WASHINGTON, D.C. — Sen. Mike Lee delivered a speech Wednesday on the Senate floor regarding what a press release from his office characterized as the fraudulent manner in which the conference process has unfolded with respect to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act Reauthorization bill.
Mr./Madam President, this is how the conference process is supposed to work.
But it is not how the conference process has been conducted with respect to this bill, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization.
Sure, we’re still voting to appoint conferees.
And those conferees will still convene a conference.
And that conference will still produce a conference report.
So from the surface, it will still look like the conference process is happening the way it’s supposed to.
But beneath the surface we know that all of this has already been prearranged, precooked, predetermined … by a select few members of Congress, working behind closed doors, free from scrutiny.
And we know that this vote was scheduled on extremely short notice, so that it would be difficult — if not impossible — for the rest of us to influence the substance of the conference report through motions to instruct.
Now, why does this matter?
We know the American people care deeply about K-12 education policy. But why should they care about this obscure parliamentary procedure in the Senate?
They should care — and Mr./Madam President, we know that they do care — because the process influences the policy.
In this case, the process expedites the passage of policies that we know don’t work — policies to which the American people are strongly opposed.
The speech also highlighted a successful Utah model, which is reworking the early education system at a local level:
In my home state of Utah, for instance, United Way of Salt Lake has partnered with two private financial institutions, Goldman Sachs and J.B. Pritzker, to provide first-rate early education programs to thousands of Utah children.
They call it a “pay-for-success” loan.
With no upfront cost or risk to the taxpayers, private capital is invested in the Utah High Quality Preschool Program, which is implemented and overseen by United Way.
If, as expected, the preschool program results in increased school readiness and improved academic performance, the state of Utah repays the private investors with the public funds it would have spent on remedial services that the children would have needed between kindergarten and the twelfth grade, had they not participated in the program.
Washington policymakers should not look at Utah’s pay-for-success initiatives — and other local success stories like them — as potential federal programs, but as a testament to the power of local control.
Full text of Senator Lee’s remarks as prepared for delivery are available here.