The House Education & Labor Committee held a hearing on “Examining the Policies and Priorities of the U.S. Department of Education” in which Education Secretary Betsy DeVos discussed the Department’s priorities.
CTE, apprenticeships, and Pell grants for short-term programs received bipartisan and Administration support. Democrats questioned why Education Freedom Scholarships are a 100% tax credit and how they are not actually contributions. Republicans disagreed stating that the scholarships are a voluntary contribution that can be used to create new school programs or even transportation to CTE programs. Democrats also disagreed with the $60 million proposed for charter schools instead of increasing funds for public schools.
The high cost of attending 4-year institutions and the large amount of student debt concerned both parties. Sec. DeVos discussed the NextGen plan, which includes helping high school students learn more about program costs and earning potential through the College Scorecard and the Administration’s support for various pathways. Republicans emphasized Congress’ responsibility in creating PSLF and how the Department is only responsible to carry out what Congress outlined. The Department is looking to phase out PSLF, which greatly concerned Democrats.
There was disagreement on the Department’s negotiated rulemaking process with Ranking Member Virginia Foxx defending the Department and Rep. Pramila Jayapal noting the lack of student advocates and state attorney generals on the panel. Democrats asked about the Department’s plan for schools with crumbling infrastructure, and Sec. DeVos believes that is a state and local issue.