointing the White House and powerful special interests are rallying against these commonsense reforms.

“Over the last six years, the Obama administration has dictated national education policy from the U.S. Department of Education. The White House is using scare tactics and budget gimmicks to kill K-12 education reform, because they know a new law will lead to less control in the hands of Washington bureaucrats and more control in the hands of parents and education leaders. This biased report is just further proof the president is out of touch with the priorities of our country.”         

  • Fact: The Student Success Act authorizes funding for fiscal years 2016 through 2021 at $23.2 billion per year, the appropriated amount for the current fiscal year. Overall there is no cut to education spending in H.R. 5. Only the Obama White House calls current funding a cut.
                              
  • Fact: The Student Success Act increases funding for the Title I programs serving low-income students. The program currently receives $14.4 billion. Under H.R. 5, Title I would receive $14.9 billion, an increase of nearly $500 million (more than the program received in FY 2012).
                             
  • Fact: The Student Success Act allows states the option to restructure how Title I funds are distributed to help all low-income children receive their fair share of federal assistance. This is a state option and no state is required to adopt it.
              
  • Fact: The president’s budget doubles down on the same flawed approach that more spending is the answer to a broken education system.

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Witnesses Discuss Need to Modernize Student Privacy Protections

Thu, 02/12/2015 - 12:00am

The Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, chaired by Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN) today held a hearing to examine how emerging technology is impacting schools’ ability to safeguard student data. During the hearing, members and witnesses discussed what Congress can do to improve privacy protections, without stifling valuable innovation and research, and the need to update the law that governs student privacy, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

“Despite the advent of computers, the Internet, Wi-Fi, and cloud services, [FERPA] has not been significantly updated since its introduction in 1974,” said Rep. Rokita. “As a result, student privacy, the very information FERPA was intended to protect, may be at risk … Technology organizations and policymakers have taken steps to strengthen student privacy protections. However, these efforts have not addressed rules under which schools must operate as the guardians of student data. Unless Congress updates FERPA and clarifies what information can be collected, how that information can be used, and if that information can be shared, student privacy will not be properly protected.”

Shannon Sevier, Vice President of Advocacy for the National Parent Teacher Association, echoed these concerns: “[FERPA] was written in 1974 with the intent to protect the privacy of student educational records and includes a parental consent provision. Over the past 40 years, however, the concept of privacy has evolved from the right of direct control, to an individual’s right to control the information they have entrusted to others. This wrinkle in control requires subsequent change to student data privacy policy.”

Similarly, Joel R. Reidenberg, Stanley D. and Nikki Waxberg Chair and Professor of Law and Founding Academic Director at the Center on Law and Information Policy said: “[FERPA] is essentially a confidentiality law that was designed to protect students’ paper files. When FERPA became law in 1974, computers did not exist in schools and internet access was decades away… FERPA desperately needs to be updated in order to assure student privacy in the 21st Century and to enable the development of robust educational programs that take full advantage of educational technologies.”

Allyson Knox, Director of Education and Policy Programs at Microsoft, agreed that the law intended to protect student privacy should be updated, and she urged Congress to consider a comprehensive approach that maximizes technology’s educational benefits: “Technology in the classroom has resulted in the creation and collection of much more data than ever before … We believe that the new opportunities enabled by technology require thoughtful evaluation and responsible and comprehensive approaches that allow our children to learn with technology in an engaging, safe and respectful manner. Misleading, exploitative, or aggressive advertising practices simply do not belong in the classroom.”

“Modernizing student privacy protections without undermining opportunities to improve student achievement is no small task,” concluded Rep. Rokita, “but we owe it to students and parents to work together to find the proper balance.”

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

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Rokita Statement: Hearing on "How Emerging Technology Affects Student Privacy"

Thu, 02/12/2015 - 12:00am

Good morning, and welcome to the first hearing of the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education in the 114th Congress. I’d like to thank our witnesses for joining us today. We appreciate the opportunity to learn from you about how emerging technology in the classroom affects student privacy.

