WASHINGTON – Today, in a House Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17) pushed Secretary Betsy DeVos to ensure that the Department of Education is taking action on the teen vaping scourge and teacher shortages facing communities across the nation.
“Our children deserve a Department of Education that will put their best interests at heart – whether it’s keeping them healthy and safe or ensuring that our schools have the necessary resources to deliver a quality education. Secretary DeVos is failing on all counts,” said Congresswoman Bustos. “Secretary DeVos had no answer when asked about the Department of Education’s efforts to curtail youth vaping in school and continues to support cuts that would worsen the teacher vacancy crisis. We are selling the next generation short when we fail to step up and address these issues.”
Congresswoman Bustos pushed Secretary DeVos on committing to coordinate with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to reduce youth and teen vaping. Across the country, vaping among high school students is soaring. According to the CDC, vaping among high school students rose from 1.5 percent to 27.5 percent between 2011 and 2019. Among middle school students, vaping skyrocketed from 0.6 percent to 10.5 percent. Illinois ranks among the top two states in the nation on the number of reported cases, and is among the states with the highest number of deaths.
Recently, Congresswoman Bustos introduced the bipartisan Resources to Prevent Youth Vaping Act that would allow the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to conduct stronger oversight of the e-cigarette industry and increase awareness of the danger of e-cigarettes. The Congresswoman has held two local roundtables on the issue.
The Congresswoman also questioned Secretary DeVos on the worsening teacher shortage problem. In the 14 counties that make up Illinois’ 17th Congressional District, teacher vacancies have increased by twenty percent over just the last year – skyrocketing from 195 to 235 empty teacher positions. Despite the growing crisis, the Administration’s proposed budget cuts a number of programs that help recruit and retain teachers:
- Proposed cut of $50 million to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Fund.
- Proposed cut of $50 million to the Teacher Quality Partnership Grant Program.
- Proposed cut of $80 million to funding for Supporting Effective Educator Development Grants.
- Proposed cut of $2.1 billion to the Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants.
From day one, Congresswoman Bustos has held Secretary DeVos and the Department accountable on numerous education issues. In March of last year, after the Office of the Inspector General for the Department found that the Department was not acting in the best interest of student borrowers, the Congresswoman questioned the Inspector General in a House Appropriations Subcommittee hearing. Later, Congresswoman Bustos joined Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) in urging the Department to take immediate steps to assist students affected by the closing of for-profit Midstate College in Peoria, Illinois.
In the hearing with Secretary DeVos last year, the Congresswoman also demanded answers on a number of issues including both the Borrower Defense rule and the teacher shortages facing communities in Illinois.