WASHINGTON, D.C. – Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has taken a stance on two national education issues.
On Thursday, Hatch, a current member and former chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, voted to move on to legislation introduced by Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., to prevent federally-subsidized Stafford student loan rates from increasing from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. The legislation Hatch supported would permanently reform the student loan program and provide lower rates for all students utilizing Stafford loans. However, not enough votes were secured for the Senate to move to this legislation. Senate Democrats put forward a temporary two-year fix for only about 40 percent of students.
“Young people are already hurting under President Obama’s struggling economy, so the last thing we should be doing is giving them more uncertainty about their student loans,” Hatch said. “The structural differences in these two proposals are not that great. Instead of playing political games and trumping up a fake controversy, it’s my hope that Senate Democrats and President Obama will work with us to prevent this rate hike on our students.”
Under the legislation Hatch supported, the interest rate for all Stafford loans and PLUS loans would be based on the 10-year Treasury rate plus 3 percent for the life of the loan, providing students the certainty they need.
Every Child Ready for College or Career Act
Earlier this week, Senate Republicans introduced a “better school” plan that they believe would move the decision about whether public schools and teachers are succeeding or failing out of Washington, D.C. and back to the states. Along with Hatch, Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., Richard Burr, R-N.C., Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill. introduced the “Every Child Ready for College or Career Act” to fix the law known as “No Child Left Behind.” All are members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
“Over the last decade, the U.S. Department of Education has become so congested with federal mandates that it has become, in effect, a national school board. The best way to help 50 million children in 100,000 public schools learn what they need to know and be able to do is to fix that responsibility squarely where it belongs—on parents, teachers, communities and states,” Alexander said. “Fortunately, over the last 30 years states have worked together to create higher standards, better tests and pioneered new systems of teacher evaluations related to student performance. Our legislation would create a national environment that would help them succeed. Unfortunately, the Democratic alternative would create more congestion by freezing into law existing federal mandates and adding 20 new programs and 80 new requirements on states and school districts. One symbol of our different approaches is that the Democratic bill is 1,150 pages; ours is 220 pages.”
“More mandates from Washington is not the solution to give students in Utah and throughout the country the education they deserve,” Hatch said. “This legislation makes the changes we heard need to be made from parents, teachers, and school administrators, while continuing to build upon the foundation of what’s working to meet our students’ needs. It’s the step forward our education system needs.”
Main points of the “Every Child Ready for College or Career Act”
- More state and local control: Transfers from Washington, D.C. to states’ decisions about measuring student achievement, fixing underperforming schools and whether schools and teachers are succeeding or failing.
- No National School Board mandates: Makes clear that the U.S. Education Secretary’s waiver authority is led by state requests for flexibility and is not an excuse to impose more federal mandates.
- High standards and quality tests: State, not federal government, will define high standards and tests for students in reading, math and science.
- More school choices for low-income parents: Allows states to use $14.5 billion in Title I funds for low-income children to follow those children to the public school they attend—ending a formula that diverted those funds to schools serving wealthier families.
- More freedom for teachers and principals: Encourages charter schools, which give teachers and school leaders more freedom to use their own good judgment about how to teach.
- Encourage teacher evaluations: Ends federal definitions of “highly qualified teachers” and encourages states to use its share of $2.5 billion in federal Title II funds to create teacher evaluation systems related to student performance and other factors.
- Flexibility in spending federal funds: Consolidates 62 programs authorized in No Child Left Behind into two block grants and gives states more flexibility in spending education dollars.
- Secretary’s report cards: Continues state and district report cards on schools from No Child Left Behind and creates an annual Secretary’s report card on the nation’s schools.
Submitted by: The Office of Sen. Orrin Hatch