Chaired By: Rep. George Miller
Witness: Education Secretary Arne Duncan
Copyright ©2009 by Federal News Service, Inc., Ste. 500, 1000 Vermont Ave, Washington, DC 20005 USA. Federal News Service is a private firm not affiliated with the federal government. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold or retransmitted without the written authority of Federal News Service, Inc. Copyright is not claimed as to any part of the original work prepared by a United States government officer or employee as a part of that person's official duties. For information on subscribing to the FNS Internet Service at www.fednews.com, please email Carina Nyberg at email@example.com or call 1-202-216-2706.
REP. MILLER: The committee will come to order. As I came around the hall I thought maybe we were giving away Springsteen tickets or something. I wasn't sure what was going on here, but we have our own star with Secretary Duncan.
Secretary, thank you for joining us today to discuss President Obama's agenda in transforming education in America. We think that we're at a unique moment in the history of this country. With all of the challenges that America is facing, I think that the president made a wise choice when he said that he wanted after the stimulus to rebuild the American economy, through a new energy policy, education policy, and a health care policy. This committee is involved in two out of three of those.
I was encouraged this morning when I heard the chairman of the board of General Electric saying that if he was going to make one big bet for the future of innovation and technology in this country, and jobs here at home, it would be in energy. And he also made it very clear that if you're going to a have that innovation then its contributions to the technological changes, we needed a well-educated workforce. We could no longer suffer the achievement gaps that we have in this country. We've worked hard to try to close them but much more needs to be done. We can no longer afford to have only 70 percent of our graduates from high school graduate.
These are nagging problems and that clearly we've got to do all that we can and Mr. McKeon has been a champion of this to make college more affordable and to deal with the cost of college. It's very difficult to talk about it in a time of recession when state resources are crashing all over the country. But we've got to have more support from the states for our public institutions.
I think both you and President Obama have clearly articulated that you see education as a basic civil right; and this is the civil rights issue of our generation. And I think that the members will have many questions of you. But I think clearly your budget reflects these priorities by improving -- by providing the resources to improve the early-learning opportunities for our youngest students, so that they are school ready; and to provide better coordination among those opportunities within the states.
The articulation that you've given to the need for world-class standards, common standards in this country to take us to a new place both in curriculum, in assessments, is all very important. And the idea that every child would have access to effective, qualified teachers; and that those teachers should enjoy and deserve a modern, professional work place where their talents, their time, their skills would be -- and their success will be rewarded.
And I think that these are very, very important ideas in the -- for this administration and for our country as we struggle to come out of this economic downturn following the financial scandals. But we will and we've got to emerge stronger in what will even be a more competitive and globalized economy and world.
I think with the commitment that you made to the $100 billion as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act sent a huge signal to the educators of this country, to families in this country that you were again placing a bet on the ability of our education system to achieve the kind of success that parents want, that students want, that teachers want; and certainly, we want as a society and as an economy.
I think you've captured the imagination and maybe the anticipation of so many people in this country and in the Congress with your unprecedented fund for the Race to the Top. I hope that you will set the bar very high for those who get to participate. I think you have something very valuable in terms of the incentives that you can provide, the leadership that you can provide, to truly take this to a different place with respect to our expectations and the realization of what can be done in the American education system led by states who are willing to take their education systems to the future and stop standing pat on the status quo.
So it is with great honor for me, but it's also with a great deal of excitement to welcome you to our committee; and to the members who will play an important role on both sides of the aisle. This is one of the more bipartisan committees in the House. We start out each and every time trying to be there. We don't always agree, we don't always end up on that bipartisan -- but we've tried with Mr. McKeon and myself. When he was chair, when I'm chair to try to work it out and see how long we can go down that road.
And we will continue to address the initiatives of this administration in that same fashion. Thank you for being here. And now, I'd like to recognize the senior Republican on our committee Congressman McKeon, my colleague from California.
REP. HOWARD P. MCKEON (R-CA): Thank you Chairman Miller.
Good morning to you, Mr. Secretary. Thank you for appearing before this committee. I hope your testimony will be the start of a good, meaningful conversation today about the future of education in America. I also hope this conversation can lead to common ground one where both Democrats and Republicans can work together to improve our nation's schools.
But a good conversation usually involves two points of view. That's why I would like to take a moment to briefly outline the Republican education agenda. By putting everything on the table this way perhaps we can reach that common ground together and sooner. So here's where Republicans stand. Our basic philosophy is this, education decisions should be left to those who make them best -- parents, local school districts, and the states. The federal government should play a limited but helpful role in making those decisions.
To that end, we stand for constant improvement and innovation in education. I know we have had several conversations already and I know that's right where you are. We also believe in the right of parents to choose the school or other educational options that best fits the needs of their children. And we demand results from our reforms so that taxpayer dollars are not wasted.
Mr. Secretary, judging by what I've heard from you and President Obama in recent months, there are some areas where we can work together, charter schools are a good example. Both you and the president have expressed support for them as a tool to improve student achievement. We Republicans also support good charter schools. We hope to hear ideas from you today about how we can ensure that states are not limiting this option by placing arbitrary caps on how many charter schools can operate.
I also believe we can work together on expanding pay-for- performance systems. We believe that teachers and principals should be rewarded for their success in improving academic achievement.
But there are other areas where we are not in agreement at this time -- areas where the administration has acted to protect the status quo at the expense of low-income students. The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program is a good example. This groundbreaking program has helped thousands of low-income students here in Washington attend the school of their choice, including Sidwell Friends where the president's children attend.
However, instead of helping to save the program, the president recently signed a law that effectively phased it out. Your agency, Mr. Secretary, revoked scholarships that had been awarded to new students for the upcoming school year. I know you want to improve public schools for all children so do I. But until that happens, we shouldn't take away this critical lifeline. More than 7,000 D.C. residents have signed a petition imploring us to keep the program alive.
Student loans are another area where we respectfully disagree with President Obama's agenda. Members on both sides of the aisle are troubled by the president's proposal to end the Federal Family Education or FFEL Program. So there are 1646 financial aid officials and students who have signed another petition urging Congress to keep FFEL, and oppose the administration's proposal. This program has been around for more than four decades. Its made the dream of a college education and the quality of life that often comes with that to be possible for millions.
One of the reasons for this success is because the program can be tailored best to fit students' needs. Thanks to the private lenders, not for profits and state agencies that have all partnered with the federal government, colleges and universities to serve students. If we follow the president's plan and use only a direct loan program, this would end the significant public-private partnership and replace it with the federal government and its contractors. There would be a one size fits all Washington program for the more than 6,500 colleges and universities in America, whose diversity is the cornerstone of higher education in this country.
Ending this public-private partnership also will cost more than 30,000 jobs right off the bat; and could affect thousands more. That said we are not against reforming our nation's complex financial-aid system. Some reforms can be made, but we think it's best to have a thoughtful and deliberate conversation with all the parties. Just this week, I heard from several small colleges that are very opposed to being forced to convert to direct loans.
These colleges are concerned that their voices are not being heard in the rush to promote the direct loan program. They have real concerns and we should listen to the impact such a conversion will have on their students and institutions. That way we can make some good reforms while keeping what works in the program for all our colleges and the students they serve.
With that, I look forward to your remarks and continuing these conversations. Here are the petitions I mentioned. We'll be glad to get them over to your office. Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
I yield back.
REP. MILLER: Thank you.
Now, I'd like to officially introduce Arne Duncan, who was nominated to be secretary of education by President Obama; and was confirmed by the Senate on January 20, 2009. Prior to his appointment as Secretary of Education, Mr. Duncan served as the chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools, a position to which he was appointed by Mayor Richard Daley from June 2001 to December 2008. In his position, he became the longest-serving, big-city, education superintendent in the country.
In his role as CEO, Mr. Duncan was able to raise the educational standards and performance to improve teacher and principal quality and increase learning options. He helped to unite education reformers to bring together education stakeholders from across the spectrum to raise the bar in Chicago's public schools. He is a dynamic leader, who has an appreciation for real reform, ending the status quo. He's a true disrupter.
Mr. Secretary, welcome to the committee. Under the rules of the committee, we generally allow witnesses five minutes. You're the only witness, you're the secretary of education and we want you to proceed in the manner in which you're most comfortable to get across to the committee the points you want to make. And then, we will have questions from the members of the committee as long as the time last.
SEC. DUNCAN: Thank you so much Chairman Miller for your extraordinary leadership. Representative McKeon, thank you so much for your hard work. I feel very, very lucky to have leadership on both sides of the aisle who is passionate, who is absolutely committed to helping us improve. I look forward to working with all of you to help take education in our country to an entirely different level.
And Chairman Miller, just on a personal level, this transition to Washington, you've been just an absolutely champion someone I've learned a tremendous amount from. And I want to thank you for your leadership, your thoughtfulness; and your heart and passion for kids around the country.
I want to begin by just expressing my grave concern for the very disturbing and troubling information that came out of your hearing yesterday on restraints and seclusion. Where you see children being hurt, children's safety has to be our number one concern before we begin to think about educating them and doing other things. And so, this is one where I'm going to ask state school chiefs from around the country to report to me what their plans are to make sure that students' safety is taken care of.
And as we go into the summer and prepare for the next school year, I want to make sure as we go to the next school year that every state has a real clear plan as to how to do this in a way that makes sense; and doesn't jeopardize, doesn't endanger our children. As you know, I come from Chicago and in Illinois -- and I did get testimony yesterday -- Illinois has what I think is a very effective plan which prohibits the use of seclusion and restraints for punishment, that places time limits on this and requires monitoring and communication, requires specific documentation of each incident with significant training.
And because of all that, you've seen a dramatic reduction in the number of these incidents. There is also on our website information on positive behavioral intervention supports, www.edis.org. That can be a valuable resource. So I'll be working with state school chiefs as we go into the next school year to make sure that across the country we are thoughtful and we are not doing anything that endangers children or hurts -- or puts them in any kind of jeopardy. So we will work very hard and I'd appreciate your --
REP. MILLER: Well thank you for that. I know Mr. McKeon and I discussed this yesterday. And we would love to see the leadership come from the states; and if you could help coordinate that that would really be helpful.
SEC. DUNCAN: We will do whatever we can. That's a very, very important issue; and I was deeply disturbed by some of the testimony coming out of yesterday's hearing.
It is my pleasure to share with you President Obama's plan for American education. It is a comprehensive plan that meets the educational needs of our youngest citizens from cradle to career. If we are going to be successful in building our economy, our early- childhood programs need to prepare our youngest children for kindergarten so they are ready to start reading and learning. Our K- 12 schools need to make sure our students have all the academic knowledge and skills they need to enter college or the workforce.
And our higher education system needs to offer whatever advanced learning students need to be successful in a career, whether they will become a plumber, a teacher or a business executive. As federal policy makers, we need to improve preparation for college and expand college access and completion by increasing financial aid so that students of all income levels can pay for college without taking on a mountain of debt.
