(Senate - October 08, 2015)

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[Pages S7274-S7277]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


      By Mrs. FEINSTEIN (for herself, Mr. Scott, Mr. Johnson, and Mr. 
  S. 2171. A bill to reauthorize the Scholarships for Opportunity and 
Results Act, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Homeland 
Security and Governmental Affairs.
  Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Mr. President, I rise today with my colleagues 
Senator Ron Johnson, Senator Tim Scott, and Senator Cory Booker to 
introduce the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results Act, bipartisan 
legislation to extend the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.
  I am a long-time supporter of this important program, which provides 
low-income students residing in the District of Columbia the 
opportunity to improve academically by attending a private school of 
their choice.
  Without this platform, D.C.'s most disadvantaged students would not 
have access to a high-quality education, including smaller class sizes 
and effective curriculum. That is not right. All

[[Page S7275]]

students should have the same opportunity to learn and thrive.
  The Opportunity Scholarship is a successful and transformative 
program. It has shown promising results in raising student achievement. 
According to data released by the program administrator for the 2014-
2015 school year, 90 percent of scholarship students graduated from 
high school and 88 percent of those graduates are enrolled in a 2- or 
4-year college or university. The Opportunity Scholarship Program's 
graduation rate is more than 30 percentage points higher than D.C. 
Public Schools' rate, which stands at only 58 percent, well below the 
national average of 81 percent.
  For the 2015-2016 school year, there were more than 8,500 names on 
waiting lists at D.C. charter schools, an 18 percent increase over last 
year. This shows the demand for high-quality education in this city and 
unfortunately, the shortage to meet that demand.
  I have worked on this legislation with my House colleague, Speaker 
John Boehner, for many years. I also had my staff visit schools and 
talk to administrators and parents about ways to improve the program so 
that it can fully meet the goal of providing a better education to low-
income families in the District's lowest-performing schools.
  I am pleased that this legislation strengthens the program by 
requiring participating schools to acquire and maintain accreditation, 
and by ensuring that an evaluation study truly assess the effectiveness 
of the scholarship, including how it affects academic achievement for 
scholarship recipients.
  I am pleased that Senators Johnson, Scott and Booker have joined me 
as original cosponsors of this bill. I remain fully committed to the 
success of the program, and I believe this reauthorization bill makes 
critical improvements to ensure that scholarships continue to transform 
the lives of the District's most vulnerable students.
      By Mrs. FEINSTEIN (for herself, Mrs. Boxer, Mr. Tester, and Mr. 
  S. 2172. A bill to amend the Public Health Service Act to provide 
protections for consumers against excessive, unjustified, or unfairly 
discriminatory increases in premium rates; to the Committee on Health, 
Education, Labor, and Pensions.
  Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Mr. President, great progress has been made in 
improving oversight of health insurance companies, holding them 
accountable for how premium dollars are spent, and increasing access to 
affordable health insurance. Even so, there is still work to be done to 
protect consumers from unreasonable and excessive health insurance rate 
  Through the Affordable Care Act, health insurance rate increases 
greater than 10 percent must be publicly posted and include an 
explanation for the increase. The increases are reviewed by States, and 
the Federal Government steps in when States opt out from participating 
in the review process.
  This is a good first step, which has helped reduce increases, but it 
isn't enough. The enforcement authority to block or modify unreasonable 
rate increases is key to providing strong consumer protection.
  In 2011, 43 percent of requested rate increases for health insurance 
rates on the individual market were larger than 10 percent. In 2013, 25 
percent of plans had an increase greater than 10 percent.
  This shows progress, but not enough. Health insurance companies can 
still get away with putting profits before patients. Affordability of 
health insurance is vital in continuing to decrease the number of 
uninsured Americans, and to ensure that families can access coverage.
  Currently, 13 States still have little or no authority to block or 
modify excessive rate increases in the individual and small group 
markets. Even when regulators in these States find an increase to be 
unreasonable and unjustified, they have no ability to block or modify 
the increase.
  The Protecting Consumers from Unreasonable Rates Act creates a 
Federal fallback option for States currently lacking this authority. 
This will protect consumers regardless of the State they live in, and 
improve accountability for insurance companies attempting to raise 
premium prices without adequate justification.
  This solution is simple: in States where the insurance regulator does 
not have or use authority to block unreasonable rate increases, the 
Secretary of Health and Human Services can do so.
  In some States, like California, companies are not required to get 
prior authorization for rate increases to go into effect. California 
insurance regulators with the Department of Insurance and Department of 
Managed Care review rates, but when they find rate increases to be 
unjustified and unreasonable, they have no authority to stop or adjust 
the price increases.
  Just a few months ago, Aetna raised rates for a small business plan 
that, on average, was an increase of 21 percent and affected 
approximately 13,000 people. The California Department of Managed Care 
had found the increase to be unreasonable, but couldn't stop it from 
going into effect.
  In many States we can already see that this type of authority is 
working, and this bill doesn't interfere at all with what they are 
  For example, in New York, insurers requested an average of a 13.5 
percentage increase for 2016 premiums. Regulators disagreed and reduced 
the increase by nearly half, so consumers in that State will see a 7.1 
percent increase instead.
  In Connecticut, a UnitedHealthcare plan wanted to raise rates by 12.4 
percent for 2016. After regulators reviewed the request, they approved 
a 5.5 percent increase instead. For one plan in the State offered by 
ConnectiCare, a small increase was denied and consumers will actually 
see a reduction in their premiums for 2016.
  Regulators in Vermont reduced the increase that 65,000 residents of 
the State would have faced in 2016--the proposed hike was 8.6 percent 
and the approved rate increase was 5.9 percent.
  Any unreasonable rate increase that perpetuates year after year is 
unacceptable, and makes a big impact on a family's budget.
  All consumers deserve to have fully effective health insurance rate 
review and enforcement. This bill closes the final gap in this process 
and ensures that these protections are available for the entire 
  I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting the Protecting 
Consumers from Unreasonable Rates Act.
      By Mr. KAINE (for himself, Ms. Baldwin, Mr. Portman, and Mrs. 
  S. 2174. A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to provide 
for the preparation of career and technical education teachers; to the 
Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
  Mr. KAINE. Mr. President, in today's increasingly competitive global 
economy, America's success will depend on the talent of its workforce. 
In cultivating the workforce necessary to succeed, we need to look at 
ways to expand opportunities for students, and refocus our Nation's 
education strategy to meet the demands of the industry in the 21st 
century. Career and technical education, CTE, programs play a vital 
role in increasing student engagement, continuing our nation's economic 
competitiveness, and building the skills of our country's workforce.
  We are beginning to see a renaissance of student interest in career 
and technical education, but school districts across the Nation are 
facing critical shortages in high-quality CTE teachers. While the 
Higher Education and Opportunity Act of 2008 provides grants for 
teacher residency partnership programs to colleges and universities who 
work with high-needs school districts to train prospective teachers, no 
CTE-focused partnerships exist.
  That is why I am introducing with my colleagues, Senator Baldwin, 
Senator Portman and Senator Capito the Creating Quality Technical 
Educators Act, which would create a CTE teacher-training grant 
partnership to give aspiring CTE teachers the experience necessary to 
mirror their success in the business world with that in the classroom. 
This legislation would foster teacher training partnerships between 
high-needs secondary schools and post-secondary institutions to create 
a 1-year residency initiative for teachers and includes teacher 
mentorship for a minimum of 2 years. When CTE teachers have work 
experience in a related industry before entering the classroom, 
students not only

