Chair DeLauro Statement at the FY 2022 Budget Request for the Department of Education Hearing

2021-05-05 10:47

House Appropriations Committee Chair and Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) delivered the following remarks at the subcommittee's hearing on the FY 2022 Budget Request for the Department of Education.

With that, I want to acknowledge Ranking Member Cole and all of our colleagues for joining. I am excited this morning to welcome Secretary Cardona who joins the Biden administration from my home state of Connecticut. It is a pleasure to have you with us today, and to have your voice in this discussion. As the son of Puerto Rican parents who grew up in the projects and entered school as an English learner, and now as Secretary of the Department of Education, you bring an important wealth of knowledge and personal experience to our discussion. I know many in Connecticut are grateful for your service working for two decades in our Meriden Connecticut Public Schools and then as State Commissioner of Education. We are proud of the example you set for students not only in Connecticut but across this country.

This week we celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, a time to give back and show our gratitude to the countless hard-working teachers who dedicate their lives to educating our nation’s students.This is why we must continue to support teacher training and preparation programs, including additional resources for Title II. But in recognizing our educators this week, I also want to recognize you Secretary Cardona. Thank you for the sacrifices you have made to help students of all ages, races, sexes, and backgrounds to reach for the American Dream. You know first-hand how education can serve as a great equalizer that opens doors and opportunities to jobs, higher wages and a better life. But as you will expand further in your testimony, it can only serve as this great equalizer if, and only if, it is affordable, accessible, and achievable for all. I am so grateful to see that the Biden administration has made it a top priority to reverse years of underinvestment in our federal education system.

Sadly our schools, our teachers, our students have been struggling for far too long. In the richest country in the world it is unconscionable that we still have teachers forced to take money out of their own pockets to buy paper, pencils, even food for their students, and students who struggle in school because they are hungry, or homeless, or are not having their unique needs met. And it is unacceptable that schools and school systems that predominantly serve students of color are often considerably more underfunded than schools that serve white populations.

That is why I am grateful that President Biden took decisive action to respond to the economic crisis by proposing the American Rescue Plan, a plan that includes $170 billion to help our K-12 schools, colleges, and universities safely reopen and to accelerate learning for students most impacted by the pandemic.

Further the administration initiated a bold plan to invest in American Jobs which includes $100 billion to rebuild K-12 schools across the country, an additional $12 billion investment in community college infrastructure. The cornerstone of the education and training system, especially for nontraditional and disadvantaged students.

And more recently, the President released the American Families Plan which includes groundbreaking proposals for universal pre-K, free community college, and a major increase to the Pell Grant program to make college more affordable for disadvantaged students.

The investments for universal pre-K would improve the lives of millions of children. Studies show that children attending universal pre-K programs do better academically in later grades and so I believe investing in pre-K plays a critical role in ensuring our students are equipped with the tools they need to succeed early on.

Let me though stress that these investments in Pre-K must go hand in hand with investments in child care. We can not afford to think of child care and Pre-K as separate systems. We must make sure that our investments in child care and pre-K keep working families in mind.  Breaking pre-K out from the overall childcare umbrella could leave behind families who work beyond school hours, those with infants and toddlers, or those with students with disabilities. So I want to stress the importance of ensuring that we are also providing both educational and childcare services to our working families.

I am grateful to see that the administration budget is once again taking the lead by submitting a 2022 Budget Request for Education that lays out a plan for how to improve the lives of millions of American students and families.

Mr. Secretary, your budget request for ED programs under the Labor-HHS-Education subcommittee is $102.8 billion, an increase of $29.3 billion over the current levels.

These increased investments are unprecedented. And they are sure to go a long way to reverse years of underinvestment in our federal education system.

It is not enough to just throw money at the problem. We need to work to ensure the most dollars go to those who need them most, particularly those schools and students who come from underserved communities. No student in any state should have to accept a lower quality education simply because of where they live or the color of their skin.

Which is why I am encouraged to see that the administration is working diligently to reverse such funding inequities for students of color by more than doubling the funding for Title I Grants. Last year, House Democrats included Maintenance of Equity provisions in the President’s American Rescue Plan to protect low-income school districts from disproportionate cuts by States like we saw during the Great Recession. States need to step up and do a better job of equitably funding their highest-need districts. I look forward to reviewing more details on this proposal in the President’s full budget release.

I am also pleased to see that this administration is helping to increase the availability of wrap-around services to underserved students providing $443 million, an increase of $413 million for the Full Service Community Schools program. Since becoming Chair of this subcommittee, we have increased funding for community schools by 70 percent. We included the program in our initiative on funding for Social and Emotional Learning and whole child approaches to learning. It's a bold investment and we're hoping that it builds on the strong foundation established by this subcommittee.

If I can just for a second, I would like to quote Dr. Pam Cantor from Turnaround With Children who worked with us on this initiative. And something she often says in relation to whole child approaches to learning is that, “Adversity doesn’t just happen to children, it happens inside their brains and bodies through the biologic mechanism of stress.” This is why students in poverty are well served by schools that provide holistic services and supports that account for their social, emotional, physical, and academic needs. 

I would be remiss if I did not also thank you for the critical funding increases you are making for the IDEA Part B Grants to States, and for programs serving Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), community colleges, and under-resourced institutions of higher education. I applaud the investment you are making to make post secondary education. Making it more affordable for students with low incomes. In combination with the American Families Plan, this administration would provide an increase of more than $1,800 to the maximum Pell Grant, the largest increase to Pell ever.  

Also you will include a $250 million for the increase to IDEA Part C which supports infants and toddlers with disabilities with early interventions and therapies that lay the groundwork for later learning. And the President's request also proposes $144 million for the Office for Civil Rights. 

Thank for putting an increased focus, and I know this is an interest of all the Members of our subcommittee, that you are putting on our student’s mental health in this request. It is an important issue and one that became particularly clear in our hearing we held in March on how COVID-19 has exposed and exacerbated the mental health and substance use crises we have in our country today.

The investments are crucial. We are finally moving toward a budget and a role for government that works to level the playing field so that anyone, no matter who they are, or where they are from can achieve the American Dream.   

With that, I want to thank you again, Secretary Cardona, for joining us today, and I look forward to working with you. 

117th Congress