I'm proud to work for a president, who has created a comprehensive agenda that addresses the needs at every level of our educational system, from expanding access to high-quality, early- childhood programs, to improving the rigor of the academic programs in our K-12 schools, to making college more affordable and accessible.
We have tried to get off to a fast start here. Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, we have laid the groundwork for reform on the K-12 level; and made an early down payment on expanding access to early-childhood education and increasing student aid for college students. The law made available almost $100 billion for education. I want to thank all of you for your generosity and support.
That money will help prevent hundreds of thousands of layoffs, fill holes in state and local budgets, and provide financial aid to college students. The money is needed to help our economy in the short term, but very important reform efforts driven by these funds will be the key to our long-term, economic success. Under the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, states will receive $48.6 billion to supplement their own budgets during these difficult economic times. The Recovery Act says that states must spend most of that funding on education; $39.8 billion of that should go to schools.
And I want to assure everyone here that I will be scrutinizing how states spend their stabilization money to make sure they are focused on education. I have heard that some states are thinking about using the stabilization money to maintain their rainy day fund; and that others may rely on their stabilization grants to pay for tax cuts instead of investing in reforms. Let me be clear, I will do everything in my power to reject any schemes that would subvert the intended purpose of the Recovery Act, which is to help schools through the economic downturn and push reform, thereby ensuring our economic prosperity in the future.
When reviewing applications for the Race to the Top Fund, we plan to consider whether a state used their stabilization money to aggressively push reforms. In addition to helping states solve their budget problems, the stabilization fund lays out a path to reform. To receive their money, states must make four commitments that are absolutely essential to reforming our K-12 schools. First, they will improve the effectiveness of teachers; and will work to make sure that the best teachers are in the schools that need them the most.
Secondly, they promise to improve the quality of their academic standards so that they lead students down a path that prepares them for college and the workforce and global competitiveness. These standards need to be aligned with strong assessments. In addition, states must work to ensure that these assessments accurately measure the achievement of English language learners and students with disabilities.
Third, states must commit to fixing their lowest-performing schools. And finally, states must build data systems that can track student performance from one year to the next, from one school to another so those students and their parents will know when they are making progress, and when they need extra attention. This information also must be put in the hands of educators so they can use it on a real time basis to improve instruction.
Right now, according to the Data Quality Campaign DQC, Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Louisiana and Utah are the only states who reported to have comprehensive data systems meeting the basic elements of a good system. With $250 million in the stimulus, and another $65 million in our annual budget for fiscal year '09; and again in fiscal year '010 (sic), we expect these numbers to continue to grow, which is absolutely vital to reform.
In addition, the stabilization money, the Recovery Act, as you talked about, gave us $5 billion to spur innovation in states and in districts. Through the Race to the Top Fund, we will be awarding $4.35 billion in competitive grants to states built around the four pillars of reform outlined in the stabilization fund. Through the What Works and Innovation Fund, we will also be awarding $650 million in competitive grants to districts and non-profit organizations to scale up successful programs and evaluate promising practices.
I promise you, Mr. Chairman, we will have a very high bar. We want to invest in what works, take that to scale. The goal here is not to perpetuate the status quo; it's really to take education to an entirely different level to both raise the bar and to close the achievement gap.
Our fiscal year 2010 budget will expand our commitment to reforms in several important ways -- addressing the needs from early childhood through K-12 education. Under the Title I program, we will provide $1.5 billion for the school improvement program. This money is vital for helping states and districts address problems in schools that are in the most trouble. We already have $3 billion for this program from the Recovery Act; and another $545 million from fiscal year 2009. By adding $1.5 billion in fiscal year 2010, we have more than $5 billion to address the problems of our lowest-performing schools.
I'd like to set a goal to turn around over time 1,000 low- performing schools each year. I do not want to invest in the status quo. For children, families and communities that have been poorly served for too long, we must act with a sense of urgency. We cannot wait because they cannot wait.
When we think about only 2,000 schools in this country producing 50 percent of our nation's dropouts, and 75 percent of our minority children dropouts we have a real challenge there. And we have a real opportunity with resources on the table and the courage and political will to challenge that, to work with those dropout factories, to work with their feeder middle schools and elementary schools to fundamentally stop those dropout factories, those dropout pipelines; and do something dramatically better for those children in communities that I would argue in many places have been underserved not for a couple of years, but for decades.
And everyone in this room knows that when children dropout today they are basically condemned to poverty and to social failure. There are no good jobs out there for high school dropouts. We have to act now to make sure we do something better for those children in those communities.
I want states and districts to take bold actions that will lead directly to the improvement in student learning. I want local leaders to find those change agents who can fix these schools. I want them to provide incentives for the best teachers and the best principals to take on the challenge of teaching in these schools.
And where appropriate, I want them to create partnerships with charter school operators with a track record for success. I want superintendents to be aggressive in taking the difficult step of shutting down a failing school; and replacing it with one they know will work. We have proposed a $52 million increase in funding to develop and expand successful charter schools.
Many of you have heard me say that I believe education is the civil rights issue of our time. I absolutely believe every child is entitled to a high-quality education. I will work closely with the Office of Civil Rights to make sure that we properly review compliance in all programs and policymaking.
The fiscal year 2010 budget starts new programs; and expands existing ones to address our priorities in early-childhood education and literacy. We will create the $300 million Early Learning Challenge Fund that will award grants to help states set up the support and services necessary to build quality, early-childhood education. We will provide $500 million in grants through Title I to help districts use their Title I money to establish and expand preschool programs.
We will expand the Striving Readers Program from a small $35 million program focused on middle school and high school to a $370 million program that addresses the reading needs of children in elementary schools as well. The program will take a comprehensive approach to reading instruction, ensuring that students develop the basic skills as well as the reading comprehension that is so vital to their success in high school and beyond.
We will also continue our focus on promoting the teaching profession. Great teachers and great teaching matters tremendously. With $517 million in our fiscal year 2010 budget, we will continue and expand our support for local efforts under the Teacher Incentive Fund to develop comprehensive strategies for recruiting, preparing, rewarding, and retaining great teachers. We also request $10 million to start to plan new Promise Neighborhoods modeled on the highly- successful Harlem Children's Zone.
We are committed to acting on evidence. And we request $72 million more for the Institute for Education Sciences so we can identify what works based on rigorous research, invest more in what works; and stop spending money on ineffective programs.
Our agenda from early childhood through 12th grade is focused on helping states do the right thing. And that's appropriate because states are responsible for establishing systems of education through the 12th grade. It is our goal to make it a national priority to reform schools and to help states and districts do just that.
For more than 40 years, the federal government has played a leading role in helping students pay for college. Continuing this vital role, the total amount of aid for students has increased by $32 billion since President Obama has taken office. By subsidizing loans and by providing work-study programs; and most importantly, giving Pell Grants to low-income students, the federal government is fulfilling the dreams of students who want to be able to go to college, but might not have the resources to pay for it.
President Obama has set an ambitious goal that by 2020 the United States once again will have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. He fully understands that we have to educate our way to a better economy. That's an achievable goal, but to hit it, we have to make college affordable.
The Recovery Act made an important down payment on our plans to expand student aid. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided $17.1 billion so we could raise the maximum Pell award from $4,731 to $5,350. We also added $200 million to the Work-Study Program providing colleges and universities with additional money to provide jobs to students to help with their college and their living expenses.
In our fiscal year 2010 budget, we want to make three important and permanent changes to ensure students have access to student aid and loans. The first thing it will do is to move the Pell Grant program from a discretionary program into a mandatory, appropriated entitlement. This approach will provide more certainty to students and families applying for student aid about the aid that's available to them. In addition, the Pell amounts will grow annually at a rate higher than inflation so that it keeps up with the rising college costs.
The second thing this budget does is address the problems with the FFEL program. I think we all agree that the FFEL structure is broken and on life support now. And the federal student loan programs are in need of a dependable, cost-effective way of providing college- bound students and their families with the resources they need to meet the growing cost of post-secondary education. The direct lending program is the best way to do that. Through it, we will be able to leverage the government's lower cost of funds to finance and originate student loans and provide private sector expertise to service those loans.
The president's proposal provides a comprehensive and reliable solution for today's students while saving taxpayers over $4 billion a year. It will be more stable and efficient reducing risks for students and lowering costs for taxpayers. The third thing we are doing is boosting the Perkins loan program from $1 billion to $6 billion per year. The number of students served will rise from 500,000 to 2.7 million. And the number of schools that can participate in the program will increase from 1,800 to 4,400, which also means that we can serve more students.
Also, to keep college affordable for -- our Perkins proposal allocates funds to schools based on their role in keeping tuitions down and providing grant aid to needy students. This further builds upon Congress' recent mandate to create watch lists of colleges with high or excessive increases in tuition.
In closing, I'd like to remind you of one thing the president said when he addressed Congress in February. He said: "In a global economy, where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity, it is a prerequisite."
Thank you so much for your support so far in assuring that our children and our young adults have the education they need to ensure they enter the workforce with the knowledge and skills they need to be successful, and to help rebuild our economy. Thank you so much.
REP. MILLER: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary for that review of your priorities and of the budget. Thank you for again reiterating your goals and standards for the fund for the Race to the Top. The action of the Congress to give a single secretary $5 billion in discretionary money is an amazing act for the Congress, but I think it is also a vote of confidence in you.
I think that many of the members of this committee supported that effort because they were here when you and Michelle Rhee and Joe Klein and Beverly Hall from Atlanta came and testified about the results that many of you had achieved, the possibilities that you saw for the improved outcomes, the achievement of our students in the various efforts that all of you have made within large, complicated districts to provide various alternatives for students and for teachers.
I would again just say that I, you know, when you put $5 billion on the table in Washington, D.C. there is no shortage of people who all of a sudden have a renewed interest in that agenda whatever it is. And I would just hope that you would be selective. I think that we've got to have a clear understanding. And it's very clear that there are governors and large districts that do want to go to the future. They do want to change the manner in which education has been delivered. They do want a different set of outcomes. And many of them have demonstrated that in fact they can do that.
So I would just say that I think it would be better to have fewer entities doing more because in fact they can be the pathway and the beacon to other districts, who still think this is too difficult to do or too politically complicated to do. But the fact is the students of this country are entitled to that. So I'm not sure that everybody should be able to participate just because there is so much money.
I think they should be able to participate because they've demonstrated that they're prepared to make the difficult, tough choices that are starting to show results all over this country in charter schools and in regular public schools, in large districts and small districts, in rural areas with the exact population that we're so terribly concerned about in terms of the achievement gap; and whether or not they will have a full opportunity to participate in American society.
Those results that you achieved in a number of settings in Chicago cannot be ignored any longer. They are possible. They are here for those who want to seek them out. So I think having the willingness and the evidence and the capacity for those who participate in the Race to the Top Fund that they have to be able to demonstrate that before they're allowed. That's my thinking on that.
