Chaired By: Rep. David Obey (D-WI)
Witnesses: Arne Duncan, Secretary, Department Of Education
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REP. DAVID R. OBEY (D-WI): Good afternoon, Mr. Secretary. I'll give you a minute to get organized. Okay.
Well, Mr. Secretary, welcome.
This job would be a great job if we didn't have to vote, but I'm told that within a couple of minutes we're going to get some roll calls on the House floor, which will discombobulate this hearing, but we'll try to do the best we can.
Mr. Secretary, I'm not quite sure where to start. Let me first of all state that we want to be on the same team. We want to work with you. We want you and this President to succeed, and we enjoyed the opportunity to work with you on the initial stimulus or Recovery package as people are now calling it.
Will Rogers said once that when two people agree on everything, one of them is unnecessary, and I find myself in that position this afternoon, as I indicated to you to some extent yesterday.
And let me paint to you a picture of what's happening in my district. A month ago -- I mean a year ago Taylor County was riding at 7 percent unemployment. Today it's 14 and a half. Rusk County, a year ago 7.3; today 17 percent. Polk County, 5.9 percent a year ago; 12 and a half today. Oneida, 6.7 percent a year ago; 12 percent today. Marathon, 4.1 percent a year ago; 9.4 today. Lincoln, 5.3 percent a year ago; 12.6 today. Langlade, 5.8 a year ago; 12.1 today. Iron, 8.7 a year ago; 14 percent today. Clark, 5.7 a year ago; 11.3 today. Chippewa, 5 percent a year ago; 11 percent today. Burnett, 7.1 a year ago; 13.2 today.
Now I cite those numbers to try to make a point, which I will eventually get to. As you know, in the Stimulus Package we tried to take into account that this is happening and that's why we provided large amounts of money to states to try to stabilize their budgets. That's why we provided a good deal of additional funding in direct financing to local school districts by formula.
And if you take a look at what's happening around the state -- I mean around the country, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, some 47 states are facing fiscal stress. According to one analysis from the University of Washington, state education budget shortfalls could result in the loss of nearly 600,000 jobs in K through 12 education alone.
Mr. Secretary, you've established certain principles to guide the expenditure Recovery Act funds, one to preserve and create jobs; two to improve student achievement through innovation and reform, and you've been quoted as saying that schools face a perfect storm for reform.
That may be, but I think that they also face a devastating storm in terms of just general economic conditions, and I'm concerned that there's so many communities that are so cashed strapped, that they're using Recovery Act funds simply to mitigate state and local revenue shortfalls in order to prevent layoffs and for those districts all they may be able to do is to pay for existing teachers, keep the lights on, and pay for other essentials.
If the first focus of states and school districts is to plug these devastating budget gaps and avoid deep layoffs, then I think it's legitimate to question whether it's realistic to also expect them to implement dramatic new reforms until the economic situation stabilizes.
I don't want to set them up for failure in the public eyes, because they can't do two things at the same time because of the extreme economic collapse that we've seen in the country, and so I would hope that you would take that to heart in the way that you administer the funds under your control.
Secondly, I've been on this committee for almost forty years and I think I've got a track record of giving a damn about what happens to these programs, but I'm not so much interested in programs as I am performance and I am certainly supportive of reform if that process occurs in the context that makes it possible for people to think about reform.
I voted for No Child Left Behind, because I thought the previous President had a right to have his first domestic priority supported. Unfortunately, I underestimated his willingness to live up to the financial commitments that tendered to that deal, but I'm concerned frankly about the direction some of your budget decisions would take us.
You requested $800 million in early childhood education, 300 million more for new reading initiatives, an extra 100 million to expand the innovation fund and scale up best practices from 650 million bucks, and the Recovery Act of 750 in your budget.
Now you propose a large increase for teacher incentive funds which support the design and implementation, and performance-based teaching compensation systems, more than quadrupling from 97 to 487 million bucks and the 717 million with Recovery Act funds even though the Department has yet to complete any rigorous evaluation of the effort which began four years ago.
I want to support the administration and its education priorities but not at the expense of reliable and predictable federal support for thousands of school districts across the country that depend on that funding, and I confess I find troubling the $1 and a half billion dollars or 10 percent cut in basic Title I grants that you provide for in your budget in order to finance these new initiatives.
In essence, your budget would force school districts to backfill the State production with Recovery Act funds, it will put additional strings on Title 1 by requiring districts to commit other Recovery funds to start new preschool programs as a condition of receiving Title 1 early childhood grants and I am not at all convinced that that is not unfair and untimely given the economic situation.
I also want to express reservations about your higher education budget. I am a huge fan of Pell Grants. I have been a champion of Pell Grants every year I have been in this committee, but I confess I am dubious about the wisdom of this committee in the midst of trying to convince people that we are responsible financially and fiscally, I'm not convinced that this is the time to create another, in essence, entitlement by putting another program on automatic pilot.
And, in fact, I am concerned that the recommendation that you have with respect to Pell might in fact have a reverse effect by in essence actually putting a ceiling on the amount of future increases in the increase in the maximum award under Pell.
So as I say we're all friends here and we want to work together, but I've got to be honest and lay out my misgivings about some of the directions that I see you and the administration going in and I hope that we can work them out.
REP. TODD TIAHRT (R-KS): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Welcome, Mr. Secretary. Congratulations on your new role here. You have a very interesting history. I think you've accomplished quite a bit in the State of Illinois and Chicago and I think those accomplishments would not be classified particularly as supporting a Democrat point of view or a Republican point of view. I think you took a refreshing approach in a lot of new areas and I understand you have a background in basketball.
Each year Congress plays the business community in September and we're going to try to recruit you for that game.
We hear a lot about the changing economy and changing world and a need to prepare our children to participate in the 21st Century and in the job market that's going to be coming about during that time.
In the last administration we worked a lot on accountability and how to best ensure that school districts help every child reach his or her potential. This is still an issue and there are many debates surrounding No Child Left Behind in the emergency alternatives such as charter schools and the like and we'll probably discuss that later.
