House Passes Foreign Affairs Committee’s READ ActPress Release
Washington, D.C. – Today the House of Representatives passed H.R. 601, the Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development (READ) Act. Introduced by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), the bipartisan legislation provides accountability for existing U.S. efforts to improve quality basic education in developing and war-torn countries.
On the House floor prior to the vote, Chairman Royce delivered the following remarks (as prepared for delivery):
“I rise today in support of H.R. 601, the Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development Act. This bill passed the House at the end of last Congress in essentially the same form – as H.R. 4481 – so I’m pleased the House has moved to take it up again today.
We all recognize the importance of education as a driver of economic growth, social mobility, and overall stability. Education raises workforce productivity, empowers men and women to better care for themselves and their families, and increases civic participation. Even one extra year of schooling has been found to significantly increase a worker’s earnings and lifespan. And for women in particular, a primary school education is strongly correlated with improved maternal-child health and survival rates.
And yet, around the world, over 120 million children are not in school. More than one-third of these children come from countries embroiled in war and conflict. With many recent conflicts lasting well over a decade, we are now seeing entire generations of children who are failing to receive even the most basic education.
Certainly, this is a humanitarian crisis.
But there are clear implications for global stability, and our security, as well. When children remain out of school they face a greatly increased risk of abuse at the hands of traffickers, early or forced marriage, and recruitment by criminal or terrorist organizations.
Nowhere is this harsh reality more clear than in Syria, where an estimated four million Syrian children are currently out of school. Inside Syria, these children are being shaped by violence and a lack of alternatives that place them at a high risk of exploitation and radicalization. And as refugees, they are placing tremendous strain on the education systems of countries like Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.
Despite these growing challenges, it has been decades since Congress reviewed and updated the authorities on which U.S. international basic education efforts are based.
H.R. 601, the Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development Act, introduces new guidelines and increases accountability for existing U.S. efforts to improve access to basic education in developing and conflict-torn countries. It requires strategic planning and the prioritization of resources relative to needs on the ground, potential for impact, and alignment with U.S. diplomatic, development, and security interests.
Particular emphasis is given to conflict-settings and countries that are partners of the United States, whose populations are most in need, and who have committed their own resources to ensure the success and sustainability of these efforts. It also requires increased attention to some of the specific barriers to education that women and girls face.
The bill also formalizes a ‘Senior Coordinator’ position within USAID to oversee the development and implementation of a strategic plan across federal agencies, to ensure coordination and eliminate duplication and waste.
I want to thank Representative Lowey for her continued, bipartisan leadership on this issue, as well as my Committee’s Ranking Member, Mr. Engel, and the Chair of our Africa Subcommittee, Mr. Smith, for their work on this legislation.”