I also want to commend you for the urgency that you're putting behind the effort to change our high schools, specifically what could now unfortunately become the -- I guess properly described as dropout factories. We now know those schools that provide these dramatic numbers for these unfortunate students. We now know that many of the middle schools that contribute to that population and the ability and the research that is available to tell us that we can change many of those outcomes by being engaged with those students earlier on.
We cannot make the decisions about fighting dropouts in 10th grade. There is just no evidence that that works. That effort around the high school initiatives that have been proposed has been bipartisan in this committee. I think we're ready to move to make the changes that are necessary so that we can effectively change the outcomes in these students and the performance of these schools. So we look forward to working with you on that.
I'm also very encouraged by the budget submission on behalf of the Teacher Incentive Fund. This was started by the past administration. I'm not quite sure how they got it started, but they got it started. It's not without controversy, but I think it is yielding results for willing school districts with their teachers, with their unions, with other organizations, community organizations, non-profits who really want to change the work place to change the opportunities for teachers, and to change the outcomes. It was threatened to be zeroed out quite often; fortunately, it wasn't. And I think that the increase that you're providing there will serve teachers and school districts and students in a very positive way.
Others will have more to say on this. But again, I'm also encouraged by the increase in support for charter schools.
I think that's very important. Again, much of the evidence, many of the outcomes that you see that are so improving are coming from that community. And they should be encouraged; and we should do what we can, the best we can to not have states throw up artificial barriers to their creation or to their expansion or to their success as long as they are able to provide the results that we expect from them.
So thank you very, very much for your testimony. I'm not going to ask any questions. I'm going to try to move this along and I'm going to recognize Mr. McKeon for questions. But thank you for the submissions and thank you for the priorities you chose in the president's budget.
REP. MCKEON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I have several questions.
Mr. Secretary, you said you would like to celebrate and turn around a thousand low-performing schools a year for each of the next five years; and I commend you for that. I understand you had some success with this in Chicago. How did you work with the teachers unions in this effort? How can a district that wants to close low- performing schools and reopen them with a new instructional team do that in light of the collective bargaining agreements and other regulations?
SEC. DUNCAN: Let me start with sort of a broader statement of how I view schools. I see schools generally in three different buckets. You have a set of very high- performing schools, district schools, neighborhood schools, magnet schools, charter schools where we have great results, we have long waiting lists. I think all of us need to be in the business of replicating those schools, creating more of those kinds of options.
You have a set of schools in the middle that are maybe not performing where you would like them to be, but improving each year. And we need to continue to invest in those and continue to help them grow. And provide more resources and more professional development and help them on their path towards excellence.
Now as a country -- and I think we have about 95,000 schools in the country, let's round it off to 100,000. If we just took the bottom one percent, and I don't think we could do this in the first year, we have to work up to this. But if we took the bottom one percent of those schools each year and fundamentally changed them, fundamentally challenged the status quo; and again, in the vast majority of these cases, what most troubles me is these schools have not been at the bottom for a year or two years, it's often been for 10, 20, 30 years, literally decades.
And when we as educators aren't helping students be successful we become part of the problem. So what we need to do -- and this is tough work, this is hard, this is controversial, this is the ultimate in challenging the status quo. But when you have schools where the vast majority of students are dropping out and even districts -- and just to take a moment. The previous week I was in Detroit. Detroit for the city has approximately a 75 percent dropout rate, it is an absolutely staggering number. You know, two out of three, three out of four, how you want to define it, of every, you know, third grader, fifth grader or ninth grader will never graduate from those schools.
REP. MCKEON: Mr. Secretary, my time is limited.
SEC. DUNCAN: I'm sorry.
REP. MCKEON: So how did you work with unions? And how do you deal with the collective bargaining agreements and regulations to accomplish this?
SEC. DUNCAN: This is -- it was tough to work with the unions. Unions weren't always supportive of this. But this is not just about coming back with charter schools. When we came back we were better staffed. Actually in every single case -- that was union staff. Those are union teachers. And so, it's not about what the talent pool is, it's about saying let's stop investing. More money is not always the answer -- investing in something that is broken. Sometimes you have to start fresh and you have to come in there. And there are great, great teachers and principals who want a chance to make a difference; who want to go to the toughest of communities. They just have to feel they have to have a chance to be successful.
So what do you need? You need a great principal. You need a team of teachers -- if you send two teachers into a dysfunctional situation, they will be overwhelmed. You send a whole team of folks in there together and the chance to build a culture from scratch. You have extraordinarily committed dynamic teachers and principals who want to take on this work. So the talent pool I'm absolutely convinced is there. We have to create those kinds of opportunities.
REP. MCKEON: I hope we're able to help you to accomplish that.
Mr. Secretary, your budget creates a new program targeted towards helping students in elementary schools learn to read. I heard that your staff said that the rationale for creating a new reading program was that there was no longer a consensus on how to teach children to read. That's a surprise to me. I would think it's a surprise to the folks at the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development; and on the National Reading Panel.
Do you believe that teaching students the essential tenets of reading as laid out in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and by the National Reading Panel are no longer valid?
SEC. DUNCAN: No, I think we need a balanced, comprehensive approach. And this funding and this commitment, is to absolutely make sure that every child gets off to a great start.
REP. MCKEON: We talked a little bit about this yesterday. After teaching reading for as many years as we've been teaching, we should have a knowledge of how to do it.
President Obama has called charter schools one of the places where innovation occurs. And he has called on the states to lift caps on the number of charter schools. Since it's clear that the president sees charter schools playing an important role in turning around poor- performing schools, how do you plan on convincing states to lift caps on these schools?
SEC. DUNCAN: Well, there are a number of different opportunities we have both in terms of carrots and sticks. But one of the things that Chairman Miller talked about is we in this -- we haven't issued it yet, the RFP doesn't exist. The creator will test the proposals around the Race to the Top funds. One of the questions we're going to be asking -- we're going to ask a series of questions around charters schools. And one of the questions we're going to ask is does your state have charter capping.
REP. MCKEON: And my final question. Your budget proposes major changes to the Perkins loan program transforming it into a tool to encourage colleges to control costs. It reminds me of a proposal I authored several years ago to use campus-based aid programs including Perkins to achieve that same goal of holding down costs. Unfortunately, my plan was rejected by the higher education community. I hope you have better luck than I did.
And for that end, I have two specific questions. First, will all sectors including proprietary be eligible for this program? And second, can you share some specifics about how this will work, how you think it will bring the costs down; and what other plans you may have to get colleges to control their costs?
SEC. DUNCAN: We have to -- proprietary I think will be eligible. Let me check that. We want to make sure that we're doing everything we can to push folks in the right direction. I think that -- (inaudible) -- and I think given an opportunity to do that. I will add, I think that things have really changed now.
Students and parents have more options than they have ever had. And where you see costs escalating, you know, exponentially way higher than the rate of inflation, parents and students are going to vote with their feet. And I think this will be a real market correction here. And you're seeing other universities go the opposite way -- go to three-year programs rather than four. Go to no frills, low-cost options.
And so we're going to put whatever pressure we can on it, but our parents, our students are very smart. They have thousands of options. And where costs are just escalating you're going to see -- particularly in this economic climate, I'm convinced you're going to see those universities use market share. And we're going to do everything we can to make sure that those kinds of things happen.
REP. MCKEON: Thank you very much.
REP. MILLER: Mr. Kildee.
REP. DALE E. KILDEE (D-MI): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Secretary Duncan, it is good to have you before our committee. As I mentioned to you yesterday, I said there were nine secretaries of education. I co-sponsored a bill that established the department. And I have enormous confidence in you. And you have an enormous responsibility to ensure our education in this country is -- really weighs heavily on your shoulders. But I have that enormous confidence in you, in your integrity and your ability; and look forward to working with you.
SEC. DUNCAN: Thank you.
REP. KILDEE: Secretary Duncan, currently the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which is the official name; we've changed the name each time we reauthorize. But currently ESEA provides for the same interventions for schools that do not make the AYP that is a community project. Regardless of why or how much a school did not meet the AYP; do you believe that it makes sense to provide for some differentiated interventions to encourage and help schools to target their responses on the reasons they did not meet AYP? And also, to recognize that schools that missed AYP by an inch, will not need as much extensive intervention as those who missed by a mile.
SEC. DUNCAN: It's a really thoughtful question. And one of the challenges with the current law is exactly what you say; it is what I call -- what I label it as it's a blunt instrument. That it puts every school in the same -- too many schools in the same category. And to compressing those stories amongst those schools is actually very different. Part of what I used to be frustrated with is you have schools that were actually showing pretty significant progress each year that were really improving, that were labeled as failures.
And that's demoralizing, that's very tough on staff -- the faculty and teachers that are working really hard every day. It's confusing to parents. And where schools are improving each year, rather than slapping them and labeling them as failures; we need to actually encourage that and reward that and help them continue to grow. So I think you have to be much more differentiating in how you close schools.
And when you think about those schools that are labeled as failures; some are actually getting better. Some are, you know, pretty mediocre. And then, I've talked about the schools that are truly at the bottom where frankly I don't think we went far enough -- (inaudible). I think we need to be much tougher in our intervention -- not just invest more resources in a dysfunction culture, but fundamentally challenge that status quo.
So the idea of greater differentiation and more thoughtfulness in really understanding which schools are improving, which schools are flat lining, and which schools are really a huge problem. And being very, very specific in what our remedy, what our answer is in each of those situations. I think it's absolutely the right thing to do for children.
REP. KILDEE: Thank you very much.
Mr. Secretary, President Obama has talked about the importance of -- every American having at least one year of post-secondary education. I've introduce legislation H.R. 1578 The Fast Track to College Act, that would support 30 college, high school and other dual-enrollment programs to expose low-income students to college. We have that in Flint, Michigan. You can go to Central High School, where I taught, and also enroll at the University of Michigan. You can get up to 60 college credits while you're in high school.
When that was inaugurated at the community college, several years ago, we felt that would take care of those who were -- the very talented who needed that higher challenge. But we found out very often those who were not doing well at all were just going to drop out mentally and really sparkled when they got into a program like that. Would you support a program -- an early college --
SEC. DUNCAN: I'm a huge fan of dual enrollment. And we've talked about investing in what works and scaling up what works. That's an example of a program not just in Flint, Michigan but I think generally around the country that's been extraordinarily effective and for a couple of reasons. First of all, obviously the time when going to college was so expensive, getting those college credits in your back pocket before you graduate from high school is a huge boost to families and to students.
But your second point is actually the more important one to me. We have so many students today that are first generation that may not have a parent who graduated from high school let alone went to college. They might be new to the country, where they're smart, they're committed, they're working hard; but they might think college isn't for them. They don't know that world. Their social isolation is so profound they might think they might not belong on a college campus.
For those students, as in junior and senior year, who might be struggling, who might not really envision that in the future, for them to understand I can really do this. I can do this work. I belong in that world. The psychological impact on that is extraordinarily important. And the more that that real exposure can happen, the children who don't have a family background of college, going in college experience, I think it can really change their aspirations in very important ways.
REP. KILDEE: Thank you very much.
REP. MILLER: (Off mike.)