I look forward to hearing your views on accountability and how to fix No Child Left Behind without discarding quote, principles, that I think we all agree upon. As for the issue of preparing our work force and children for the future, I would argue that the future is here. It's today. Michael Wirsh (ph) of Kansas State University has done a lot of research about today's technology revolution and its impact on society, the market place, and education.
He correctly points out that we need to be adapting faster and more efficiently in order to keep up. I do have concerns, however, with his views and others and the insistence that the education systems of old are outdated and should be overhauled. Yes, new technologies need to be incorporated into classrooms from a young age so that children can learn how to use these tools and be safe while they use them and, yes, schools should work to capture the attention of a child, but these aren't new issues or new views.
There have been age-old education problems from which slide rules have transformed into calculators and one-room schools into the separation of grades and ability levels. Our school systems should be challenged to continually meet those needs and continually improve.
There is reason to be concerned, however, that we push to move out of the traditional classroom and permit children to not pay attention to lessons they do not feel are relevant to their future careers. Besides basic knowledge of the world around us, one of the most important aspects of education is teaching us how to learn and how to analyze new information and to put it into use, how to focus on issues that might not be to our liking, or in which we may not have a natural aptitude, how to meet deadlines, how to work with others, how to still learn and so on.
Most of what I learned in school was not applicable to my job as a systems engineer or as a proposal manager and certainly not as a member of Congress, but the fundamentals are age-old and should hot be thrown out with the bath water.
I'm interested in hearing your thoughts on this issue and how we balance the desire for more technology and personal education and make sure our children are prepared to meet the timeless challenges of learning in a real world.
Education and retraining are keys to ensuring that American workers are the most competitive around the world. Modern economies are driven by knowledge and skills just as America's public education system changed the notion that schooling is for the upper class, we now need to change the notion that education ends at 18 or 22. Job retraining and skill enhancement are in addition to schooling. They are part of the larger continuum, a life long pursuit of education.
Most importantly for the short and long -term we need to help Americans access not only higher education but also continuing education. Job training and retraining is necessary to keep up in today's environment.
I also have a couple of concerns about overall spending and specifically the impact that the Chairman made about Pell Grants and the mandatory program rather than discretionary, but in this changing world we need innovative ideas and should have a vigorous debate on how to best educate our children.
I look forward to working with you and to ensure that every child receives his or her dream.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. OBEY: Mr. Secretary, please proceed.
SEC. ARNE DUNCAN: Thank you so much, Mr. Chairman. Just appreciate your humble support, decades of leadership on this issue and your passion. I look forward to working with you to dramatically improve the quality for education for children around the country and appreciate the tremendous vision you have shown for a long, long time on these issues.
Thank you for the invitation to be here today to talk about President Obama's Fiscal 2010 budget request. This budget makes important choices to continue and expand in programs that will support our children from cradle to career. It provides the resources necessary to expand access to high quality early childhood programs to ensure that our K to 12 schools are preparing their students for success in college and the workplace and to provide college students with the money they need to pay for college and the assurance that the federal government will be there to help them.
Together, all of these policies will help our children reach the President's goal that by 2020, the United States once again will have the largest proportion of college graduates in the world.
I just want to stop there for a moment. I think that's a very ambitious goal. I think it's critical. Twenty years ago, a generation ago, we led the world in the number of college graduates. It's not so much that we have declined. We have flat lined and other countries have passed us by. I think that's a real challenge for our country as far as our long-term economic vitality.
I am extremely grateful for the work you have already done to help our nation's schools. I look forward to working with all of you in the future. As you know, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act you provided $100 billion to schools and to students. The law provides phenomenal start in adjusting the needs at every point along the cradle to career spectrum.
Thanks to your support we are able to stave off an education catastrophe and save a generation of children and we estimate this means that 375,000 jobs can be saved with the money we've given out already through the first round of stimulus funding, Title 1and IDEA.
As you know, ERA had two goals in education: to create and preserve jobs and to promote school reforms. Even though the U.S. Department of Education hasn't yet distributed all of the money in the stimulus, we are seeing signs that we are meeting that goal of preserving jobs of teachers and other educators. We are collecting data on the number of jobs preserved.
We can point to several districts around the country where the stimulus funding has made a dramatic difference already. Because of ERA, Los Angeles Unified School District averted almost 3,800 layoffs. In New York it was 14,000 jobs. One hundred and thirty-nine teachers kept their jobs in Seminole County, Florida.
In Boston the teachers' union leaders say the stimulus money ensures that the city won't lay off any teachers, and the Alabama State Superintendent has said that stimulus money will help avert all layoffs in his state.
I'm confident that just about all of the 14,000 districts around the country will be using stimulus money to preserve jobs that otherwise would have been lost or to create jobs they never would have been able to add if they didn't receive money from ERA. Before the stimulus we were heading for an education disaster. With it, we have largely avoided that catastrophe and now must also work to continue to improve student achievement. I'm convinced we have to educate our way to a better economy.
Through ERA, states are promising to make commitments on policies that we consider to be essential to reform. They will improve the effectiveness of teachers and work to make sure the best teachers are in the schools that need them the most. They will improve the quality of their academic standards so they will lead students down a path that truly prepares them for college, the work force and global competitiveness.
These standards need to be aligned with strong assessments. I'm particularly concerned that these assessments accurately measure the achievement of English language learners and students with disabilities.
Under the third assurance, states will commit to fixing their lowest performing schools. Finally, they will build data systems to track student performance from one year to the next from one school to another so that those students and their parents know when they are making progress and when they need extra attention. This information must also be put in the hands of educators so they can use it to improve instruction.
Another key ingredient to reform is to add more time for instruction. I grew up in my mother's after school program in Chicago, so I know first hand the critical importance of after school and summer programs. That is why we're asking districts to consider using Recovery Act funding as well as Title 1 funding to extend the school day, the school week, and the school year and we're already seeing real innovation.
In places like Cincinnati, that innovation is actually beginning this summer. They're adding what they're calling a fifth quarter and keeping students for a month after school gets out to continue to drive reform, keep teachers employed. This is a key component of our school turnaround strategy because we know that students who are struggling need more time to catch up.
