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Alexander, Black Release Statements on 5-Year Anniversary of Obamacare

Press release from U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; March 23, 2015:

WASHINGTON, March 23, 2015 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate health committee, today released the following statement on the 5th anniversary of Obamacare being signed into law:

“Five years ago this week, President Obama signed into law a piece of legislation Republicans said would be an historic mistake. Since this law passed, we have seen health care costs increase for the American people, many have lost their health care plans and their choice of doctors, and freedom and flexibility in health care choices have been severely limited. Republicans have been and are still ready to head step by step in a different direction – one that emphasizes more freedom, more choices, and lower costs.”

Press release from U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn. 06; March 23, 2015:

Washington, D.C. – Today Congressman Diane Black (R-TN-06), a nurse for more than forty years and member of the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, released the following statement on the fifth anniversary of Obamacare being signed into law:

“Five years after Obamacare was signed into law, the broken promises are many and the hurt is real. Just ask the 16,000 Tennesseans who lost their  affordable health insurance plans through CoverTN despite the President’s pledge that ‘if you like your health care plan, you can keep it’ or the 31 million Americans expected to remain uninsured even after this law is fully implemented. Obamacare is such a disaster that the Obama Administration itself has allowed more than 40 changes to the law so far and many of the politicians responsible for this train wreck – from Kathleen Sebelius to Marilyn Tavenner – are now out of a job. As a nurse for more than 40 years, I understand the need for health care reform, but this top-down rewrite of one-sixth of our economy was never the way to do it. On this unhappy anniversary, the results are in: Obamacare was a mistake that harms the very people it pretends to help. Today, our case for repealing and replacing this law couldn’t be stronger,” said Congressman Diane Black.

Corker Against Auditing the Fed

Bob Corker thinks an audit of the Federal Reserve would be disastrous both for the U.S. and “the free world.”

Tennessee’s junior senator, who sits on the Senate Banking committee, told attendees at a Bloomberg breakfast last week that he “can’t imagine anything worse for the nation or for the free world than for Congress to get involved in monetary policy.”

Nevertheless, Corker said he supports more transparency in how the Fed regulates banks.

Corker, who served as commissioner of Tennessee’s Department of Finance and Administration in the Republican administration of former Gov. Don Sundquist, characterized “this audit the Fed thing” as an unwelcome invitation to more congressional involvement in monetary policy. He called that out as “a problem.”

All the same, Corker said he expects Congress to take some action on making financial regulations — such as how the Fed administers stress tests at large banks — more transparent.

In January, Sen. Rand Paul and Rep. Thomas Massie, both libertarian-leaning Republicans from Kentucky, introduced legislation calling for a congressional review of the U.S. central bank’s monetary policy discussions, which have been exempt from legislative scrutiny since 1978.

The Federal Reserve Transparency Act of 2013 passed the GOP-controlled U.S. House last September with over 100 Democrats joining 227 Republicans in support of the bill, but it was never taken up by the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Audit proponents had hoped demands for hearings last year by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., regarding allegations the New York Fed was taking it easy on the banks it regulates, signaled broader support for a congressional audit. However, Warren recently announced her opposition to the audit proposed by Paul.

Blackburn Files Bill to Block FCC From Overriding State Municipal Broadband Laws

Press release from U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. 07; February 26, 2015:

Congressman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) today introduced legislation to prevent the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from overriding state and local municipal broadband laws.

The Blackburn-Tillis legislation says that the FCC cannot pre-empt states with municipal broadband laws already on the books, or any other states that subsequently adopt such municipal broadband laws. The bill also includes a Sense of Congress stating that the FCC does not have the legal authority to prohibit states from implementing municipal broadband restrictions. Original co-sponsors of the House legislation included Representatives Mike Pompeo (R-KS), Robert Pittenger (R-NC), Renee Ellmers (R-NC), Mark Meadows (R-NC), and David Rouzer (R-NC).

Earlier today, the FCC voted to effectively overturn North Carolina and Tennessee state laws that set requirements and conditions on municipalities competing with the private sector in the broadband marketplace.

“The FCC’s decision to grant the petitions of Chattanooga, Tennessee and Wilson, North Carolina is a troubling power grab,” Blackburn said. “States are sovereign entities that have Constitutional rights, which should be respected rather than trampled upon. They know best how to manage their limited taxpayer dollars and financial ventures. Ironically, they will now be burdened by the poor judgment of a federal government that is over $18 trillion in debt and clearly cannot manage its own affairs.