REP. THOMAS E. PETRI (R-WI): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I have several questions that I'd like to submit in writing, if I could, to the secretary as we have limited time in this format. And I look forward to a response to those.
I'd also -- wanted to touch on a couple of points, and if you'd care to respond to any of them, that would be fine. First, to thank you and the administration for the work you're doing in the direct loans area. This program has been a great success; and it will be a great benefit to higher education, and to the taxpayer and to students to expand it as they are suggesting. And I'm looking forward to working with you to that end.
I understand you're going to be working on a number of reform suggestions in the vocational education area. And in that connection, would urge that you look at the experience of my own state of Wisconsin where we have had a comprehensive, vocational-education program for many years that involves partnership of business, labor, local government and the local school systems. And I think there may be some ideas that can be built on there.
I was excited by your opening statement as you talked in favor of a better assessment and accountability of electronic systems. In that connection, Congressman Wu and I have introduced a bill H.R. 665, which really shouldn't be necessary which would just reverse the Education Department's denial of the ability of school systems around the country and states to use -- (inaudible) -- testing under No Child Left Behind.
My own state uses that at its own expense in nearly a third of the school districts. It's highly useful to teachers and others; and I urge you to look at that policy and see if we can't move into the electronic age. They argue that because it's the same program -- (inaudible) -- but the questions aren't given in the same order and the questions vary. If a student is not able to answer the questions; they ask easier questions until they achieve a certain level of success. And contrary, if they're acing it they ask harder questions and they get a really good assessment.
And I'm hoping No Child Left Behind means every child gets assessed and that assessment follows the child; and they make reasonable improvement from wherever they are rather than an impossible goal of uniformed success for every child, which is -- we're not uniformed human beings.
There's a program called Troops to Teachers. It has been very successful -- over 10,000 people have participated and they've been outstanding. (Inaudible) -- without saying, teachers in their states quite often. That has been pared way back by the Department of Education so that now only one of the 420 school districts in my state qualifies for Troops to Teachers. Congressman -- (inaudible) -- Matsui from California -- (inaudible) -- his attention on this legislation was essentially correct.
What we feel is an improper ruling by the lawyers at your department to restrict this -- was not intended by the drafters of the legislation creating Troops to Teachers.
And this is an -- you need good teachers to get good outcomes as part of the process in reaching out and getting people with experience. These troops could teach our -- the people are disproportionately minorities, male, and going into math and science. It's just a wonderful program; and I think should be built upon rather than being cut back.
Finally, there is a new inspector general's report on the Federal Student Aid Office in your department arguing that there are a lot of abuses in that. And I just want to ask if you are familiar with that report; if you plan to take any corrective action? We mentioned in last year's Higher Education Act required the secretary to refer settlements over a million dollars to the attorney general. A number of settlements were entered into prior to that. And it has been very costly for the taxpayer.
I wonder if you could look into whether any cases have in fact been referred to the attorney general or are likely to be reviewed. Or whether some of the settlements could be reopened before the statue of limitations expires. And so, I think I've left enough on your plate; and I'll stop there.
But any way, welcome aboard; and I look forward to working with you.
SEC. DUNCAN: Thank you. Just briefly, I'm a huge fan of Troops to Teachers. I think it's a phenomenal pool of talent. You said many men, many men from minority communities, great leaders by definition, who are just phenomenal role models. On a broader basis, I'm just a big fan of alternative certification. I think we have to think about these pools of talent from many walks of life; and historically, people who didn't major in education, an 18-year-old undergrad who had been locked out of teaching.
And we have as many as a million teachers are going to retire in the next four to six years, baby boomer generation coming out. It presents some challenges. I think it presents a huge opportunity in our ability to recruit and retain the best and brightest whether they are a 21 year old right out of school or 35, or 55 coming out of the military; we have a chance to transform public education in our country for the next 25 or 30 years.
It's a huge opportunity. Troops to Teachers or more broadly, alternative certification is something we're going to push very, very hard.
REP. MILLER: Thank you.
REP. DONALD M. PAYNE (D-NJ): Thank you -- (inaudible) -- and let me commend the Obama administration and your department for really starting to put the type of funding we need into public education. As a former public school teacher in Newark, New Jersey; and my three children are all either teachers or involved in education; I think this is very, very important.
Let me quickly ask several questions. First of all, with the growing demand for global economy and strengthening standards in education as a result of No Child Left Behind, it seems that today's students have more to learn but the same amount of time that they did when they were doing the farming in June -- that's why we left school, is the same amount of time we have in our public school system.
Massachusetts expanded the school day at the end of the year by 25 or 30 percent for selected students; primarily, in failing school districts. And it did show positive results. What is your stance on the -- having a longer school day? Have you given that any consideration?
SEC. DUNCAN: Yes. I really appreciate you bringing it up. When I speak to students this is not the line, this is not my applause line. I usually get booed. But I fundamentally think our day is way too short. I think our week is way too short. I think our year is way too short. And our students today are competing against children in India and China. And those students are going to school 25, 30 percent longer than we are. And our students, I think, are at a competitive disadvantage. I think we're doing them a disservice.
So let me explain because this is a really important one. I think we need a longer school day, absolutely. I think beyond the longer school day, our schools themselves need to be open much longer hours. I would argue 12, 13, 14 hours a day with a wide variety of after-school programs both for children and their parents and their older brothers and sisters, their family members.
I want schools to truly become community centers, community anchors with a whole host of after-school activities. Those schools need to be open 12, 13 hours a day, six, seven days a week, 11, 12 months out of the year. And I worry tremendously about summer. Our -- as everyone here knows, our academic calendar is based upon the Agrarian calendar; and not too many children are working the fields anymore. I worry particularly about children who, you know, come from families and don't have a lot of books in the house. And middle-class children some go to summer camps, and they visit colleges and they do enrichment. And children from more disadvantaged backgrounds really struggle over the summer.
It is well documented this is one we don't need any more studies. We saw it all the time in Chicago what we call summer reading loss. If you get children to a certain point by June, when they come back in September, they're further behind than when they left in June. It's absolutely crazy.
And so, one of the things that we're pushing hard, particularly with all this influx of Title I dollars for -- (inaudible) -- is let's get more time -- weekends, after school, Saturdays. One thing we did this last year in Chicago -- I wish we had been smart enough to come up with it earlier; we brought back on a voluntary basis our freshmen a month early. We had 15,000 freshmen, incoming freshmen show up a month early. Think about that.
Children want to do something positive; they want to do something productive. We've got to open up our schools and think very, very differently. So time is a huge equalizer particularly for children coming from disadvantaged families and communities. And we have to be much more creative in how we lengthen the day, the week and the year.
REP. PAYNE: Thank you very much.
(Inaudible) -- of all the innovations that the charter schools have adopted that you think public schools should consider that's been successful?
SEC. DUNCAN: Yes, one, one big one -- time. Many charters are doing some interesting things around curriculum. But if you look at high-performing, charter schools; in almost every single one they're working those kids longer hours, longer days, longer weeks, shorter summers.
So when good teaching is happening time matters. And we simply need more time to give those children who may not be getting what we want them to get at home. There are other things that are happening that's creative. One of them, your most important common denominator is they're simply spending more time working at it. It's not rocket science.
REP. PAYNE: I do have a couple of other questions. Let me just get one last quick one in. There is a budget item -- although I really applaud all the great things that you've done; there is a budget item that eliminated in your budget, the funding for a program called Ready to Read, it's a program that's funded -- its funding is PBS; and it's a teacher online program, which has had a lot of success. And I wonder if you could take a look at that and evaluate. There might have been something that, you know, you looked in the, you said you're increasing, you're looking to cut. But it's been a pretty successful program; and I would appreciate it if you could get back to me on that particular program.
SEC. DUNCAN: Thank you, I'll do that.
REP. MILLER: Thank you.
REP. MICHAEL N. CASTLE (R-DE): Mr. Chairman, thank you.
I would like to thank you, Secretary Duncan for your engagement and involvement in what I consider to be as important as anything we're doing in this country. Let me just start with this question, which is a college question. You and I discussed this a little bit. I'm all for the things you're trying to do. That is to shift money around, save more money, put it into Pell Grants or whatever it may be; but my concern is the cost of higher education. As you undoubtedly know, higher education has had the highest per capita rise and falls of any measurable index in this country, including even health care; and that concerns me.
And I think it's beyond just the salaries of college presidents and a few coaches or whatever. It's the entire methodology of running colleges. Is there anything that we or is it Congress, or you in the department, or the president could be doing to try to keep the pressure on in reducing those costs? Because we just are not going to be able to afford to continue to underwrite it through the Pell Grants or whatever. Even the Harvards of the world are going to have trouble with some of their losses. And in the interest of taking care of kids who could not otherwise afford college.
SEC. DUNCAN: As I said in my testimony, that through the Perkins proposal, we're really going to try and reward those schools who are doing the right things. I -- while I worry about it, I really do believe I said earlier that due to families being under so much financial pressure now; and the fact that we have so many universities out there, I think the marketplace is going to play here. And I think families are going to stop going to schools where costs are skyrocketing
MORE and running away. They have too many other good options, too many quality low cost options. So we're going to continue to put pressure on and create some incentives, but the public is going to see this stuff. We're asking for transparency. We're asking to see what these increases are looking like each year, and again, I think our parents and our students are going to very, very smart consumers.
And you're actually seeing this interesting, we were looking recently. We're starting to see universities going to three year programs. We're seeing some universities starting to go to no frills campuses, really back to the basics to reduce costs. And there's a growing market place. There's a demand there, and so I think this is one. I give you my word, we'll put the pressure on, and we'll really push transparency, but the more universities do this, this is the wrong time, the wrong market for them to be going that direction, and I think they'll pay a price for it.
REP. CASTLE: Good. And I hope you're right about all those things. We need to keep an eye on it and keep working together on this. In No Child Left Behind, we adopted having standards and assessments, and we had a hearing recently in which a series of people, mostly stated involved, talked about common standards in a state-led approach to common standards.
You've also used that expression. I want to make sure I understand what we're talking about. Are we talking about common standards in a regional sense? Are we talking about national standards, and obviously, assessments would have to follow all this. So are we talking about national standards and assessments? What do we mean by common standards? And just another part to all this.
I think our standards are low right now. I think they were set low and they've stayed that way. What can we do to increase standards apart from going to whatever the common standards may be?
SEC. DUNCAN: This is a really interesting one. This goes actually back to the framework of NCLB. Essentially from a management perspective, whether it's a department or a business or a school system, you always think through what you manage loose and what you manage tight. And where I think NCLB got fundamentally wrong is they were very, very loose on the goals. So you have 50 states, 50 different goalposts all over the map. And you're exactly right.
Due to political pressure in the vast majority of states, those standards got dummied down. And what I've been pushing very hard is I think in far too many states, including the state I'm from in Illinois, those standards have been dummied down so far that we are actually lying to children. And let me explain what I mean. When a child and a parent hears that they are "meeting" a state standard, the logical conclusion is if I'm meeting the standard, I'm doing okay.
