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Prepared Remarks by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos on FY19 Budget

Chairman Cole, Ranking Member DeLauro and Members of the Subcommittee:

Thank you for the opportunity to testify on the President’s Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Request for the Department of Education.

This budget sharpens and hones the focus of our mission: serving students by meeting their needs. When the Department was created, it was charged to “prohibit federal control of education.” I take that charge seriously. Accordingly, President Trump is committed to reducing the federal footprint in education, and that is reflected in this budget.

The President’s fiscal year 2019 Budget would reduce overall funding for Department programs by $3.6 billion or 5 percent from FY 2017 enacted levels.

This Budget was initially prepared prior to the 2-year cap deal, so the Administration submitted an addendum that allows for valuable investments in students, including Impact Aid Basic Support Payments, TRiO, school choice, Federal Work-Study and Pell.

This Department’s budget focuses on improving educational opportunities and outcomes for all students while also returning power to the people closest to students.

First, our request would provide significant new resources dedicated to helping achieve the President’s goal of giving every student the freedom to attend a school that best meets his or her unique needs.

The Budget provides funding for this purpose through a new Opportunity Grants program that would expand the number of students who have the opportunity to attend a school of their choice. Under this new program, States could apply for funding to provide scholarships to students from low-income families that could be used to transfer to a different school.

Local educational agencies participating in the Department’s student-centered funding pilot could request funds to build on the flexibility provided by establishing or expanding open enrollment systems. This way, funds follow children based on their needs – not buildings or systems.

In addition, the Budget expands support for charter schools by providing an increase of $160 million—for a total of $500 million—and continues support for magnet schools. We also are proposing to expand use of Direct Student Services to allow States to reserve up to five percent of their Title I allocations to further expand educational freedom, including helping students transfer to a school that better meets individual needs.

Second, the Administration’s request maintains support for students with disabilities. Our request includes funding for essential K-12 formula grant programs that support the Nation’s neediest students -- especially all programs authorized under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Third, our request creates more pathways to prepare workers to fill existing and newly created jobs, as well as jobs of the future. Expanding apprenticeships and reforming ineffective education and workforce development programs will help more Americans obtain relevant skills and to enter high-paying jobs.

Students should be able to pursue a variety of pathways to successful careers. To that end, grants should follow the student, not the other way around. The Budget expands the use of Pell Grants for high-quality, short-term, summer and certificate programs. It invests in career and technical education, and streamlines student loan repayment.

These proposals also support congressional efforts to reauthorize the Higher Education Act to address student debt and higher education costs while reducing the complexity of student financial aid.

Fourth, our request supports STEM education to help better equip students with skills employers need. Consistent with the Presidential Memorandum on STEM education, our request includes $200 million in new funding to support STEM education while continuing to fund almost $330 million in discretionary grants.

Fifth, we look forward to working with Congress on promoting a safe and healthy culture in our schools. Schools must have the resources they need to improve safety infrastructure, hire more counselors and host more programs and activities aimed at violence prevention. We owe the victims of school violence nothing less.

Finally, our request reflects a number of reform proposals aimed at streamlining the Department’s internal organization and improving the Department’s services to States, districts, postsecondary institutions, and the public. We recommend, for instance, a number of consolidations, including proposals for the Federal TRIO programs and the HEA Title III and Title V programs supporting Minority-Serving Institutions, making them formula grants so that States may use the funds more effectively.

The Budget eliminates, streamlines, or reduces funding for many discretionary programs that do not address national needs, duplicate other programs, are ineffective, or are more appropriately supported with State, local, or private funds -- reducing taxpayer costs by $6.7 billion.

The Budget reflects our commitment to spending taxpayer dollars wisely and efficiently. The federal government does not – and cannot – know the unique needs of each individual student in America. Parents and teachers know their students best and know how their needs should be addressed.

With this budget we can continue to return power to those who walk side-by-side with students every day.

Because that’s who budgets are for…not special interests, not legislators, not “the system.” This budget is about students. It’s easy to get lost in the numbers and forget about the faces of students whom we all have pledged to serve.

Students like Carolina Martinez. Carolina was raised by a single mother who spoke little to no English in one of the poorest housing complexes in my hometown of Grand Rapids. Her home was later razed because it was in total disrepair.

Carolina wasn’t doing well in the school she was forced to attend based upon her ZIP code. That school’s graduation rate didn’t give Carolina’s mother much hope for her future.

So, with help from a local scholarship, she enrolled Carolina in a different school that more deliberately met her needs. And then things began to look up. Carolina progressed and graduated and became the first in her family to go to college and earn a degree in pre-med.

Carolina went on to be one of the first 200 students in Michigan State University’s new school of medicine in Grand Rapids. She graduated and moved to Arizona to practice as a surgeon.

Think about that for a moment. Carolina went from complete poverty – her home being torn down because it was no longer livable -- to a surgeon… all in one generation.

Education can truly change the trajectory of a child’s life – all they need is the chance to attain it. More students deserve the same chance Carolina and her mother had. That is the focus of this administration and the focus of this budget.

Thank you for this opportunity to testify. I will be happy to respond to any questions you may have.

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