Price Floor Statement in Support of American Education Week

November 20, 2014
Price Floor Statement in Support of American Education Week

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to acknowledge American Education Week. This annual celebration was established by the National Education Association and the American Legion in 1921, and it serves as a time to remember the paramount importance of education.

This year’s theme, Great Public Schools: A Basic Right and Our Responsibility, is a renewed call for all citizens – from parents and teachers, to school staff and education support professionals, to elected officials and community leaders – to work together to improve our schools. 

Public education is the bedrock of our democracy, and we must provide robust support of public schools to ensure our young people can fulfill their potential.

But these days, education programs are on the chopping block. State and federal officials seem to have lost sight of the value of investing in our schools. With that in mind, I cannot imagine a better time to acknowledge the importance of public education and the vital and underappreciated contributions that educators make every day.

Somewhere along the line, we have all been inspired by great teachers who have helped us develop the perspective and good judgment to be active participants in our communities. But the support these teachers need to do their jobs effectively – including a competitive salary and funding for supplies and textbooks – is too often the target of over-eager budget hawks.

We've learned this in our home state of North Carolina, where the Republican majority in the General Assembly has slashed the education budget, even as enrollment has increased. Teacher pay ranks 46th in the nation, having fallen from 20th in the last five years. Overall state funding for our schools has dropped by 8.6 percent since 2008, and believe me when I tell you that our teachers and students are feeling the squeeze.

That trend is hardly unique to North Carolina – a recent report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that 30 states have cut education budgets. Insufficient funding for teachers and public schools has quickly become a national problem.

The picture is even bleaker at the federal level. This year, my Republican colleagues once again plan to oversee major reductions in discretionary spending, including education funding. That will mean new threats to all federal education initiatives, from primary and secondary school support to Pell Grants and other college affordability programs.

As state and federal officials debate budgets, we would be wise to remember that none of our education policies will succeed until committed teachers and administrators, critical school support staff and education support staff, and engaged students all have the support that they need to thrive.

Government should be in the business of recruiting great educators who are willing to dedicate their careers to public education. We must provide them with adequate training, opportunities for professional development, competitive salaries, sufficient classroom resources, and support from effective administrators and staff.

We also have to work to ensure that every American student who works hard can afford to go to college. It is wholly irresponsible to make further cuts to Pell Grants and burden students with additional debt. Instead, we should be doing everything possible to incentivize college for bright students who have a passion for learning.

This American Education Week, students and teachers around the country are calling out for our support. I encourage my colleagues in Congress and friends in the General Assembly to answer the call and restore education funding to sustainable levels. It’s the best investment we can make in a future we can be proud of.