But in far too many places, those standards have been dummied down so much that if you are meeting the standard, you are barely qualified to graduate from high school, and you are absolutely inadequately prepared to get into a competitive university, let alone graduate. And so I think as a country, we're doing, in many places, a real disservice to children. And the one level playing field we have is the NAPE results.
And it's interesting. You have some states where in their state 85 or 90 percent of kids are meeting state standards. One the NATE, 15 percent are meeting. So there's huge, huge disparities. Who's lying? Who's telling the truth? And so what I think we need is common college ready, career ready, and I would argue, international benchmark standards. Again, I want our children to compete on level playing field with children from India and China.
I don't think this should come from the federal government. There shouldn't be federal standards, it shouldn't be Department of Education standards. But what we see happening is a really interesting movement. You have a set of state school chiefs that are working very, very hard on this. You have a set of governors that are coming together to work on this.
The business community has been crying out for this for a long time. The not for profit sector, achieve college board gates are all on board. And very interestingly, in the past two months, you've seen the presidents of both national unions, the NEA and the AFT, come on board, and say we need to do something different here. So this is an idea that I think historically, people called it a third rail, or people were scared to talk about it. To me, it's really common sense.
We're going to really try to help incent this and put some money on the table to encourage it. But everyone, business, nonprofits, political leaders, state school chiefs, the unions, us, we're all saying and thinking about this in different ways the right way to go.
So I think as a country, as we think about NCLB reauthorization, I think we should be tight on the goals, very clear on the goals, but give people flexibility toward how to achieve those goals, and really, I think the great ideas for education, the innovation will always come from the local level, will never come from Washington, and the more you hold folks accountable for results but allow them to be creative and innovative, and to be entrepreneurial to hit that higher bar. So tight on the bar, looser on how you get there, less restrictive on how you get there.
REP. CASTLE: Thank you.
REP. MILLER: Mr. Scott.
REP. ROBERT C. SCOTT (D-VA): Thank you, Mr. Secretary. You mentioned in your prepared remarks the problem with dropouts. We obviously have dropout factories. We also have a situation that some dropout factories are actually getting credit for adequate yearly progress. Would you support making the dropout rate an essential element in maintaining adequate yearly progress?
SEC. DUNCAN: Well, I think it's even broader than that, again, as we think about NCLB reauthorization. I'm now on this listening and learning tour around the country. I'm learning so much talking to students and to teachers and parents and principals. But I think one thing we can all agree on.
If you have the best third grade test scores in the world, but 50 percent of your students are dropping out, you're really not helping kids. You're not changing lives.
And so at the end of the day, really thinking about graduation rates as a benchmark that we have to hold ourselves accountable for collectively, at the district level, the state level, and the national level, that is hugely important to me.
REP. SCOTT: One part of the response to lack of adequate yearly progress, or certain sanctions or responses, some of which have nothing to do with the subgroup that caused the failure. If one subgroup fails, then the response is a response that covers everybody. Would you support a change in this to make sure that the response to a failure in adequate yearly progress would address the problem?
SEC. DUNCAN: Yes. Let me answer this a little more broadly. I think this is really important. As we think about NCLB reauthorization, we have a huge opportunity here. And this is something we're not going to do every year. We're going to do this once every five, six years, whatever the right rhythm is.
We need to get this right. And so let me be really clear. I think we have a chance to think blue skies. I want to continue to travel the country and really get the pulse of the country. But where things are working, we absolutely need to continue them and support them, and where things aren't working, let's just not tweak them around the edges.
Let's fix it. And so without getting into all the specifics of what those are, we have a real chance here to build upon the successes and build upon what made a lot of sense, and to think fundamentally different where things didn't make sense. And so I just want to ask all of you to work with me to think about how we take this to the next level and really do a much, much better job of creating the right set of incentives and consequences and rewards, to help schools and school districts do the right thing by children.
REP. SCOTT: Thank you. And can you tell us, in a teacher's career, when the teacher is at his or her best?
SEC. DUNCAN: I wish I had a -- (inaudible).
REP. SCOTT: Would it be the first year or the second year, or do you think as they become more experienced, they become better?
SEC. DUNCAN: Yeah. I'd say teaching is like being a congressman, and it takes some years to learn the ropes and -- (inaudible).
REP. SCOTT: Well, if that's the case, then some of the programs that get teachers into teaching only keep them in for two or three years, which seems to me before they've gotten to what could be their best. Should there be incentives in some of these programs to encourage teachers to get in that they be incentives for them to stay in much longer, so that we can get the full benefit of those incentives?
SEC. DUNCAN: Let me answer that in two parts. I think you have to do everything we can to keep our good teachers teaching. We actually lose far too many of our good teachers because we don't adequately support them. We don't give them the classroom management skills. We don't give them a good -- (inaudible) -- introduction, and we lose far too many of our good teachers.
The flip side of it is I think we have teachers who aren't good who stay too long. And so it's really thinking about how we find out, how do we identify the best and brightest, do a much better job of supporting them, and when teachers, which is not the right profession, not keeping them in there for the next 25 or 30 years, I think, is equally as important. I think we have to improve on both sides, really making sure we keep the best and brightest, how we have honest conversations with those that need to find something else to do with their lives.
REP. SCOTT: Thank you. And finally, I've introduced legislation on youth violence prevention that takes a holistic approach, requiring the community to come together, the Youth Promise Act.
SEC. DUNCAN: I'm sorry, I didn't quite hear.
REP. SCOTT: The Youth Promise Act --
SEC. DUNCAN: Okay.
REP. SCOTT: -- which requires the community to come together in a holistic strategy to deal with young people. Can you say a bit about what we need to do and how we need to address youth violence?
SEC. DUNCAN: That's a huge, huge, huge, huge issue.
REP. SCOTT: Well, rather than let you do it off the top of your head --
SEC. DUNCAN: Okay.
REP. SCOTT: If you could respond in writing --
SEC. DUNCAN: I will. I'd just say quickly that we have to dramatically reduce it, not just in schools, but in communities, and what we want to do. I'm a big fan of what's going on in the Harlem Children's Zone, which has done there, and we have real money to try and create other Harlem Children's Zones to try to replicate that. I think creating an environment, not just in school, but in the surrounding community where life is valued and where education is valued, we want to play on that in a big way.
REP. MILLER: Mr. Kline.
REP. JOHN KLINE (R-MN): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Secretary, good to see you. We just jump around to keep the witnesses on their toes as to where we might be sitting.
As you know, Mr. Secretary, for now over 30 years, the federal government has demanded through IDEA, that all schools fund special education, provide special education. And the federal government was supposed to provide 40 percent of that funding. It has never come close. We had a few years from 1995 to about 2005 where we steadily brought that percentage up. It never got to 20 percent.
And frankly, Mr. Secretary, I was surprised when this budget came out that you haven't done anything about increasing that funding for special education. Why didn't you fully fund IDEA in this budget?
SEC. DUNCAN: I think you probably know, in the Recovery Act, we put north of $10 billion --
REP. KLINE: Which still leaves us far short, by the way, but that gets you, at the most, if you spent all $11.5 billion in one year, you would still be well short of the 40 percent and does nothing going forward. So the question is still the same.
You put in at least five new K-12 programs in the president's budget, $500 million for a new Title I early childhood grant program, $300 million for a new early learning challenge fund, $100 million for a new what works innovation fund. The point is, we're putting new programs in that are not fully funded, and yet we haven't come close to meeting this obligation, and I just wonder why it wasn't put in the budget?
SEC. DUNCAN: Again, I think there's an unprecedented investment in this, a dramatic increase, the likes of which we have never seen before that I am aware of. It's a very, very significant step in the right direction, and we obviously have to balance a lot of different needs. So we took a very significant step, I think in the right direction there. But we have to look across the board as well.
REP. KLINE: So we just didn't have the money, but we have money for new programs that will be chronically underfunded. This House just passed legislation putting you in the school construction business, and I'm afraid, once again, we've got a new, very, very expensive program, a federal government program which will be chronically underfunded and will be competing again for this special education money, for IDEA funding.
If we would fund IDEA to the extent that we're supposed to, to the extent that we're obligated to, we would help every school district in America. These other programs are going to help some, not help some, advantage some, disadvantage others. I would just really like to see the administration. It's one of the great disappointments I had with the Bush administration. They brought in No Child Left Behind. There was a lot of discussion, some excitement, some disappointment.
We've been talking about that here, but they didn't fund it either. And it just seems to me it's a short fall that we ought to be able to agree across party lines and across branches of government, that it's an obligation that we ought to meet.
And I appreciate that more money was put in when we were throwing hundreds of billions of dollars that we were borrowing out to stimulate the economy, some money went in there, but that's a long way from actually budgeting for IDEA and making a commitment to meet that 40 percent funding and helping every school district in America. So I understand the answer. You are where you are. But I would ask you, as the head of the Department of Education, in working with the administration, let's try to move that forward and help every school in America.
SEC. DUNCAN: Okay.
REP. KLINE: Appreciate it. Thank you.
I yield back, Mr. Chairman.
REP. MILLER: Thank you.
REP. LYNN C. WOOLSEY (D-CA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, Mr. Secretary. I just have to think out loud that it's quite strange that Mr. Kline didn't vote for the stimulus package, which did double IDEA.
REP. KLINE: Would the gentle lady yield?
REP. WOOLSEY: I'm sorry. I really shouldn't have even said that.
REP. KLINE: Exactly.
REP. WOOLSEY: In my time. Mr. Secretary, I was glad to see the president's budget request included $10 million for Promise neighborhoods, as this is an issue I've always been interested in about coordinating school services at or near the school site, so that kids can come to school ready to learn. I just don't think we provide a complete produce to the teachers when these children are hungry or scared or sick. So, could you provide us with any more information about how this, the president envisions these grants work?
SEC. DUNCAN: Yes. And this is obviously what, I think, is a huge step in the right direction, but this is money simply to plan, and in subsequent budget years, we want to put real resources on the table to basically try and replicate what's worked around the Harlem Children's Zone, and where we can make improvements, we want to do that, too. But as everyone here understands, schools are not islands. They exist in larger communities.
And the more we can create environments, to Mr. Scott's question, that are safe for children, the more we create environments where everyone from babies to adults are involved in their own education and really supporting families, the more we're taking a comprehensive approach for communities that have been disadvantaged and underserved for far too long, we create the climate and the culture and environment in which students can thrive and be successful. So there's been some very rigorous analysis of the results coming out of the Harlem Children's Zone.
We are very, very encouraged by that. There's tremendous interest in this around the country, and we're going to put significant resources on the table. The philanthropic community's also very interested in this, so I think we can leverage the private sector dollars here as well. And so our goal is to issue a request for proposals, and RFP, to start working with a set of locations.
Not a school district, but a set of neighborhoods, basically, that are really willing to think differently, think about the intersection of education and nonprofits and the business community and religious institutions to come together to create the environment in which every single child can thrive. It's a very, very exciting opportunity.