[[Page S7276]]

benefit from their hands-on knowledge, but also look to them as career 
  The Creating Quality Technical Educators Act would amend the Higher 
Education and Opportunity Act to give aspiring CTE teachers real-world 
experience and develop credible skills to apply in the classroom. This 
bipartisan bill takes a proactive approach to recruiting and training 
more high-quality CTE teachers. In addition to mid-career professionals 
in related technical fields, CTE teacher residencies would target 
teacher candidates who are recent college graduates, veterans, and 
currently licensed teachers with a need for technical skills training 
who seek to become transition into CTE fields.
  As co-chair of the Senate CTE Caucus, I am proud to introduce this 
commonsense, bipartisan legislation to recruit and train talented 
teachers to meet the rising need for CTE. The Creating Quality 
Technical Educators Act takes an important step to ensure students in 
communities of all sizes have access to high-quality CTE teachers and 
career-training programs.
      By Mr. DURBIN (for himself, Mr. Franken, and Mr. King):
  S. 2176. A bill to expand the use of open textbooks in order to 
achieve savings for students; to the Committee on Health, Education, 
Labor, and Pensions.
  Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of 
the bill be printed in the Record.
  There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be 
printed in the Record, as follows:

                                S. 2176

       Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of 
     the United States of America in Congress assembled,


       This Act may be cited as the ``Affordable College Textbook 

     SEC. 2. FINDINGS.

