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Congressman Tom Cole

Representing the 4th District of Oklahoma


As a former educator, I understand how important it is for our children to have access to a quality education. I am committed to ensuring parents and teachers have the tools and resources necessary to provide a world class education for our children. 

Without question, education is one of the most important building blocks for success, and access to quality learning directly impacts life-long development and individual potential. As Ranking Republican of the House Subcommittee on Appropriations which funds the Department of Education, I am committed to ensuring parents and teachers have the tools and resources necessary to provide a world class education to our children. 

Parental Rights, School Choice and Homeschooling

I believe strongly in the authority of parents to direct the education and upbringing of their children with minimal interference from government at any level. Consequently, I am an advocate of charter schools, vouchers, opportunity scholarships and homeschooling. I am committed to fighting for the rights of Oklahoma parents to educate their children in ways that best suit their individual households and families.

Elementary and Secondary Education

The recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act repeals the shortfalls of No Child Left Behind. I am pleased that the legislation seeks to scale back the federal government’s role in K-12 education by limiting the authority of the Secretary of Education, eliminating the federal accountability system and other unsuccessful programs. It also reduces unnecessary testing and prohibits a federal mandate requiring states to follow Common Core. Instead, the law gives states and local education leaders the authority to develop criteria and maintain responsibility for measuring the success of students and schools, addressing failures and filling learning gaps. Information will be made available to parents about school performance and charter and magnet school programs, so they can use the information to select the best education for their children. It also protects private and home schools from needless federal intervention. 

I believe that it is imperative that Congress keep its promise and continue to fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which is the major federal statute for the education of children with disabilities. IDEA both authorizes federal funding for special education and related services and, for states that accept these funds, sets out principles under which special education and related services are provided. The requirements in this law are detailed and numerous, so it is vital that the federal government do its part to ensure that schools have the right tools to carry out these federal mandates. In 2015, I fought to more than double the increase in IDEA funding, sending millions of dollars back to local school districts to help them provide services for children with special needs. 

Supporting Higher Education

Oklahoma's future and that of its children requires that higher education is both affordable and available for all those who desire to attend. Having affordable, quality higher education benefits not only Oklahomans attending college, but all Americans. With a better-educated workforce, Oklahoma can attract, retain and expand high-paying jobs. I support increased student financial assistance and promoted cutting-edge scientific research in Oklahoma to provide more educational and economic opportunities for students. 

I am a strong supporter of programs like GEAR UP and TRIO, which are programs that help disadvantaged students prepare for and succeed in college. I also fully support federal student loans that give students access to college who otherwise would not be able to attend. However, I believe that these loans should be driven through the private sector so that students and schools have the option to choose the best loans that work for them.

Vocational and Technical Education

Vocational and technical education is a vital component of our secondary and postsecondary educational system. I will continue to support the Perkins program, which prepares youth and adults for the future by building their academic and technical skills and ensuring they are equipped to proceed with postsecondary education or pursue other avenues. This program provides a huge federal investment in high schools across the country.

Impact Aid

Funding districts serving large "federally connected" constituencies—children of civilian defense workers, members of the armed forces and Native Americans—is essential. Impact Aid is one of the few formula programs where Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) receive funds directly from the U.S. Department of Education rather than through their states. 

This program covers the cost of students living on Native American land or military bases. It provides payments to local governments because federal property and Native American lands are exempt from local property taxes, which is the main source of funding for most local school systems across the country. While the Department of Education administers Impact Aid, the Department of Defense provides additional supplemental payments for districts with large numbers of children from military families. Districts are eligible for these supplemental payments if at least 20 percent of their students come from military families. Many schools in Oklahoma rely on these funds to provide the resources to give their students a quality education. The Administration sought to cut those funds in 2015. My subcommittee protected Impact Aid and provided a modest increase in funding. This was critical to Oklahoma schools that serve our military population. 

More on Education

May 8, 2019 Press Release
Washington, D.C. – Today, the Full Committee met to consider the fiscal year 2020 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittee’s appropriations bill.
February 6, 2019 Press Release
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and James Lankford (R-Okla.), along with Congressman Kevin Hern (R, OK-01), Congressman Markwayne Mullin (R, OK-02), Congressman Frank Lucas (R, OK-3), Congressman Tom Cole (R, OK-04) and Congresswoman Kendra Horn (D, OK-5) led a letter to Ms. Zevely of the Council of Chief State School Officers in support of Oklahoma’s Donna Gradel, who was nominated for the 2019 National Teacher of the Year.
June 14, 2018 Press Release
Washington, D.C. – The House Appropriations Committee today released the draft fiscal year 2019 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) funding bill, which will be considered in subcommittee tomorrow. The legislation includes funding for programs within the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and other related agencies, including the Social Security Administration.
March 22, 2018 Press Release
Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04), Chairman of the Labor, HHS, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, released the following statement after the House of Representatives passed the Fiscal Year 2018 omnibus spending bill by a vote of 256-157 with Cole’s support. This legislation includes all 12 appropriations measures, and funds the federal government, agencies and programs for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2018 through September 30, 2018.
October 19, 2017 News Stories
While state funding for colleges remains up in the air as budget negotiations continue, federal dollars likely will increase, Congressman Tom Cole said Wednesday during a meeting of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.
July 24, 2017 Weekly Columns
This past week, as the House Appropriations Committee considered all twelve bills to fund the government, one of the more significant funding measures was passed. The Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee is responsible for funding some of our government’s most vital agencies that reflect the things we place value on as a society – our health, our jobs and our education.
July 12, 2017 Press Release
Washington, D.C. – The House Appropriations Committee today released the draft fiscal year 2018 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) funding bill, which will be considered in subcommittee tomorrow. The legislation includes funding for programs within the Department of Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Education, and other related agencies.
February 22, 2017 Cole On Congress
This month’s program featured an interview with Mark Shriver, the President of Save the Children Action Network. An advocate for charity and service, Shriver has been behind the movement to ensure that each child in the U.S. has access to high-quality early learning programs and to end maternal and child deaths worldwide.
January 10, 2017 Press Release
Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) released the following statement after he was named Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies. Cole served as the Chairman of the subcommittee during the 114th Congress.
December 20, 2016 Weekly Columns

When the 114th Congress began its session in January of 2015, many Americans had concerns about the direction of our nation, and the job approval of their Congressional leaders was appropriately low. After so many years of onerous executive overreach, House Republicans faced many challenges in the fight to block President Obama’s liberal agenda. There were many times that House Republicans have come close to making common sense conservative progress, only to be shot down by the president’s veto pen.