Good morning Chairwoman Murray, Ranking Member Blunt, and distinguished members of the Subcommittee.
I recently attended an International Thespian Induction ceremony at a high school where students were being inducted for their commitment to theater after this long year. There was a banner hanging that had a quote from renowned poet Alexander Pope that read, "Act well your part, there all the honor lies". In other words, do your part and that is where you will find the honor. I come to you today representing the Department of Education as we boldly do our part to serve our students across the country. That is our responsibility and privilege and is where our collective honor lies. To that end, I am proud to testify today about President Biden's fiscal year 2022 Budget Request for the Department of Education because it makes good on President Biden's campaign commitment to invest in education. It also begins to address the significant inequities that students—primarily students of color—confront every day in schools and in pursuit of higher education and career technical education.
I want to thank the Members of the Subcommittee—and your staff—who helped ensure passage of the American Rescue Plan, bringing vital resources to our schools and colleges across the country. The ARP funds will ensure that school buildings re-open for full-time, in-person instruction as safely and as soon as possible.
I come to you with a great sense of urgency about the work we have to do. Generations of inequity have left far too many students without equitable access to high-quality, inclusive learning opportunities, including in our rural communities. Education can be the great equalizer — it was for me — if we prioritize, replicate, and invest in what works for all students, not just some.
We must do more to level the playing field, including providing a strong foundation from birth, improving diversity among the teacher workforce, and creating learning pathways that work for all students.
To that end, the budget proposal calls on Congress to invest nearly $103 billion in Department of Education programs, a 41 percent increase over the fiscal year 2021 appropriation to support students' success. The fiscal year 2022 request also makes a meaningful down payment toward the Biden-Harris Administration's goal of reversing inequities. The centerpiece is a proposal for a new $20 billion Title I Equity Grants program that would address disparities between under-resourced schools and their wealthier counterparts, support competitive compensation for teachers in Title I schools, expand access to pre-K, and increase preparation for, access to, and success in rigorous coursework.
Our request would put the Nation on a path to double the number of school counselors, nurses, and mental health professionals in our schools, and significantly expand support for community schools to help increase the availability of wrap-around services to students and families in underserved schools and communities.
We also think it is past time for the Federal Government to make good on its commitment to students with disabilities and their families and the request makes a significant move toward full funding of IDEA, proposing a 20 percent increase for IDEA State grants of $2.6 billion dollars.
Turning to higher education, an area that needs immediate attention, our budget proposal begins the Biden-Harris Administration's critical work to increase access and affordability for students. The budget proposal coupled with the increase proposed in the American Families Plan would be the largest increase to the Pell Grant ever, helping millions of students and families pursue their goals. Importantly, our proposal also would ensure that DREAMers may receive Pell Grants if they meet the current eligibility requirements.
The fiscal year 2022 request paints a bold picture for the future of our institutional and student support programs. The budget increases institutional capacity and student supports at Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), with additional funding for HBCUs, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions, Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities, as well as TRIO and GEAR UP to help ensure underserved students succeed in and graduate from college.
Finally, we would prioritize efforts to enforce civil rights laws related to education through a 10 percent increase for the Office for Civil Rights to protect students and advance equity in educational opportunity and delivery in preschool through college. This is a fundamental right we are committed to for all students.
Working together with stakeholders, including students and educators, we can and will heal, learn, and grow through this challenging time. I am committed to working collaboratively with each of you to strengthen our schools and campuses and to help improve opportunities, pathways, and outcomes for students across the country, including in our rural communities. Thank you, and I look forward to any questions you may have.