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Education Secretary DeVos proposed major cuts to afterschool programs, aid for college students, public schools, programs that serve teachers, and more

Republicans and Democrats in Congress have repeatedly rejected DeVos’ budget proposals, instead worked together to increase federal investments in education 

Senator Murray: “I always say that a budget is a reflection of your values...[t]his request speaks volumes about where your priorities lay and who you are fighting for as Secretary of Education” 

**Watch Senator Murray’s opening statement HERE** 

**Watch Senator Murray’s exchange with Secretary DeVos on relief for cheated and defrauded student loan borrowers HERE**

(Washington, D.C.)  – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS), delivered opening remarks at an Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on Secretary DeVos’ proposed education budget, which proposes deep cuts to spending in public education, slashing $4 billion in afterschool programs and other needed investments in public school students, and taking more than $200 billion out of the pockets of student loan borrowers. Senator Murray also reprimanded Secretary DeVos for defying directives from the Appropriations Committee, ignoring bipartisan initiatives to protect student loan borrowers and others. 

Senator Murray also criticized Secretary DeVos’ proposed Title IX rule, which would once again sweep sexual assault under the rug by weakening protections for students and allowing schools to shirk their responsibility to keep students safe. Murray encouraged DeVos to listen to students and survivors, and start over on a rule that would meaningfully address the scourge of sexual assault on college campuses.

Senator Murray also questioned Secretary DeVos on the number of “borrower defense” claims the Department of Education has failed to process for students who were cheated or defrauded by predatory for-profit colleges—including more than 2,000 students in Washington state who were cheated out of their education and savings by Corinthian Colleges and are still waiting—and the Department’s decision to replace the Acting independent inspector general with a senior official working inside the Department, and the Department’s deregulation agenda, among others.

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s opening remarks:

“I always say that a budget is a reflection of your values. And given your budget fails to invest in our youngest learners, fails students in public schools, fails students struggling to better themselves in higher education, and fails the student loan borrowers saddled with debt. This request speaks volumes about where your priorities lay and who you are fighting for as Secretary of Education.”

“I am disappointed that the budget zeroes out funding for Special Olympics education programs. You say this about tough choices, but you’re also asking for more money for charter schools when you’re having trouble spending the increase Congress appropriated last year. This is not about tough choices, this is about you prioritizing your agenda over students with special needs.”

“This budget proposes cutting funding to colleges and universities that primarily enroll low-income students and students of color, including minority-serving institutions, and proposes to take more than $200 billion from the pockets of student loan borrowers by making them pay back more, making some pay back longer, and eliminating debt forgiveness for our public servants.”

“These divisive proposals would not only harm students and families, but they are in stark contrast with the efforts Chairman Alexander and I—along with our colleague in the House—are making to find common ground and reauthorize the Higher Education Act.”

“Your department has slow-walked the hiring of staff at the Office for Civil Rights—despite explicit direction from this committee. You have ignored committee report language directing the Department to protect student loan borrowers from unfair, deceptive practices of student loan companies. The Department has dismissed a Committee directive for a new competition for an open textbook pilot program designed to help college students better afford higher education. And you have ignored Committee directives to provide relief to student loan borrowers who were cheated and defrauded by predatory for-profit colleges, which now stands at 140,000 claims and mounting.”

Full text of Senator Murray’s opening remarks below:

“Thank you Chairman Blunt.

“Over the past two years, you and I have been able to pass bipartisan spending bills that invest in children, students, workers, patients, women, and families across the country.

“This was only possible because we worked together, found common ground, and rejected this Administration’s harmful budget requests—including proposals to gut funding for students, teachers, and public schools… and requests for Secretary DeVos’ privatization agenda.

“While I’m pleased we were able to work together and pass the most recent Appropriations bill from this subcommittee before the start of the fiscal year, unfortunately, President Trump decided to hold half of our spending bills hostage and shut down the government earlier this year.

“This temper tantrum—over a wall he promised Mexico would pay for—cost our economy $3 billion and forced 800,000 federal workers to go without paychecks for over a month.

“In my home state of Washington, thousands of workers at Sea-Tac airport and across the state were forced to work without pay, were forced to take out loans, were forced to figure out how to make ends meets-all because of the President’s manufactured crisis.

“So I hope we can avoid this spectacle in this year’s Appropriations process—and keep the government funded.

“In addition to rejecting Trump’s harmful budget proposals—we must reach a deal to lift the sequester caps and restore critical investments in defense and middle class priorities.