“I’m pleased to be working with Senator Tillis on this important issue. As former state legislators, we strongly believe in States’ rights and will fight the FCC’s liberal agenda. Chairman Wheeler’s regulatory appetite appears to know no bounds and is seeping dangerously into the lives of Americans. It is time for Congress to assert itself and protect States once again from unelected Washington bureaucrats.”

“It is disturbing, yet not surprising, that the FCC and Chairman Wheeler are attempting to deny the sovereign right of states to make their own laws,” said Senator Tillis. “After witnessing how some local governments wasted taxpayer dollars and accumulated millions in debt through poor decision making, the legislatures of states like North Carolina and Tennessee passed commonsense, bipartisan laws that protect hardworking taxpayers and maintain the fairness of free-market competition. Representative Blackburn and I recognize the need for Congress to step in and take action to keep unelected bureaucrats from acting contrary to the expressed will of the American people through their state legislatures.”

Click here to read the bill text of the States’ Rights Municipal Broadband Act

Cohen Not Attending Netanyahu Congressional Address

Press release from U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. 09; February 24, 2015:

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) today issued the following statement regarding his decision not to attend Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned address to Congress next week:

“As a supporter of the state of Israel and a Jewish American, I have been placed in a difficult position regarding the anticipated speech of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before the United States Congress.  After deliberation, I have decided I cannot in good conscience attend the Prime Minister’s speech. My decision not to attend is not a reflection of my support for Israel and its continued existence as a state and home for the Jewish people.  I have always strongly supported Israel and I always will. However, I believe, as do many conscientious Members of Congress, that the speech is political theater by Prime Minister Netanyahu, the head of the Likud party, just two weeks before the elections in Israel.  However, the Prime Minister could not speak on the House floor without an invitation from the Speaker of the House John Boehner.  Speaker Boehner and other Republicans supporting the speech are giving a foreign leader the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives as a forum to present a counterargument to the foreign policy peace efforts of the President of the United States who has constitutional authority over foreign affairs.  This speech is high theater for a re-election campaign in Israel and a political tool wielded against our President and his Administration by the Speaker of the House. Further, it is not a coincidence that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech to Congress will be during the Washington D.C. convention of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) with whom Speaker Boehner is currying favor.”

“The United States House of Representatives Chamber should be sacrosanct. Congressional rules do not allow the use of videos of House floor or committee activity in political campaign advertisements.  In 2013, Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke to Congress and then used video clips of that speech in his re-election campaign ad to great advantage. It is expected Mr. Netanyahu will do the same again.  Congress cannot make laws that govern his conduct in Israel but the Prime Minister should honor the spirit of our campaign laws. Knowing his past use, any invitation for him to speak before Congress should include the condition that his speech to Congress not be used in a campaign ad.”

“Protocol in inviting a foreign leader to speak before Congress includes coordinating with the Administration because foreign affairs are the province of the President.  Not only did Speaker Boehner not coordinate with or inform the President of the invitation, he also asked the Israeli Ambassador not to inform the President.  The Speaker’s invitation to Prime Minister Netanyahu is political gamesmanship and it is a very dangerous game.  The Prime Minister’s use of the U.S. House chamber as a stage to argue against the comprehensive agreement on the Iranian nuclear program, which is currently being negotiated among Iran and the P5+1 — the United States, Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom and Germany, is reckless.   While Americans and members of Congress may disagree on anything, even foreign policy, providing a forum of such immense prestige and power to the leader of another country who is opposing our nation’s foreign policy is beyond the pale. It endangers the negotiations, insults the good faith of the other nations involved in the negotiations and emboldens Iran who may well view this schism in our government as an opportunity for advantage.  While we can disagree with our President, we as a nation should be as one on our foreign policy and any disagreements should be presented in a respectful, appropriate and time-honored manner.”

“I have given due consideration to my decision not to attend Prime Minister Netanyahu’s address before Congress.  I have attended the Prime Minister’s previous speech and my support of Israel has not wavered but I believe that this speech at this time and brought forth in this manner is dangerous to Israel as well as inappropriate.  Nothing should come between our two nations.  The actions of the Speaker and the Prime Minister have caused a breach between Democrats in Congress and Israel as well as the administrations of the United States and Israel.  My lack of attendance does not mean I will not be aware of the content of the speech nor does it mean I won’t follow the commentary both pro and con but I will not be part of the spectacle.”

