Chair DeLauro Statement at FY 2023 Budget Request for the Department of Education Hearing

2022-04-28 10:59

House Appropriations Committee Chair and Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-03) delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's hearing on the FY 2023 Budget Request for the Department of Education:

Let me acknowledge the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee, Tom Cole, and all of the Members who are joining today’s hearing both virtually and in person.

And I would very much like to welcome Secretary Miguel Cardona to his first in-person hearing of this Subcommittee as Secretary of the Department of Education. You were with us virtually last year, but there is nothing like being in person. So a very, very warm welcome.

There is little more critical to our growth and progress as a nation than support for the educational success of our students. If the last two years have proven anything, it is that as we struggle to overcome moments of so much change, we have a moral responsibility to ensure that our students, and the families and teachers that support them every day, have the resources to succeed and to flourish. 

Schools and learning provide consistency. As educator Horace Mann said, and I quote, “Education…beyond all other divides of human origin, is a great equalizer.” And I would add, is a great constant in a constantly changing world.

Secretary Cardona, you have proven – over the last year and throughout your career as a Connecticut educator – to be a fighter for the programs and policies that give our students and out teachers the certainty that they need for success.

Next week is Teacher Appreciation Week, a moment to celebrate and to recognize you, Mr. Secretary, and the millions of teachers around the country who dedicate their lives to educating our students. And you and I both know the incredible sacrifice that being an educator entails, which is why the work that you do to support our teachers as they transform students’ lives is so crucial.

I also want to acknowledge our parents who have struggled to get their kids educated throughout the pandemic. And we agree they should have a big role and a big say in their children’s education. 

There are some today who are trying to divide parents and teachers, but by design, our public-school systems require significant input from local communities and parents. Nationwide, there are 13,500 school districts with about 90,000 school board members. Around 90 percent of these school board members are directly elected by their communities. One third of school board members are parents of students in schools or preschools with over 90 percent of those students attending schools in the districts that their parents represent.

I am also troubled by broader efforts to ban content. That is divisive. The banning of books from public schools and libraries, restricting free speech and access to books is divisive, and it impedes the development of our children. That also must hold at universities and in university libraries, where freedom of expression is under attack. This too limits the growth and development of the next generation.

And we should not elide “Critical Race Theory” with students learning about our history. America has a complicated history. But America is exceptional. American freedom grew out of our history, dealing with Native Americans, immigration, and slavery. And somehow, we keep bending the arch toward progress and greater equality. 

Strengthening our educational system and our students’ learning begins with a strong Department of Education. So I thank you, Mr. Secretary, for joining us to discuss the Department of Education’s fiscal year 2023 budget, which builds on the transformative investments we have made over the past year.

Under your and President Biden’s leadership, historic progress has already begun to improve the lives of our nation’s students, educators, and their families. 

This work began with $170 billion in the American Rescue Plan funds secured by Congressional Democrats and President Biden, who moved quickly to reopen public schools, provide emergency grants directly to students, and assist colleges and universities in giving support to students in need. 

The Biden administration has also taken swift action to ensure student borrowers are not denied the benefits that they are entitled to. With improvements to Public Service Loan Forgiveness, $6.8 billion in loan debt has been canceled for more than 113,000 public servants. And the administration’s new waiver for borrowers in income-driven repayment will bring another 3.6 million Americans closer to loan forgiveness.

And the days of the fox guarding the hen house at the Department are over. You have advanced strong proposed regulations that will protect students and taxpayers from predatory for-profit colleges and provide relief to the student borrowers they defrauded. And despite bad faith arguments by some, you have proposed reasonable measures that will increase accountability and transparency in the Charter School Program.

Mr. Secretary, I applaud you and the President for your unprecedented support of our students, public schools, colleges, and universities. We have so much more to do as we continue reversing decades of underinvestment in our federal education system, which is why I am so proud that Congress, led by this Committee, passed, in a bipartisan way, the 2022 government funding omnibus bill last month, which included historic funding, including an increase of $2.9 billion for programs under the Department of Education.

I am especially proud of the $1 billion increase included for Title I to support low-income students in our nation’s public schools, the largest increase in over a decade, again on a bipartisan basis. No child in this country should be denied a quality education because of where they were born, their family’s income, or their race or ethnicity. And with an increase of $448 million for Special Education Programs, we are also recommitting ourselves to improving the lives of babies, children, and young adults with disabilities.

As Chair of this Subcommittee, I was excited as we created an initiative on Social and Emotional Learning (S-E-L) and Whole Child Approaches, which we funded now for a third year in a row. We have included $82 million for evidence-based S-E-L grants, $85 million for teacher and school leader development that prioritizes S-E-L training, $111 million for School-Based Mental Health Professionals grants—an increase of $90 million—and $75 million for Full-Service Community Schools—an increase of $45 million. These programs support students’ social, emotional, and cognitive development and positively impact their academic performance and well-being. 

Earlier this year, we held a hearing on these strategies where we examined the overwhelming evidence base behind these interventions. We heard how these effective strategies are needed now more than ever considering the extreme stress and hardship our country’s most vulnerable students have faced during the COVD-19 pandemic.

And to make higher education accessible to even more students, we were proud to fight for and deliver the largest increase in over a decade to the maximum Pell Grant– a $400 increase. We also delivered a $96 million increase for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). We are proud of these critical investments, which will make college more affordable for historically underserved students and their families.

Alongside the Department of Education programs, for the first time in 12 years, we included Member funding for projects to directly support students and educators in our home districts. We were able to meet the needs of communities all across our nation through district-specific funding for programs that support students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, mentorship, tutoring initiatives, college success, and learning loss programs for underserved students. In my own district, $2 million will help New Haven Public Schools as they expand job development opportunities for high school students interested in a career in the manufacturing sector with a new manufacturing education and pathways program.

As we begin the fiscal year 2023 budget process, we must build on these critical investments to help even more students and families to achieve that American Dream, and I am pleased to see such a strong budget request to do just that. 

The President’s fiscal year 2023 request includes $88.3 billion for the Department of Education, an increase of $11.9 billion – 16 percent – above the 2022 level.

It would continue to build on the historic fiscal year 2022 investment in Title I, the cornerstone of our federal support for public education. It provides an additional $3 billion discretionary increase to support our students and those schools that are most in need. 

The request also prioritizes support for our students with disabilities with a $2.9 billion increase to IDEA Part B Grants to States for special education services and a critical $436 million increase for IDEA Grants for Infants and Families for early intervention services available to children with disabilities aged birth through two and their families. And it supports English learners and immigrant students with a $244 million increase for the English Language Acquisition program. And a transformative $393 million increase for Community Schools will provide critical comprehensive services and expand evidence-based models that meet the holistic needs of children, families, and communities.

Your budget recognizes the immense value of higher education by providing key investments to make college more affordable and accessible for low-income and minority students. I am pleased to see a $500 increase to the discretionary Pell Grant maximum award. And with an additional $249 million for HBCUs, MSIs, and other under-resourced institutions, we will continue to meet the needs of low-income, first-generation students, narrow our nation’s racial wealth gap, and expand access to employment.

Mr. Secretary, the work that you and the rest of the administration do day in and day out touches the lives of every single student and educator. The investments in this budget request and our support for our students and teachers ensure that our government will get one step closer to leveling the playing field so that every child and every student has a fair shot. That allows for their God-given talent, to help the opportunities that are created that they can flourish. 

I look forward to working with you over the next year, and looking forward to our discussion this morning. Thank you again for being here today.

117th Congress