Everyone here agrees our children deserve better. They deserve the opportunity to receive a better education and pursue a better life. That’s why improving K-12 education continues to be such an important priority at the federal, state, and local levels. By empowering parents to do what’s best for their child, school choice has been an instrumental part of that effort.
When we passed legislation last year to improve K-12 education, empowering parents was one of our primary goals, because we know parents can make the most meaningful difference in their child’s education. Several reforms in the Every Student Succeeds Act help parents do what’s best for their child’s education by expanding school choice, reforms such as: increasing access to quality charter schools and magnet schools; protecting home schools from federal interference; and launching a pilot program that will encourage excellent schools to enroll harder to serve students.
While these reforms are encouraging, education leaders in state capitals and local school districts are the real reason why the promise of school choice has touched the lives of so many parents and children. The progress we have seen over the last 25 years is remarkable.
The school choice movement began in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1990, where local leaders piloted the first private school choice program. Known as the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, the pilot provided low-income families scholarships to attend a quality school. Since then, the program has paved the way for thousands of students to receive a better education and inspired 27 other states to create different types of private school choice programs – many of which have been credited with helping students graduate not only from high school, but from college as well.
My home state of Minnesota was not far behind Milwaukee in expanding educational opportunities for students and families. In 1991, the state passed the nation’s first charter school law, providing parents an alternative public school option that better met their child’s needs. Today more than 40 states have passed charter school laws, opening the doors to thousands of schools that have served millions of students.
These are just a few examples of how school choice is helping students and families. Last week marked the 5th annual National School Choice Week, where more than 16,000 events in all 50 states showcased the success of school choice, from private school scholarships and public charter schools to homeschooling and education savings accounts. In all its forms, school choice has provided real hope to moms, dads, and children across the country.
Today, as we learn more about how states and local communities are expanding school choice, I encourage my colleagues to ask how we can support these efforts and help more children receive the education they deserve.Read More
When the Department of Labor first proposed changes to the rules governing retirement advice, we had concerns. We completely agreed – and still do – that financial advisors should be required to act in their clients’ best interests. Instead, our concerns were focused on the details of the department’s proposal.
It became clear that rather than help individuals obtain high-quality retirement advice, the proposal would make retirement planning harder for those most in need of assistance. So we, along with a number of our Democratic colleagues, called for the department to rethink its proposal. We held hearings and wrote letters, and eventually, the department decided to go back to the drawing board. Unfortunately, when they released their revised proposal last year, it was similarly flawed.
Once again, it became clear the department’s approach would make retirement advice unaffordable or inaccessible for low- and middle-income families. Once again, we heard from small business owners who explained how they will be unable to offer their employees retirement plans if the department’s rule goes into effect. And once again, we weren’t alone in our concerns.
Much like with the department’s first proposal, our Democratic colleagues in both the House and the Senate spoke out against the rule. In fact, nearly 100 House Democrats – including members of this committee – wrote to Secretary of Perez about concerns they were hearing, concerns that the proposal could limit the ability of certain individuals to access retirement advice. Those House Democrats also urged the department to seek a balanced approach that protects individuals while still protecting access to retirement investment advice for all Americans.
That’s exactly the approach we took in developing the two proposals we’re considering today. With the administration clearly intent on pushing forward a flawed proposal, I – along with several colleagues from both sides of the aisle – began working to come up with a legislative solution. We developed a set of principles to guide that effort, and after much work and collaboration, we put forward these two bills.
Some say we should wait until the department finalizes its proposal. In other words, we should wait until it’s too late. Instead, we drafted a bill that gives the administration a chance to get it right. If they release a responsible rule, Congress will approve the plan, and it will go into effect. If not, our bipartisan alternative will do what the department couldn’t.
These proposals will strengthen retirement planning by requiring financial advisors to look out for their clients’ best interests. They will enhance transparency and accountability with several clear, simple, and relevant disclosure requirements. And they will protect access to high-quality, affordable retirement advice for all workers, retirees, and small business owners. I’m confident our bipartisan solution will ensure more Americans are able to successfully plan for their futures and, as a result, are able to look forward to their hard-earned retirement.
The changes in the proposed substitute amendment make a number of technical and clarifying changes to the original bill. I urge my colleagues to support the substitute, as well as the underlying bill, and I yield back the balance of my time.Read More
We are here to improve protections for those who rely on the help of financial advisors when saving for retirement. This effort began four and a half years ago, when Congressman Phil Roe held the first congressional hearing on the Department of Labor’s proposed changes to the rules governing retirement advice. At the time, Chairman Roe raised concerns that the department’s expansive proposal would hurt the very people it was intended to help, and those concerns were shared by Republicans and Democrats alike.
Due to the leadership of Congressman Roe and others, the department would later withdraw its proposal. We had hoped that would mark the beginning of a more collaborative effort between Congress and the administration, one that would improve in a responsible way policies affecting retirement advisors. In fact, we have repeatedly expressed our willingness to do just that.
