Transcript of Pelosi, House Democratic Leaders Press Availability on Ryan Republican Budget Cuts to Education

Apr 4, 2014
Press Release

Contact: Drew Hammill, 202-226-7616

Washington, D.C. – House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Members of the House Democratic Caucus held a press availability today on the impact of the Ryan Republican Budget’s devastating cuts to education.  Leader Pelosi and House Democrats highlighted the budget’s callous cuts to education, from Head Start to K-12 initiatives to job training, threatening our nation’s competitiveness for generations to come.  Below is a transcript of the press availability:

Leader Pelosi.  Good morning.  As you know, earlier this week, the Ryan Republican Budget was released.  It is a budget that ransacks the future of America’s children.  It is a budget that is, in terms of education, an assault on our children’s future.  This morning, we’re here to talk specifically about the damage done to education in our country by the Ryan budget. 

Education is the best investment a person, a parent, a country can make in its future.  Education is the best investment also fiscally, because, in addition to being part of innovation and competitiveness for America and helping people reach their fulfillment, economists agree that nothing brings more money to the Treasury than investments in education – from earliest childhood education, K-12, higher education, lifetime learning.   Again, to say that we’re going to cut education to reduce the deficit is a false economy, and, with stiff competition for the honor, is one of the most ridiculous provisions of the Ryan budget. 

Our colleagues here are going to speak specifically – Mr. Miller, who is the Ranking Member on Education and Labor, former Chairman of the Committee and a recognized authority on the subject in our country; our Ranking Member on the Budget Committee who has been making this fight and this contrast very clearly; Mark Takano, one of our Members, who has been a teacher for many years and understands this so well; and Hakeem Jefferies, who will speak from his perspective as a distinguished Member of the Budget Committee. 

They will talk about the damage that is done to early childhood education in terms of Head Start, the terrible toll it takes on Title I for our kids in disadvantaged areas, in terms of cutting Pell Grants – while still giving tax breaks to Big Oil.  How does that make any sense?  And lifetime learning – very important now, as our workers have the skills – many of them need specific training.  This is key to employment, to growth, to innovation, and for the success of our economy. 

Everything begins in the classroom: personal fulfillment, innovation, reducing the deficit.  And I’m pleased to yield now to the distinguished Ranking Member of the Budget Committee: Chris Van Hollen.

Congressman Van Hollen. Thank you, Leader Pelosi.  As Leader Pelosi said, in the Budget Committee just the other night, we passed the Republican budget.  And I think everybody knows that budgets reflect your priorities, and they tell the American people what you care about and what you don’t care about.  They are about choices we make for the American public.  And the Republican budget, at every turn, chooses to protect special interest tax breaks for powerful, special interests at the expense of everybody else in the country – at the expense of job creation, at the expense of seniors, at the expense of the middle class, at the expense of the people trying to get into the middle class, and at the expense of our kids’ education. 

And, we all agree in this country, you don’t guarantee outcomes.  We don’t promise that someone is going to be successful.  What we thought we promised was that everybody in America, regardless of how they started in life, should have a chance to achieve success and the American Dream.  And the thing about the Republican budget is that, rung by rung, it knocks out the steps of that ladder of opportunity.  It takes away that opportunity.  So, if you’re born to privilege, you’re great under this Republican budget.  But if you’re struggling and trying to fight to make a better life for yourself and your family – tough luck.  

And the cuts in education begin at the early education level – so at Pre-K and early education.  The cuts, over the ten year period, are 24 percent below what was just reached as part the Ryan-Murray agreement.  So if you look at the funding levels for early education in Murray-Ryan and you project those out over ten years, their budget cuts that by 24 percent.  That’s an $18 billion cut to Head Start and Early Head Start.  They cut, over that period of time, $89 billion from K-12 education.  Right? 

So that’s Title I, that’s special education, and then, they don’t stop there.  After cutting our investment in early education, cutting our investment in K-12, they have a huge hit to the support we provide to our college students in the form of loans and college grants – to the tune of $205 billion.  And you’re going to hear, from our colleagues, some of the impacts of those cuts.  But I want to be clear that the impact numbers they’re going to give you are just in year one of the Republican budget.  They get progressively worse as time goes on.  Because they begin with a big cut, but then it widens over the ten year period.  

And again, they’ve chosen, as part of the priorities, to try and reduce the deficit – not by closing one single loophole to reduce the deficit, but by coming after our kids’ education and these other important investments.

And there’s nobody who’s better positioned to talk about that impact on our kids’ education than a person who’s devoted his life and efforts here in Congress to that: George Miller.