Through ERA, we will be rewarding states, districts, and non profit leaders that are dedicating themselves to moving forward in each of these areas of reform. The $4.35 billion Race to the Top Fund rewards states that are making commitments to reforms so that they can push forward and provide an example for others.
The $650 million What Works and Innovation Fund will provide grants to districts and nonprofits to scale up successful programs and evaluate promising practices. My Department expects to issue invitations for applications this summer and start to award grants late in the fall.
With ERA as a foundation, we've submitted a Fiscal Year 2010 budget that will build on the Recovery Act and advance all of the President's priorities. Overall, President Obama is asking for $46.7 billion in discretionary funding for the department, an increase of $1.3 billion over the comparable 2009 level.
I want to highlight our requests in several important areas: Early childhood education, improving the pay and the professional development of teachers, turning around low-performing schools, and ensuring that college students have the financial aid and student loans they need to complete college.
In K to 12 education we are requesting important investments in two of the key priorities identified under the stimulus: improving the quality of our teachers and turning around low performing schools.
In other countries the top third of college graduates enter the teaching workforce. Too often here in the United States our best college graduates choose other professions. We need to change the way we promote and compensate teachers so we can attract the best and brightest into the profession by rewarding excellence and providing support that enables success.
As for turning around low performing schools, we know that too many of our schools are letting our children down. In too many places achievement is low and not improving. For example, in approximately 2000 high schools, 60 percent of the entering Freshman class will drop out by the time they are supposed to be seniors. That collective loss of human potential and the long-term negative impact on our economy are both staggering.
Under ERA we have asked states to identify the bottom 5 percent of their schools. In our FY 2010 budget request we want to give them the resources to fix them with a strong focus in drop out prevention and the so-called drop out factories. This drop out challenge is a national plague that I think really strikes a real blow to where we're trying to go as a country. Half of these school are in urban areas. Twenty percent are in rural and 30 percent are in suburban. This is a real national problem.
In a recent study from the Alliance of Excellence Education came to the conclusion that if all the students in the class of 2008 had graduated, the benefits to our economy would have been an additional $319 billion in income over their lifetime and if we don't change over the next decade, another 12 million students drop out. The cost to our economy and to our nation is $3 trillion, so the economic impact as well as the loss of human potential is absolutely devastating.
Our budget includes $1.5 billion for the Title 1 School Improvement Program. That's almost a billion dollar increase over last year. When that amount is added to the $3 billion the program received in ERA and the $545 million Fiscal 2009, we have more than $5 billion to help turnaround low performing schools.
I'm talking about dramatic changes here. I won't be investing in the status quo or in changes around the margins. I want states and districts to take bold actions that will lead directly to improvements in student learning and better outcomes. I want superintendents to be aggressive in taking the difficult steps of shutting down a failing school and replacing it with one they know will work.
When we talk about 2000 schools producing half of our nation's dropouts, it's 75 percent from minority communities. That's a number that we have to get our hands around and really challenge in a substantive way.
To improve both the quality of teachers and the support they receive, we are requesting $517 million for the Teacher Incentive Fund including $30 million for national teacher recruitment campaign. This program is designed to improve the quality of the teaching work force using innovative, professional development and compensations systems as a core strategy.
I want to be clear that I want the grants awarded under this program to be a cooperative effort between districts and teachers. The President has often said that he believes changes to the teaching profession must be made by working with teachers, not by doing things to teachers. The chance for real collaboration here is remarkable.
Chicago is one of the first 34 projects to receive a grant from this program. Like many others, we worked closely with our teachers to create the program. In fact, a team of our best teachers actually gave the program shape and shows the design framework that became our foundation.
Together we created a program which emphasized improving professional practices of teachers, identify what it takes to make teachers better, and rewarded those teachers and those schools that improved.
One important change that we're requesting to the Teacher Incentive Fund would allow districts to award all employees of a school helping to improve student achievement. Students excel and thrive when all adults in the school work together. The custodians and the cafeteria workers also need to be rewarded when the students in their school succeed. When, every adult in a school building collaborates to create a culture of high expectations, magic happens for children.
In addition we are seeking $370 million for the Striving Readers Program. The program now works to improve the literacy skills of adolescent students who are reading below grade level. We will dedicate $70.4 million for that purpose, almost double the amount in the Fiscal Year 2009 budget.
With the remaining $300 million, we will create a Competitive Grant Program to support districts that create comprehensive and coherent programs that adjust the needs of young readers. These programs ensure students learn all of the skills they need to become good readers, teaching them everything from phonemic awareness to reading comprehension. We intend to build upon the successes of the Reading First Program while simultaneously fixing that program's problems.
I would like to say a word or two about the two largest programs for K to 12 students, the Title 1 Program and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Both programs received dramatic funding increases under ERA. Title 1 receives $10 billion for grants to districts in addition to the $3 billion for the School Improve Program, while IDA received 11.3 billion. That's almost as must as IDA received in Fiscal Year 2009.
We are working closely with districts to ensure that they spend this money wisely and not put into programs that they won't be able to sustain when the money has run out.
I would also like to note that both of these programs didn't receive increases they otherwise might have in Fiscal Year 2010 request because there's not enough money provided under ERA and the period of availability. We hope to resume our commitment to funding increases for these programs once the stimulus money has expired.
In the short-term we need increased funding for school turnaround efforts. The students attending these schools cannot afford to wait. We are at a crisis. More of the same in our drop out factories will not help our children succeed and beat the odds. They will only ensure that we have educators actually perpetuate poverty and social failure. We have too many examples of what does work and what is possible all around the country to continue to allow this devastating failure to exist.
In Fiscal Year 2010 we will also be making investment in Early Childhood Programs. Under Title 1, we are requesting $500 million to encourage districts to use the program's money to expand preschool programs. This money will help build one piece of the comprehensive early childhood programs that President Obama has proposed.
It is necessary to schools serving the Title 1 populations, which will benefit the most from early childhood education. The budget also includes 300 million to start the Early Learning Challenge Fund. The program's initial goal is to help states build a network of services that will maximize investment in early childhood education.
