Throughout the 115th Congress, the Education and the Workforce Committee has worked tirelessly towards the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA), the primary federal legislation for post-secondary education programs. The cost of pursuing higher education continues to rise, and according to a study on federal regulatory compliance costs produced by Vanderbilt University, institutions of higher education spend an estimated $11.1 billion annually on higher education-specific regulations. When considering the implications for students on their campus, Vanderbilt found that the total cost of compliance resulted in a per-student cost of over $11,000. The reauthorization of HEA provides an opportunity to review and streamline regulations, ensuring they do not become prohibitive.
To address this concern, among others, the PROSPER Act, H.R. 4508, was introduced on December 1, 2017 by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC). I am a cosponsor of this important piece of legislation that assures institutions the flexibility needed to serve all students and addresses the rising costs associated with higher education. Among the goals of this bill are the simplification of federal student aid programs, better information for students and parents to make informed decisions, promotion of access and accountability, and reduction of the regulatory burden on schools. I voted for this legislation when it passed the Committee, and it now awaits consideration on the House floor.
Free Speech on College Campuses
For years, college campuses have stood as a beacon to the ideal of free speech guaranteed through the First Amendment of our nation’s Constitution. Having served in the Vietnam era, I saw first-hand how colleges and universities were hotbeds for free speech and debate – some with which I did not agree. But, as a veteran myself, I fought to protect and defend this right to free speech, and as a country, we were better served by allowing both sides to passionately express their views.
Recently, however, free speech has come under attack at institutions that were once conduits for this debate. College students have been challenged for expressing political beliefs; differences of opinion have been censored; speakers have been shouted down; and so-called ‘free speech’ zones have been created to keep students from expressing their thoughts outside of restricted areas.
Believing the rights protected by the First Amendment transcend political ideologies, I introduced H. Res. 191, a resolution that expresses the sense of the House of Representatives that free speech zones are inherently at odds with the First Amendment and that urges institutions of higher education to defend and protect the open exchange of ideas. We must support the open exchange of conservative and liberal ideals and a diverse set of viewpoints between the two. If our colleges and universities protect and foster the free and open exchange of ideas, our society will be better off as a result.
With a rapidly changing global economy, it is essential that American workers have the skills and training necessary to succeed. Congress took a significant step to help workers when it passed the Workforce Innovation and Investment Act (WIOA), originally named The SKILLS Act, in the 113th Congress. This important law consolidates ineffective programs, cuts bureaucracy, and provides more flexible job training services. For the 115th Congress, I am a cosponsor for H.R. 2353, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, which reauthorizes the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. This important measure will help ensure technical education is focused on meeting the needs of local communities and local employers and I was proud President Trump signed H.R. 2353 into law on July 31, 2018.
Jobs & the Economy
As a member of the Education and the Workforce Committee, I have joined with my colleagues to advance legislation that will strengthen our education system, improve workforce training opportunities, and protect workers’ rights. This entails encouraging innovation in Career and Technical Education and reducing the regulatory burden on students, small business owners, and working families. We must move forward in all of these areas to keep the American economy competitive in the 21st Century.
Recent acts of violence in our schools have resulted in substantive debate across the nation on a wide range of topics. While I agree with some proposals and disagree with others – including efforts to take away the Constitutional rights of legal gun owners – I believe people on each side of this debate share a guiding principle: schools should be safe havens for our children.
For this reason, I strongly supported the Student, Teachers and Officers Preventing (STOP) School Violence Act, which provides school systems with additional tools to help keep students safe. Through the use of grant funds, this bipartisan legislation supports the training of students, teachers, school officials and local law enforcement in identifying and intervening when students display behaviors associated with violent tendencies. We should aim stop this senseless violence before it can happen. The STOP School Violence Act was included as a part of H.R. 1625, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which I voted for when it passed the House on March 22, 2018, by a vote of 256 to 167. President Trump signed this bill into law on March 23.
Additionally, I always want to hear the ideas of educators, students and administrators, and have hosted school safety roundtables, town halls and forums. Based on the feedback I received from East Tennesseans about securing our schools and strengthening mental health services available for young East Tennesseans, I introduced H.R. 1395, the Youth Mental Health Services Act, with Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). This bill would afford greater flexibility to states and school districts as they work to provide the resources necessary to ensure the well-being of our students. It is absolutely crucial that schools have the resources needed to help students who are suffering mental distress get better.