Ms. Fudge, before we begin, I want to take a moment to congratulate you on being selected by your colleagues to serve as ranking member of this subcommittee.  I anticipate we will have many robust conversations on key issues, and I am looking forward to working together on policies that will help our children succeed in school and in life.

Forty years ago, Congress enacted the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, to safeguard students’ educational records and ensure parents had access to their children’s information. The law established the circumstances under which the records could be shared, giving parents the peace of mind that, with few exceptions, their child’s academic performance and other personally identifiable information would be under the school’s lock and key. 

As a father of two young boys, I can appreciate why parents may not have that same confidence today. Despite the advent of computers, the Internet, Wi-Fi, and cloud services, the law has not been significantly updated since its introduction in 1974. As a result, student privacy, the very information FERPA was intended to protect, may be at risk.

As administrators, teachers, and students use emerging technology to track everything from test results to bookstore purchases, parents and students are vulnerable to the inappropriate use of student data – often without their knowledge or consent.

New devices, platforms, programs, and services have enabled educators to better understand the behavioral and educational needs of each student and tailor individual learning plans accordingly. They have assisted researchers in developing new solutions to improve classroom instruction. And they have provided families with more educational options by facilitating distance and blended learning opportunities.

Technology organizations and policymakers have taken steps to strengthen student privacy protections. However, these efforts have not addressed rules under which schools must operate as the guardians of student data. Unless Congress updates FERPA and clarifies what

information can be collected, how that information can be used, and if that information can be shared, student privacy will not be properly protected.

We welcome your thoughts on how this committee can update FERPA for the 21st century, improve parental involvement, and hold bad actors accountable. Modernizing student privacy protections without undermining opportunities to improve student achievement is no small task, but we owe it to students and parents to work together to find the proper balance. I look forward to hearing from you and from my colleagues on this important issue.

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Committee Approves Bill to Replace No Child Left Behind, Improve K-12 Education

Wed, 02/11/2015 - 8:00pm
The House Education and the Workforce Committee, chaired by Rep. John Kline (R-MN), today approved the Student Success Act (H.R. 5). Introduced by Chairman Kline and Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Chairman Todd Rokita (R-IN), this responsible legislation will repair the nation’s broken K-12 education system by reducing the federal footprint, restoring local control, and empowering parents and education leaders to hold schools accountable. The committee approved the bill by a vote of 21 to 16.

"The Student Success Act helps provide American families the education system they deserve, not the one Washington wants,” said Chairman Kline. “I want to thank all my colleagues for engaging in a robust debate and offering their ideas to improve education. We have a lot of work ahead, and we will continue to move forward in a manner that is open, transparent, and fair. America’s parents, teachers, and students have waited long enough for a new law that helps every child in every school receive an excellent education. This important bill will move us closer toward that goal, and I look forward to continuing the debate in the weeks ahead.”

“The status quo in our nation’s K-12 education system is hurting students,”said Rep. Rokita, “and the committee has taken a bold step in a new direction. Today we signaled to moms, dads, teachers, administrators, and state officials that we trust them to hold schools accountable for delivering a quality education to every child. I am honored to have led this effort with Chairman Kline, and I look forward to advancing these important reforms through the House and Senate and enacting them into law. It is time to place control of our nation’s classrooms back in the hands of the parents and educators who know their children best.”

As passed by the committee, the Student Success Act:
  • Replaces the current national accountability scheme based on high stakes tests with state-led accountability systems, returning responsibility for measuring student and school performance to states and school districts.
                        
  • Ensures parents continue to have the information they need to hold local schools accountable.
                      
  • Repeals more than 65 ineffective, duplicative, and unnecessary programs and replaces the maze of programs with a Local Academic Flexible Grant, helping schools better support students.
                            