Alexander, DesJarlais Respond to Obama’s Veto of Keystone XL

Press release from U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; February 24, 2015:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 24, 2015 – U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the top Republican on energy appropriations, today released the following statement on President Obama’s veto of legislation passed by Congress to approve the Keystone XL pipeline:

“There is simply no reason whatsoever for the president not to approve this project that will create thousands of jobs for American workers and put our country one step closer to energy independence. Our Republican majority allowed nearly double the number of roll call votes on amendments to this bipartisan Keystone XL pipeline legislation than Democrats did on all legislation in 2014, which is proof that Republicans are working to get things done. And yet, the president decided to veto this legislation before he even saw it in its final form, instead of working with Congress.”

The legislation, introduced by Senator John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and cosponsored by Alexander, all other members of the Republican majority, and six Democrats, would allow TransCanada to construct, connect, operate, and maintain the Keystone XL pipeline. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Senate’s majority leader, allowed dozens of amendments pertaining to a range of issues, including energy and the economy to be debated and voted on during consideration of the Keystone Pipeline XL bill in January.

Alexander is a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. He is also chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy & Water Development.

***

Press release from U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn. 04; February 24, 2015:

Congressman Scott DesJarlais, M.D. (TN-04) released the following statement in response to President Obama’s veto of S.1, the Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act, which passed Congress with bipartisan support:

“President Obama’s veto of this bipartisan legislation makes it clear the White House is more concerned about partisan politics than American jobs. Not only would building the pipeline create more than 42,000 good-paying jobs, it would provide energy security by reducing our reliance on oil from unstable Middle Eastern countries. After conducting five safety and environmental reviews, the president’s own State Department determined the pipeline’s construction is environmentally safe. I hope Congress will find another way to move this vital jobs project forward.”

In September of 2008—more than six years ago—Canadian pipeline company TransCanada filed an application with the United States Department of State to construct the Keystone XL Pipeline across the U.S.-Canada border. The Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement issued by the Secretary of State in January of 2014 determined that no significant environmental impact would be caused by the pipeline.

Black: Incorrect Obamacare Tax Info Sent to Consumers ‘Beyond Embarrassing’ for Obama

Press release from U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn. 06; February 20, 2015:

Today Congressman Diane Black (R-TN-06), a member of the Ways & Means Health Subcommittee and nurse for more than 40 years, released the following statement on the news that the Obama Administration sent 800,000 HealthCare.gov customers incorrect tax information, which may result in delayed tax refunds:

“The Obama Administration has built a healthcare law so complex, so confusing, and so costly that even they don’t know how to properly administer it,” said Congressman Diane Black. “From a faulty website, to staggering cost estimates, to more Administration-led delays, the hits just keep coming under Obamacare. Now, the White House tells us in a classic Friday news dump that nearly one million Americans could see their tax refunds delayed because of this President’s inability to implement his own law. This is beyond embarrassing for President Obama and is an unfair blow to taxpayers who are once again left holding the bag for this Administration’s incompetence. Moreover, it is yet another example of why the House voted earlier this month with my support to repeal this disastrous law once and for all.”

Cohen Announces $5.6 M in Federal Funds to Address HIV/Aids Epidemic

Press release from U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. 09; February 18, 2015:

[MEMPHIS, TN] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) announced today that Shelby County has been awarded $5,653,472 in federal funding to help address the HIV/AIDS epidemic and provide care for those living with HIV. This funding comes through the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, which helps local governments provide HIV-related services to more than half a million people each year who do not have sufficient health care coverage or financial resources for coping with the disease.

“While there have been major breakthroughs in treatment in recent years, HIV continues to plague the Ninth District,” said Congressman Cohen. “This Ryan White Program funding will help thousands of Memphians living with this terrible disease access the high-quality, comprehensive care they need and deserve.”

