Appropriations Committee Chairman Says Department Must Prioritize Limited Resources & Respect State & Local Leadership on Education

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, today encouraged Education Secretary Arne Duncan to prioritize scarce federal funding in a manner that respects the traditional role of state and local control of education policy.

Cochran questioned Secretary Duncan at a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies to review the FY2016 budget request for the U.S. Department of Education.

In his remarks, Cochran reaffirmed the role of state and local governments in education policy by highlighting their “primary responsibility of funding, hiring and all the rest that goes into making our nation a nation of opportunity.”

Cochran pressed the Secretary to “work out a division of responsibility for what programs are best handled by local officeholders” while noting that the Administration must “recognize that we have very limited availability of funds and programs that will solve the problems in elementary and secondary education.”

Cochran highlighted Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or ESEA, as an area that should be an important focus for the Department of Education. Title I of the ESEA provides financial assistance to local educational agencies and schools with high numbers of children from low-income families to help ensure that all students meet specific state academic standards. 149 school districts in Mississippi are served through $187 million in Title I funds.

Duncan appeared before the committee to defend the President’s budget request for a $3.6 billion, or 5.4 percent, discretionary funding increase for the Department of Education, a recommendation that well exceeds the parameters of the current spending caps. That budget request sought a $2.7 billion increase for ESEA, a 12 percent increase over FY2015 levels.