  • Protects state and local autonomy over decisions in the classroom by preventing the Secretary of Education from coercing states into adopting Common Core or any other common standards or assessments, as well as reining in the secretary’s regulatory authority.
                                                  
  • Empowers parents with more school choice options by continuing support for magnet schools and expanding charter school opportunities, as well as allowing Title I funds to follow low-income children to the traditional public or charter school of the parent’s choice.
                     
  • Strengthens existing efforts to improve student performance among targeted student populations, including English learners and homeless children.

To read opening statements, review amendments, or watch an archived webcast of today’s markup, visit www.edworkforce.house.gov/markups.

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Kline Statement: Markup of H.R. 5, the Student Success Act

Wed, 02/11/2015 - 12:00am

Today the committee will consider H.R. 5, the Student Success Act, a bill to improve K-12 education by reducing the federal footprint, restoring local control, and empowering parents and education leaders to hold schools accountable.

We are here for three important reasons.

First, the nation’s elementary and secondary education system is fundamentally broken. Too many students are dropping out of high school, and those who do graduate are often ill-equipped to complete a college education and compete in the workforce. Many parents are left with few or no options to rescue their children from bad schools.

Every child deserves an excellent education, and we are failing miserably at providing every child that opportunity. Year after year, we examine the problems and talk about solutions. Yet despite all the rhetoric, reports, and hearings, nothing changes. Something has to change, which leads to the second reason we are here this morning: It is time to pursue a different course.

For the last 50 years, Washington has assumed more programs, more spending, and more top-down mandates will cure an ailing education system. We have doubled down on this approach time and again, and it isn’t working. Federal control over the nation’s schools continues to grow, while student achievement remains stagnant.

Success in school should be determined by those who teach inside our classrooms; by administrators and local leaders who understand the challenges facing their communities; by parents who know better than anyone the needs of their children.

That is why I am proud to sponsor this legislation. By reducing the federal footprint, restoring local control, and empowering parents and education leaders, the Student Success Act will help provide all children access to an effective education. The bill is a commonsense response to a status quo that has failed students for far too long.

The Student Success Act will ensure our investment in K-12 education is more efficient and effective. The bill eliminates more than 65 ineffective, duplicative, and unnecessary programs, and replaces this maze of programs with a Local Academic Flexible Grant. H.R. 5 provides the freedom to allocate resources in a way that reflects local priorities, not Washington’s priorities.

The Student Success Act strengthens accountability by replacing the current one-size-fits-all scheme with state-led accountability systems, returning to states, parents, and local leaders the responsibility for measuring student performance and improving underperforming schools.

The Student Success Act recognizes that with the investment of federal resources comes a limited federal role. For example, the bill continues annual assessments in reading and math. We’ve learned the federal government can help shine light on school performance, including how schools support the most vulnerable students. By maintaining this provision, we are empowering parents and education leaders to hold their schools accountable with meaningful information.

However, we’ve also learned there is too much opportunity under current law for the secretary to impose his will on schools. That is why the bill prevents the Secretary of Education from coercing states into adopting a certain set of assessments or standards. The legislation also reforms the regulatory process to provide greater transparency and accountability over rules affecting K-12 classrooms.

Finally, the Student Success Act reaffirms that choice is a powerful lifeline for children trapped in failing schools. Whether strengthening the magnet school program, expanding access to quality charter schools, or allowing funds to follow low-income students, the legislation will help spread the promise of school choice to families across the country.

These are just some of the reforms included in the Student Success Act. No doubt members will address other provisions throughout today’s meeting, and I look forward to a robust debate.

I would like to close by noting the third and final reason we are here today. The time to pursue a different course is now. Parents, teachers, education leaders, and students have waited long enough for Congress to replace No Child Left Behind. It has been 13 years since a comprehensive elementary and secondary education reform bill was signed into law and more than seven years since that law expired.

We have a lot of work ahead, and it’s time to get started. It is important to remember this is one step in a long process, one that will continue to be open and transparent. Every member has an opportunity to express his or her views, offer amendments, and have an up or down vote. I am confident members will have the same opportunity should the legislation be considered by the whole House. That is the legislative process: open, transparent, and fair.