REP. WOOLSEY: Well, I look forward to working with you on that. I think it's very important. I'm going to change the subject immediately to nutrition standards, for the foods that are sold outside of school meal programs. They haven't been updated since my children were in school in the '70s, and I've introduced legislation, H.R. 1324, the Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Bill, to update these standards. And my question to you is, do you support updating the nutrition standards for foods and vending machines and a la carte lines and other foods sold outside of the school meal programs, and are you doing to help us with this?
SEC. DUNCAN: There's a lot of work we need to do, and I want to work very closely with Secretary Vilsack, who's done, who is going to do, I think, a phenomenal job in the Department of Ag with those lunches, but we need to think about what we're doing, not just around the food we offer, what we're doing around nutrition, and obesity, what we're doing to promote healthy lifestyles and exercise.
So there's a whole package of activities that I think we need to be much more creative on, so we need to think about those standards. We need to think about our lunches. We need to think about what's in the vending machines, what's available to kids and when you see children going to school in the morning with a pop and a pack of chips, I really worry about what kind of day they're going to have, and we see that all too often.
REP. WOOLSEY: What kind of, what they're teachers are going to have to put up with. Speaking of creativity, music is part of education, as far as I'm concerned, and I fear that with No Child Left Behind, we've squeezed too many of our music and arts programs. And so, how does the department plan to ensure that we have more art and music and creativity in our curriculum?
SEC. DUNCAN: Yeah, these are great questions, and whether it's art or music or dance or drama, you know, chess, debate, sports, academic decathlon, we need to do so much more. Again, if we're serious about reducing dropout rates and keeping students engaged, we need to do so much more to give students a menu of options, to let them figure out what their passion is. And what always bothers me is these kinds of opportunities, historically, these have been normal opportunities for children who go to private schools.
For children who go to public schools, these are somehow seen as extracurricular, something that can afford to be cut, and I think all of these things, there's a huge correlation, as you know, between music aptitude and math. But even beyond that, just giving students a reason to be excited about coming school. It might be the band, it might be the orchestra, it might be to perform in a play, it might be to be on the chess team or debate team.
We talk about lengthening the day and lengthening the year, and creating these opportunities both during the school day and after school. I don't think we can do enough of this. And as I talked with students in Detroit, so many of them talked about, it was the band, it was the football team, those were the reasons why they kept coming to school and didn't drop out.
And so I think we have to think very, very differently. Get away from narrowing the curriculum and investing in those things to give students a chance to be excited about coming to school, but to find their passion, build their sense of self esteem.
REP. MILLER: Ms. Biggert.
REP. JUDY BIGGERT (R-IL): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and welcome Mr. Secretary, and thank you for all that you accomplished as the CEO of the Chicago Public Schools. It was a pleasure to work with you on a couple of issues that you had with the then secretary of education. You were a winner there and did a great job representing Chicago public schools.
SEC. DUNCAN: Thank you for all your support.
REP. BIGGERT: Thank you, and I think we expect great things from you as secretary of education, and with your vision and experience, I know that you'll succeed, so we're really happy to have you there. Just a couple of questions. Turning to, back to the student loans that Mr. McKeon mentioned.
With approximately 25 percent of the student loans originate now through the Direct Loan Program, compared to 75 percent under the PELL program. And how are you going to switch, if we have to, to handle the increased volume required by the president's proposal, and then since all of those programs seemed to have worked, and I know we've had this discussion in the last several Congresses about the issue between the two programs, but why do we just want to continue with one program without much debate here?
SEC. DUNCAN: Yeah. I think the simple goal is to do the best deal we can for the students, for their parents, and the taxpayers, and you have a situation where, as you know, the PELL program was on life support. We, as a government, were heavily subsidizing the vast majority of those loans anyway, and if we have a chance to move out of the business of subsidizing banks and put, year after year, literally billions of dollars of additional resources out to students at a time when going to college has never been more expensive, it's never been tougher for families, and there's never been less resources at home, the chance to do all of this without adding another taxpayer dollar to the mix, I think is the right thing to do.
And so what we want to do is really make sure on the private side, that the private sector services these loans. we don't want to get in that business. That shouldn't be the business we're in. We can create real opportunities there, and create competition and have providers that are doing a great job of servicing, and give them more business going forward. So I think there's a real chance for the private sector to continue to play. But at the end of the day, the goal is simply to try and get the best deal we can for students, for parents and for taxpayers.
REP. BIGGERT: I guess I don't see the difference with the private loans versus the direct loans as far as being costing less, and with less competition, won't the cost go up?
SEC. DUNCAN: No, actually, the difference is to keep the private sector engaged, we have heavily had to subsidize that to the tune of billions of dollars a year, and we simply want to transfer those subsidies, those dollars, from the banks to students. To students. And so it is a different priority, but we think it's the right priority.
REP. BIGGERT: Okay. And then, just going back to the special ed for a moment. And not the money, but, you know, special ed in the No Child Left Behind has always been a special category. So many of the teachers that I've talked to, when they were going to do the testing, said that they were just in tears when they had to include the special ed children in their grade level and I think that the No Child Left Behind did a great job of really increasing the quality of education for the special ed kids. But at the same time, when those tests came along, it really was demoralizing, and really a disaster for that testing. Is that going to change? Are you looking ahead to that?
SEC. DUNCAN: That's a really thoughtful question, and I think this is one again, as we think about NCLB reauthorization, that we need to be very, very thoughtful on, on both sides of the equation, and let me give you both. I've heard lots of horror stories of students asked to take a test where they couldn't begin to read the questions and it ended up being an absolutely traumatizing experience. Does this make sense for that child? It doesn't.
The flip side of that is you want to maintain a high bar and you have now, in the current legislation, these exemptions for a certain percent of students arbitrarily. That doesn't make sense either. So I think you have to sort of find that balance act between walking away from the accountability, which we absolutely don't want to do, just exempting students, but also have an assessment that is appropriate for the student's cognitive ability. And so we have to find that, strike that balance and we have some work to do to get there.
REP. BIGGERT: Would you consider using ILP to decide what test level they would take?
SEC. DUNCAN: If you're going to look at these issues, you would have to look at the ILP. It would have to be part of the conversation.
REP. BIGGERT: Okay.
SEC. DUNCAN: So I think this one, the other one that is complicated similarly is how you would assess the knowledge of English language learners, ELL students. I think on both of these, we need to have some real conversation, debate, and figure out who's doing the best in the country in trying to scale that out.
REP. BIGGERT: Unfortunately, my time is up.
REP. MILLER: Mr. Hinojosa.
REP. RUBEN HINOJOSA (D-TX): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Secretary Duncan, thank you for coming to visit with us, and I want to say that your remarks in the opening part of this meeting is excellent, because you address many problems that are of concern to us in Texas. I had the pleasure of going to China with a CODEL led by Buck McKeon, and we wanted to know why their high schools were outperforming ours by so much, and we learned some of the things that you used in your remarks, and that was parental involvement, plus early reading plus writing, equals success in school, was the way that they answered the questions, when we met with stakeholders out there.
Number two, we saw that on the weekends, they were doing exactly what you said today, and that was utilizing their schools for extracurricular activities and thus, really utilizing their schools. Longer days, longer weeks. All of that, we saw it ourselves as members of Congress. So we want to support your thinking. But I'm going to focus on something that is also of great interest to me because it's shocking to hear that in Detroit, we've had as much as 75 percent dropout rate.
In minority populations in districts like mine, 80 percent Hispanic, we have 50 percent dropout, and it's tough as heck to get our kids to go to college. The National Center for Education statistics report that since 1984, minority under graduate student enrollment surged by 146 percent, compared to growth of only 15 percent for the white population students. Minority serving institutions represent less than one-third of all degree granting Title IV institutions, but enrolled more than half of all the minority students. How does the administration plan to build on the efforts that Congress has already made in the passage of the, I think we call it the College Cost Reduction and Access Act, plus the passage of the Higher Education Opportunity Act?
SEC. DUNCAN: I think one of the most important things we can do as a country is get many more students going to college, particularly students from the minority community. I think this huge expansion in resources to make college more affordable, PELL grants, Perkins loans, tuition tax credits. Students going to those minority serving institutions often come from financially difficult situations, and they're going to be huge beneficiaries of these new resources.
So I think if we can continue to put this money on the table year after year after year, and families can know that they have access to these resources, that's going to be very, very important. Let me just add one quick thing on that. To me again, it's not just the money, it's students at a young age knowing that money is going to be there for them. It's the idea of making it mandatory. Because I worry a lot about really smart third and fourth and fifth and sixth graders whose father might have lost a job, whose mother may have taken a 50 percent pay cut, who start to think at an early age, because of my family's financial situation, college isn't for me.
If we as a country can say, this money is mandated, this money is going to be there, it doesn't matter what's going on at home, I think, again, the psychological message at an early age that sends the students that there's a reason to hope. There's a reason to work hard.
REP. HINOJOSA: I agree with you and I want to say that back in 1998, we started the Gear Up Program, which was intended to address that, that children could see that if they stayed in school, there as light at the end of the tunnel. So we need to consider increasing the Gear Up Program funding if we are going to answer that concern of yours.
But let me go on to visits by chancellors and presidents in my office, saying that accessibility and affordability to higher education was their highest priority, and you answered Congressman Castle's question completely, as far as I'm concerned, on skyrocketing costs of college education. But let's go, then, to the issue that you discussed earlier about supporting.
I know I want to support your college student loan program because, according to numbers that I saw, the Congressional budget office estimates that the savings of the direct government student loan program can yield $93 billion over the next ten years, and my question to you is, what can we do in Congress to help, that this program is going to be successful in the next decade?
SEC. DUNCAN: Yes, this is obviously, this is in our FY '10 budget and your support of that measure would be extraordinarily important. We can help students, as you said, for decades, without asking for another dollar from taxpayers.
REP. HINOJOSA: Thank you.
REP. MILLER: We were hoping to hold you here until 11:30. If you could stay with us another 15 minutes, obviously, there's no shortage of members who have questions, but we expect votes starting probably in about ten minutes. On this side of the aisle, I have Mr. Thompson and Mr. Roe, three. And over here is McCarthy, Tierney, Davis, Grijalva, depending on who shows or doesn't. Oh, Mr. Thompson left.
So Mr. Roe.
REP. PHIL ROE (R-TN): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I've spent 24 years in the public school system and I sort of, I told the committee last week, I overdosed on it. I think education is not a cost but an investment, and I think we look at it as a cost and as you said earlier, very eloquently, money is not always the answer. I guess one of the first questions I want to ask is we've been spending more and more and more and more money and getting worse and worse and worse results. Why is that?
SEC. DUNCAN: I don't know if I totally agree with that. I think what we see is very uneven results. I think we see some places have extraordinary excellence and school districts, individual schools, charter groups, getting phenomenal results with very difficult populations. And you see other places, like Detroit, which I think is like ground zero, educationally. So, what I see is not uniformity.