Unfortunately, the department has insisted on a different approach. After withdrawing its proposal in 2011, the department went back behind closed doors to draft a new regulation that suffers from the same fatal flaws as the first. It creates a convoluted regulatory scheme that will drive up the cost of retirement advice. Men and women will lose access to their trusted financial advisors. Providing basic information about retirement planning will be severely restricted, and it will be much harder for small business owners to provide retirement plans to their workers.
This regulatory proposal will hit low- and middle-income families the hardest. Wealthier Americans can already afford to hire professional advisors who direct and manage their investments on a near daily basis. Low- and middle-income families cannot. These families have fewer means to invest, and they often just need some help getting started and staying on the right track. The Department of Labor is threatening the ability of these families to find the help they need at a cost they can afford.
These concerns have been expressed time and again by lawmakers in both parties serving on both sides of the Capitol. The question is: What are we going to do about it? Are we going to cross our fingers and hope the administration gets this right? Or are we going to put forward our own ideas to improve the law and protect families saving for retirement? The stakes are too high for Congress to sit back and do nothing.
Fortunately, Republicans and Democrats are committed to a responsible, bipartisan alternative. That is why Congressman Roe, along with Representatives Buddy Carter, Richard Neal, John Larson, and Peter Roskam developed the legislation we are now considering. Despite important differences, the bills before us today and the department’s regulatory proposal are similar in two important ways.
First, they would both require financial advisors to serve their clients’ best interests. There has never been any argument over whether a ‘best interest’ standard is the right standard, but there are clear differences on how to implement it. This bipartisan legislation strikes the right balance between raising the bar on financial advisors and ensuring individuals have access to basic advice, like whether to roll money from one retirement account to another.
Second, both the legislation and the department’s proposal recognize that transparency is vital to empowering individual investors. The legislation builds upon existing policies requiring advisors to disclose meaningful information to their clients, including how the advisor is compensated for his or her services. Unlike the proposed regulation, the bipartisan legislation provides investors with the information they need to make an informed decision and then lets them make the decision that’s best for their families.
Raising the bar on financial advisors and increasing transparency are how you strengthen protections for retirement savers. This bipartisan legislation accomplishes both in a way that doesn’t harm the men and women who rely on the help of their trusted financial advisors.
In closing, I’d like to briefly discuss the process, because I suspect some of our colleagues will as well. More than two months ago, Congressman Roe and others invited anyone wishing to craft a bipartisan alternative to the department’s proposal to join the effort. Not a single Democrat on this committee accepted the invitation. Yet here we are, considering a bipartisan proposal, in an open legislative process, where Republicans and Democrats are free to offer their ideas.
This is a stark contrast to the department’s own regulatory process. No one here has seen the latest draft of the department’s proposal. No one knows what – if any – changes the department has made in response to public concerns. And no one will have an opportunity to review or comment on the final proposal before it is imposed on millions of families.
The hardworking men and women trying to save for their retirement deserve better than an extreme, partisan scheme jammed through a flawed regulatory process. This legislation provides members of Congress an opportunity to vote on a responsible, bipartisan alternative that will strengthen the retirement security of working Americans, and I urge my colleagues to support it.Read More
Having owned and operated community pharmacies for nearly thirty years, I was very proud to provide retirement plans for my employees. When you’re a small business owner, your employees are like family, and you want what’s best for them. You want to help them build a comfortable future, and when they leave your business, you want them to enjoy the retirement they worked so hard to achieve.
Fortunately, I was able to do that for my employees. I worked with an advisor that I knew and trusted to set up a retirement plan, and as a result, my employees benefited. For me, providing that benefit was an important part of owning a small business, and it’s a priority for many other small business owners as well.
While working with our Democratic colleagues to develop these legislative proposals, Dr. Roe convened a hearing to explore the consequences of the Department of Labor’s fiduciary proposal and discuss the best way to protect affordable retirement advice. At that hearing, we heard from Rachel Doba, a small business owner from Indianapolis who started a civil engineering firm that focuses on local public works projects.
Ms. Doba has a trusted financial advisor who has helped provide retirement security for her 15 employees – who she called her family – as well as for herself. She considers her advisor a part of her team and her employees trust him to provide educational materials that will help the team make sound financial decisions. Ms. Doba explained that those resources are important to her both as an employer and as an individual saving for her own retirement, but she is concerned the department’s proposal puts all of that in jeopardy. And she’s not alone.
She and many employers like her are fearful that complicated and discriminatory new requirements will drive up costs and make it significantly harder – if not impossible – to help their employees plan for retirement. They simply don’t have the time, resources, or expertise to do that without the help of an advisor, so many of them will be forced to stop providing retirement advice to their employees all together. And that’s a big problem.
Small business owners provide hundreds of billions in retirement savings for millions of households. If even a fraction of those small business owners are unable to provide their employees with retirement plans as a result of the department’s flawed proposal, the impact on workers will be significant. Having had the privilege of helping my own employees save for their retirement, I know what cutting off such an important resource could mean for them and their families.
