Chairman Roberts Discusses Child Nutrition Reauthorization with School Boards
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, today addressed 700 school board members from across the country at the National School Boards Association Advocacy Institute.
“As is the routine in the Senate Agriculture Committee, we will work on the (child nutrition) reauthorizations together, in a bipartisan fashion, to develop well-rounded legislation that will improve the operation of these important programs,” said Chairman Roberts. “It is necessary to look to find ways to make all of those programs more efficient and more effective, reduce administrative burdens, and better serve participants and stakeholders.”
“I have visited several Kansas schools and plan additional visits soon. There are close to 300 school districts in Kansas. Considering how many districts there are in the United States, and how different each district is, it is clear that a one-size fits all approach will not work for everybody.”
The following are Chairman Roberts’ remarks as prepared for delivery.
Thank you for the invitation today and for coming to Washington as part of the National School Boards Association.
I am especially pleased to see that some of the leadership from the Kansas Association of School Boards is here: Shannon, Dayna, Lori, and Frank. Thank you for being here.
You all have an important role in public education—developing policies, curriculum, and budgets, and also by keeping schools accountable at the local level.
The Roberts family is a proud product of public schools.
Public schools in Kansas as well as across the United States strive to ensure every child receives a high-quality education.
But this is only possible when critical decisions are made at the local and state level.
As a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, along with Chairman Lamar Alexander, my priorities include robust implementation of the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, a timely education appropriations process, and continuing conversations to reauthorize the Higher Education Act.
These are critical to ensuring students are properly educated and prepared to enter a 21st Century workforce.
It is encouraging that the Department of Education has been and continues to fund education programs without interruption.
I’m also relieved that a temporary resolution was reached to fund the Department of Agriculture, which brings those employees back to work and re-establishes critical Department functions.
Although that does not provide the certainty schools are looking for to plan the rest of the school year, the Department’s Food and Nutrition Service has worked hard to find ways to minimize disruptions for those most in need through the child nutrition programs and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
School food service directors are constantly stretching every dollar to provide nutritious, affordable meals to their students. And, they are finding creative new ways to prepare foods in a manner that students will still eat them.
This is why there must be continued flexibility and the preservation of decision-making at the local and school level.
Some of you are wondering in this time of divided government and shutdowns, how is anything is going to get done?
Many people thought there was no way to pass a Farm Bill. Well, a bipartisan Farm Bill was signed by the President just about a month ago. And, the conference report passed with 87 votes in the Senate before it was signed into law.
In short, the Senate can work!
It started by listening to constituents--field hearings in Kansas and Michigan, meetings and other visits. There was a strong partnership with the Ranking Member and my good friend, Senator Debbie Stabenow.
Working together, we drafted a bipartisan bill that was approved by the Agriculture Committee, then the Senate floor, conferenced with the House, and after a strong vote, signed by the President into law.
This Farm Bill provides much needed certainty and predictability to farmers, ranchers, growers, and other stakeholders as well as improved program integrity without harming those in need.
If we can put politics aside, under this model of regular order, there is a pathway for child nutrition programs to be reauthorized yet this year.
Secretary Perdue and the Department of Agriculture have provided the much-needed flexibility to ensure that all of you in this room can make decisions to enable schools to serve nutritious meals that children will find appetizing.
That is really what these programs are about: serving meals to hungry children so that they can learn and grow.
As is the routine in the Senate Agriculture Committee, we will work on the reauthorizations together, in a bipartisan fashion, to develop well-rounded legislation that will improve the operation of these important programs.
Staff is currently in the information gathering stage of the reauthorization. We are asking questions. What is working and what is not working in child nutrition programs?
That’s where you come in. This insight comes from constituents—people like you—from schools, and of course, from the students.
The Committee will review the school meals programs, the Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants, and Children, Summer Meals, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, and the other programs authorized under the child nutrition statutes.
It is necessary to look to find ways to make all of those programs more efficient and more effective, reduce administrative burdens, and better serve participants and stakeholders.
I have visited several Kansas schools and plan additional visits soon. There are close to 300 school districts in Kansas. Considering how many districts there are in the United States, and how different each district is, it is clear that a one-size fits all approach will not work for everybody.
We need your help in achieving this goal. If Congress is to pass a new child nutrition bill this year, we’ll need to have all parties come to the table with solutions to these challenges…not just politics and rhetoric.
We are at the start of a new Congress. And, over the next two years, there is much to accomplish.
There will always be challenges affecting the daily lives of families in Kansas and across our nation. And, I remain an advocate of a strong public education system.
Despite the partisan division and conflict in Washington politics, results can be achieved.
So, thank you for having me here today, and thank you for the work that you do every day to help our next generation learn and succeed. The future of our country depends on it.
And I look forward to continue working with you. You’ve been great partners.
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