I see very disparing outcomes. And why that presents some challenges to me is actually why I'm so hopeful, that I would argue we have more good ideas about what works today than we have at any previous time. Over the past five, ten to 15 years, we've seen more entrepreneurial educators. We've seen great visionaries step up. And so in every community, rural, inner city, urban, we have examples of schools and children beating the odds every single day.
What I want to do is to invest wisely, and to really take the scale both those practices and invest in what works. And so I think you have a real opportunity here to make those pockets of excellence, systems of excellence and sort of get away with this idea of islands and make these high quality opportunities the norm rather than the exception.
REP. ROE: I agree with that. I live in eastern Tennessee and trained in West Tennessee, in Memphis, and my wife taught for three years in the school system there. The, one of the questions we get all the time, and I'll make just one comment, and then ask you the question. I'm right with you on this alternative certification because as a physician, I can't be qualified to teach 8th grade health. That's crazy.
And you can't be able to teach health in high school. I couldn't do it if I retired and wanted to do that, so I'm with you 100 percent that we need to have ways to get folks who've retired as chemists, mathematicians and so forth back in the schoolroom. I agree with that. One of the things we hear, and I know you've heard it until you're deaf, is that the teachers and I have many, many of them who've been patients of mine, complain that, "Look, Doctor Roe, I'm just teaching to the test. That's what I'm doing." How do you answer those teachers in the classroom?
When you talk about, and I agree with you that the standards are all over the place, and if we have a national standard, how do we answer that question?
SEC. DUNCAN: I think that the real question is not teaching to the test, but the question is, is it a good assessment? I think if it's a good assessment, then you want people teaching to it and if it's a bad assessment, you don't. So again, really thinking about this high bar and thinking about making it quality and thinking about, does it evaluate critical thinking skills?
Are we teaching our children to think and to write and to express their ideas critically? And if we can collectively come up with assessments that are strong, that are good assessments, then I think that's a good thing. I can't speak for you, but you had to pass some exams to become a doctor. If those are good exams, teaching to those is actually a good thing. It gives you a knowledge of the skills you need. So really, thinking about the qualities of the assessments, I think, is very, very important going forward.
REP. ROE: I think the, I had to chuckle a little bit when you said about how we want to get the government out of the business of banking, but I won't go there. In China, I read a statistic the other day, or saw a statistic, that they have more honor students than we have students in this country. That's a scary number, when you compete on a world market.
SEC. DUNCAN: Yeah. I think so much of our challenge, honestly, you know money is a piece of the answer. Let me be clear. The money is only good if we leverage perform. If we invest in the status quo, we are not going to get where we want to go in the country. We have to drive a very strong reform agenda. And secondly, we have to raise our expectations as adults. A huge part of the problem is we have too many adults who don't really believe that children can be successful.
In thinking about how we get more students taking AP classes, how we get more minority students taking AP classes, we as adults have to really believe in our hearts that every single child, regardless of family background, regardless of socioeconomic status, can be successful. And not to just belabor this, but, there are these just phenomenal students in Detroit, seniors, who worked had, overcame horrendous odds, super smart, going to college. I've come to understand, they don't have an AP class in their high school. How is that possible? How is that possible today?
REP. ROE: I guess other thing right quick, and then you may have to answer this because I know the other folks want to ask questions, but, on schools that are failing, 2000 schools equal half of our dropouts. Why don't we do something? I'm a person that's gone through nothing but public schools, but a charter school or a scholarship, or anything to get them out of there. Because we're letting a generation fail.
SEC. DUNCAN: I think we have to turn those schools around. We did this in Chicago. There are other folks who are good in this business, and they asked us to continue to invest in a situation that is broken. I think we have to think very, very differently. Let me be clear. The high school dropout rate is not just a high school issue, and to look at those high schools, we have to look at their feeder middle school, we have to look at those feeder elementary schools.
We could look at all those schools at the same time. We could change the opportunity structure of that entire This takes courage and this takes the willingness to challenge the status quo. Tinkering around the edges here is not going to get us where we need to go.
REP. MILLER: Ms. McCarthy.
REP. ROE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. CAROLYN MCCARTHY (D-NY): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I certainly welcome you, Secretary Duncan. We had a few minutes to talk earlier about school safety. That's going to be something that I have been working on for a number of years. I agree that there's a lot more work that needs to be done, but you're probably one of the few, if not only, secretary of education that is coming from a school district that has had, unfortunately, an awful lot of violence in those schools.
I have some of those schools in my district, and I guess anyone that's in an urban/suburban area sees that. So one of the things that I want to ask about was, your budget proposes to zero out the state grants for safe and drug free schools and transfer a portion of that funding to the national programs. I guess what I'm looking at, you know, why do you see the money going from the safe and drug free into the national programs?
I guess what confuses me, if you believe the national programs are better, then why only take, I guess you took $110 million out of the $295 million, so it's kind of leaving both programs starving, I guess. One other thing, too, is that I also believe many of our students are doing excellent. Unfortunately, it's middle school and high school that we start to see the dropouts starting. We have worked in my district on Project Grad, the Trio program works terrific.
What we have seen with the kids when they got involved in it, they were able to bring other youngsters that probably never would. We see their marks going up, and going to college. So, with that, I appreciate your answers.
SEC. DUNCAN: Yeah. I'll take the second one first. Project Grad, Trio, Gear Up, all those programs, dual enrollment. We talked about all these programs that are giving students exposure and access to higher education, not just the juniors and seniors, but the 5th, and 6th and 7th grade. I think they're hugely important. So we want to continue to do more there.
And again, this idea of social isolation and breaking down those barriers is so important to me, in really helping students aspire to be successful, and understand that they can fit in in that environment. It's critically important. On the Safe and Drug Free, it was a simple strategic decision. We found, with some significant resource from IES, showing that the money going out to states, basically got diluted. There was no real impact, and I want to get that money to the districts.
I want to get that money to where the action is. And so, at the state level, we didn't see much positive going on. We can use that money to get it out to the schools and to districts and really make an impact there. We thought that was the better strategic decision. REP. MCCARTHY: Now are you going to increase the amount of money in it so that when you're looking at the school that needs to have, I have several underserved schools in my district that a lot of these programs are there. It's working. I wish it would just go through high school and not just at certain grades, though.
SEC. DUNCAN: Yeah. Yeah. No, I understand what you're saying.
REP. MILLER: Thank you.
REP. BRETT GUTHRIE (R-KY): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, Mr. Secretary, for being here, and I worked in these issues in the state legislature. We finally started to come up with policies that I thought were better. We spent a lot of time studying failure, and why schools failed, and we called the superintendent up and say why are you failing, we finally decided, or Jack Kemp said, actually, and I changed my attitude in that, we need to look at schools that demographically should be, or you would predict to fail, but were successful and study success and how you replicated that, and that changed the whole way we thought about it.
So we need to replicate success and not just look at the failing schools. One question. We just took a picture on the steps of the Capitol yesterday and they had all these students that were in high school, and the moms said, "How are we going to pay for college?" That's the number one issue in people's minds today, I think. And I think one of the biggest issues in the country, because people have the same pathway to middle class, and it's through college, and they're seeing that is doing down, so I'm glad that's a priority.
There's question on the failed programs as we were looking at this. My understanding is the $93 billion is money that banks would be making on these programs, not necessarily subsidies made to the bases. It's $93 billion, and by the government doing a direct loan program, the $93 billion would be coming from the government instead of the banks. And the government can borrow at a lower interest rate.
And therefore, are we going to reflect that back in what the students pay or, for instance, if the students have a fixed pay to the private bank and they pay the same rate to the government, and the government's able to loan money at a lower rate, then the government's actually taking some money from these students who are struggling to go to college and funding other programs with that. They're subsidizing other programs. Is that accurate?
SEC. DUNCAN: I need to get clear on the technical side of that and Bob Shireman is actually testifying here today and he can walk through that with you. But I guess our simple goal is to figure out what's right for taxpayers, for students and for their families and the goal is not subsidizing banks, but putting more money, on an ongoing basis, on an annual basis, every single year, to increase access and affordability. We think this is absolutely the right thing to do. We're not looking to make a margin on this, to be clear.
REP. MILLER: (Off mike.) Okay. We're going to get to the hearing on the loan program tomorrow in the committee. Mr. Shireman will be one of the witnesses. Mr. Tierney.
REP. JOHN F. TIERNEY (D-MA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, Mr. Secretary, for being here today. I have to take one minute of time, unfortunately, just because I don't think it should continue to go unaddressed. Our friend from Michigan, or from Minnesota, rather, was talking about IDEA funds, and it continues to amaze me how people can continue to say that this is a legislative mandate. Those that know the history of that law know that it is in fact a judicial mandate, where the courts indicate that every child deserves an education, and the 40 percent was an authorization number, not a commitment or promise or spending appropriation number.
And when Mr. Kind and I had the motion to fully fund IDEA for several years in a row, we were in the minority. Not a single Republican voted for it. So we all do, and I happen to be somebody who believes we should fund as much of it as we can. It gives money down to the local community for flexibility, but just to get the history straight on that. I want to congratulate you and the president on focusing on the cost of higher education, and I'd like to get a commitment from you.
In that latest bill, Higher Education Act that we passed, there were policies in there to reward colleges that increase on tuition and fees down to the cost of living, and give them incentives, by giving them more campus based aid, and a provision that states would maintain their effort. That they couldn't simply take the federal money and then take a walk and take their money out of the picture. Are you committed to enforcing both of those provisions as much as possible, and to driving the cost at least to a more reasonable rate?
SEC. DUNCAN: Absolutely.
REP. TIERNEY: I appreciate that. Now, on the issue of reading. We have a lot of people that had troubles with reading first, and some people like reading first. Tell me a little bit about what your philosophy is and what will replace the reading emphasis in this administration? Are you setting standards? Are you expecting Congress to fill in from there, or do you have a particular proposal for that?
SEC. DUNCAN: What we want is a balanced and comprehensive approach, and we want to fund this at every level.
We want to do a childhood piece, we want to do stuff at the middle school and we want to look at this at high school as well. I'm worried about teenage literacy a lot, as well. So we have to look across the board and this proposal, over $370 million, we think, addresses the real need out there, and we want to be very, very thoughtful about how we do this.
REP. TIERNEY: Can you talk to us a little bit about the role of teacher performance and the so-called merit pay in the president's and your plan?
SEC. DUNCAN: I would simply say that there's unprecedented resources on the table to reward excellence, and I think we can't do enough to highlight those principals, those teachers, those schools, that have beaten the odds every since day. And I think in so many other professions, excellence is routinely rewarded, and somehow, in education, we've been a little bit scared of that. So through the teacher incentive fund that the chairman spoke about, that we have over $500 million to put on the table for districts that want to help reward excellence and support those schools that are making a great difference.
REP. TIERNEY: So your philosophy is to incent others to come up with the ideas locally as to how they would do that as opposed to imposing a particular model?
