Duncan Testifies Before Senate Committee on ED Budget

Archived Information

Duncan Testifies Before Senate Committee on ED Budget

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's Testimony Before the Senate Appropriations Committee on the ED Budget for FY 2012

July 27, 2011

Good morning Chairman Harkin and Ranking Member Shelby. Thanks very much for having me here today to talk about education, the economy and the need to continue investing in our future—even as Congress and the administration work together to reduce overall spending and manage our deficit.

The Department of Education has submitted a formal statement on our 2012 budget proposal outlining our request to boost investments in education in order to secure America's future.

Key investments include:

  • Closing the Pell shortfall both through efficiencies and more resources.
  • Protecting Title I and IDEA formula funds for students most at risk.
  • Expanding reform programs, including Race to the Top, Investing in Innovation, and our early learning and college completion programs. These programs are supporting state and local policies to accelerate achievement for all students, particularly students at risk.
  • Providing adequate funding for Student Aid Administration now that all federal student loans are originated through the Direct Loan program.

Recognizing the fiscal challenges facing the country we also propose efficiencies—consolidations—and cuts in programs that are not as effective as they should be.

We understand that—just as every family is doing more with less—so should we.

But like America's hard-working families—we also understand that you can't sacrifice the future to pay for the present—and nothing is more important to a family's future—and our future as a nation—than education.

Mr. Chairman—I was with you in Iowa this week—where I talked about the fact that your state has gone from being a national leader in education to being in the middle of the pack. I know it was a difficult message for Iowans to hear. But I didn't want to sugarcoat the message because that wouldn't be doing Iowa's children any favors.

Your state is not unique. In fact, America as a whole has gone from being a world leader in education to being in the middle of the pack—and in this new century—the middle of the pack is not what we want for our children or for our country.

We all have to get better—and in order to get better—we must continue to invest in programs that are working.

The Pell Grant Program is helping millions of young people and adults get new skills for the jobs of tomorrow. Demand has skyrocketed from six million to nine million grants in four years.

College has never been more necessary for success in the global economy but it has never been more expensive and out of reach for increasing numbers of Americans. We can't afford to go backwards. We must once again lead the world in college graduates.

We must continue to invest in programs like Title I and IDEA and programs that help support literacy, science and mathematics, and other subjects necessary for a well-rounded education and provide a rich offering of after-school activities. They give struggling students the extra help they need.

They promote equity and safety in schools, strengthen the teaching profession, and support English language learners, students with disabilities, rural students and other special populations.

We also have to give states and districts the flexible dollars that allow for innovation and reform. Today in America, thanks to programs like Race to the Top and Investing in Innovation, states and districts are preparing teachers to teach to higher standards.

They are integrating technology into classrooms, expanding arts programs for students with disabilities, and producing a new generation of teachers in science, technology, engineering and math.

Today, thanks to our school turnaround program, low-performing schools across the country are undergoing dramatic changes—new leadership, new staff, new curricula, longer school days and fresh approaches to educating students at risk of failure.

From big cities like New Orleans and Chicago to small towns in Kansas and Tennessee, educators are tackling our toughest challenges, exploring new approaches to education, and building new partnerships that are making a difference in the lives of children.

At the same time, states and districts are facing more financial pressure than ever before. Recovery Act funding has largely dried up and local and state revenues have yet to recover from the recession.

The harsh result is that too many students are losing out on music, drama, sports, science, field trips, exchange programs and many other unique and wonderful things that make education so worthwhile.

Their generation is being cheated out of a world-class education because our generation is unable or unwilling to make the tough choices necessary to protect them.

The current debate about the debt ceiling and the deficit is not just about budgets and numbers. It's really about the fundamental promise at the heart of the middle-class American Dream.

For much of the last century, America was a country where—if you worked hard you and your family could enjoy the basic benefits of a secure and comfortable life: a job, a home, affordable health care, quality education and a secure retirement.

Today, for too many Americans, these building blocks of middle class life are increasingly beyond reach—and that is creating uncertainty and anxiety. This is not good for the country. It is not good for our families. And it's not good for education.

So while I appreciate the hard work underway to cut spending and get our debt under control, I want all of us to work together to do this in a way that does not undermine the education of our children.

They are counting on us to prepare them for the future. Business owners are counting on us to produce the workforce they need to compete in the new economy.

Families are counting on us to open the doors to opportunity for every child—regardless of background, income, ability, or disability.

We cannot let them down. We cannot let ourselves down. The path to a strong future starts in our classrooms.

Thank you.