       Congress finds the following:
       (1) The high cost of college textbooks continues to be a 
     barrier for many students in achieving higher education.
       (2) According to the College Board, during the 2014-2015 
     academic year, the average student budget for college books 
     and supplies at 4-year public institutions of higher 
     education was $1,225.
       (3) The Government Accountability Office found that new 
     textbook prices increased 82 percent between 2002 and 2012 
     and that although Federal efforts to increase price 
     transparency have provided students and families with more 
     and better information, more must be done to address rising 
       (4) The growth of the Internet has enabled the creation and 
     sharing of digital content, including open educational 
     resources that can be freely used by students, teachers, and 
     members of the public.
       (5) Using open educational resources in place of 
     traditional materials in large-enrollment college courses can 
     reduce textbook costs by 80 to 100 percent.
       (6) Federal investment in expanding the use of open 
     educational resources could significantly lower college 
     textbook costs and reduce financial barriers to higher 
     education, while making efficient use of taxpayer funds.


       In this Act:
       (1) Educational resource.--The term ``educational 
     resource'' means an educational material that can be used in 
     postsecondary instruction, including textbooks and other 
     written or audiovisual works.
       (2) Institution of higher education.--The term 
     ``institution of higher education'' has the meaning given the 
     term in section 101 of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 
     U.S.C. 1001).
       (3) Open educational resource.--The term ``open educational 
     resource'' means an educational resource that either is in 
     the public domain or is made available under a permanent 
     copyright license to the public to freely adapt, distribute, 
     and otherwise use the work with attribution to the author as 
       (4) Open textbook.--The term ``open textbook'' means an 
     open educational resource or set of open educational 
     resources that either is a textbook or can be used in place 
     of a textbook for a postsecondary course at an institution of 
     higher education.
       (5) Relevant faculty.--The term ``relevant faculty'' means 
     both tenure track and contingent faculty members who may be 
     involved in the creation of open educational resources or the 
     use of open educational resources created as part of the 
     grant application.
       (6) Secretary.--The term ``Secretary'' means the Secretary 
     of Education.