Expanding access to high quality early childhood programs is one of the best investments we can make. All of these changes will help push school reform in K to 12 schools. We also have significant and important policy changes for higher education.
Recovery Act made an important down payment on our plans to expand student aid. In addition to more aid, we want to make sure that more students are not just attending college but graduating and in our proposal it's a $2.5 billion request over five years for the College Completion and access grants.
The stimulus bill provided $17.1 billion so we could raise the maximum Pell award from $4,850 to $5350. In our Fiscal Year 2010 budget we've proposed important and permanent changes to ensure students have access to federal grant aid and loans. The first thing we propose is to move the Pell Grant program from discretionary to a mandatory appropriated entitlement.
Second, we propose to link the increase in the maximum grant to the consumer price index plus 1 percent every year, which will allow the maximum grant to grow at a higher rate than inflation so it can keep up with the rising cost of college.
I am grateful for the tremendous work that the appropriators have done to fund annual increases for the Pell Grants, particularly in the last four years, but even with that dedication the maximum grant has not kept up with the rising cost of college tuition.
I'm making the Pell Grant Program mandatory and indexing annual increases to the CPI, re-ensuring that students will know that their Pell Grant will increase at the same rate as their tuition. This will give them the assurance that they'll have the tuition assistance that they'll need to make it through college.
This is absolutely a major financial commitment. We are able to pay for this change in part by streamlining and improving the Federal Student Loan Program. We'll move loans over time from the Federal Family Education Loan Program to the Direct Loan Program, making loans more efficient for taxpayers and freeing up money for Pell Grants.
In doing so, we can dramatically expand access to college without going back to taxpayers and asking them for another dollar.
In closing, I would like to note that this budget makes tough decisions. President Obama asked all Cabinet agencies to examine their budget line, line by line and to identify programs that are ineffective or too small to have significant impact.
Our student loan proposal saves more than $4 billion annually. In addition, we're proposing to eliminate twelve programs, creating an additional savings of $550.7 million. Even though we recommend cutting these programs, we remain absolutely committed to their goals.
We're eliminating the $294 million state grant program under the Safe and Drug-free Schools and Community Program because several research studies have found that the program is ineffective while we remain committed to fight drug use and stopping violence in our schools, which is why we are recommending $100 million increase in spending for the national activities under the Safe and Drug-free Schools Program.
Even as we are proposing to eliminate the Even Start Program, but we will continue to support the Program's focus on comprehensive literacy programs through the expanded striving readers program and early reading first.
These program eliminations show that our Fiscal Year 2010 budget is a responsible one. It is investing in our country's future economic security while also making tough decisions to eliminate programs that aren't working.
I appreciate the opportunity to discuss our Fiscal Year 2010 budget. I look forward to your Committee's questions.
Thank you so much, Mr. Chairman.
REP. OBEY: Thank you.
REP. TIAHRT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
We had a little earlier discussion about No Child Left Behind. I didn't support it. I thought there were better methods of achieving the same goal and I've seen some really dramatic problems with the legislation. Let me give you an example in rural Kansas.
A young man named Joshua in Chaparral High School. He struggles with his grades. He suffers fro Turrets Syndrome, which he's on medication for. His parents were called into the school where the superintendent informed them that he needed to be removed from school and they suggested he go to a nearby small town and enroll in a learning center. The parents didn't know how to react to all this. They ended up taking him down to the center.
The found out that 40 other students from that high school were also enrolled in the learning center, all of them who were struggling with their grades. Since that time there has been several other students come in to that center. What it appears to be is that because of the demands of No Child Left Behind and the stringent percentages of students that are special needs students, many school systems cannot meet that small percentage and there is no variable system to allow them to accommodate these students and so principals simply force them out of the school.
You have a small high school in rural Kansas and they really have very little places to go, very little choices. So this child has to carpool with other kids and travel a significant amount of distance to go to an alternative learning center so that this school system can abide by No Child Left Behind.
Part of this reform has to take into consideration that in many areas some school systems have actually specialized because they're compassionate and they want to help these kids achieve their greatest potential, but because of the rigidity in the program, we can't accommodate them and so they fail on these five categories in the two major math and reading. It just takes one and the whole school system fails.
So we've instituted a program that forces children out of schools and I don't think that's your goal. It's not my goal and it's certainly not fair to Joshua. He comes from a good family, pillars in their community, well-respected family. He is the third child. The other two kids are doing very well and moving on to higher education, but here he's left without the high school experience, without the opportunity because of a system that we put in place here in Washington that I disagree with.
How can we change the system so that we don't leave children behind and can't we find some flexibility here? Accountability is good. I don't disagree with the concept, but I don't think it should be so inflexible that we can't accommodate kids like Joshua.
SEC. DUNCAN: The -- (inaudible) -- observation is probably a couple hour conversation. I'll try and keep my remarks pretty quick and just to give you context. Obviously I lived on the other side of the law for seven and a half years, so I have my own strong opinions.
But I'm in the midst of traveling to 15 different states and meeting with teachers, and meeting with parents and meeting with children and principals to really get the pulse of the nation to figure out what folks think is working what is not.
Let me start with what I think is working. I think the idea of accountability, the idea of just aggregating data and shining a spotlight on the horrendous achievement gap between white students and African American, Latino students. I think that's very important, and as a country we can no longer sweep that tough conversation under the rug and we want to keep that front and center.
There are also numerous challenges. As Chairman Obey said, one of the biggest challenges was the dramatic under funding of the law and with his leadership and others now there's a huge step in the right direction. I -- (inaudible) -- step in the right direction to add, you know, unprecedented resources to helping students in schools be successful.
The big picture. I'll just say what I think fundamentally happened. I don't know if it was intended or unintended. It was wrong. I think any time you're trying to manage what is a business, an education system, locally, nationally, you have to be very thoughtful about what you manage loose and what you manage tight and what NCLB did is it was very loose on the goals.
You have fifty different states, fifty different goal posts all over the map and due to political pressure many of those got watered down to the point that we were lying to children. Where they were very tight and very prescriptive is in terms of how you try and succeed, how you try and improve.
