Speeches & Floor Statements

Opening Statement: Alexander: Frank Brogan Is an “Impressive” Nominee Who Will Oversee Education Law That Restores More Freedom to States

Posted on January 25, 2018

  • Mr. Brogan, you come with impressive qualifications for the role to which you have been nominated, and we are grateful for your willingness to serve.
  • You come to this position with nearly every possible perspective.
  • You were the first in your family to attend college, earning a bachelor’s degree in education. And then you went on to attend graduate school, earning a master’s degree in education.
  • You served as an elementary school teacher, principal, and superintendent, and as Florida’s Commissioner of Education and lieutenant governor.
  • You also served as Chancellor of the Florida Board of Governors, and as President of Florida Atlantic University, and prior to your most recent role, served as Chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.
  • Your official nomination was received on December 19th by the Senate.
  • On January 2nd, this committee received a letter from the Office of Government Ethics, which carefully reviewed your financial information and found that you are “in compliance with applicable laws and regulations governing conflicts of interest.” 
  • In accordance with our committee rules, you’ve submitted your committee paperwork on January 16.
  • You have offered to meet with every senator on this committee.

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  • As Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education, your job will be to implement laws as Congress wrote them, including the law we wrote fixing No Child Left Behind.
  • This is an especially important law to the members of this committee.
  • We held 27 hearings, spent countless hours—both members and their staffs—working out our differences and reaching a consensus. We held a 3-day markup where we considered 57 amendments. And we approved it 22 to 0.
  • It passed the Senate 85-12 after more debate, more amendments, and a conference committee with the House.
  • In the end, we produced a law that reflected our consensus at the start:  Continue the law’s important measurements of academic progress of students but restore to states, school districts, classroom teachers and parents the responsibility for deciding what to do about improving student achievement.  This change should produce fewer tests and more appropriate ways to measure student achievement.
  • Under ESSA, in order to receive $15.5 billion in annual federal Title I funding, every state must submit their Title I plans to the Department of Education that set goals for their students and show how the states will hold schools accountable for their performance.
  • Today, states are in the process of getting their plans approved, or have gotten their plans approved and are beginning to implement them.
  • Every state has submitted a state plan and the Department has approved 35, including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
  • Mr. Brogan, you will be overseeing the approval of the remaining state plans, and you will be monitoring and evaluating whether the states are doing what they said they would do.
  • While the state plans are important, it is implementation of them that is crucial.
  • I commend the work Secretary DeVos and her staff have already done in approving these plans. She is charting new territory—approving plans that give states dramatic new freedom to set goals and hold students accountable. And I believe she has been following the law – appropriately balancing the law’s flexibility and guardrails.
  • I would note that she deserves particular credit for implementing the new law without the nominee for Deputy Education Secretary, General Mitchell Zais, the nominee for General Counsel, Carlos Muniz, and the nominee for Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development James Blew. We held hearings on these nominees in September and November.
  • Last week Sen. Murray raised concerns about states plans being approved that did not follow the law. My staff have looked at the state plans and think the plans follow the law, so my staff have asked for specific details. Which states are a problem? What provision did they violate?
  • We worked together to create this bipartisan success, so I want to take any concerns seriously. 
  • The Secretary, the peer review panels, and career lawyers at the Department have reviewed the state plans and they have not raised any concerns that I’m aware of. 
  • And requests for clarification from states were done in calls and feedback letters to improve the plans. 
  • Secretary DeVos said she would like to meet in person with you and me and Chairwoman Foxx and Congressman Scott in the House to “discuss the specifics of any remaining concerns.” She has said her priority is to implement the law as written by Congress. I look forward to working on that with you and with the Secretary while we also work on reauthorizing the Higher Education Act.
  • And I would also urge the Senate to confirm these nominees so we have more people to help the Secretary implement the law the way we wrote it. 
  •  I look forward to hearing more from you today.