House Committee on Education and Labor
U.S. House of Representatives

Republicans
Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon
Ranking Member

Fiscally responsible reforms for students, workers and retirees.

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Committee Statement

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 3, 2010

CONTACT: Alexa Marrero
or Ryan Murphy
(202) 225-4527

Kline Statement: Hearing with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on “Building a Stronger Economy: Spurring Reform and Innovation in American Education”

Thank you Chairman Miller, and thank you Mr. Secretary for joining us. We have an extremely limited amount of time with the Secretary to cover a number of pressing topics, so I will keep my remarks brief.

Secretary Duncan came to Washington billed as a reformer, and I believe he has lived up to that reputation. In particular, his willingness to stand up to the unions and the old ways of doing business has been a refreshing change.

There are policies on which I agree with Secretary Duncan, and that gives me hope for a bipartisan approach to education reform. For example, the Secretary understands high-performing charter schools are critical in expanding options for parents and students. He also understands that we need to reward the best teachers and remove ineffective teachers from the classroom.

These issues will play a big role in the discussion when it comes time for Congress to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. But there are other issues we’ll have to address, on which agreement may not be quite so easy.

Members and staff in both the House and Senate have been meeting with the Secretary these last several weeks in preparation for the eventual overhaul of ESEA. To help guide that process, Republicans recently released a series of principles for reform. Briefly, those are: 1) Restoring Local Control; 2) Empowering Parents; 3) Letting Teachers Teach; and 4) Protecting Taxpayers.

The Secretary has talked about how innovation comes from the ground up. I agree with that sentiment, which is why I am troubled by recent proposals that indicate a more heavy-handed federal approach. For example, the idea that academic standards would have to be federally approved – either through participation in a government sanctioned set of common standards or direct consent by an unnamed federal entity – looks to many of us like national standards.

Federal law prohibits involvement of the U.S. Department of Education in school curriculum. This is not a question of semantics. Putting the federal government in charge of what is taught and tested in the classroom would be a radical departure from this country’s approach to education, so Mr. Secretary, that’s an issue we’ll need to discuss.

This same heavy-handed approach can be seen in the recent higher education negotiated rulemaking, particularly when it comes to the proposals for schools, especially those in the proprietary sector, to demonstrate that their graduates have achieved “gainful employment.” My concerns with that process are too numerous to detail here, but it’s certainly an issue we’ll need to address in another forum.

Before I conclude, I would be remiss if I did not address the Department’s budget proposal for FY 2011. Anyone who knows me knows that my first priority in the education budget is to fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

For 35 years, the federal government has failed to live up to this obligation to states and schools. Year after year, we find room in the budget for new programs and new mandates. Some of these are good ideas – others are not. But from my perspective, we should not be funding any new programs or initiatives until we’ve fully funded the obligations already on the books.

The $250 million increase for IDEA provided in this year’s budget is, quite frankly, an outrage. For all the time this Administration has spent touting the significant education spending increases provided in a supposedly austere budget, the pittance provided for special education is unacceptable. We can simply do better for our states and schools.

Thank you for being here Mr. Secretary, we have lots of work to do together and I look forward to hearing from you. I yield back.

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