I urge my colleagues to work with us to move this process forward.

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Rokita Statement: Markup of H.R. 5, the Student Success Act

Wed, 02/11/2015 - 12:00am

After seven years of delay, today marks an important step in replacing a failing law, one that has deprived students an opportunity to earn a lifetime of success. If stagnant student achievement and disappointing graduation rates have taught us anything, it is that expanding the federal government’s footprint in classrooms does not prepare students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed.

No Child Left Behind’s strict rules and onerous regulations and the Obama administration’s inappropriate waiver scheme have hindered progress and stymied local reform efforts to improve learning for every child.

The Student Success Act gets Washington bureaucrats out of the business of running schools and places control back in the hands of the parents and teachers who know their children best. 

Before I explain a number of changes in the substitute amendment, I would like to highlight several of the legislation’s key reforms that will repair the nation’s broken education system.

First, the Student Success Act reduces the federal footprint and restores control of the classroom to parents and state and local education leaders.

It prohibits the federal government from encouraging one-size-fits-all prescriptions that may help students in California, but may worsen outcomes for students in Indiana.

The bill repeals ineffective federal requirements governing accountability, teacher quality, and local spending that hamstring the ability of states and school districts to improve student learning for their unique student populations.

The legislation also includes several measures that prevent the Secretary of Education from coercing states to adopt Common Core and from placing additional burdens on states and school districts that affect standards, assessments, and accountability plans.

Second, the Student Success Act empowers parents and state and local education leaders to hold schools accountable for effectively teaching students. It is the right of every parent and taxpayer to know whether their local schools are delivering an excellent education. However, this is a state and local responsibility, not a federal responsibility. The legislation allows states the flexibility to develop their own systems for addressing school performance.

The legislation also expands opportunities for parents and children to escape underperforming or failing schools. Alternative educational options play a critical role to charting a better path for students. In my home state of Indiana, the Charles A. Tindley Accelerated School’s rigorous curriculum and laser-focus on preparing students for higher education has helped more than 80 percent of its alumni earn a bachelor’s degree.

Americans deserve an education system that prepares our children to succeed in colleges, careers, and life. The onus is on us, as elected officials, to enact commonsense reforms that will put power back in the hands of the moms, dads, teachers, administrators, and state officials who can make the biggest difference in every child’s education.

In closing, the proposed substitute makes a number of technical and clarifying changes that will support state and local efforts to improve education. For instance, the substitute clarifies state education leaders should consult with representatives of Indian tribes when developing state plans. It also clarifies federal funds can be used to support all academic subjects and permits states to support local efforts to develop and implement blended learning models for their students. Finally, the substitute helps ensure more schools and students can benefit from effective education practices by supporting the wide dissemination of relevant education research.

I encourage my colleagues to support the substitute and the underlying bill, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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***MEDIA ADVISORY*** Rokita to Hold Hearing on Student Privacy

Tue, 02/10/2015 - 12:00am

On Thursday, February 12 at 11:15 a.m., the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education will hold a hearing to explore the use of new technology in the classroom and examine the need to modernize the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The hearing, entitled “How Emerging Technology Affects Student Privacy,” will take place in room 2175 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

Advancements in classroom technology have become an important tool, enabling educators and researchers to develop new solutions to improve student learning. However, with the benefit of more technology comes the risk of compromising student privacy. The law intended to ensure parents' rights and safeguard student records, FERPA, has not been significantly updated in 40 years. As a result, parents and students have become vulnerable to the inappropriate use of student data, often without their knowledge or consent.

Thursday’s hearing will provide members an opportunity to learn more about the role new technology is playing in classrooms and school accountability, its impact on student privacy, and the need to advance reforms that will strengthen student privacy protections. 