When I was in Chicago, I didn't think that all the good ideas came out of Washington and now that I'm in Washington, I know all the good ideas don't come out of Washington. What I want to do is fundamentally flip that on its head. I want to think about a high common bar, common standard, rigorous goals that we all have to hold ourselves accountable for to really provide creativity and flexibility at the local level and hold folks accountable but give their chance to innovate and be successful.
Secondly, I'm a big believer in looking at outcomes and we ultimately have to help more students graduate. We can't push special education students out the door. We can't hide from those challenges, and I want us to think about what we do to dramatically improve our graduation rate, and when we talk about 30 percent of our nation's students dropping out, the economic cost to our country, the loss of human potential is absolutely unacceptable, and as you well know, a couple of decades ago there actually was an acceptable drop out rate.
You could drop out and get a job and support a family, own a home, and make a good living. Today every child that drops out is basically condemned to social failure and we have to stop pushing students out. We have to start finding ways to keep those students in and reward those schools and those school districts that are working with the hardest disturbed students and keeping them on track.
REP. TIAHRT: Thank you.
I know our time is limited, so I'll way for future comment.
REP. OBEY: Thank you.
REP. ROSA L. DELAURO (D-CT): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Welcome, Mr. Secretary. It's another opportunity to be with you and I appreciate your testimony before the Budget Committee some time ago.
You have an extraordinary commitment to education and to our children and as does the President, which is why, quite frankly, I'm puzzled. I'm puzzled by the administration's -- I'll put it this way, Bush inspired elimination of the Even Start Family Literacy Services. Ninety-one percent of families in the program are at or below the poverty level. Ninety percent of the parents in the program do not have a high school diploma or a GED. This program serves children and it serves their parents and those who are in the greatest need.
Even with the decline in funding that we've seen through the years I would be specific and parochial about how the program continues to thrive in my state of Connecticut. We have a Wesleyan University study of Middletown, Connecticut, of the Even Start Program. Parent outcomes showed positive results, showed that Even Start parents are more than likely than a control group to advocate for their children's educational needs and discuss educational progress with their kids.
Even Start parents were also found to have higher educational aspirations for their children.
Your budget documents justify the cut by citing an evaluation using data now ten years old and based on a program reformed nine years ago. Let me just ask you why you took a page out of this Bush Budget Proposal and proposed to eliminate this critical program?
SEC. DUNCAN: We looked at three national evaluations and these three separate national evaluations reached the same conclusion that Even Start did not result in significantly greater gain for children and adults participating in the program than for non participants. We also added money to the Striving Readers Program, $370 million to try to help both the young children and adult literacy.
So again, we're absolutely committed to the goal of that program but a couple of different national evaluations did seem to be producing the results that we wanted.
REP. DELAURO: Well, I would have to say to you to suggest that an Even Start Services can be replaced by either -- (inaudible) -- funding or Title 1 preschool ignores, I think, the tenants of the structure of the program.
I'm not about protecting programs. I mean, I think if programs are not working, I think we ought to, you know, shut them down. But I am about helping those that need some sort of comprehensive approach for their entire family, and, you know, adult education is one component of family literacy.
SEC. DUNCAN: The funding for it is not just adult data. We have $300 million for the Early Learning Challenge Fund, so there's a significant pool of money to make sure that we're getting students off to a good start and getting those early literacy skills intact.
REP. DELAURO: I think that if you take a look at how you impact the lives of children and I think you would concur with this and this is not something that I have invented.
I think you would hear from people who have spent a lifetime in education, Dr. Heckman (ph) and others who are very clear about the role of parents and their influence on their children. Unless quite frankly we deal in a comprehensive way and whether that's literacy, whether it's economic concerns and jobs, etc cetera, if we do not address the needs of parents and their literacy skills, then quite frankly we are not going to really be making a difference in the lives of these children.
SEC. DUNCAN: I appreciate your concerns.
REP. DELAURO: Okay. Thank you.
Let me then ask you about after school programs, another area. I was a teacher in the after school programs, many, many years ago, so I'm a strong believer in these efforts and I know you're supportive of this, but how will the administration demonstrate its support for after school when it's only proposed level funding for the 21st Century CTLC Initiative and that's the only federal funding stream as far as I know that's dedicated to after school.
SEC. DUNCAN: Yeah. Obviously this is a really important one and when I talk to students this is the line that usually gets booed and not applause. But I think we have to think dramatically different about time. We need our days to be longer. We need our weeks to be longer, and we need our school year to be longer, and that after school --
REP. DELAURO: I agree.
SEC. DUNCAN: -- is hugely important. There are a number of different funding sources we have in the budget and you're starting to see some really creative things. You have obviously the stimulus dollars that can be used to lengthen time after school during the summer. You have Title 1 dollars. This is a great, great use.
I worry particularly about children who come from poor families who aren't being read to at home. That's a huge use for this increased Title 1 dollars to do more after school and then there's significant competitive grants, again, the $4.25 billion Race to the Top Fund, the $650 million Innovation and Invest in What Works Fund.
So there are multiple pools of money for states and school districts to start to think very differently about time and again just one quick example. This summer Cincinnati using stimulus dollars to keep the school open a month longer. I think that's a great step in the right direction. (Inaudible) -- lots of other folks do that. So there are unprecedented resources available for schools to think about longer days, longer weeks, longer years.
Without clear guidance in all of our funding, we think this is a very important use of money and a great strategy to help students who are historically low performing and come to school from disadvantaged backgrounds. A great way to level the playing field.
So we'll just continue to incent (sic) this, continue to encourage it, to highlight those best practices. There's never been more flexible money to use to extend learning time.
REP. DELAURO: My time has expired.
Mr. Chairman, I thank you and we'll have a second round.
Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.
REP. OBEY: (Off mike.) Mr. Rehberg.
REP. DENNIS R. REHBERG (MT): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I appreciate you having traveled to Montana just six days ago. I'm a little disappointed you're not wearing your war bonnet and blanket that you were given.