Congressman Miller.  Thank you very much, Chris, and thank you for your leadership on this budget.  As Chris pointed out, a budget is supposed to reflect your priorities and your values - what are those things that are important and what are those things that you value as a citizen of this country?  And clearly, what is not valued in this budget, and what is not a priority for the Republicans and their budget, are children.

When you see that they’ve cut over a 170,000 slots for early childhood education – and its gets worse every year after that – clearly they don’t care about these children.  And these are the exact children that we know, if they have an opportunity for early childhood education, they will do much better in school, they are more likely to graduate, they’re more likely to get a job, they’re less likely to go to jail, and they’re more likely to earn higher incomes than children that don’t get that opportunity.  But only a very small portion of this population gets a chance at early childhood education.  And now, the Republican budget throws hundreds of thousands of them out of that opportunity.  And it grows every year. 

That means they’re less likely to get into Early Head Start.  That means they’re less likely to get into a high quality early childhood learning program.  That means they’re less likely to be ready for kindergarten.  That means they’re less likely to be able to read at a fourth grade level when they get there.  And if they don’t read at a fourth grade level, you know they’re very likely to drop out in the tenth grade. 

This is what the research says.  That’s why law enforcement supports early childhood education.  That’s why the Department of Defense supports early childhood education.  That’s why the business community supports early childhood education.  That’s why governors are racing to expand this, to build their economy by providing early childhood education. 

But the Republicans in the House of Representatives don’t.  They don’t want to give these children that opportunity – that’s what their budget says.  They throw 170,000 of them off the rolls this next coming year, and they throw more children off every other year.  You cannot build a strong nation, a strong economy, a strong society, a strong democracy if these children lose their chance of having a high quality education.  And I’d like, now, to turn to Mr. Jeffries.

Congressman Jeffries.  Thank you Representative Miller, and thank you Leader Pelosi and my distinguished colleagues in government.  It’s important to know, that the House Republican Budget, is a product of the same type of extreme mentality and reckless mindset that shut down the government for 16 days.  House Republicans have, once again, decided to balance the budget on the backs of children, young Americans, college students, working families, and the middle class.

In order to provide a tax cut to the wealthy and to the well off and to protect Big Oil in the present, House Republicans are willing to mortgage our future by dramatically cutting support for Pell Grants to the tune of $90 billion, and by slashing support for job training programs – so vital to the American ability to win the future. 

This is extreme.  This is reckless.  This is hurting the capacity of college students to pursue the American dream by limiting their ability to access a higher education, and hurting America’s capacity to adequately prepare ourselves for the challenges to the 21st century.  Now, today in America, there is more than $1 trillion in collective student loan debt.  One trillion dollars.  This is a student loan debt crisis that we have in this country.  It is hurting the ability of young Americans to raise a family, to purchase a home, to start a new business.  This student loan debt crisis is made worse by dramatically slashing Pell Grants and limiting the ability of younger Americans to pursue a college education in an affordable way. 

It’s unhealthy for our economy.  It’s unfair as it relates to their ability to pursue the American Dream in the future.  It’s unconscionable in terms of our democratic values.  And so, we’re asking college students and younger Americans to stand up.  And together, we can hopefully force the Republicans to back up, and instead of trying to create prosperity for a limited number of Americans, to promote progress for college students in the future of our country.  With that, I’m pleased now to yield to my good friend, Representative Mark Takano.

Congressman Takano.  Thank you, Mr. Jeffries, Leader Pelosi, Mr. Van Hollen, Mr. Miller.  I am a teacher on special assignment to United States Congress.  Prior to being a Member of Congress, I was a classroom teacher, and went straight from the classroom to the halls of Congress.  And I taught for 22 years.  I’m also a community college trustee for over 20. 

And, I can tell you that I served at a high school that received Title I funding.  Much of my career was spent as an English Language Arts teacher.  And I taught students who were behind many grade levels in their reading abilities.  Title I funding was critical to our ability to put in place programs that would serve the students at the school – where 80 percent of the students qualified for free school lunch. 

This new Ryan budget would bring drastic cuts to Title I.  Roughly 8,000 schools would be affected.  3.5 million disadvantaged students would also be impacted, and there’d be 29,000 fewer teachers and aides. 

I can tell you that these programs require smaller class sizes.  You need the help of aides in order to deliver the instruction.  It’s a very highly human-intensive effort.  This is a disastrous, disastrous budget for America’s low income students. 

Leader Pelosi.  Thank you very much, Mr. Takano, for sharing your personal experience for us and what the impact of now, as a policy maker, how you view the budget.  As our colleagues have said, the budget is supposed to be a statement of our national values.  What is important to us as a country should be reflected in that.  It is the blueprint for how we go forward. 

