Issue Report ● Education
For Immediate Release: 
September 17, 2014
Contact Info: 

Mariel Saez 202-225-3130

In order to put more Americans back to work and expand opportunities for the middle class, our nation must continue to invest in our K-12 schools, expand early childhood education, and ensure higher education is more affordable for Americans. Unfortunately, over the past two Congresses, House Republicans have failed to lead when it comes to improving students’ access to affordable, quality education. Here’s a look at how House Republicans’ misplaced priorities would impact our nation’s ability to build a twenty-first century workforce: 

HOUSE REPUBLICANS’ RECORD OF DISINVESTMENT IN EDUCATION

From their harmful budget to their partisan attempt at reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, House Republicans have considered several bills in the 112th and 113th Congresses that harm Americans’ access to affordable, quality education and workforce development programs:

  • Republican Budget: Instead of making investments in education, House Republicans have passed their harmful budget each year that would significantly cut investments in education at every level while providing tax breaks for the wealthy. Under the Republican budget for Fiscal Year 2015:
    • Early childhood education would be cut by $19 billion, pushing about 170,000 children out of Head Start and impacting as many as 3.4 million disadvantaged students in 8,000 schools.
    • K-12 education would see $89 billion cut, including $35 billion from Title I.
    • Higher education would be cut by $260 billion, including $145 billion in cuts to the Pell grants that help make college affordable for lower and middle income students and putting students $41 billion higher in debt – $3,800 for a student who borrows the limit – as they accrue interest while still in school.
    • Scientific research in health and discovery would take drastic cuts, with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reducing the number of new grants by 1,400 and the National Science Foundation (NSF) by 2,400. 
  • Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act: Rather than making a serious effort to work with Democrats to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, House Republicans passed a partisan bill, which would:
    • Drastically cut education funding;
    • Remove accountability provisions that ensure all students receive a quality education;
    • Lower standards for students with disabilities by allowing states to establish a separate and unequal track for students with disabilities; and
    • Reduce equity by shifting funds for teacher training away from vulnerable school districts, and by allowing funds for special needs populations to be redirected elsewhere.
  • Student Loan Interest Rates: Despite House Democrats’ willingness to work on a bipartisan basis to address student loan interest rates, House Republicans pursued a partisan strategy that led to the doubling of student loan interest rates on July 1, 2013. A month later, at House Democrats’ urging, House Republicans finally agreed to work with Democrats and brought a compromise bill to the Floor to keep rates low.  
  • Partisan SKILLS Act: While House Republicans eventually worked with Democrats to pass the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, a Make It In America bill signed into law by President Obama, they first passed their partisan SKILLS Act, which was opposed by nearly every stakeholder. The legislation:
    • Failed to protect priority assistance to vulnerable populations, including veterans, low-income adults, individuals with disabilities, and others with significant barriers to employment;
    • Removed the requirement that state and local workforce investment boards must include representation of workers and labor representation; and
    • Removed critical funding for low-income youth.

HOUSE DEMOCRATS’ RECORD INVESTMENTS IN EDUCATION DURING THE DEMOCRATIC-LED CONGRESS

Under the Democratic-led 111th Congress, House Democrats made record investments in education:

  • Preventing 300,000 layoffs of teachers and other important school personnel across our nation during the worst days of the recession;
  • Saving additional jobs across the country when Congress approved additional aid for K-12 educators;
  • Increasing the maximum Pell Grant from $5,350 to $5,550;
  • Strengthening the Income-Based Repayment program by lowering the discretionary income cap from 15% to 10% and offering loan forgiveness after 20 years instead of 25 years;
  • Ending wasteful taxpayer subsidies to big banks and directing the savings to help students instead; and
  • Investing in community colleges, historically black colleges and universities, and minority-serving institutions.

HOUSE DEMOCRATS’ CONTINUED COMMITMENT TO EXPANDING OPPORTUNITY FOR STUDENTS

In order to expand the middle-class and ensure that America remains competitive globally, our nation must invest in our schools, strengthen workforce development programs, and hold down the cost of higher education.  Unlike House Republicans’ plan to cut critical investments in education and workforce development, House Democrats have a plan to ensure that more Americans have the opportunity to obtain the education and skills training they need to succeed. The Middle Class Jumpstart agenda includes three pillars: ‘Make It In America’ – Better Jobs at Home; When Women Succeed, America Succeeds; and Affordable Education to Keep America #1.

Of these three pillars, two of them focus heavily on investing in education and workforce development:

  • Affordable Education to Keep America #1
    • As the cost of higher education continues to increase, House Democrats are focused on passing the “Bank on Students Emergency Refinancing Act,” which would help Americans refinance their college loans to new, lower rates, and increase access to Pell Grants for higher education.
    • With the clear economic benefits of early childhood education – every dollar invested in early childhood education results in $7 in savings – House Democrats are focused on the Strong Start for America’s Children Act to expand effective early childhood education.
  • Make It In America: Training and securing a twenty-first century workforce is one of the four core components of the Make It In America plan, and House Democrats have introduced several bills to strengthen education and skills-training programs in high-demand fields, including:
    • Strengthening Employment Clusters to Organize Regional Success (SECTORS) Act (Rep. Loebsack, H.R. 919): Facilitates partnerships between employers, educators, and local workforce administrators to train workers for some of the most-needed 21st century jobs.
    • Job Opportunities Between our Shores (JOBS) Act (Rep. Enyart, H.R. 1436): Establishes a Workforce Investment Act pilot program to provide targeted investments to partnerships of community/technical colleges, local workforce investment boards and advanced manufacturing firms to design and implement education and training programs for current and prospective workers.
    • The On-The-Job Training Act (Rep. Crowley, H.R. 3971): Authorizes the Department of Labor to set up a separate, competitive grant program so local agencies, school districts, industry associations and institutions of higher education can establish and support local on-the-job training programs. These programs connect unemployed workers with jobs and give employers assistance in providing workers with training for industry- recognized skills and credentials. 

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