DeLauro Raises Alarm with Secretary DeVos over Trump’s Education Budget Proposal
WASHINGTON, DC (May 24, 2017) — Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) today delivered the following statement at a hearing on the budget for the U.S. Department of Education. DeLauro is the Senior Democrat on the Appropriations subcommittee responsible for funding the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies.
Here are the remarks, as delivered:
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and I want to welcome the Secretary. I will take one second, if I will, because like my colleague Congresswoman Roybal-Allard, I too have a young woman who is shadowing me today. Justina Rosario is from the city of New Haven, Connecticut, who, as with Tom, is part of the programs dealing with foster children and making it through the system, which they both have. I want to welcome her. Thank you, Justina.
Again, thank you, Secretary DeVos, for joining us today and I offer my congratulations to you, but let me launch right in. I believe that the proposals contained in President Trump’s budget are alarming and quite frankly, this puts us on a path towards the privatization of public education. This budget intends to shift public school funding and to advance an agenda that transfers taxpayer dollars out of local community schools.
Education is the great equalizer in our country. At the signing ceremony for the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act, President Lyndon Johnson described education as “the only valid passport out of poverty.” Decades later, he is still right. The economic benefits that accrue to the individual and society are indisputable.
That’s why our government must be committed to providing every child with access to high quality public education. We need to focus our policies on strengthening public schools, reducing class sizes, supporting the teaching profession, providing more one-on-one attention, boosting student enrichment opportunities, supporting parental involvement, and making high-quality preschool available to all.
We have an achievement gap in this country—and it is worse in high-poverty areas, both urban and rural. Yet these are the very areas we would starve with this budget.
I note that a concerted federal investment has helped students of color and low income students make gains since the Department of Education was created. NAEP reading and math scores have improved. I won’t go into it now, but later in the hearing, to read you the success of percentages of our students with the NAEP scores.
At the same time, economic inequities grew. High poverty districts receive less funding. Their students are more likely to be taught by novice teachers and less likely to take an AP course for which they have shown potential.
Ninety percent of our kids are in public schools—we need more resources to help them succeed. You can’t do more with less, you do less with less. We certainly should not be siphoning off taxpayer dollars to pay for vouchers.
Vouchers, in my view, will destabilize not only our schools, but our communities. And I will fight at every step against any attempt to take public money away from public schools. Cutting funding for critical programs to increase federal investments in charter schools also raises public accountability questions. I support charter schools, but I do not believe they should supplant the public education system. Transferring limited resources from public schools to private schools is wrong—it creates a false choice for families.
When Congress completed the bipartisan reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 2015, it soundly rejected efforts to decimate neighborhood schools. And we expect the Administration to implement the new law as written.
The Trump budget request includes $1.4 billion in new funding to expand so-called “choice.” At the same time, the budget puts $9.2 billion in cuts on the table, slashing or eliminating funding for many programs that benefit kids in public schools to pay for this ill-conceived proposal. Despite budget documents and rhetoric claiming the request maintains funding for core formula grant programs; it cuts $578 million from Title I and $114 million from IDEA.
The budget also eliminates $1.2 billion for afterschool enrichment programs that help keep nearly 2 million kids safe; $2 billion for teacher professional development and class-size reduction, which would result in more than 7,000 teachers losing their jobs. Literacy is a mark of a civilized society—we spend money to spread literacy internationally, yet we are eliminating $190 million from the largest reading program for low-income children and youth and $96 million from grants that help low-skilled adults become literate.
Despite promises by the Administration to champion the American worker, the budget slashes funding by 15 percent for career and technical education programs that help prepare high school and community college students for in-demand jobs. The list goes on and on.
The budget also proposes deep cuts to or eliminations of programs that help students access and succeed in higher education and that have enjoyed bipartisan support, and bipartisan support on this subcommittee, for many years: a 15 percent cut to TRIO, which would end academic support services for more than 130,000 college students; a 50 percent cut to Work Study, which would punish thousands of students who are working their way through college; the complete elimination of both the Supplemental Educational Opportunity grants that 1.5 million students rely on—grants that allow schools to tailor programs to students’ needs—and the Strengthening Institutions program that helps nearly 200 community colleges and other institutions serve working class students.
The budget calls for an end to Public Service Loan Forgiveness for police officers, teachers, and nurses and raids $4 billion from Pell without taking any steps to help students access the economic freedom they deserve, such as increasing the maximum Pell award. Those in the Administration claim to support Historically Black Colleges and Universities, but refuse to admit—or simply ignore the fact—that these disastrous budget proposals would harm the very programs that HBCUs and their students rely on. I want to be clear: fraught and painful history of segregation in this country. HBCUs were not the product of “school choice,” they were a product of our nation’s racist segregation.
Aside from your budget, I have questions about how you plan to protect students from low-quality, high-debt for-profit colleges. These companies prey on low-income students, students of color and the honorable men and women who serve in our military and sacrifice their lives for this country.
Students at for-profits represent only about 1 in 10 of the total higher education population—yet they represent more than a third of all federal student loan defaults—calling into question the quality and value of education provided by this sector. The Borrower Defense and Gainful Employment regulations are critically important steps in reigning in these abuses. That’s why I am alarmed that one of your first actions as Secretary was to delay the Gainful Employment rule. Failure to fully implement this regulation will not only hurt students—it would be expensive. The Congressional Budget Office estimated a $1.3 billion cost over 10 years to taxpayers.
President George H.W. Bush once said, “Think of every problem, every challenge we face. The solution to each starts with education.” We owe it to the future of our society to make a commitment to all of our children that they get the best start at life possible—and that cannot happen if we make misguided cuts to education. I look forward to a robust discussion today and I thank you for being here, and I thank you, Mr. Chairman.