During Congressman Cohen’s time in the United States House of Representatives, the Ninth District has received nearly $20 million in Ryan White Program funds to fight AIDS and HIV. The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program is the single largest federal program designed specifically for people with HIV/AIDS. First enacted in 1990, it provides care and support services to individuals and families affected by HIV/AIDS, functioning as the “payer of last resort”; that is, it fills the gaps in care for those who have no other source of coverage or face coverage limits. This funding comes through Part A of the program, which provides assistance to locales most severely affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Corker Calls on Congress to Work to ‘End Modern Day Slavery’

Press release from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; February 5, 2015:

[youtube height=”HEIGHT” width=”WIDTH”]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wB4Ab3TFENE[/youtube]

WASHINGTON – During a hearing to examine the challenge of modern day slavery today, U.S. SenatorBob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called for Congress to “create and lead a vision” to end this deplorable practice world-wide.

“Congress can create and lead a vision to end modern day slavery,” Corker said. “With the U.S. behind it; we can lead; we can solve; we can bring others to the table.”

The committee heard testimony from leading non-governmental organizations and slavery victims that elevated the scope of this global problem and offered successful strategies for combating human trafficking. More than 27 million people around the world are enslaved. Forced labor accounts for 74 percent of victims and forced sexual servitude accounts for 26 percent of victims. Women and girls are especially vulnerable to slavery and human trafficking, accounting for 54 percent of victims. Children under the age of 18 account for 26 percent of victims.

“Number one, slavery is as brutal as ever. Number two, it’s more vast than ever, but thirdly, it’s more stoppable than ever,” said Gary Haugen of the International Justice Mission in his testimony before the committee. Haugen emphasized the need to improve local law enforcement as a deterrent to traffickers who thrive in communities that turn a blind eye to their activities.

“We’ve measured trafficking fall off by more than 80 percent and even higher in larger populations when impunity ended,” added Haugen.

Witnesses identified the role of public-private partnerships, especially for leveraging scarce resources and raising awareness of human slavery, as an important priority for policy makers.

“The business of human trafficking is too large to allow fragmentation of efforts, which is why bringing government, business, and civil society together is key,” David Abramowitz of Humanity United said.

Organizations focused on ending modern day slavery have developed reliable methods of measuring their efforts, which allows for greater accountability of public investments devoted to ending slavery.

“We can measure how much sex trafficking, forced labor is actually taking place by infiltrating the criminal networks who are operating and get a baseline. Then you can actually carry out your intervention and measure…at the end whether or not there has actually been…an increase…in enforcement and then a correlated decrease in the actual prevalence of the slavery,” Haugen said.

The committee also heard the compelling stories of James Kofi Annan and Shandra Woworuntu, both trafficking survivors who have dedicated themselves to victims’ advocacy so that others will not fall prey to similar violence and captivity.

“I want to thank you for the courage to be here but also for taking your experiences and using them to help other people,” said Corker in thanking the victims for their testimony. “One of the easier outcomes to produce is to make sure people are more fully aware and that parents understand what is happening in various countries with their young ones; and to understand the tremendous plight of victims who in many cases are not dealt with as victims.”

Testifying at today’s hearing were Gary Haugen, President, International Justice Mission; Shawna Bader-Blau, Executive Director; Solidarity Center; David Abramowitz, Vice President, Policy and Government Relations, Humanity United; James Kofi Annan, Trafficking Survivor & Founder, Challenging Heights; and Shandra Woworuntu, trafficking survivor.

For complete testimony and archived video footage of the hearing, click here.

Alexander Introduces Resolution to Require Simple Majority on Presidential Nominations

Press release from U. S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; February 4, 2015:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 4, 2015 – U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) today introduced a resolution to change the Senate rules that they said would “establish by rule the Senate tradition of approving presidential nominations by a simple majority vote.”

In a joint statement, the senators said: “This rules change would establish by rule the Senate tradition of approving presidential nominations of Cabinet members and judges by a simple majority vote, which existed from the time Thomas Jefferson wrote the rules in 1789 until 2003, when Democrats began filibustering federal circuit court of appeals nominees. Most importantly, it would change the rules the right way: through a two-thirds vote, which is what the existing rules provide. Unfortunately, on Nov. 21, 2013, Democrats broke the rules without even attempting to get the 67 votes required to change the rules, in order to put three judges on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. As former Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) noted at the time, quoting former Sen. Arthur Vandenberg: ‘If a majority of the Senate can change its rules at any time, there are no rules.’”