Just to put it into perspective, both my grandmother and mom were teachers and came from Langer (ph), which is where you were, and so you know particularly the problem that exists within education in rural communities.
I guess I'm a little surprised and perhaps a little disappointed in the budget presentation as we see it as it relates to the rural educational needs. While I may have had a heartache with many areas of No Child Left Behind, I found the Bush administration at least amenable to flexibility and I hope that you will be as well as you manage many of the programs within the budget, but particularly the shift from formula to grants within the budget is something that scares me a bit because coming from a rural area like Montana we find that we don't have maybe the level of expertise to have grant writing.
Other areas that have economy of scale, so I would like to point that out to you in particular and I've got a letter that is outside. I have the preliminary from the Rural Education Caucus. It's talking a little bit about your budget. I formerly chaired the Rural Education Caucus and turned that over to other more capable individuals, but I'd like to have this presented for the record as soon as it gets here.
Some of the words you used in your presentation were perpetuate poverty and social failure and not just attending but graduating from college. Having traveled to now the Cheyenne Reservation and seeing the kinds of students, Mr. Chairman, I might just point out that your numbers were impressive, but our unemployment rate on the Cheyenne Reservation was 70 percent. That's seven zero, and that is something that definitely concerns us.
One of the programs that is very successful in Montana and may not be so much in other areas is the Trio Program, and if you want to do something to not perpetuate poverty and social failure and not just attending but graduating from college, it really is important not to necessarily create a mandatory program in Pell Grants but to fund appropriately programs like Trio which are more a holistic approach to providing assistance to graduating seniors going on to college, and just real quickly I looked up the numbers.
Nation wide the percentage of low-income high school graduates enrolling in post secondary education is 24 percent. In Montana its 73 percent. So this is really a program that's given us an opportunity to take our kids and give them something more so that they can compete when they get to college and it's more of the holistic approach that I would hope that you would seriously take a look at and see that perhaps these funding levels aren't necessarily appropriate for the assistance of rural education, and I'll give you a chance to respond.
SEC. DUNCAN: Let me just start. I'm learning so much every day, you know, not just there but, you know, West Virginia and Vermont. Let me tell you my visit to Northern Cheyenne to the reservation there is something I will never forget, and I've been in some pretty tough areas in my life and worked in some pretty tough areas, and the level of desperation, the level of poverty was heartbreaking. And at the high school I visited, this is not a scientific study, but the teachers said to the best of their knowledge, they had one child past six years graduate from college. One.
And as I talked to the students they were smart. They were committed. They wanted more, and they were desperately pushing against expectations. They repeatedly told me that they're being told on multiple fronts that they're not good enough and they can't make it and they're fighting that.
So let me tell you there are lots of areas in the country that we need to improve the quality of education, but that's not one that I'm going to forget. That one is very personal to me and I'm going to figure out, not just there but in other places, how we help children who have been trapped in -- you know, I can't even imagine 70 percent unemployment. I'm still trying to get my head around that number. It's almost incomprehensible. We have to do something there and again I'm convinced that the only way we get to there is through better education.
I don't have all the answers but I want you to know that I am absolutely committed to trying to make a difference there.
REP. REHBERG: And I appreciate your recognition of the tribal college issue as well. We're pretty proud of the fact -- I think we're the only state that has a tribal college on each of the seven reservations.
SEC. DUNCAN: Yeah, and it's pretty remarkable leadership there. I met with a number of those tribal college presidents.
I'll just say quickly that I'm a big fan of the Trio Program, a big fan of Gear Up. We haven't talked about dual enrollment programs where high school students start to take, you know, class on college campuses and get exposure there and the more we can bridge that divide it helps students to really believe that college is a possibility for them. That is hugely important and we have too many children around the country, including those I met there, that are smart enough, that are working hard enough, but they're being told college is not for them. It's a different world and we have to break through that psychological barrier and raise our expectations dramatically.
REP. REHBERG: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. OBEY: Ms. Roybal-Allard.
REP. LUCILLE ROYBAL-ALLARD (D-CA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and welcome, Mr. Secretary.
First of all let me associate myself with the concerns that were raised by Congresswoman DeLauro about the elimination of the Even Start Program. Particularly since its been based on this 2003 study in which the evaluators themselves said, and this is a direct quote, "Care should be given in applying the findings to Even Start as a whole." And then furthermore, a 2007 Pennsylvania State University study found that the 2003 evaluation had inherent design flaws.
So eliminating a program as important as this based on questionable studies, I think is something to be concerned about. And also although I realize the money is being shifted to other places, the point that Ms. DeLauro made I think is very, very valid and those programs do not provide family literacy, and family literacy, as you know, is key to having parents involved with their children and when parents are involved, the research has shown that children succeed at a much higher rate, so I just want to associate myself with the comments that were made by Ms. DeLauro and also hoping that you will take another look at this proposal.
Another concern that I have on the budget deals with education technology funding. Now, President Obama has spoken at length about the importance of equipping our schools, our community colleges, and public universities with a 21st Century classroom. The Enhancing Education Through Technology Grant Program was designed to achieve those very goals, yet the budget cuts this already under funded program from $269 million to $100 million.
Now while it is true the program receives $650 million in the Stimulus Bill, there is a problem using that as the rationale. First of all, the fact is that the stimulus was intended to supplement and to not supplant existing funding.
Furthermore, the drastic cuts puts the only significant technology program that the Department of Education has at a terrible disadvantage because by funding the Technology Program at 100 million in FY '10 , you are lowering the baseline for future funding and it could take years for this program to regain even it's '09 funding level of 269 million.
Can you explain the rationale for such a dramatic cut in funding for education technology especially now when it is more needed than ever?
SEC. DUNCAN: Again, you hit on both of the challenges and the opportunities, but when we had, as you state, $650 million in new money, you know unprecedented increases in education technology, there's a huge influx of money to go to -- across the country to folks to work very, very hard in this area. We have never seen that kind of support ever for education technology.
REP. ROYBAL-ALLARD: So you're basically supplanting then? In other words and the program, as I said is going to be put at a terrible disadvantage in the future because that then becomes the baseline.
