Allyson Schwartz on Education
Democratic Representative (PA-13)
Proponent's Argument for voting Yes:
[Rep. Bishop, R-UT]: In 1996, Congress insisted upon a charter school program in DC. You will hear from both sides of the aisle recognition of the great value that that program has, and justifiably so. There is a waiting list in DC for those charter schools. This bill increases the percentage of funding going to charter schools in the District. In 2003, an Opportunity Scholarship was instituted, at the insistence of Congress. Again, there was a waiting list of people wanting the opportunity; disadvantaged kids who wanted the opportunity that this scholarship afforded them. There were 216 kids at the time scheduled to enter the program who were not allowed; the bill remedies that.
Opponent's Argument for voting No:
[Rep. Hastings, D-FL]: In the last 41 years voters have rejected private school vouchers every time they have been proposed. In 1981, 89% of the people in a referendum in DC voted against vouchers. So how dare we come here to tell these people that we are going to thrust upon them something they don't want without a single public official in this community being consulted. Congress' oversight of the District is not an excuse for political pandering to the Republicans' special interest of the day du jour.
Proponent's argument to vote Yes: Rep. BETSY MARKEY (D, CO-4): This legislation will improve the learning environment for our children, reduce energy costs and create new jobs across the country. Green schools not only save school districts money but also teach the importance of sustainable living to children at a young age.
Opponent's argument to vote No: Rep. GLENN THOMPSON (R, PA-5): We all know our Nation is drowning in a sea of red ink. The bill we're debating today would add an estimated $40 billion in new spending. And despite the majority's hollow promises of fiscal responsibility, there's nothing in the legislation to offset this hefty price tag with spending reductions elsewhere. This is just more of the same borrow and spend, spend and borrow policy that we've seen under this majority and this administration.
Proponents support voting YES because:
Rep. OBEY: This bill, more than any other, determines how willing we are to make the investment necessary to assure the future strength of this country and its working families. The President has chosen to cut the investments in this bill by more than $7.5 billion in real terms. This bill rejects most of those cuts.
Opponents recommend voting NO because:
Rep. LEWIS: This bill reflects a fundamental difference in opinion on the level of funding necessary to support the Federal Government's role in education, health and workforce programs. The bill is $10.2 billion over the President's budget request. While many of these programs are popular on both sides of the aisle, this bill contains what can rightly be considered lower priority & duplicative programs. For example, this legislation continues three different programs that deal with violence prevention. An omnibus bill is absolutely the wrong and fiscally reckless approach to completing this year's work. It would negate any semblance of fiscal discipline demonstrated by this body in recent years.
Veto message from President Bush:
This bill spends too much. It exceeds [by $10.2 billion] the reasonable and responsible levels for discretionary spending that I proposed to balance the budget by 2012. This bill continues to fund 56 programs that I proposed to terminate because they are duplicative, narrowly focused, or not producing results. This bill does not sufficiently fund programs that are delivering positive outcomes. This bill has too many earmarks--more than 2,200 earmarks totaling nearly $1 billion. I urge the Congress to send me a fiscally responsible bill that sets priorities.
Proponents support voting YES because:
I believe that our Pledge of Allegiance with its use of the phrase "under God" is entirely consistent with our Nation's cultural and historic traditions. I also believe that the Court holding that use of this phrase is unconstitutional is wrong. But this court-stripping bill is not necessary. This legislation would bar a Federal court, including the Supreme Court, from reviewing any claim that challenges the recitation of the Pledge on first amendment grounds.
If we are a Nation of laws, we must be committed to allowing courts to decide what the law is. This bill is unnecessary and probably unconstitutional. It would contradict the principle of Marbury v. Madison, intrude on the principles of separation of powers, and degrade our independent Federal judiciary.
Opponents support voting NO because:
I was disappointed 4 years ago when two judges of the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that our Pledge, our statement of shared national values, was somehow unconstitutional. I do not take legislation that removes an issue from the jurisdiction of this court system lightly. This legislation is appropriate, however, because of the egregious conduct of the courts in dealing with the Pledge of Allegiance.
By striking "under God" from the Pledge, the Court has shown contempt for the Congress which approved the language, and, more importantly, shows a complete disregard for the millions of Americans who proudly recite the Pledge as a statement of our shared national values and aspirations. No one is required to recite the Pledge if they disagree with its message.
Create World-Class Public Schools
Now more than ever, quality public education is the key to equal opportunity and upward mobility in America. Yet our neediest children often attend the worst schools. While lifting the performance of all schools, we must place special emphasis on strengthening those institutions serving, and too often failing, low-income students.
To close this achievement and opportunity gap, underperforming public schools need more resources, and above all, real accountability for results. Accountability means ending social promotion, measuring student performance with standards-based assessments, and testing teachers for subject-matter competency.
As we demand accountability, we should ensure that every school has the resources needed to achieve higher standards, including safe and modern physical facilities, well-paid teachers and staff, and opportunities for remedial help after school and during summers. Parents, too, must accept greater responsibility for supporting their children’s education.
We need greater choice, competition, and accountability within the public school system, not a diversion of public funds to private schools that are unaccountable to taxpayers. With research increasingly showing the critical nature of learning in the early years, we should move toward universal access to pre-kindergarten education.
Award competitive grants to provide adolescents with comprehensive sex education to:
Opponent's argument against bill: (Nick Wing on Huffington Post) An abstinence-only effort, introduced the same day, the Abstinence Education Reallocation Act, stands as an effective counter to the Democratic-backed Real Education for Healthy Youth Act.
According to the text of the abstinence-only bill, sex education programs would need to be "medically accurate" and teach the "skills and benefits of sexual abstinence as the optimal sexual health behavior for youth" in order to qualify for grant money. The bill also calls for applicable programs to focus on the "holistic health, economic, and societal benefits that can be gained by refraining from non-marital sexual activity," as well as to provide an "understanding of how drugs, alcohol, and the irresponsible use of social media can influence sexual decision-making and can contribute to risky and often aggressive sexual behavior."
Congressional Summary:Amends title IV (Student Assistance) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 to extend the 3.4% interest rate on Federal Direct Stafford loans to loans first disbursed to undergraduate students between July 1, 2011, and July 1, 2015. Replaces the [termination date of] 2013 with 2015.
Proponent's argument for bill:(US PIRG press release): The Student Loan Affordability Act keeps interest rates affordable for students over the next two years. If Congress fails to act by July 1, interest rates on federal Subsidized Stafford Loans will double from 3.4% to 6.8%. That would hike the cost of college by $1,000 per student, per loan, for over 7 million students across the country. The bill pays for extending the current interest rates through 2015 by closing three non-education tax loopholes.
Opponent's argument against bill:(Rep. Tom Cotton, R-AR): Unfortunately, too many students today struggle for years to repay their loans because Washington politicians dictate student-loan rates and end up hurting students and taxpayers alike. It's causing tuition costs to skyrocket, leaving students buried in debt, often without jobs, and forced to delay buying a home and starting a family. As students struggle to repay their loans--regardless of the interest rate--taxpayers are on the hook for a $100 billion bailout--a burden hard-working Arkansans shouldn't have to bear. A better path is to let Arkansas's hometown banks work with students and families to finance higher education, just as they do with homes, farms, businesses, and other loans. I'm committed to bringing affordable higher education to every Arkansan and ending the federal-government monopoly on the student-lending business.
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Newly-elected Democrats as of Jan.2017:
Newly-elected Republicans as of Jan.2017:
Cannon HOB 330, Washington, DC 20515