The proposal will be considered by the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, and would ultimately require a two-thirds vote by the entire U.S. Senate to change the Senate’s rules. This is in contrast to Nov. 21, 2013, when the Democratic majority invoked what is known as the “nuclear option,” changing the precedent of the Senate with just 51 votes so that they could approve all presidential nominees – except for U.S. Supreme Court – with a simple majority.

 

Alexander Gives School Choice Speech at Brookings Institution

Press release from U. S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; February 4, 2015:

Outlines What Federal Government Can do to Help States Support School Choice for Parents

WASHINGTON, D.C., Feb. 4 – In a speech at the Brookings Institution today, Senate education committee Chairman U.S. Sen.Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) questioned why popular and successful federal programs support parents choosing child care and colleges for their children, but it is still “so hard to apply the same sorts of choices to elementary and secondary schools.”

“Allowing students to choose among schools is not a new idea for the federal government. Allowing federal dollars to follow students has been a successful strategy in American education for 70 years. In 1944, the G.I. Bill allowed veterans to choose among colleges, public or private.

Today, about $136 billion in federal grants and loans continue to follow students to the college or university of their choice.”

Alexander detailed four ways the federal government can help allow parents to choose their child’s school: Alexander’s bill, Scholarships for Kids, to allow states to let 24 billion in existing federal dollars follow the low income child to the public or private school they chose to attend; the Choice Act, by Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.), to allow federal dollars for disabled students to follow those children to the schools their parents believe provide the best services; expansion of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program; and expansion of charter schools.

The text of the senator’s speech follows:

I am delighted to be here, but I should warn you: Based on my track record, I’m probably not your most reliable observer on school choice.

If I take you back to September 1992, I gave a speech at Ashland University in Ohio and I predicted that by the year 2000 “school choice will not be an issue.”

I suggested that an Ashland student writing a thesis in 2000 ought to make the subject parental choice of schools, because by then, I said, “it will be a matter of history.

“Your colleagues will wonder along with you as you examine this strange era when we granted government monopolies control of the most valuable and important enterprises in town, and so many people fought furiously to keep doors to many of the best schools closed to poor children.

“They will ask, how could this have ever happened in America, at a time when the ideas of freedom, choice and opportunity were sweeping the rest of the world?”

My prediction might not have been right, but not because we didn’t try.

In 1984, I gave a speech at the University of the South outlining the “deep ruts” into which American K-12 education had fallen. One of those was the lack of school choice for parents.

In 1985, the National Governors Association (NGA) embarked on a project called “Time for Results.” We divided into seven task forces, each chaired by a governor, to ask seven of the toughest questions you could ask about American education. One of those questions was, “Why not let parents choose the schools their children attend?” The task force working on that question was chaired by the Democratic governor of Colorado, Richard Lamm, who said then: “You know, it is interesting that America is a land of choices. We have 100 breakfast cereals to choose from, 200 different makes of cars. But in this one educational area…we have not done a lot in choice.”

Then in 1992, President Bush proposed his “GI Bill for Children,” which was a plan to allow states and cities to give $1,000 annual scholarships in new federal dollars to each child of a middle- and low-income family in a participating state or locality.

Families could spend the scholarships at any lawfully operated school – public, private or religious.

And up to half of the scholarship could be spent on other academic programs, like a Saturday math tutoring program or a summer accelerated language course.

That year, the Carnegie Foundation had reported that 28 percent of our nation’s parents would like to send their child to a different school.

Today, that number is even higher – it is, in fact, more than twice as high. A recent [2013] Luntz Global study found that 64 percent of parents said that “if given the financial opportunity,” they would send one or all of their children to a different school.

SINCE 1992

The last 23 years have seen some positive changes in the ability of parents to choose their children’s schools.

Today all 50 states and Washington, D.C. offer to some students alternatives to the school they would normally be assigned based on their residence.

Approximately 15 percent of school-age children attend a school other than their school of residence through open-enrollment programs.

Policies in 42 states allow some, or all, parents to send their children to public schools outside their districts.

Of those 42 states—15 states require districts to participate, 23 allow them to participate, and 3 require it specifically for low-income students and students in failing schools.

In 31 states, parents are allowed to choose among schools within their district.

Of those 31 states—16 states require districts to participate, 10 allow them to participate, and 6 require it for low-income students or students in failing schools 6 states.