SEC. DUNCAN: Absolutely. There are lots of good models out there, so, yeah. I think our goal, again, is to reinvest in what works. But I was thinking, when I was in Chicago, I didn't think all good ideas came from Washington. Now that I'm in Washington, I know all good ideas don't come from Washington. Some of the best ideas are always going to come from the local level, because we want to reward those folks that are pushing the envelope. Let me say, quickly, on this particular, it gets a little complicated.
What I will say that we have programs to pit teachers against each other, I think those fail. If we have four or five teachers in a school, and if only one teacher can make more money, then that pushes me to close my doors and not, it does not incent the right behavior. So I'm really big on collaborative awards. And we created a program in Chicago that came from our teachers, where every adult in the building, not just the teachers benefitted, but the principals, security guards, custodians, the lunch room attendants. It's you guys.
You know, we visit high performance schools around the country. Uniformly, it is every adult in that building that's a part of that culture. So the more you really create this idea of teamwork and camaraderie and you know, the lunch room attendants are making sure they're serving good food, make sure the students are eating. The custodians are making sure the building is immaculate. The security guards are making sure the students are safe and taking their backpacks home in the evening. The more we create that sense of teamwork and camaraderie, the better we see schools do.
REP. TIERNEY: Let's close with one administrative question. I'm concerned that a number of states are not using the recovery reinvestment act for education in the manner in which they should. You had a statement in your opening remark about that. It seems to me that there are some games being played, and in fact, some are just making themselves, and the state budget healthy at the expense of not keeping teachers on the payroll, or other education personnel, and not filling in those gaps. Do you have enough personnel on your staff to actually do the kinds of reviews that are necessary to enforce those provisions?
SEC. DUNCAN: We're going to look at this very, very closely. So, yeah, I do not need a new army to do this. We're watching this, we're monitoring this very closely. We did two things. We believe in carrots and sticks. We put out very significant money, through the stimulus package. We withheld billions of dollars. If folks are acting in bad faith and folks are gaining, and we have a real opportunity not to send out that money.
Second, we have these unprecedented discretionary resources. Race to the Top, school improvement money, so we can keep all these other resources that states would love to have. If states are playing games now, they're basically going to disqualify themselves. And so this will be really interesting to see how creative, how innovative states are going forward and we have both carrots and sticks in play, and we'll see what happens.
REP. TIERNEY: Thank you. I look forward to working with you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. MILLER: Thank you.
REP. DUNCAN D. HUNTER (R-CA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Secretary, great to be with you. We share your last name and my first name, so that's at least one thing we have in common here, Duncan. I've got a specific question. I'm a veteran, a California resident. I went to San Diego State University, and it was probably about $1200 or $1300 bucks a semester when I went to school. You could work, literally for the summer, and pay for your fall semester.
Right now, with our post 9/11, GI bill funding for California veterans, they don't get their GI bill towards any actual tuition for private education. They only get it for local fees, because state schools in California, public institutions for higher education, charge only fees. They don't charge tuition. Stanford, for instance, if you were smarter than I am, then you went to Stanford, the GI bill wouldn't help you there, because that's private education.
So, I'm wondering, on that particular issue, if you could talk to the V.A. at all and if you have any kind of a fix, because there has been substance for this in the old PELL grants. Just checking to see if there is anything now where we could fix it permanently, so that the GI bill covers both private and public institutions in California?
SEC. DUNCAN: I will absolutely look at that for you. Just a question. Is that a California specific issue, or is that a national issue?
REP. HUNTER: California specific.
SEC. DUNCAN: Okay. So I need to better understand that one and I will look into it for you.
REP. HUNTER: Okay. And second, tying into this, veterans right now have a higher unemployment rate than on average. Guys getting out of the military, they're 22, 23 years old. They might have been infantry or artillery. They might not have learned a skill. I see them as being disadvantaged because we're not going after them.
These are highly motivated, highly disciplined, usually more mature for their age, men and women that have served, that have sacrificed, that have been under extreme pressure. What are we doing to do for them, to try to get them into schools and bring them into the work force as educated adults that have four year or eight year degrees?
SEC. DUNCAN: Yeah. I would like them all to teach. I want to work very, very hard on that population coming back from Iraq, coming back from Afghanistan. Obviously, they have lots of other interest, but those folks that want to come to the classroom, I think they'd be phenomenal teachers. I think they'd be great leaders.
As you said, they're mature. They're not going to be scared. Nothing we can throw at them is going to be tougher than what you've seen before. These are great role models, real disciplined, a real sense of mission, and so I want to do everything we can on a creative basis to talk about teachers and alternative certification. That to me is a huge pool of talent and I want to try to open our doors to get them to come, to come teach, if that's in their heart.
REP. HUNTER: The problem is, though, just getting them into school because there's no net to catch them after they get out after four years, and they're suddenly released back into the civilized world again.
They don't really know what to do. They go home sometimes, they're looking for the help wanted ads. They don't realize that their GI bill is going to pay for them to go to school and I kind of let them out of that net. We should be catching them and taking advantage of --
SEC. DUNCAN: So we should think together probably your best job is proactively reaching out. I think the community colleges are a huge opportunity and due to some of these increases in subsidies, that's almost free for many folks today. I think the average cost is about $2,500 to $3,000 bucks and with the tuition tax credit, you're basically going for no money.
To get on that track, again, whether it's education or something else, I think the community colleges are a huge, huge opportunity for vets coming back home and we should think about how, like you said, we don't just let them wander. We need to reach out to them and let them know the opportunities are out there for them.
REP. MCKEON: Will the gentleman yield?
REP. HUNTER: Absolutely.
REP. MCKEON: Mr. Secretary, this is a V.A. program. We just hope that they will reach out to you to help administrating, because of your experience of getting dollars out to the states. The way they send the money out, the California veterans are penalized because California's the only state that does not charge tuition for in state residents. So I think we put a bill in yesterday and we think that we can solve this, but we hope that they'll include you in the.
SEC. DUNCAN: I would love to help. That, to me, is like a no brainer in this business. It doesn't make any sense, then we should fix it, and so what I will do --
REP. HUNTER: About $6500 per California veteran would be available through our fix. This would be a good thing to do.
SEC. DUNCAN: Let me know what I can do to be supportive.
REP. MILLER: Mr. Holt. Mr. Holt's going to have the last question. The Secretary's been very generous with his time. We've held him over and we're going to have votes in a matter of minutes.
REP. RUSH D. HOLT (D-NJ): Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Mr. Secretary. Thank you for coming. I must say, many Americans have high hopes riding on you and we wish you every success. Speaking before the National Science Teachers' Association, you said that science is all about questioning assumptions, testing theories, analyzing facts, the basic skills that prepare kids, not just for the lab, but for life, and we're doing kids a disservice if we don't teach them how to ask the tough challenging questions.
I couldn't agree more. Under the AARA, you have the $5 billion, approximately $5 billion dollar Race to the Top funds. I'd like to know if you plan to use any of those in connection with science education. Secondly, following along this, the 2010 budget actually trims the funding for the math/science partnerships, slightly. It is way below what it was when it was the Eisenhower funds a decade back. I think it's an essential program, and I'd like to hear what you're going to be doing to increase your, that program, or if you have some other way that teachers are going to get the professional development that they need and deserve in science education.
Third point I'd like to ask you to touch on is foreign languages. Foreign language instruction isn't easy, it should start early, it should be an integral part of even the elementary curriculum, all the way through. What foreign language reforms do you propose, and along that line, are you going to create an assistant secretary for international and foreign language studies? There is now a deputy assistant secretary. It might be more than you can cover now. If you can't cover all of that, I'd appreciate your getting back to us on those points.
SEC. DUNCAN: We can get back to you. I'll try to do the best as I can to answer quickly. I think, gain, this is controversial. We have shortages of math and science teachers. We have shortages of foreign language teachers. I think we need to pay those teachers more. We've been talking on math and science shortages for 25 years, 30 years. I'd like to stop talking about it.
It is hard for students to be passionate about something that teachers don't know. It is hard to teach when you don't know. So many of our students' interest in math and science starts to peter out in 6th, 7th and 8th grade. Guess why? Because the teachers don't know the content. And so with these resources, we want to do a number of things. I want to pay teachers more in those areas of critical need. I would love to send thousands and thousands of teachers back to school to learn the math, to learn the science.
There are numerous partnerships with universities so we can get the endorsements and have the content knowledge. I think that's the only way, long term, we'd get more students interested and passionate and staying in the field. I think it's a real loss for our country in terms of productivity when students don't have these kinds of opportunities. So I think we have to look at many pots of money again. Unprecedented stimulus dollars, unprecedented Title I dollars, Race to the Top funds.
All of these could be used for professional development, these could be used to pay teachers more to work in areas of critical need, and I think we would be much more thoughtful and creative about how we're creating a structure where every child has access to a great math teacher and a great science teacher.
Finally, on the foreign language, starting young is absolutely right. Starting in high school is way too late. Starting with 3- year-olds, 4-year-olds, 5-year-olds and 6-year-olds, it's like second nature to them. So the more we provide those opportunities early on, the better students are going to do.
REP. HOLT: Well, you know, decreasing the funding for the math and science partnerships, which is the only U.S. Department of Education program that's available across the country to all schools, for teacher professional development in science and math, the only program that's out there. To reduce it rather than to double it is not the right way to go. Maybe you have other things in mind, but I'd like the specifics on that.
And again, with the Race to the Top funds, if you could be specific about how you'll be using what funds for science education, I sure would appreciate hearing it.
SEC. DUNCAN: Sure. And just to correct the record, we didn't reduce it. We tightened the level of funding, but it did not reduced, so --
REP. HOLT: You know, it's half of what it was when it was the Eisenhower funds a decade ago.
SEC. DUNCAN: That may be true but --
REP. HOLT: Teachers need this professional development.
SEC. DUNCAN: Sure. I fully understand but again, there are unprecedented discretionary resources on the table and to have districts, to have schools step up and invest in those things that make a difference, there's never been this kind, the magnitude of this opportunity. So there's a huge, huge chance for states and districts to invest in professional development and to invest and pay those teachers.
Pick a number, five grand, ten grand, 15 grand more, to teach in underserved communities. We've never had more latitude to do that and we look for that creativity to come from local districts and local schools.
REP. HOLT: Great. Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. MILLER: Thank you, Mr. Secretary, for being so generous with your time with the committee. I was told to have you out of here a half an hour ago. I thought we were going to have votes, we were told, by the floor, and that didn't happen, and you've stayed beyond that time. There are members who have statements that they want to make.
There's members who have questions. Obviously, we would like the opportunity to forward both their statements and their questions to you for response. They didn't get an opportunity this morning, but they have a burning interest in a number of these subjects and on the plans of the administration with respect to that. So, without objection, members will have 14 days to submit additional materials or questions for the hearing record. The Chair and the Ranking Member will make sure that those materials are forwarded to the Secretary for response.
Without objection, this hearing will stand adjourned. Thank you again. (Sounds gavel.)
SEC. DUNCAN: Thank you so much for your leadership.