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- As Delivered - Click Here for Video

WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today made the following remarks in the House of Representatives in support of the READ Act (H.R. 601):

“Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this legislation and I yield myself as much time as I may consume.

“Let me again thank our Chairman, Ed Royce, for his leadership, working together.  And, I want to acknowledge my good friend from New York, Mrs. Lowey, who authored this bill.  For years and years, she’s been a champion for access to education here in the United States and around the world.

“Like the other bill before us today, we passed this legislation in the last Congress.  I’m glad we’re taking it up so early this year, so that hopefully the Senate can act.

“Mr. Speaker, research tells us that more than a quarter billion young people around the world are not in school.  And for millions and millions more, the educational opportunities are substandard.

“This lack of access puts so many young people at a tremendous disadvantage. Children should be in classrooms. They should be aspiring to their highest potential, thinking about what they want to be when they grow up.

“The payoff of a few years of quality education is huge.  Every year of primary school increases an individual’s earning potential by five to 15 percent.

“And it’s not just those students who reap the benefits.  It’s really all of us. Consider public health and economics.  More educated populations are healthier and more productive. Consider threats to our security.  In places like Afghanistan and South Sudan, where roughly half of children are not in school, we know that violent extremists and others are ready to fill the vacuum, leading these vulnerable young people down a dark, dark path. Research has also told us that in high-risk places like Somalia, where young people can learn about certain issues, like nonviolent civic engagement, participation in violence drops by 14 percent and support for violence drops by 20 percent.

“And that’s why education needs to be a foreign policy priority—and why we need to be very careful as the new Administration urges to make major changes in America’s foreign assistance. 

“This legislation calls for a five-year strategy for expanding opportunities for kids to go to school all over the world—especially where children are most vulnerable.  It would put a new point person in charge of making sure that our efforts across government are coordinated and effective.  And it would place a special emphasis on monitoring and evaluation so that we know we’re getting the best bang for the buck when it comes to our investments in basic education.

“This bill would help to put children in classrooms around the world.  It would give more young people a better shot at a full and successful life.  I’m proud to support it, I commend Mrs. Lowey, and I reserve the balance of my time.”

“Thank you Mr. Speaker, and I’m going to close now.  I read a few weeks ago that the new Administration was planning to retool the State Department to focus more on terrorism.  The article suggested that the State Department might do away with some of our smart power efforts

“That would be a mistake.

“I look at an effort like this one—expanding effort—access to education—and I know that it isn’t taking away from our ability to combat terrorism.  In fact, it’s critical to that fight.

“When we help more young people get access to a good education, we’re giving them the tools to think critically and resist those who mean us harm.  We’re helping give people an alternative—a path forward for their lives. 

“When kids don’t have these skills, who do you think shows up?  When children are told from a young age, with no competing message, that America is their enemy, how does that shape their lives?

“So I hope that this bill gets to the new President’s desk and that he sees the value—not just in expanding access to education—but in the wide range of foreign policy priorities that help to project stability and make communities stronger.  That show the world that the United States is a friend and a partner and not an enemy.

“So again, I want to thank Congresswoman Lowey for her hard work.  I want to thank Chairman Royce for his hard work and collegiality as always.  I support this bill.  I urge all members to do the same.  And I yield back the balance of my time.”