Gainful employment rule blocks nation's real priorities

Politics aside, lawmakers in Washington should be able to agree that education, job creation, and the economy must be top priorities in the immediate future.

We should support, not inhibit, those who want to go to college; we should train and educate a robust new workforce to compete in the 21st Century global economy; and we should realize the limits of well-intentioned but misguidedregulations that will prevent millions of students from attending the higher education institutions of their choice.


Today we are all children of illegal immigrants

On Independence Day, as we celebrate our freedom, we recall the three rights our Founding Fathers held sacred: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

That was their goal for their new nation. Yet in a recent study of hundreds of young children I followed from birth to age three, I found that more than four million children in our country today are not free to access learning opportunities that would allow them to pursue life, liberty and happiness as adults.

Who are these children? They are citizen children of undocumented immigrants, parents without papers. Until now, there has been no clear evidence that having a parent without papers or rights can hurt your ability to learn and develop the skills to pursue the American Dream as described in the Declaration of Independence, even if you are a U.S. citizen. Now we know it can. And that all too often, it does.


Time to hold schools accountable

Chief state school officers around the nation are calling on Congress to act now to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which has been due for revision since 2007. In the absence of reauthorization, state leaders are boldly committing to advancing education reforms that result in positive educational outcomes for all students. With or without Congressional action on ESEA, achieving this goal is a moral, economic, and national security imperative.

More than at any other time in our nation’s history, state leaders are overcoming the longstanding political barriers to education reform. The results of this effort have been dramatic, transforming the very structures upon which statewide school systems operate. At the heart of these state-level reforms is a shared belief that our public education systems must prepare all students to graduate from high school ready to succeed.

With efforts to establish college- and career-ready standards and assessments well under way, states are now moving to design and implement next-generation accountability systems to ensure these reforms lead to results for our nation’s children. State leaders agree that accountability systems must be richer, more ambitious, and more useful to the educators working to dramatically improve student achievement.


Outdated mandates fail our students

Since the beginning of this Congress, the House Education and the Workforce Committee has held several hearings and roundtables to examine the state of education in America. We’ve talked with superintendents, teachers, school officials and parents to get their perspectives on the challenges facing students and communities.

Through all this, we came back to one sad fact: Children in America are being shortchanged. Teachers and administrators are bogged down with burdensome, outdated mandates. Budgetary shortfalls and strict regulations have made it difficult for schools to prioritize funding streams for the most effective initiatives. Parents are rightly frustrated with the state of their children’s underperforming public schools.

There is a better way. The committee has begun advancing a series of reforms to fix the nation’s education system.


When hedge funds drive educational policy, who profits?

With more than two trillion dollars of debt put on the backs of American taxpayers over the last two years, it is not surprising that Washington's spending spree also produced a bumper crop of waste, fraud and abuse.

With the publication of the “Gainful Employment” rule this past Thursday, we bear witness to one of the most egregious (albeit inventive) examples of the unseemly intersection of special interests and big government. Fraud and corruption take on a new face in the intersection of Wall Street, the not-for profit world, and the U.S. Department of Education (DoED).


New 'gainful employment' rules will hurt students by reducing choices and limiting access

Last week the Department of Education released its final “gainful employment” regulations. These new rules will create piles of new red tape for career colleges and universities. Even worse, they will most likely result in fewer choices for students, lost opportunities for those seeking career andtechnical education and, ultimately, less innovation.

By law any program receiving federal student aid at a for-profit school must “prepare students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation.” Congress has never defined the term “gainful employment” and the Department has historically granted eligibility to programs preparing students for careersrecognized by the Labor Department.

However, the Department’s new regulations would negatively impact predominantly one group of schools by requiring these institutions or programs to calculate adebt-to-income ratio or the loan repayment rate for students. Those schools that don’t meet the Department’s process based on debt-to-income ratio or repayment rates stand to lose access to federal student aid programs. 


Gainful employment

Against all logic and growing opposition from both sides of the political spectrum, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) seems poised and determined to proceed with the new Gainful Employment regulations, which would serve as a guidepost for their issuance of federal student loans for private sector colleges. The proposed Gainful Employment regulations would require that career education providers and programs provide students for “gainful employment” in recognized occupations. 


'Incentives' should not be used to advance national curriculum

The Department of Education, through its much-ballyhooed Race to the Top program, has taken the first steps toward coercing the states to adopt a set of national education standards known as the Common Core Standards.

Unfortunately, anxious to try new ways of improving unsatisfactory public schools, some “conservative” commentators have failed to grasp the coercive nature of what DOE is doing – and how it could ultimately lead to imposition of essentially a national curriculum, in violation of federal law.


New child nutrition law strikes a healthy balance

Given the sky-high rates of childhood obesity, it's hard to believe that some are pondering overturning the common-sense provisions passed by the previous Congress and being implemented by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to improve children’s access to healthy school meals.

A recent House Education and Workforce subcommittee hearing examined the “regulatory overreach” of the new child nutrition law. But the new law does not extend federal reach, nor is it an unfunded mandate for states and localities.


Common sense needed in childhood nutrition guidelines

We can all agree that childhood obesity in America is a serious problem, and I commend the First Lady for addressing it directly in her “Let’s Move!” campaign to end childhood obesity within a generation. It is a worthwhile and attainable goal and one that I support.

However, lima beans, peas, corn and potatoes predate any kind of childhood obesity epidemic and needlessly attacking them gets us no closer to fixing the issue. What we need is a solution, not a scapegoat.