Rokita Report 6/28/2014


Dear Friend,

Thank you for the opportunity to update you on the work of the 113th Congress. I trust this finds you and your family well.

In the coming weeks, the Committee on Education and the Workforce, on which I serve, will begin work on the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. The Higher Education Act, passed in 1965 and reauthorized several times since, governs federal higher education policy.

While access to an education is a critical component to this reauthorization, one important issue we must consider is the cost of education.

I am reminded of an article I read last year by Allysia Finley titled "Richard Vedder: The Real Reason College Costs So Much." The author interviewed Richard Vedder, an economics professor, about his views on the costs of a college education and why they have exploded in the 50 years since the federal government inserted itself into the marketplace.

Vedder argues, and I agree, that the increased taxpayer subsidies of the university system, has given "every incentive and every opportunity for colleges to raise their fees."

According to Vedder, we must also ask other questions. Is college right for everyone? What is the real world value of a college degree today? At what point is the debt required to attend college worth it? And why is the President advocating to put more federal money in the marketplace?

Universities must rethink the system that exists. As an institution, it really hasn't changed all that much since the early 1900's. I applaud the efforts of those like Purdue's President Mitch Daniels, who is rethinking higher education by putting students first, not the institution.

Protecting Student Privacy - Joint Subcommittee Hearing on Data Mining

On Wednesday, in my role as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, I joined Rep. Pat Meehan (R-PA), the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies, in holding a hearing to examine the mining and retention of student data and the potential privacy and security risks this poses to students' personal information.

As I fight for all people so that they can build better lives for themselves and their families, I know that a quality education is at the root of that better life. A strong education system is essential to a strong America. That is why we should encourage innovative solutions to raise achievement and embrace new technologies that allow us to teach children in more effective ways.

Data on student performance can revolutionize student learning, providing early warning to teachers and parents on students who need extra help. Additionally, data on student achievement can equip local communities with the information needed to hold their schools accountable, as well as enable schools to share information on what's working in their classrooms and what is not.

As we embrace new technologies, protecting students must be a shared responsibility. Parents, teachers, and schools must be informed about what technologies and practices are used in their schools. State and local education leaders have to ensure they are limiting the data collected to only information truly needed to improve classroom instruction. Additionally, technology providers have an equally important role in protecting student privacy and securing student data to which they have access.

My questioning of witnesses focused on what role Congress should play in protecting students, providing transparency for parents on data that is being collected, and what solutions the private sector and local schools can provide without impeding the important promise of education technology.

This is an important and complex issue I will continue to monitor to ensure the privacy of our children is protected and that critical data is available to families, teachers, and schools as education reforms are pursued.

Working to Lower Energy Costs

Hoosier families are feeling the pinch of President Obama's failed energy policies. That is why I enthusiastically supported several pieces of legislation this week, and will continue to lead efforts to pass legislation to lower home energy and gas prices. The President and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid continue to play politics with the your pocketbook. Hoosiers deserve a President and Senate that are working for them, not against them.

These bills are added to a list of over 40 House-passed bills sitting on Harry Reid's desk that would directly boost our economy or lower energy costs for your family. It's time for the Senate to act.

Legislation considered and passed this week includes:

H.R. 6 - Domestic Prosperity and Global Freedom Act -- This bill expedites exports of U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) to our allies. Increasing U.S. LNG exports will help boost the U.S. economy and increase global energy security by reducing foreign dependency on Russia. H.R. 6 also cuts through the bureaucratic red tape by placing a 30 day deadline on the Department of Energy to issue a final decision on LNG export applications and providing for expedited judicial review for challenges to the Department's decisions.

H.R. 4899 - Lowering Gasoline Prices to Fuel an America That Works Act -- This bill will help Hoosiers struggling with high gas prices by expanding production of America's own energy resources. It increases both offshore and onshore energy production, requiring the Administration to stop blocking and delaying energy projects. Responsibly developing the resources we have here in America will create jobs and promote a healthy, all-of-the-above energy policy.

H.R. 3301 - North American Energy Infrastructure Act -- This bill creates a more modern and efficient cross-border approval process for oil pipelines, natural gas pipelines, and electric transmission lines that cross the borders of the U.S. Establishing a fair, standardized approval process for these cross-border projects will help eliminate regulatory uncertainty and promote investment in our energy infrastructure. This is necessary to realizing our nation's full energy potential and reducing our dependence on Middle Eastern oil.

S. 2086 - Reliable Home Heating Act -- Directs the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to recognize any 30-day emergency period declared by a state governor due to a shortage of residential heating fuel (and up 90 total days) as a period during which the FMCSA hours of service and truck weight regulations did not apply due to the emergency. This law is similar to the Home Heating Emergency Assistance Through Transportation Act (HHEAT) law, a bill I cosponsored and supported, that passed the House earlier this year. HHEAT exempted truckers, working to meet winter energy demands, from hours of service regulations during the propane shortage, but retroactively applied an exemption where state governors declared emergencies.

Congress on Your Corner - July 3 in Lafayette

On Thursday, July 3, I will be holding a Congress on Your Corner event in Lafayette on the grounds of the Tippecanoe County Courthouse (301 Main St.) from 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm.

The event will begin with a public reading of the Declaration of Independence and then I will take your questions.

As with all of my Town Hall and Congress on Your Corner events, the event is open to the public and no appointment is necessary. I look forward to seeing you all there.

Thank you for your continued interest in Congress and for supporting my efforts in Washington. Take care.

Todd Rokita