House Committee on Education and Labor
U.S. House of Representatives

Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon
Ranking Member

Fiscally responsible reforms for students, workers and retirees.



Committee Statement

July 17, 2008

CONTACT: Alexa Marrero
(202) 225-4527

McKeon Statement: Hearing on, “Mayor and Superintendent Partnerships in Education: Closing the Achievement Gap”

Thank you Chairman Miller, and good morning.  It is a great privilege to be here among some of the most fearless education reform leaders in the country. 

And lest there be any doubt, fearlessness is exactly what we need from education reformers.  We need leaders willing to take a chance on innovation over the status quo.  Leaders who aren’t afraid to buck the establishment and put the interests of the students ahead of the system.  Each one of our witnesses has risen to the challenge, and it is with great excitement that we bring you here today to share your success stories and offer your thoughts on systemic reform. 

We have leaders from some of the largest and most challenging school districts in the country, from New York to Chicago, and from Atlanta to right here in the nation’s capital. 

The school system here in D.C. has been particularly troubling for many of us in Congress over the years, both because of its proximity to the Capitol where we work each day and because of its systemic struggles, unmatched elsewhere in the country. 

Here in D.C., we spend more and get less than anywhere else in the country.  For that reason, D.C. has been an ideal incubator for reform.  There is nothing to lose and everything to gain by investing in these schools and testing innovative strategies that will benefit students. 

I have been particularly pleased by the success of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, which has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that parents are desperate for new educational choices for their children.  Today, some 1,900 children are attending the public or private school of their parents’ choosing.  Although we expect it to take years for measurable academic gains to become evident, the early findings show that students receiving opportunity scholarships have made gains in reading and math.  Their parents are much more satisfied with their new schools, believing them to be safer and more productive learning environments. 

The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program is an integral component of a much broader reform strategy.  Along with the scholarship program, we are investing in strategies to improve the public school system and replicate high-performing charter schools.  Both of these tactics are essential for long-term reform. 

But neither of these approaches will provide the immediate lifeline to children trapped in underperforming schools that can be offered through a scholarship.  And so neither of these approaches would be complete without that essential third element, the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. 

Of course, we know there are many ingredients necessary to successful education reform, and I believe most of them are rooted in the notion of parental empowerment and a “students first” mentality.  Initiatives from tuition tax credits to funding portability should all be part of our national dialogue on education reform.  

This panel is extraordinarily qualified to discuss the range of policies that are making a difference in their schools.  One of the common elements among the districts represented is that they all recognize the importance of good teachers.  In fact, there are few factors that have a greater impact on student academic achievement than the quality of their teachers.  I am anxious to hear about how these schools are recruiting the best and the brightest, and rewarding them for their successes in the classroom. 

There are so many cutting-edge strategies to reform our schools that I could continue all morning.  But in the interest of time, and to give each of you as much of an opportunity to testify as possible, I will conclude my remarks with this: 

Education reform is one of the most difficult challenges facing our nation’s mayors and local leaders.  But it is also one of the most important.  Today, as we recognize the work being done, I hope it will serve as a wakeup call about just how much work remains to ensure that every child in America has access to the high-quality education he or she deserves.

Chairman Miller, I want to thank you for holding this important hearing and I yield back.