Clearly, we have two distinct paths that are being laid out.  One, a path backward, and that would be the Ryan Republican Tea Party Budget; the other, the Democratic approach – the President’s budget, as well as the Congressional Democrats approach to this, which is about growth.  Growth.  And if we want to have growth, we have to have investments in education.  If we want to reduce the deficit, we have to have investments in education.  And just think of what it means to nearly 200,000 kids to be cut off of Head Start and Early Head Start, and 3.5 million children in disadvantaged situations, not to have the proper attention that they need. 

Something is very wrong with this.  It isn’t a statement of values.  It is a statement of special interest, as opposed to the statement of values that Mr. Van Hollen and the House Democrats have put forward, as well as the Senate Democrats and the President of the United States.  The contrast could not be greater.  I say that with great sorrow.  The contrast could not be greater.  My colleagues would be pleased to take any questions you may have, starting with education.

 

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Q:  When do House Democrats plan to introduce their budget? 

Congressman Van Hollen.  We will have our alternative budget ready by Monday, which is when I believe we have to submit it to the Rules Committee.  So, Monday or Tuesday.  But I think it’s going to be Monday. 

Our budget will stand in stark contrast to this Congressional Republican budget, because we believe in growing the economy and investing in our future, including our kids.  The Congressional Budget Office indicated that the Republican budget will actually slow down economic activity in the coming years because of the deep cuts it makes in some of these investments.  And we believe in the promise of America, which is that everybody, regardless of what family they were born into, should have an opportunity to achieve the American Dream.  And the Republican budget is a cloud – a very dark cloud – over that dream.

And the Democratic budget will adhere to what we believe are American values, which is giving every child a chance to get a good education, starting with an early education, where our budget, like the President’s budget, will actually increase our investment in early education.  Because all the evidence shows that it’s really important that children get a good start in life.  The Republican budget goes the other direction, cutting over $18 billion from early education over the period of the budget.  So, in every way, our budget will be one that focuses on economic growth, jobs, and opportunity for the American people.  And we expect it to be Monday. 

Q:  Leader Pelosi, as you know, a budget is basically just a theoretical document, and actually implementing cuts is different.

Leader Pelosi.  It’s a very serious document, a budget is.

Q:  My question is: we saw what happened last summer when they tried to implement the Ryan budget with the transportation appropriations bill.  What do you think would happen?  What would the reaction be if they actually did some of the cuts, in binding legislation, and brought that forth?  How would their Members react, and how do you think the public would react?

Leader Pelosi.  Well you have to see.  Do we know if they’re even going to bring this to the floor?

Congressman Van Hollen.  They say they’re going to bring this to the floor.

Leader Pelosi.  We don’t know if they’re going to bring it to the floor.  I didn’t mean to interrupt you there, but you cannot start by saying – this is a very serious proposal on their part.  And it’s been reinforced.  It’s what they’ve done before, except it’s worse.  And so they must have some unease in their ranks in terms of their appropriators, because this is almost unlivable for them. 

So we’ll see if they actually bring it forward.  But the spotlight has to be placed on it.  And today, we’re focusing on children.  And in this budget, in addition to the cuts were discussed here, there are jobs involved in those.  Thousands of teachers and Early Head Start kids – they get cut off, and so do the teachers. 

Our slogan for early childhood is: “Children learning, parents earning.”  People are free to work because their children are where they are – in addition to the jobs lost of those Head Start teachers.  And in addition to that, we think it’s very important for children to learn, for them not to be hungry.  And in this budget – remember when they had $40 billion on the floor and everybody said it was immoral and indecent, and faith-based communities spoke out against it? One hundred and forty billion cut in food stamps in this.  Really, what is it that they don’t understand of how we have to nurture our children – physically, with food, and parents who are secure, as well as their education? 

So it remains to be seen if they bring it up.  It will be interesting to see the unrest of their own appropriators on this legislation.  It has to be taken seriously.

Congressman Van Hollen.  If I could just emphasize what the Leader said: this is important because it does show the country exactly what Republicans in Congress would do if they had the power to do everything they wanted to do.  And if they had the power to do what they wanted to do, we have to assume that they would pass the budget and try to get it through the Senate and get it put into law.  And the budget, as it relates to kids and education, is exactly what we describe. 

Let me mention one other choice they make.  They want to charge college students more interest – an interest rate – on their loans.  As Mr. Hakeem Jeffries said, students already have an aggregate of a trillion dollar debt.  So what does the Republican budget do?  It doesn’t cut a single tax loophole for Big Oil companies or hedge fund managers.  But it charges students additional interest on their loans.  They have to start paying interest while they’re actually in college, before they’ve gotten a job – in terms of, that’s $40 billion.  So this is just one example: $40 billion greater debt burden on college students, while protecting tax breaks for Big Oil companies and hedge fund owners.  That’s the choice they make, and we have to take it seriously.