SEC. DUNCAN: I understand the concern. Again, there was two to three times as much money going in through this Stimulus package than this program has ever seen before.
REP. ROYBAL-ALLARD: Okay. But that doesn't address the problem it creates in the future.
SEC. DUNCAN: No, I understand that challenge.
REP. ROYBAL-ALLARD: Okay.
SEC. DUNCAN: I totally understand that challenge.
REP. ROYBAL-ALLARD: Okay.
The Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities Program provides very effective research-based approaches to drug abuse and violence prevention and the program reaches about 37 million students in every school district across the United States. Now, the President's budget eliminates the 295 million state grant program and replaces it with a much smaller 100 million competitive grant program and it is my understanding that the Department justifies eliminating this program on an old 2001 study.
Many changes have been made to this program in the last eight years and not only will there be less money available for school drug programs, which I might add are badly needed. We definitely have a drug and alcohol program with our young people, but by making it competitive, the result will be that some school districts will be left without these vital funds because they will not be able to compete and get that money to support their programs.
And in cases where schools were getting just a small amount of what they were able to do was use that small amount of federal money to leverage other state and local funding. So they're going to lose that ability, but again, what is the rationale for limiting the scope and the reach of this program and what will be done to help those schools that will not be able to compete and get the money. They will no longer be able to leverage even a small amount of federal money in order to help them to be able to have these drug prevention programs in their schools.
SEC. DUNCAN: I really appreciate the question. Obviously these are huge important issues. Continuing to make sure our schools are violence free and drug free is hugely important, and Mr. Chairman, you make tough cuts, and these are hard and controversial, and not easy, and I understand that. It wasn't just the 2001 study, just to be clear on sort of the facts base. There was a 2007 study as well that talked about these programs not really making a significant difference.
That's much more current than this 2001 study and what we really found was that money that was trickling out to states wasn't making a big difference and we want to get that money directly to schools and to school districts, much more tangible, much more hands on with students and that was the shift and strategic focus. We remain absolutely committed to the goal.
REP. ROYBAL-ALLARD: My time is up.
REP. OBEY: (Off mike.) I'd like to explain that we have four votes coming up and the majority leader has announced that in contrast to recent practice he is going to hold these votes to a tight time frame. So if we don't want to miss the votes, I'd suggest that we go over to the House now.
I'm sorry, Mr. Secretary, but we're going to be stuck over there, I'd guess it'd be for about thirty to forty minutes.
(A recess was taken.)
REP. OBEY: Well, Mr. Secretary, I know this is a wonderfully productive use of your time, but we'll try to screw things up again in about ten minutes.
So having said that, Ms. McCollum.
REP. BETTY MCCOLLUM (D-MN): Thank you, Mr. Chair.
And, Mr. Secretary, it's good to see you again.
When you were before the budget committee we had an opportunity to speak a little bit about national standards and national goals and development and I know that you're working with NCSL and school boards and superintendents and parents all over across the country to work on that so I hope to talk to you more about that and how my concern that's going to come up shortly about funding is going to fit it.
But I do want to thank you for your sincere acknowledgement of what our tribal schools need as well as you become even more immersed in this issue for our young children and leaving truly no one behind, the needs that many Native American children face in our urban and suburban settings as well as what you've seen on the reservations. I was just at Milax (ph) on Leech Lake where I saw great things going on in school buildings that were second rate, but the hearts of those kids were first rate in being there and learning and so were their elders and their community behind them 100 percent.
I want to talk to you a second about what I consider becoming near a national security issue, and that's the economy and the role of education in the economy, and as the economy has worsened, I'm afraid we're seeing opportunities for education for many of things that you want to do and President Obama, and I and the parents in my district slip through our fingers.
That's as I said a national security issue not only, I think, making us being able to compete in this world, but also for keeping our democracy vibrant and strong and a beacon for other countries to look at.
The Center on Budget Policy Priorities recently issued a paper of Federal Fiscal Assistance for state governments. It's begun to have -- it's seeing that what the Recovery Package has done. As the Naval states to not decrease their budgets quite as much as they might have with the short falls that they're seeing.
In other words, it's smaller cuts for education and what would have been, and I'm concerned about this because if you look at what's going on in 46 of the states, they have deficits for Fiscal 2010 and beyond. The gaps total $133 billion for 45 states, and they are estimating the size of these gaps could grow.
Minnesota alone has a 654 million mid year budget deficit. So what I'm concerned about is the Recovery Funds are really supplanting regular education funds. This Congress made a decision not to do matching funds to give the states some flexibility. We gave governors and their Departments of Education the dollars without going through the legislative branches.
Assuming that these funds would be used, yes, to maybe supplant a little, but they're being supplanted for everything. So how do we move forward and I agree with Chairman Obey, with all the goals, all the wonderful goals in this budget and with the money that you have planned to achieve these goals, if we send the money to the states and they just use it to provide basic education and still cut basic education, then we're set up for failure, President Obama is set up for failure, but most importantly our children are set up for failure, so how are we going to hold these school districts accountable?
Where is the shared responsibility for our children's future?
SEC. DUNCAN: It's a great question and I'm a great believer in both awards and consequences. Let me tell you what we're doing on both end of the spectrum.
First of all in the first round of the Stimulus Package, we put out tens of billions of dollars and our staff has gotten that money out extraordinarily quickly. We committed to putting it out within fourteen days and our staff's been getting it out in close to six days, working nights, weekends to really respond to the urgent need. But we also held back billions of dollars and where we see states playing shell games or acting in bad faith, we have the opportunity not to put out that second shot at the money and we're not looking for a fight. We're not looking to be the tough guy, the bad guy, we we're absolutely prepared to do that if necessary. So we have a real significant stick there.
Secondly we've talked about unprecedented discretionary resources, $4.35 billion for the Race to the Top Fund, $650 million Investment in What Works Innovation Fund, and where we see states playing games, acting in bad faith and doing the wrong thing by children, they will basically eliminate themselves from the competition.