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

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WITNESS LIST

Ms. Shannon Sevier
Vice President for Advocacy
National Parent Teacher Association
San Antonio, TX

Ms. Allyson Knox
Director of Education Policy and Programs
Microsoft
Washington, D.C.

Dr. Sheryl R. Abshire
Chief Technology Officer
Calcasieu Parish Public Schools
Lake Charles, LA

Mr. Joel R. Reidenberg
Stanley D. and Nikki Waxberg Chair and Professor of Law
Founding Academic Director
Center on Law and Information Policy
Fordham Law School
New York, NY

House, Senate Leaders Move to Stop NLRB Ambush Election Rule

Mon, 02/09/2015 - 12:00am
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Rep. John Kline (R-MN), Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN), and Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) today began an effort to stop the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) from implementing its “ambush election” rule, which was finalized in December to shorten the length of time in which a labor union certification election is held — currently a median 38 days — to as little as 11 days.
 
Leaders in the House and Senate have authored a joint resolution of Congress that would halt implementation of the rule through the Congressional Review Act.
 
“The National Labor Relations Board is supposed to be a neutral arbiter of federal labor law," said House Speaker Boehner. "Yet under the president’s watch, it has pursued a culture of union favoritism that is detrimental to America’s workers and job creators. The recent ambush election rule will deny workers their right to make fully informed decisions in union elections. Congress will not stand idly by and let that happen.”

“This Administration’s appointees on the National Labor Relations Board released their so-called ‘ambush’ rule back in December,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “It’s designed with one purpose in mind — to fatten the wallets of powerful political bosses by threatening the rights of middle-class workers to make informed decisions of their own. Republicans think an employee’s personal information is none of the business of powerful political bosses. But the Administration’s ‘ambush’ rule would allow these bosses to access things like personal email addresses and cell numbers — without permission from the employee.”

“The Obama labor board is moving forward with a radical plan that will stifle employer free speech, cripple worker free choice, and jeopardize the privacy of workers and their families,” said Kline, chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee. “Congress must use every available tool to stop this flawed regulatory scheme. I am pleased to join my House and Senate colleagues in authoring this resolution and hope Congress will send it to the president as soon as possible.”
 

"This rule allows a union to force an election before an employee has a chance to figure out what is going on," said Alexander, chairman of the Senate labor committee. "It also jeopardizes employees' privacy by requiring employees to turn over personal information including email addresses, phone numbers, shift hours, and locations to union organizers."               
 
“It is prudent that Congress protect employees from this activist NLRB,” said Roe, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions. “For far too long, we’ve seen this out-of-control board violate the rights of American workers and employers by regulatory overreach, and I am proud to introduce this resolution with my colleagues.”

“The National Labor Relations Board has lost its way. Instead of fairly enforcing the National Labor Relations Act, the board has made up a new rule out of thin air that only helps political organizations and special interests,” said Enzi, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. “This ‘ambush election’ rule is an example. I’m pleased to join with my colleagues in this effort to make sure employees can have the information and time they need to make informed decisions.”

Under the Congressional Review Act, the House and Senate vote on a joint resolution of disapproval to stop, with the full force of law, a federal agency from implementing a rule or regulation or issuing a substantially similar regulation without congressional authorization. A resolution of disapproval only needs a simple majority to pass and cannot be filibustered or amended.
 
In December, the NLRB released its final rule to authorize “ambush elections,” in an attempt to speed up union elections, which could take place in as few as 11 days. The rule gives employers no time to communicate with their employees before a union election and undermines the ability of workers to make an informed decision. In addition, it will compromise worker privacy by forcing employers to provide employees’ personal email addresses, work schedules, personal cell phone numbers, and other personal information to union organizers without employees’ consent. The rule only gives employers seven days to find legal counsel and prepare for a pre-election hearing before an NLRB regional officer. During those seven days, employers will have to identify every legal concern or forfeit the ability to raise the concern at all. The ambush election rule will go into effect April 14, 2015. 
                                                                                                                                                             

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