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Secretary Duncan Testifies Before Congress about 2013 Budget Priorities
posted by: Alix | March 29, 2012, 04:28 PM   

Yesterday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testified before the House Education and Workforce Committee in reference to the administration's Fiscal Year 2013 budget and policy priorities for the Department of Education. The hearing was a strong indicator of areas of compromise and disagreement between the administration and congressional leadership.

In the latest budget proposal, the President has requested $69.8 billion in discretionary spending for the Department of Education, a $1.7 billion increase over last year's funding level. This is in addition to $13.3 billion in additional mandatory spending for Pell Grants, bringing the total budget request to $83 billion – a 40% from Fiscal Year 2008.

Secretary Duncan claimed that the increased investment was necessary to achieve results. "We must educate our way to a better economy," Duncan asserted. Coupled with increased spending, Secretary Duncan outlined a broad reform agenda, mentioning an increased investment in competitive grants, including President Obama's flagship program, Race to the Top.

While the committee praised the administration for their commitment to key reforms and flexibility, several hammered at Secretary Duncan for not proposing any sort of increase for special education, while continuing to pump money into competitive programs that don't go out to everyone.

Republicans in Congress have also been concerned about the growing federal role in education. Chairman Kline(R-MN) stated, "When we met this time last year... my colleagues and I reiterated our support for a less costly, less intrusive federal role in the nation's classroom. Regrettably, the administration has taken a markedly different course, advancing several programs and initiatives that make the federal role in education more costly and more intrusive."

Further, while there is a widespread agreement that current elementary and secondary education law is failing students, Committee Republicans who've advanced legislation to revamp No Child Left Behind claim the administration is unwilling to work with Congress to rewrite the law. While Secretary Duncan has claimed to share this goal, he has chosen instead to advance a conditional waiver system designed to grant NCLB relief in exchange for administration-backed reforms.

Congresswoman Roby (R-AL) highlighted the committee's bills and called on Secretary Duncan to press for a real solution and support the legislation. "We have passed out of this committee five bills...put into action the words from your testimony today. As a member of this committee and on behalf of Alabama, we would appreciate your support and the administration's support of putting that into action. We wouldn't have a need for a waiver process if in fact we could get this reauthorization accomplished."

Education is seen as a potentially bipartisan issue in Washington; however, in an election year, insiders predict that little will be done to advance committee legislation or encourage a real resolution to No Child Left Behind in 2012.

Do you think the federal government should increase education spending?
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