Opening Statement of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Chairman Blunt, Ranking Member Murray and Members of the Subcommittee:

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Opening Statement of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Chairman Blunt, Ranking Member Murray and Members of the Subcommittee:

June 6, 2017

Thank you for the opportunity to testify on the Administration's fiscal year 2018 budget proposal.

I look forward to talking about how we can work together to improve educational opportunities and outcomes for all students while also refocusing the Federal role in education.

Our Mission to Help Students Succeed

Today's hearing is meant to focus on the numbers and mechanics of the budget, but I hope we'll all remember our goal and our shared purpose: how to best serve America's students.

During my House appropriations subcommittee hearing, I relayed the story of one of those students—a young man named Michael who grew up in East Harford, Connecticut.

Michael, in his own words, described to me what life was like for him in high school. I quoted him last month and I will quote him again, because his words are worth repeating: he said his assigned high school was "nothing more than adult day care ... a dangerous daycare."

And, even though Michael was failing his classes, his school graduated him anyway.

He got a diploma, but not an education.

Since sharing Michael's story, this young man has been barraged by attacks. But Michael has tremendous courage, and instead of being intimidated, he wrote an op-ed published in this Sunday's Hartford Courant where he admonished his attackers, writing: "Rather than automatically getting into a defensive crouch at perceived slights, let's admit that these serious and real problems exist, and that there's a lot of work to do. Let's give the kids and families who feel trapped the opportunity to find something better."

Let me be clear. My relaying of Michael's story is not a blanket indictment of public schools, of Connecticut schools or even of East Hartford High School. Just as the rest of Michael's story – the story of his profound success, which has gone largely unreported – is not a blanket endorsement of community colleges, of the Florida system of higher education or of Valencia College, where Michael is now in the school's honors program.

What Michael's story is, is the real life situation far too many of our students face: they are trapped in an education system, that for whatever reason, is not serving them, and they have no other choices. In 2017, in America, we can – we must – do better.

I'm proud to stand with Michael. Students like him are why I am so passionate about reforming education.

I ask you to keep Michael, and the countless others like him, in mind as we go about our shared work to support America's students.

Investing in Programs That Work

This budget lays out a series of proposals and priorities that work toward ensuring every student has an equal opportunity to receive a great education. It focuses on returning decision-making power and flexibility to the states, where it belongs, and giving parents more control over their child's education, a right that has been denied for too long.

If taxpayer money were limitless, we wouldn't need a budget. But by its very definition, a budget reflects the difficult decisions of how best to appropriate the limited taxpayer dollars we have. This budget does so by putting an emphasis on programs that are proven to help students, while taking a hard look at those that are well-intended but haven't yielded meaningful results.

Five Principles Guiding the Budget Request

The President's fiscal year 2018 budget would reduce overall funding for Department programs by $9 billion, or 13 percent, and I'd like to outline for you the principles that guided our decision-making.

First, our request would devote significant resources toward giving every student an equal opportunity for a great education. It emphasizes giving parents more power and students more opportunities.

Second, the Administration's request recognizes the importance of maintaining strong support for public schools through longstanding State formula grant programs focused on meeting the educational needs of the nation's most vulnerable students, including poor and minority students and students with disabilities.

Third, our request maintains funding for key competitive grant programs that support innovation and build evidence of what works in education. This also means strong support for the research and data collection activities of the Department.

Fourth, our request reduces the complexity of funding for college while prioritizing efforts to help make a college education accessible for low-income students through programs like Year-Round Pell.

And fifth, consistent with our commitment to improve the efficiency of the Federal government, our request would eliminate or phase-out 22 programs that are duplicative, ineffective, or are better supported through State, local or philanthropic efforts. All told, taxpayers will save $5.8 billion.

Empowering Parents and States, Helping Students

In total, the President's budget fulfills his promise to devolve power from the Federal government and place it in the hands of parents and families. It refocuses the Department on supporting States in their efforts to provide a high-quality education to all of our students.

It is time to unleash a new era of creativity and ingenuity in education. My hope is that – working in concert with each of you – we can make education in America the envy of the world.

Thank you again for the opportunity to share the Administration's vision for improving education across the country. I look forward to respond to any questions you may have.