‘Between now and the end of the month, Senate Republicans will work hard with the President and with the House to produce an agreement that ensures all student borrowers benefit from today’s low interest rates. That would mean that 100 percent of all new student loans made this year would have a rate below five percent.’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In the Weekly Republican Address, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) calls on Senate Democrats to put politics aside and support a long-term fix to prevent an increase in student loan interest rates. A former U.S. Secretary of Education and the ranking Republican on the Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee, Senator Alexander also highlights a Republican proposal that emphasizes state and local decision-making in K-12 education while a Democratic alternative, in essence, creates a national school board to oversee the 100,000 public schools that educate 50 million American children. A full transcript of the address follows:
“I’m United States Senator Lamar Alexander.
“This is the season for high school graduations. And more than two million of those graduating are going to college.
“Both Republicans and Democrats agree that college is the surest ticket to the middle class and we want to help by making it simpler and smarter to get a student loan.
“That’s why the Republican House of Representatives has passed, and President Obama and Senate Republicans agree, on the same idea: A permanent solution to all student loan interest rates before some automatically rise on July first. The idea is to allow the market to set interest rates.
“It’s fairer to students and fairer to taxpayers.
“Now some Senate Democrats want a short-term political fix that will only benefit forty percent of new student loans, but they stand alone.
“Between now and the end of the month, Senate Republicans will work hard with the President and with the House to produce an agreement that ensures all student borrowers benefit from today’s low interest rates. That would mean that 100 percent of all new student loans made this year would have a rate below five percent.
“We may be in agreement on student loans, but we have a major disagreement about who should be in charge of our 100,000 public schools that educate 50 million American children.
“To put it simply, Democrats want a national school board; Republicans favor local control.
“Over the last decade, the United States Department of Education has become so congested with federal mandates that it has actually become, in effect, a national school board.
“If you remember the childhood game, ‘Mother, May I?’ then you have a pretty good sense of how the process works—states must come to Washington for approval of their plans to educate their students.
“This congestion of mandates is caused by three things: No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and the administration’s use of waivers. Together, they’ve imposed federal standards for what children must know in reading and math, they’ve coerced some states into adopting Common Core standards, and they’ve imposed federal definitions of how a state should measure school, teacher, and principal performance.
“This week, Senate Democrats reported to the full Senate an eleven-hundred-and-fifty-page plan that would not only freeze these mandates into place, but double down, creating more than twenty-five new programs as well as more than 150 new reporting requirements.
“Republicans voted to move in a different direction. We offered a two-hundred-and-twenty-page plan to help children in public schools learn what they need to know and be able to do by restoring responsibility to states and communities, and giving teachers and parents freedom, flexibility, and choice.
“We call it, ‘Every Child Ready for College or Career.’
“Our plan emphasizes state and local decision-making. It puts Washington out of the business of deciding whether local schools are succeeding or failing. It rejects federal mandates that create a national school board, and prohibits the Education Secretary from prescribing standards or accountability systems for states. It continues the requirement that states have high standards and quality tests, but doesn’t prescribe those standards.
“Our proposal makes it easier for states to offer low-income parents more choice in finding the right public school for their child. And it gives teachers and principals more freedom by encouraging the expansion and replication of successful charter schools. It encourages states to create teacher and principal evaluation programs, free of federal mandates, and offers states flexibility in spending federal education dollars, while cutting waste.
“This is not a proposal just for Republicans. We believe this proposal represents the views and will attract the support of governors leading the charge for education reform, teachers who value the freedom to teach, parents who want more choices for their children, and state legislators who are working for better schools.
“The Democratic proposal establishes a national school board. What such a proposal really says is they don’t trust parents and they don’t trust classroom teachers and they don’t trust states to care about and help educate their children, and they want someone in Washington do it for them.
“We completely reject that. Our proposal places responsibility for helping our children learn squarely where it ought to be —on states and communities, and it does that by giving teachers and parents more freedom, more flexibility and more choice.”