“I was proud to reach a deal with then-Speaker Ryan in 2013 to do exactly that—and I am so glad that we’ve been able to build on that deal in years since.

“So Secretary DeVos—with that in mind—I want to discuss your budget proposal in front of us today.

“I always say that a budget is a reflection of your values.

“And given your budget fails to invest in our youngest learners, fails students in public schools, fails students struggling to better themselves in higher education, and fails the student loan borrowers saddled with debt.

“This request speaks volumes about where your priorities lay and who you are fighting for as Secretary of Education.

“It’s also telling that at the same time as you sit before us requesting devastating cuts to public education, the President’s budget proposal is still pushing for your privatization agenda—which neither the public wants, nor Congress has authorized.

“Now I want to dig into some your requested cuts today—because I believe it is important to fully understand your vision for the future of education in our country.

“Your budget request cuts more than $4 billion from afterschool programs and other needed investments in public school students…

“Including completely eliminating federal support for the program that supports our nation’s teachers, and requesting no additional funding for low-income students and students with disabilities—at a time when many of our schools are struggling to meet the needs of those students.

“Additionally—I am disappointed that the budget zeroes out funding for Special Olympics education programs.

“You say this about tough choices, but you’re also asking for more money for charter schools when you’re having trouble spending the increase Congress appropriated last year.

“This is not about tough choices, this is about you prioritizing your agenda over students with special needs.

“You’ve also once again failed to take any steps to make our schools and neighborhoods safer by addressing common sense gun safety measures or reducing the number of guns in schools.

“This budget proposes cutting funding to colleges and universities that primarily enroll low-income students and students of color, including minority-serving institutions, and proposes to take more than $200 billion from the pockets of student loan borrowers by making them pay back more, making some pay back longer, and eliminating debt forgiveness for our public servants.

“These divisive proposals would not only harm students and families, but they are in stark contrast with the efforts Chairman Alexander and I—along with our colleague in the House—are making to find common ground and reauthorize the Higher Education Act.

“So—Secretary DeVos—I have many questions about your budget proposal and other issues at the Department but I also want to address the epidemic of sexual assault on our nation’s college campuses and your Department’s proposed Title IX rule.

“Over the past year, I’ve spent time with brave women who have shared their experiences with me of being sexually assaulted on college campuses.

“It wasn’t always easy for them to share their deeply painful and traumatic stories, but they did so because they wanted to help ensure it doesn’t happen to others.

“I am so in awe of the brave women and men who have publicly shared one of the worst moments of their life, and I am standing with them and will continue to fight to end the epidemic of sexual assault on our nation’s college campuses.

“So I was extremely disappointed and concerned when you proposed a Title IX rule that would weaken protections for survivors and allow colleges to shirk their responsibility to investigate claims of sexual assault and keep students safe.

“I believe if your rule goes into effect—campus sexual assault will once again be swept under the rug, because students won’t feel comfortable coming forward knowing their school is less likely to act when they’ve been assaulted.

“So I genuinely hope you take the time to read some of the 100,000 comments students and survivors submitted on this rule.

“I hope you listen to these students, take their stories to heart, and start over on a rule that ensures schools are doing everything they can to keep students safe—and gives students a fair process that does not force them to be re-traumatized after they’ve reported their assault. 

“And finally—I want to note how concerned I am about the Department’s responsiveness to the Committee’s direction.

“Your department has slow-walked the hiring of staff at the Office for Civil Rights—despite explicit direction from this committee.

“You have ignored committee report language directing the Department to protect student loan borrowers from unfair, deceptive practices of student loan companies.

“The Department has dismissed a Committee directive for a new competition for an open textbook pilot program designed to help college students better afford higher education.

“And you have ignored Committee directives to provide relief to student loan borrowers who were cheated and defrauded by predatory for-profit colleges, which now stands at 140,000 claims and mounting.

“What surprised me about this inaction is that during last year’s hearing—Chairman Blunt reminded you of the importance of being responsive to this Committee.

“Additionally—you have not responded to a number of requests for information from me about critical aspects of Department policy and administration, and I know several of Chairman Scott and Chair DeLauro’s letters are also unanswered.

“It is unacceptable and unconstitutional to ignore Congress’ oversight responsibilities and authority—so I expect answers to these letters as quickly as possible.

“I hope in addition to answers to our questions today, we can get a commitment from you to respond to these letters in a timely manner and be more responsive to this Committee’s direction.

“Thank you.”