More than 2.5 million – or nearly 5% of all public school children – are enrolled in more than 6,000 public charter schools in 42 states and D.C. Typically parents choose to enroll their children in these schools.

In addition, today more than 300,000 children are served by 41 private school choice programs across 19 states, D.C., and Douglas County, Colorado.  These programs often give students who meet certain criteria—usually based on income, special needs, or academic performance—an opportunity for a voucher, tax credit program, or education savings account to allow them to attend private schools.

Also, the option for homeschooling is available in all states and parents of about 3 percent of school-age children choose to homeschool.

FEDERAL ROLE

Allowing students to choose among schools is not a new idea for the federal government.

Allowing federal dollars to follow students has been a successful strategy in American education for 70 years.

In 1944, the G.I. Bill allowed veterans to choose among colleges, public or private.

Today, about $136 billion in federal grants and loans continue to follow students to the college or university of their choice.

Just last year, Congress reauthorized the $2.4 billion Child Care and Development Block Grant program, or CCDBG, which, when combined with other federal and state funding, helps approximately 900,000 families pay for child care of their choice while they work or attend school, mostly through vouchers.

These are among the most successful and popular federal programs—why is it so hard to apply the same sorts of choices to elementary and secondary schools?

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

What can the federal government do now to expand the opportunity parents have to choose the most appropriate school for their children?

1. Scholarships for Kids: This is a bill I introduced that would use $24 billion of the federal dollars we spend each year on K-12 education and allow states to create $2,100 scholarships to follow 11 million low-income children to any public or private school of their parents’ choice.

Also, the discussion draft I’ve just released to fix No Child Left Behind gives states the option of using $14.5 billion in Title I money to follow 11 million low income children to the public school they attend.

Most people agree that Title I money, which is supposed to help low-income kids, gets diverted to different schools because of a formula that targets money to districts based on how much states spend per student. That is largely influenced by teacher salaries.

The simplest way to solve that problem is to let that money follow the child to the school they attend. You could do that to just public schools, which has been the tradition with Title I money, or to private schools, which is what I would prefer.

2. The CHOICE Act: This is a proposal by Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) to allow about $11 billion the federal government now spends for children with disabilities to follow those 6 million children to the schools their parents believe provide the best services.

I think it’s important to note that these bills do not require states to do anything—instead they give them the option to have money follow the child.

3. The DC Opportunity Scholarship Program:  Senator Scott’s CHOICE Act would also expand the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program that began in 2004 and has provided about 6,000 low-income students in Washington, D.C. with the opportunity to receive a scholarship to attend a private school of their parents’ choice. Today, far more parents in the city have applied for the scholarships than have received them.

4. Expanding charter schools: In my final year as education secretary under President George H. W. Bush, I wrote every school superintendent in America asking them to try this new idea from Minnesota called “start-from-scratch schools.” At the time there were only 12 of them. They were the first charter schools. Today there are more than 6,000.

Charter schools have had strong bipartisan support—including from President Clinton and Secretary Duncan.

We’ve got in our discussion draft provisions that would streamline and update the existing Charter Schools Program to:

Provide grants to State entities to start new charter schools and to replicate or expand high-quality charter schools.

Provide grants to entities to enhance credit methods to finance charter school facilities.

Provide grants to charter management organizations, like KIPP or Rocketship in my home state of Tennessee, to replicate or expand high-quality charter schools.

Our goal is to grow the federal investment in expanding and replicating high-quality charter schools with a demonstrated record of success, and hold charter schools accountable for their performance.

Other senators also have some good proposals: Senators Paul and Lee both have bills to allow federal dollars from Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to follow low-income children to the public or private school of their parents’ choice. Senator Rubio has a bill that creates a new federal tax credit for individual and corporate donations to organizations that provide low-income students with private school scholarships.

NEXT STEPS

As for the future, I think I’ve learned my lesson—I’m not about to make a prediction.

It looks like it will be a while before school choice will be a matter of history.

But the progress so many have made is impressive—there is plenty of opportunity to do more.

As Ross Perot told me in 1984, “Changing the public schools of Texas was the hardest, meanest, bloodiest thing I’ve ever tried to do.”

Since I’m not going to make a prediction then I’ll end with a question—the same one I asked in 1992: If we trust parents to choose child care for their children, and we trust them to help their children choose a college to attend—and both those systems have been so successful – why do we not also trust them to choose the best elementary or high school for their children?