Prepared Remarks to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies

Prepared Remarks to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies

June 5, 2018

Chairman Blunt, Ranking Member Murray and Members of the Subcommittee:

Thank you for the opportunity to testify on the President's Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Request for the Department of Education.

This budget sharpens and hones the focus of our mission: serving students by meeting their needs. When the Department was created, it was charged to "prohibit federal control of education." I take that charge seriously. Accordingly, President Trump is committed to limited government, fiscal discipline and reducing the federal footprint in education.

The President's fiscal year 2019 Budget would reduce overall funding for Department programs by $3.7 billion or 5.6 percent from FY 2017 enacted levels and $7.6 billion or 10.8 percent below the FY 2018 enacted level.

This Budget was prepared prior to the 2-year cap deal (and the Omnibus, for that matter), so the Administration submitted an addendum that restores valuable investments in students, including Impact Aid Basic Support Payments, TRiO, school choice, Federal Work-Study and Pell. For programs that we level-funded in this Budget request, our intent was to maintain levels appropriated by Congress. We used the numbers in place at the time, and our intent remains the same for newly appropriated funds.

This Department's budget focuses on improving educational opportunities and outcomes for all students while also returning power to the people closest to students.

First, we must promote a safe and healthy culture in our schools. The tragedies at Noblesville West Middle School in Indiana and Santa Fe High School in Texas were only the most recent, devastating reminders that our nation must come together to address the underlying issues that create a culture of violence.

I've directed my Department to do everything within the law to encourage states and districts to take advantage of flexibilities so newly appropriated funds—about 1.1 billion dollars—under Title IV are most useful.

Second, our request would provide significant new resources dedicated to helping achieve the President's goal of giving every student the freedom to attend a school that best meets his or her unique needs.

The Budget provides funding for this purpose through a new Opportunity Grants program that would expand the number of students who have the opportunity to attend a school of their choice. Under this new program, States could apply for funding to provide scholarships to students from low-income families that could be used to transfer to a different school.

Local educational agencies participating in the Department's student-centered funding pilot could request funds to build on the flexibility provided by establishing or expanding open enrollment systems. This way, funds follow children based on their needs—not buildings or systems.

In addition, the Budget requests support for charter schools by providing an increase of $100 million—for a total of $500 million—and continues support for magnet schools. We also are proposing to expand use of Direct Student Services to allow States to reserve up to five percent of their Title I allocations to further expand educational freedom, including helping students transfer to a school that better meets individual needs.

Third, the Administration's request includes support for students with disabilities. Our request for essential K-12 formula grant programs support the Nation's neediest students—especially all programs authorized under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Fourth, our request creates more pathways to prepare workers to fill existing and newly created jobs, as well as jobs of the future. Expanding apprenticeships and reforming ineffective education and workforce development programs will help more Americans obtain relevant skills and enter high-paying jobs.

Students should be able to pursue a variety of pathways to successful careers. To that end, the Budget expands the use of Pell Grants for high-quality, short-term, summer and certificate programs. It invests in career and technical education, and streamlines student loan repayment.

These proposals also support congressional efforts to reauthorize the Higher Education Act to address student debt and higher education costs while reducing the complexity of student financial aid.

Fifth, our request supports STEM education to help better equip students with skills employers need. Consistent with the Presidential Memorandum on STEM education, our request includes $200 million in new funding to support STEM education while continuing to fund almost $330 million in discretionary grants.

Finally, our request reflects a number of reform proposals aimed at streamlining the Department's internal organization and improving the Department's services to States, districts, postsecondary institutions, and the public. We recommend, for instance, a number of consolidations, including proposals for the Federal TRIO programs and the HEA Title III and Title V programs supporting Minority-Serving Institutions, making them formula grants so that States may use the funds more effectively.

The Budget eliminates, streamlines, or reduces funding for many discretionary programs that do not address national needs, that duplicate other programs, are ineffective, or are more appropriately supported with State, local, or private funds.

The Budget reflects our commitment to spending taxpayer dollars wisely and efficiently. The federal government does not—and cannot—know the unique needs of each individual student in America. Parents and teachers know their students best and know how their needs should be addressed.

With this budget we can continue to return power to those who walk side-by-side with students every day.

Because that's who budgets are for...not special interests, not legislators, not "the system." This budget is about students. It's easy to get lost in the numbers and forget about the faces of students whom we all have pledged to serve.

Education can truly change the trajectory of a child's life—all they need is the chance to attain it. More students need the freedom to seek an education that unlocks their potential and allows them to pursue their passions. That is the focus of this administration and the focus of this budget.

Thank you for this opportunity to testify. I will be happy to respond to any questions you may have.