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Ranking Member Cassidy Delivers Remarks During Hearing on K-12 Education

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, delivered remarks during today’s hearing on K-12 education.

Click here to watch the hearing live. 

Cassidy’s speech as prepared for delivery can be found below:

Thank you, Chair Sanders.

If we are speaking about K-12 education, it is imperative we talk about the troubling reality.

  • Two-thirds of US public school students are unable to read proficiently in fourth grade, and 40 percent are essentially nonreaders.
  • Almost two-thirds of fourth graders and three-quarters of eighth graders are below proficient in math.
  • Less than half of public school parents say their child is definitely prepared academically for the next school year.
  • Performance is not the only issue. There has been a concerning rise in absenteeism, with 28 percent of students missing nearly 4 weeks of the school year. Evidence shows students who miss more than 4 weeks have difficulty learning to read by third-grade, which has severe implications later in school.

How did we get here? In many places, primary and secondary education is broken. Many schools have lost sight of their core mission of educating our children. Education leaders are prioritizing social agendas and progressive ideology over academic progress. This negatively impacts children’s success and leaves them ill-prepared as they enter a competitive workforce.

 Parents – the most important educators in their child’s lives – have been marginalized. Many are forced to be bystanders or feel silenced over fear of retaliation from school leaders. In 2023, 72 percent of parents considered moving their children to a new school. That's a 35 percent increase from 2022.

More than a year and a half into this Congress, we are just now having a hearing on K-12 education. As the Committee with jurisdiction over federal K-12 funding, we have a responsibility to examine this broken system. Our kids will spend roughly 15,000 hours in school between kindergarten and 12th grade. If they aren’t learning, what are they doing there? Throwing more money at the problem is not a solution.

This Committee needs to determine the root causes of the concerning state of public education and how to fix it.

One fact that cannot be ignored - We are spending more money per student on education than ever before in our nation's history. So why are students’ academic outcomes getting worse?

In 2021, Democrats flooded schools with over $121 billion in one-time COVID funding, with no accountability or requirements for how this money would be used.

Where did all of this money go? School districts added new faculty positions, like assistant principals, that have had limited impact on classroom learning. There are now more staff collecting paychecks at schools than ever before, but we aren’t seeing better grades as a result.

Let’s be clear, teachers are important. For a child to learn, they must have a teacher focused on teaching.  Teachers are overwhelmed by policies that prevent them from truly managing their classroom, and in some instances, ensuring the safety of their students. We will hear more about this from one of our witnesses today.

Democrats’ solution to these challenges is to create a federal minimum salary for teachers. Improving teacher pay is a laudable goal. In fact, out of the 11 states that passed laws this year increasing take home pay for teachers, 10 have Republican-led legislatures including Louisiana. But the federal government dictating how states spend their money does not address the root causes of why teachers are struggling to teach in the classroom. More mandates and funding cannot be the only answer we come up with. We must examine the broken policies that got us here and find solutions to improve.

This should not be the only hearing this Congress examining education issues. We need to understand shortcomings in K-12 education and commit to resolving them so kids can read and become productive citizens. With 11 legislative weeks left, it seems we are not going to get to this, but the longer we wait, the more students suffer.

We need to be looking at different issues like:

  • How to address the learning loss and severe mental health issues among adolescents as a result of COVID school closures.
  • Implementing better strategies, like the Science of Reading, to address falling literacy rates so children can read properly and do not fall behind.
  • How schools can address the negative impacts of TikTok and social media on students, and if phones should be in the classroom.
  • What were the costs of making school optional during the pandemic, as was done by many school districts across the nation.

By the way, the Committee also hasn’t had a hearing to address our broken higher education system. We could be discussing:

  • The botched rollout of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) that delayed millions of students and families from accessing crucial financial aid information. Without this information, students do not know if and how they can afford college, and may forego it altogether.
  • How to address the rising cost of college that is crushing students and families, forcing them to take on more loans for a degree that may not return on investment. 
  • Holding universities and the Biden administration accountable for rising rates of antisemitism, which have culminated in violence and chaos on our college campuses.

With the limited time we have left this Congress, I urge the Chair to prioritize how we can help our students and keep them from falling behind. Our children and our country’s future are at stake.




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