Q:  Mr. Van Hollen, what sort of differences can we expect between the House Democratic budget and the President’s budget?  Will you be increasing funding for education in what you do?

Congressman Van Hollen.  We will be providing our Democratic alternative on Monday.  We’ve been meeting with all Members of our Caucus as we put that together.  And so, we’ll just have to give you the final details on Monday.

Q:  Do you see this as an opportunity to use the Republican budget as a rallying cry to arouse the typically apathetic sectors of the voting population in an off-year, such as the young people and young families?

Leader Pelosi.  I view the Ryan budget as an ideological manifesto.  They have made it a political issue.  They have made a stark contrast with what the American people believe in. The [American people] believe that education is key to a successful person and a successful country.  And the way they undermine education, for one – we haven’t even gone into what it does to seniors, and the list goes on, because that will be for another day.  Not before Monday.  But that will be for another day. 

But today, we want the focus to be – if there were no other reason, and there are certainly billions of reasons why this is – but they have put forth their manifesto.  The public will call into question: “Is this for me?  Or is this for special interest?  Is this for the people’s interest or is this for special interest?”  And you will see no starker contrast than when you see the values-based, people’s interest budget that Mr. Van Hollen will put forth on Monday.

Q:  Do you see this as a gift to Democrats?

Leader Pelosi.  It’s a tragedy for the country.  It’s a tragedy for the country.  So it’s up to you to make sure that the public understands what this budget is about.  Budget – it’s like, who wants to hear about that?  “I’m busy with my two jobs, and trying to help my kids, and mentor my children, and help them do their homework, and the rest.  I don’t know about the budgets.”  But people have to know how directly it hits home.  And this is a budget that hits home.  Today, on education.  Another day we’ll talk about how it hurts seniors. All, all tax breaks for millionaires at the expense of the middle class. 

Thank you all very much.

Q:  Madam Leader, if I could just ask a question on the jobs report today.  New numbers just came out: less jobs were created than expected, and the unemployment rate remains the same.  What’s not working under the current policies?

Leader Pelosi.  Well, I think 190,000 jobs is a jobs good report.  We want more, but I would have to note that, today, we have replaced all of the jobs lost under the Bush economic policies and the recession that that took us into.  It’s taken this long to build back from that.  Where we have not had as much job growth is in the public sector, because of cuts in education, public safety and the rest.  So that’s a place where there still is a gap, and that’s a reflection of the policy that is there. 

Yesterday we welcomed the bus tour – raise the minimum wage.  If we could do that, if we could extend unemployment benefits, we would immediately be injecting demand into the economy – creating jobs at a faster rate.  But I think 190,000 jobs is very much going strongly in the right direction.  We must do more.

Congressman Miller.  In those cities that have raised the minimum wage, employment has gone up.  Small businesses are hiring more people than in the areas with the lower minimum wage.  That’s why Goldman Sachs said an increase in the minimum wage now would be a boost beyond what we ordinarily see, in terms of economic growth.  But the Republicans won’t do that, because they’re slashing the budget.

Congressman Van Hollen.  And I want to emphasize that the CBO, which is our nonpartisan budget scorekeeper, has said that the Republican budget will slow down economic growth in the next couple of years.  And that means less people working.  So our budget will be a stark contrast to that.  Ours will be a pro-growth budget.

Leader Pelosi.  But, to your specific question, if we didn’t have the shutdown of government, if we didn’t have sequestration – all of those were deterrents to growth.  In the 17 days that the government was shut down, there’s indication of the slowing down of our GDP growth – $25 billion lost.  We had to make up for that.  So they take us further into the hole that we have to dig ourselves out of.  So that would be two places – you said: “What would you do differently?”

Yes ma’am?

Q:  I just want to ask you quickly about your meeting last night at the White House.  Did the President give you any progress report on his discussions with Putin…

Leader Pelosi.  Yes.

Q: …on how to make them pull back?  And can you…

Leader Pelosi.  Probably not.

[Laughter]

Q:  …give some indication…

Leader Pelosi.  Last night, we had a meeting of the four leaders – the Speaker of the House, Majority Leader Reid, Senator Mitch McConnell and I – at the White House.  The president gave us a report on his recent visit to Europe in relationship to the G7, to Albania, and gave us a report on what he saw on other issues related to Syria, Middle East peace.  And, of course, he told us about his visit with His Holiness.  And that is probably all I’ll share with you right now.

Q:  Should he go beyond the current sanctions on Russia?

Leader Pelosi.  Depends on what Russia does.  But I think we’re prepared to do that, yeah.  And the good report is that Europe is fully on board.  Thank you all. 

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