       (a) Grants Authorized.--From the amounts appropriated under 
     subsection (i), the Secretary shall make grants, on a 
     competitive basis, to eligible entities to support pilot 
     programs that expand the use of open textbooks in order to 
     achieve savings for students.
       (b) Eligible Entity.--In this section, the term ``eligible 
     entity'' means an institution of higher education or group of 
     institutions of higher education.
       (c) Applications.--
       (1) In general.--Each eligible entity desiring a grant 
     under this section, after consultation with relevant faculty, 
     shall submit an application to the Secretary at such time, in 
     such manner, and accompanied by such information as the 
     Secretary may reasonably require.
       (2) Contents.--Each application submitted under paragraph 
     (1) shall include a description of the project to be 
     completed with grant funds and--
       (A) a plan for promoting and tracking the use of open 
     textbooks in postsecondary courses offered by the eligible 
     entity, including an estimate of the projected savings that 
     will be achieved for students;
       (B) a plan for evaluating, before creating new open 
     educational resources, whether existing open educational 
     resources could be used or adapted for the same purpose;
       (C) a plan for quality review and review of accuracy of any 
     open educational resources to be created or adapted through 
     the grant;
       (D) a plan for disseminating information about the results 
     of the project to institutions of higher education outside of 
     the eligible entity, including promoting the adoption of any 
     open textbooks created or adapted through the grant; and
       (E) a statement on consultation with relevant faculty, 
     including those engaged in the creation of open educational 
     resources, in the development of the application.
       (d) Special Consideration.--In awarding grants under this 
     section, the Secretary shall give special consideration to 
     applications that demonstrate the greatest potential to--
       (1) achieve the highest level of savings for students 
     through sustainable expanded use of open textbooks in 
     postsecondary courses offered by the eligible entity;
       (2) expand the use of open textbooks at institutions of 
     higher education outside of the eligible entity; and
       (3) produce--
       (A) the highest quality open textbooks;
       (B) open textbooks that can be most easily utilized and 
     adapted by faculty members at institutions of higher 
       (C) open textbooks that correspond to the highest 
     enrollment courses at institutions of higher education; and
       (D) open textbooks created or adapted in partnership with 
     entities, including campus bookstores, that will assist in 
     marketing and distribution of the open textbook.
       (e) Use of Funds.--An eligible entity that receives a grant 
     under this section shall use the grant funds to carry out any 
     of the following activities to expand the use of open 
       (1) Professional development for any faculty and staff 
     members at institutions of higher education, including the 
     search for and review of open textbooks.
       (2) Creation or adaptation of open educational resources, 
     especially open textbooks.
       (3) Development or improvement of tools and informational 
     resources that support the use of open textbooks.
       (4) Research evaluating the efficacy of the use of open 
     textbooks for achieving savings for students.
       (5) Partnerships with other entities, including other 
     institutions of higher education, for-profit organizations, 
     or nonprofit organizations, to carry out any of the 
     activities described in paragraphs (1) through (4).
       (f) License.--Educational resources created under 
     subsection (e) shall be licensed under a non-exclusive, 
     permanent license to the public to exercise any of the rights 
     under copyright conditioned only on the requirement that 
     attribution be given as directed by the copyright owner.
       (g) Access and Distribution.--The full and complete digital 
     content of each educational resource created or adapted under 
     subsection (e) shall be made available free of charge to the 
       (1) on an easily accessible and interoperable website, 
     which shall be identified to the Secretary by the eligible 
     entity; and
       (2) in a machine readable, digital format that anyone can 
     directly download, edit with attribution, and redistribute.
       (h) Report.--Upon an eligible entity's completion of a 
     project supported under this section, the eligible entity 
     shall prepare and submit a report to the Secretary 
       (1) the effectiveness of the pilot program in expanding the 
     use of open textbooks and in achieving savings for students;
       (2) the impact of the pilot program on expanding the use of 
     open textbooks at institutions of higher education outside of 
     the eligible entity;
       (3) educational resources created or adapted under the 
     grant, including instructions on where the public can access 
     each educational resource under the terms of subsection (g); 
       (4) all project costs, including the value of any volunteer 
     labor and institutional capital used for the project.
       (i) Authorization of Appropriations.--There are authorized 
     to be appropriated such sums as are necessary to carry out 
     this section for each of the 5 succeeding fiscal years after 
     the enactment of this Act.


       Section 133(b) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 
     U.S.C. 1015b(b)) is amended--
       (1) by striking paragraph (6); and
       (2) in paragraph (9);

[[Page S7277]]

       (A) by striking subparagraphs (A) and (B); and
       (B) by striking ``a college textbook that--'' and inserting 
     ``a college textbook that may include printed materials, 
     computer disks, website access, and electronically 
     distributed materials.''.


       It is the sense of Congress that institutions of higher 
     education should encourage the consideration of open 
     textbooks by faculty within the generally accepted principles 
     of academic freedom that establishes the right and 
     responsibility of faculty members, individually and 
     collectively, to select course materials that are 
     pedagogically most appropriate for their classes.


       Not later than 2 years after the date of enactment of this 
     Act, the Secretary shall prepare and submit a report to the 
     Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions of the 
     Senate and the Committee on Education and the Workforce of 
     the House of Representatives detailing--
       (1) the open textbooks created or adapted under this Act;
       (2) the adoption of such open textbooks; and
       (3) the savings generated for students, States, and the 
     Federal Government through the use of open textbooks.

     SEC. 8. GAO REPORT.

       Not later than 3 years after the date of enactment of this 
     Act, the Comptroller General of the United States shall 
     prepare and submit a report to the Committee on Health, 
     Education, Labor, and Pensions of the Senate and the 
     Committee on Education and the Workforce of the House of 
     Representatives on the cost of textbooks to students at 
     institutions of higher education. The report shall 
     particularly examine--
       (1) the change of the cost of textbooks;
       (2) the factors that have contributed to the change of the 
     cost of textbooks;
       (3) the extent to which open textbooks are used at 
     institutions of higher education; and
       (4) the impact of open textbooks on the cost of textbooks.