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Department of Labor, Health and Human Service, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2006

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Location: Washington, DC


DEPARTMENTS OF LABOR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, AND EDUCATION, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2006 -- (House of Representatives - June 23, 2005)

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Mr. HOLT. Mr. Chairman, Americans have long relied on the Pell Grant program to help pay for higher education. For decades, the program has supported students as they strive to reach their potential. Now, at a time when tuition costs are rising significantly every year, the Pell Grant program has become even more important.

This year it is projected that 1.3 million students will see their Pell grants reduced, and another 90,000 will become ineligible entirely due to the administration formula tax table changes. I was going to offer an amendment with my colleague TIM BISHOP today which would have stopped future formula changes cutting more students. The amendment would have been ruled out of order.

Though the Bush Administration's change to the federal student aid formula was subtle, its effect is not. Just as states are raising the-price tags for higher education, the Bush Administration tells students and their families that they must shoulder a greater share of the burden. Due to the fact the Pell grant formulas effect the rest of student aid the Bush student aid reduction will force students and families to pay $3.2 billion more overall for college this year.

And these aid cuts come at a time when tuition is rising at double-digit rates. Even without these cuts, students and working families are straining to pay for higher education. According to the College Board, tuition, room, and board at a 4-year public university costs an average of $11,354, which is $824 more than last year and $1,775 more than 2 years ago. In other words, tuition at public institutions has been increasing by almost ten percent each year. In fact, according to the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, tuition and fees at public institutions in New Jersey have increased by more than 40 percent over the past 5 years. In some states, the increase is more than 60 percent.

Given rising college costs, reducing eligibility for financial aid seems short-sighted at best, and at worst, insensitive and uncompassionate.

Five million students rely on these grants to help pay for college. However because of these changes 36 percent of the 5 million students who receive Pell will have their awards reduced. The Pell Grant program has long embodied what government can and should do: serve as a pillar to lean on for individuals working hard and using their talents to achieve their dreams. Unfortunately and inevitably, these cutbacks have priced students out of college, forcing them to postpone their education and put career goals on hold. And those who do go on to college do so only by taking on larger burdens, including private loans that must be repaid starting immediately after graduation.

We believe the current course is taking us in the wrong direction. At a time when the country faces international competition and outsourcing, at a time when education has never been more important, Congress should be expanding college opportunity, not shrinking it. More than just an individual accomplishment or a point of pride for a family, college education is a public good. Our economy, culture, and communities benefit from having more college graduates.

I ask my colleagues to work with us to ensure that no students see their student aid reduced.

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Mr. HOLT. Mr. Chairman, today I rise to express my concern that this bill zeroes out funding for the Foreign Language Assistance Program (FLAP) within the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriation Bill. FLAP is currently the only federal program that supports foreign language education at the elementary and secondary school level. It is widely understood that early language education is the key to language proficiency later on.

In order to start addressing the pressing need for skilled linguists and other language professionals that currently exist, forty of my colleagues and I sent Chairman REGULA and Ranking Member OBEY a letter requesting $30 million for this program.

In the past, FLAP grants have helped elementary and secondary schools create and maintain high quality language programs in areas such as Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish and French.

Our Nation's language capabilities are underdeveloped because we have neglected to provide the language programs that currently exist. An increase in FLAP funding will pay large dividends in the future as new generations of Americans are exposed to foreign languages and cultures at a young age. Currently the demand for language services in the United States is greater than ever before. For reasons such as economic development, cultural growth and national security, Americans are learning that we need to have much better facility with all languages and dialects.

I understand that language education is one of the most pressing national security issues facing our Nation today. While the Defense Department, the State Department and our intelligence agencies have recently turned their attention to the language problem, their approach remains focused on immediate needs. However, programs such as FLAP are critical in addressing the long term problem by increasing interest in, and access to, language education.

The House has already gone on record this year in strong support of language education when it unanimously approved H. Res. 122, and established 2005 as the Year of Languages. I believe that an increase in FLAP funding would be an appropriate way to further show Congressional support for language education.

As this bill goes to conference I ask my colleagues to join me in demanding funding for foreign language education.

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Mr. HOLT. Mr. Chairman, I rise today in support of the Obey-Lowey-Leach amendment, which restores the full, previously appropriated level of funding to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, or CPB. As someone who has contributed personally to both NPR and PBS, the committee's scant proposal for CPB funding comes as a supreme disappointment.

Public television and radio stations are locally controlled. The primary mission of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is to enable those local stations to remain independent and free of advertising by providing a guaranteed, content-independent source of funding. For this reason, the Corporation's funding is set 2 years in advance. Mr. Chairman, I hope my colleagues can keep that in mind: the funding that the Obey-Lowey-Leach amendment seeks to restore has already been passed. In 2003, I voted along with 241 of my colleagues to appropriate $400 million for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in fiscal year 2006. That the committee now seeks to override the will of the whole House is simply unfair to the stations and their viewers.

Each week, more than 80 million people watch PBS. Without even counting the 30 million who listen to NPR during that same period, that's a minimum of 80 million Americans who ask us each week to support this amendment. They may not leave their family rooms, they may not pick up the phone, but make no mistake: they're voting with their remote controls. Each and every week, they're telling us how they feel.

Opponents of CPB funding regularly claim that Federal funding cuts will have no significant effect on public programming, and that public television can easily absorb any funding cut. But look at the facts: the Corporation for Public Broadcasting provides critical, irreplaceable support to some of public television's most popular programs. Had the proposed funding cuts been enacted for the current year, they would have caused a 20 percent drop in funding for Reading Rainbow. A 20 percent drop in funding for Sesame Street. A 54 percent drop in funding for Mister Rogers. A 27 percent drop in funding for NOVA, and a 27 percent drop in funding for the NewsHour, to which millions turn each night for balanced news coverage. And opponents call that "no significant effect"?

Under the No Child Left Behind Act, Congress established two public television programs designed to facilitate education and learning: Ready to Learn, and Ready to Teach. Together, these two programs requested a total of $49 million for the coming budget year, which they would use to support educational programming like Sesame Street, Reading Rainbow, and Clifford the Big Red Dog. Rather than meet their request, the Appropriations Committee chose to rescind all 2006 funding from each of these programs, which we established just 3 years ago.

Mr. Chairman, these cuts are unwise. Entire generations of children have grown up watching Big Bird and Snuffleupagus; entire generations have learned to love books while reading along with LeVar Burton; entire generations have been taught to follow their dreams by Mister Fred Rogers and his characters. In an age when more and more children are spending more and more time in front of the television, public TV is one of the very last cuts we can afford to make. For that reason, Mr. Chairman, and for all the reasons above, I urge my colleagues to support the Obey-Lowey-Leach amendment, and to restore full funding to the CPB.

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