So they have a chance to bring in on top of unprecedented stimulus resources, a chance to bring hundreds of millions of dollars into their states if they're creative, if they're innovative, if they're pushing the status quo and challenging status quo. If they're doing the wrong thing, they could lose out in a second set of stimulus money, and they would absolutely put themselves at huge risk, huge jeopardy of just being eliminated from the competition for discretionary dollars.
I think we have really carrots and real sticks to try to encourage states to act in good faith and do the right thing by children.
REP. OBEY: Okay.
I want to ask you on a macro issue, Mr. Secretary, related to the geographic and economic disparity in our public school system. Bearing in mind that what the federal government does is at most capacity building and gap filling. It's a relative small fraction of the public education budget, but some trends have been occurring that have been exacerbated in the last several years. One is geographic.
It's clear that the best from an academic and creative standpoint, students in much of the Heartland of the country, they're moving. They're moving to the coast, the East or West Coast to what Richard Frada (ph) calls the creative class communities. They prefer, you know, metro and the coffee shops and so on or the principle suburbs.
You're aware of that geographic disparity and it's causing a major employment and economic potential gap, but the other problem is an economic one and it's really based upon the way we fund public education.
As you very well know, we're too reliant on property taxes. Their problem there is that the parents who have the most at stake in our public school system are the least likely to own much property and so they're really kind of powerless in terms of putting adequate resources into the public school system.
Those who have the money are either retired, you know in their fifties or whatever, and accumulated some wealth, so they have substantial property or they're wealthy enough that they send their kids to private school.
We're seeing that over and over again, particularly in inner cities and some of the ex urban areas. There's a lessening of the political support for adequate investment in education.
So of all the things that we do, perhaps the best thing we could do is to try to restructure our national system for funding education. It's regressive now. There's a built in perverse incentive and it's one of the reasons why in terms of comparativeness to the rest of the world, we tend to be dropping each successive year in terms of our global competitiveness and the preparation of the work force.
So I'd like to get some thoughts from you because I've heard you express it yourself before, and you I think would have some useful suggestions, but I'd like to know if the administration has thought about taking this issue on.
SEC. DUNCAN: It's another long conversation, but this issue is very personal for me. I come from a state, Illinois, and my numbers may not be exactly right but we were 48th in the amount of money going to education. So we were virtually dead last and we were 43rd of the disparities between wealthy districts and poor districts and I was at the poor end of that. I worked in a district that was 90 percent minority and 85 percent of my students lived below the poverty line.
And when the children of the rich get dramatically poor spent on them than the children of the poor, it exacerbates the great disparities and outcomes. I think public education at its heart should be the great equalizer and that the chance for every child regardless of wealthy, poor, black, white, Asian. It doesn't matter. Every child should have a chance to get a great education and money doesn't begin to answer all our problems, and we've seen lots of money spent on things that don't make sense.
But it's interesting in every wealthy district they seem to spend a lot of money on education. There's a value there and it needs to be spent well, and so this is one that I think we have to really think about and I don't have answers today.
You know, our folks thinking about it and looking at it, but when we are contributing, we are perpetuating to a system of haves and have nots. I think that's not the principal prong which our country is based and that's not the point of public education in our country. We need to be very, very thoughtful about what are we doing to give every child a chance to have a great education.
REP. OBEY: Well, I hear you and obviously no one could disagree with you, but I think if we were to reassess this whole situation and come up with a far-ranging plan that addressed it from a tax standpoint, it might be the most important thing we could do instead of all of this proliferation of programs trying to meet needs where it's really a marginal improvement we can make to fixing the underlying cause of the disparity.
We have very little time, so I won't pursue it further or even ask further questions because we're going to have to go vote, but I thank you for your thoughtfulness and your background. We're going to have a lot of time to work together, but I'm glad you're on board.
I'm going to suggest, Ms. Lee, it's futile to try and come back here with what's going on on the floor. We've got six minutes and forty seconds left to vote. It's going to be a short vote, so I would suggest you take two minutes to ask a question and then we'll have to hang it up or we will all miss the votes.
REP. BARBARA LEE (D-CA): Okay.
First welcome, Secretary. Good to see you again, and again I just want to reiterate a couple of things we talked about at your meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus. I served as Chair, as you know, and one of the areas we're extremely concerned about is drop out rates in minority communities especially with young African American and Latino boys.
Thirty percent -- the statistics are African American men have a 30 percent chance of serving in prison before the age of 30, but among young African American men who drop out of high school, it jumps to 60 percent. So it's just outrageous. It's astounding and I need to look at your budget and just look at how you're really beginning to address those drop out rates especially among minority groups.
And finally let me just say I'm very pleased to see that you acknowledge that education is a civil right, the civil right issue of our time, and that it's a truly effective weapon in our nation's long war on poverty because it's absolutely correct and to have that perspective coming from your department I think is wonderful. Thank you.
SEC. DUNCAN: Thank you. And just quickly we talked about -- I think there's nothing more important that we can do as a country than to dramatically reduce that drop out rate and the economic costs to the country and the personal loss is tremendous.
We can identify 2000 high schools around the country who produce half of our nation's drop outs and 75 percent of minority student dropouts and so what we want to do is not tinker around the edges, not just incremental change. And this is tough, tough work. I think we have to do it. We have to gauge these tough issues in a real and honest way. We need to fundamentally turn around over time, not overnight, over time those schools and those feeder middle schools and elementary schools.
But we can identify the problem and this has been going on for far too long and these children have not had a chance at being successful with these kinds of drop out rates.
REP. LEE: Mr. Secretary, I hope and could you follow up with us or in writing perhaps to the committee how in your budget what's the strategy because I don't see this targeted in your budget request.
SEC. DUNCAN: $5 billion in school improvement money, Title 1. Unprecedented. Unprecedented dollars going in to help the neediest of schools.
REP. OBEY: I'm going to have to call this hearing to an end. I'll save my questions for another time, Mr. Secretary. I apologize for the discombobulation.
SEC. DUNCAN: No problem.
REP. OBEY: It's life around here.
SEC. DUNCAN: No problem.
Thank you so much for the opportunity and thanks so much for your leadership, Mr. Chairman.