Senator Discusses Program with Education Secretary During Budget Review Hearing

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VIDEO:  Senator Hyde-Smith Raises Questions about Career Training Programs and Charter Schools.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) today said continuing flat funding in federal support for charter schools effectively means cutting support for these schools as inflationary costs make it harder for them to stay open.

Hyde-Smith on Thursday discussed charter schools and career and technical education programs with Education Secretary Dr. Miguel Cardona, who testified at an appropriations subcommittee hearing to review the FY2024 budget request for the U.S. Department of Education.

“The Biden administration makes no bones about not favoring charter school programs, but these schools are being harmed without any increase in funding in recent years, particularly with inflation making it more expensive for them to operate,” said Hyde-Smith, who last year worked to secure funding specifically for the charter schools in Mississippi.  “I hope we can address this situation as we write the FY2024 appropriations bill for the Department of Education.”

At Thursday’s hearing, Hyde-Smith asked Cardona what his department would do to support charter schools given increased demand, growing student waiting lists, and insufficient facility resources.  Cardona, however, declined to endorse increased charter school funding beyond the budget request for $440 million, a level that has stood since FY2019.

“We’ll continue to support charter schools and the budget this year does not ask for an increase.  We are focusing our increases on areas where we are noticing where students are underperforming woefully to help level up in those situations,” Cardona said.

“With inflation, I mean if you hadn’t had an increase in five years, there are definitely cuts having to be made,” Hyde-Smith responded.

Recounting meetings with industry leaders and constituents, Hyde-Smith also questioned Cardona about career and technical education programs at both the K-12 and community college levels.

“With workforce shortages felt in just about every sector, workforce development is obviously more important than ever.  I just had a lot of the maritime industries in my office this morning with shipbuilding,” Hyde-Smith told Cardona.  “They came to D.C. to ask me for help with this.  It just emphasizes the need to strengthen and increase the number of career and technical education programs across our country, especially in rural areas where I come from that lack certain trained professionals.”

“I share the interest that you expressed around making sure we're leveling up our career and technical education programs, making sure that our schools are attuned to the careers that are available to our students, and making sure that in this case, maritime industry partners are connected with our universities, but also our K-12 systems to give our students exposure earlier to the careers that exist for them,” Cardona said.

In his written testimony, Cardona cites the budget request for $1.47 billion for the Career and Technical Education State Grants program, a $43.0 million increase of FY2023, for workforce development programs starting in middle and high school.