Ranking Member DeLauro Statement at Fiscal Year 2024 Budget Request for the Department of Education Hearing

2023-04-18 10:22

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-03), Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee and the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's hearing on the fiscal year 2024 budget request for the Department of Education:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing. And I want to welcome, Secretary Cardona and our Budget Director for the Department, Mr. Kean. Thank you so much for being here and thank you for your work—both over the past two years and throughout your entire career, Mr. Secretary. We in Connecticut had already witnessed your career of passion and dedication for America’s students and teachers—a commitment that has now been on full display nationally.

When you first joined the Department over two years ago, students and families were facing unprecedented change and disruption to their education. But as you and I both know: schools and learning provide consistency to kids who need it most. As educator Horace Mann said, and I quote, “Education…beyond all other divides of human origin, is a great equalizer.” And I would add—provides great consistency when it is greatly needed. 

With your leadership…and investments this Committee made over the past two years…the American Rescue Plan…and the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, schools now have the resources to strengthen this great equalizer. They can better support student academic recovery… address mental health needs…and tackle nationwide teacher shortages. 

Most recently, in the 2023 government funding bill we passed and enacted in December, the committee secured a historic $3.2 billion increase for programs administered by the Department.
We expanded programs that meet the needs of students who most need our help. We made record investments in Title I, the cornerstone of our federal support for public education, to support students from low-income backgrounds. And we invested in IDEA grants that support kids and students with disabilities at every stage of their learning.

To build on our work to prioritize “whole child” approaches to education, we doubled funding for Full-Service Community Schools, a program we have grown by nearly ten times since I first became Chair of this subcommittee. My focus on these models, which take a holistic approach to education, dates back to my time as a teacher at the Conti Community School in New Haven, Connecticut.

To make higher education accessible to even more students, we proudly fought to increase the maximum Pell Grant by $500, the most in more than a decade for the second year in a row. We have made college more affordable so that students from diverse and underserved backgrounds have a fair shot at a high-quality postsecondary education.

And to narrow our nation’s racial disparities in educational attainment and economic opportunity, a top priority for me, we increased our support for HBCUs and MSIs to over $1 billion, an increase of 30 percent since you took office.

As we begin the 2024 government funding process and to ensure we continue to build on these critical investments, I am pleased to note that the Biden administration proposed a $90 billion budget, a 13 percent increase, for the Department that would strengthen and expand these programs to serve even more students and families. 

This budget proposes important investments to ensure students from low-income backgrounds can succeed. It includes increases for programs that serve students with disabilities throughout the nation and equip special educators with the tools they need, including IDEA Personnel Preparation funding. The budget also addresses pressing issues with funding to combat teacher shortages… expand school-based mental health professionals…increase Civics Education…and grow community schools. And to help underserved students access higher education, the budget makes strong increases to the maximum Pell Grant and college access programs like TRIO and GEAR UP.

Students, teachers, and those who support them depend on the Department’s programs, which is why I must mention how deeply concerned I am over some of my House Republican colleagues’ calls for massive spending cuts to so many of these programs. Yesterday on Wall Street, Speaker McCarthy verified Republicans’ intent to cut funding back to the 2022 level and impose dangerous caps going forward. 

I am not sure my Republican colleagues realize the impact that the proposed cuts would have. Let me read some of the scariest numbers you shared in your letter to me:

  • Cuts to Title I and IDEA grant funding would take 100,000 teachers and service providers out of classrooms serving low-income students and students with disabilities.
  • They would strip away the opportunity for 80,000 people to attend college and impact all 6.6 million students who rely on Pell Grants by decreasing the maximum award by $1,000.
  • They would cut Work Study benefits and eliminate financial support for 85,000 students working while earning a degree.
  • Administering Student Financial Aid would become more difficult, and 40 million borrowers would experience decreased service.

I would like to note that I know some of my Republican colleagues claim these cuts would not be implemented evenly across the board. But that is even more dangerous. Because if other programs are exempt from cuts, we both know that education programs that students and families rely on will be impacted even more than your agency estimates. 

And that kind of extreme thinking is not just some hypothetical scenario as some claim. Or one that I have imagined. It appears to be a real goal that a majority of my House Republican colleagues have. Last month, Representative Massie introduced an amendment to HR 5 that read, and I directly quote: “any office or program related to elementary or secondary education should be terminated” by December 2023. Fully terminated. 161, nearly 75 percent, of House Republicans voted in favor of this amendment. Let me reiterate. Nearly 75 percent of my Republican colleagues voted to eliminate all K-12 education funding last month. My god! My fears of these cuts and eliminations are not hypothetical. Because there are those that already voted for them! 

And I am so grateful for the 60 of my Republican colleagues who had the courage to stand up and to say no. The amendment did not pass. And I know that those who did not vote for it know well that we should not go in this direction. And I will work with these likeminded colleagues across the aisle to make sure that this never happens.

Because investing in kids—not defunding their education—is how we make our economy stronger and our future brighter. We should be doing everything we can to increase access to these programs, not cutting off very basic education services for children who need them. And it’s my plan to dive deeper into the disastrous implications of these cuts during my round of questions.

In the meantime, to my colleagues across the aisle I say this: We garnered bipartisan support for this bill as recently as December. Republicans and Democrats came together and approved the investments that were made. But cuts of this magnitude would take back our progress at a time when we should be fighting for more investment in our students and teachers, not less.

As I have made very clear, I will never stop fighting these drastic proposals. I thank you, Secretary Cardona, for doing the same. I look forward to hearing your testimony.

With that, Mr. Chairman, I yield back.

118th Congress