That’s why joining Dr. Roe’s effort to introduce a bipartisan alternative to the department’s proposal was so important to me. These proposals will ensure financial advisors act in their clients’ best interests. They will keep trusted retirement advice affordable for all families planning for retirement. And they will ensure small business owners continue to receive the help they need to provide the retirement plans their employees deserve.
That’s why joining Dr. Roe’s effort to introduce a bipartisan alternative to the department’s proposal was so important to me. These proposals will ensure financial advisors act in their clients’ best interests. They will keep trusted retirement advice affordable for all families planning for retirement. And they will ensure small business owners continue to receive the help they need to provide the retirement plans their employees deserve.Read More
House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) issued the following statement after the Department of Labor released unemployment data for December 2015:
It is always good to hear that more Americans are back to work, but we cannot forget the very real challenges countless men and women continue to face. Millions of workers are unemployed or unable to find full-time jobs, and at the same time, stagnant wages have left many families falling further behind. The status quo isn’t good enough. We can do better and must do better. Next week, the president has an opportunity to show he agrees by outlining a unifying agenda that will deliver the opportunity and prosperity every American deserves.Read More
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As my role as Subcommittee Chairman of Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, I’ve personally visited dozens of schools and talked to parents, teachers, students, and local education leaders.
No Child Left Behind’s high-stakes testing, which requires every child to be caught up to grade level in one year is unworkable.
Currently, the Secretary of Education, through waivers, can run schools by executive fiat, imposing requirements on state testing standards and conditioning receipt of federal funds on adopting Common Core Standards.
It is time for a change and this bill is the Every Student Succeeds Act.
This bill originated in my Subcommittee as H.R. 5, the Student Success Act, which I co-authored with Chairman Kline. When I was appointed to the conference negotiating team, my goal was to make sure the conservative reforms and policies in the Student Success Act were kept in our final product.
We were successful. This bill, as the Wall Street Journal puts it, is the largest transfer of federal control to the states in twenty- five years.
This bill empowers states and ends federally mandated, unproductive, high-stakes testing, the core of No Child Left Behind.
It provides flexibility, so voters and taxpayers through their locally elected officials, can decide for themselves what success looks like. It recognizes that “one size does not fit all” when it comes to determining academic standards.
It is time we put our children first so we can compete in a global, 21st century world. It is time we trust parents, teachers, and local education leaders more than we trust federal bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. This bill is a huge step in that direction and I urge my colleagues to support it.
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For more than a decade, Washington has been micromanaging our classrooms. Federal rules now dictate how states and local communities measure student achievement, fix broken schools, spend taxpayer resources, and hire and fire their teachers.
No Child Left Behind was based on good intentions, but it was also based on the flawed premise that Washington knows what students need to succeed in school. And what do we have to show for it?
Less than half of all 4th and 8th graders are proficient in reading and math. An achievement gap continues to separate poor and minority students from their more affluent peers. In some neighborhoods, children are far more likely to drop out of high school than earn a diploma.
Parents, teachers, superintendents, and other education leaders have been telling us for years that the top-down approach to education isn’t working. Yet some still believe that more programs, more mandates, and more bureaucrats will help get this right. Well, those days will soon be over.
Today we turn the page on the failed status-quo and turn over to our nation’s parents and our state and local leaders the authority, flexibility, and certainty they need to deliver children an excellent education.
We reached this moment because replacing No Child Left Behind has long been a leading priority for House Republicans. For years we have fought to improve K-12 education with three basic principles: reducing the federal role, restoring local control, and empowering parents. The final bill by the House and Senate conference committee reflects these principles.
The bill reduces the federal role in K-12 education by repealing dozens of ineffective programs, placing unprecedented restrictions on the secretary of education, eliminating one-size-fits-all schemes around accountability and school improvement, ending the era of high-stakes testing, and preventing this administration and future administrations from coercing or incentivizing states to adopt Common Core.
The bill restores local control by protecting the right of states to opt-out of federal education programs and delivering new funding flexibility so taxpayer resources are better spent on local priorities. The conference agreement also returns to states and school districts the responsibility for accountability and school improvement. A set of broad parameters will help taxpayers know if their money is being well-spent, while ensuring state and local leaders have the authority necessary to run their schools.
And the bill empowers parents by providing moms and dads with the information they need to hold their schools accountable. The conference agreement also strengthens school choice by reforming programs affecting charter schools and magnet schools, and prevents any federal interference with our nation’s private schools and home schools.
Reducing the federal role. Restoring local control. Empowering parents. These are the principles we have fought for because these are the principles that will help give every child a shot at a quality education. Now, let me be clear, this is not a perfect bill. To make progress you find common ground. But make no mistake, we compromised on the details and we did not compromise our principles.
The American people are tired of waiting for us to replace a flawed education law. They are tired of the federal intrusion, the conditional waivers, and the federal coercion. Most importantly, they are tired of seeing their kids trapped in failing schools. Let’s do the job we were sent here to do. Let’s replace No Child Left Behind with new policies based on principles we believe in.
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