Congressional delegation has fact-finding mission - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Congressional delegation has fact-finding mission

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by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - Accompanied by Guam congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo, a congressional delegation of seven representatives and their wives paid the Guam Legislature a visit this morning simply to learn more about the island. Minnesota congressman John Kline, who chairs the Committee on Education and Workforce led the codel.

"Although the primary purpose of our trip, the whole trip we're taking is to look at education for younger students what we call K-12 and of course higher education and see how that interacts with the workforce, are people coming through the schools ready to go work," he said.

For many of them, this was their first trip to Guam minus brief stops for refueling. As for what was discussed, education oversight chair Speaker Judi Won Pat questioned Kline on his recently passed "Success and Opportunity Through Quality Charter Schools Act", saying, "We talked to the parents who feel like this is their only hope, this is a dream fulfilled that they now have a chance for their child to get the good education that will prepare them to go onto college or a meaningful career."

Kline says he was unsure of the situation on Guam and whether or not the act could be applicable. As for reformulating teacher preparation programs on Guam, the Minnesota congressman says he shares Guam's concerns adding it's an important issue. As for workforce development, Kline says it's not limited to a certain demographic, saying, "But in general, we're trying to make it easier for anyone who's looking for work to get the kind of training they need, the skills, the certificate they need for the job."

As for bringing H2 workers to Guam for the buildup, he adds while there's a lot of talk in Congress about the H2 visa system, it's not anything his committee is pursuing.

But talk wasn't limited to education and workforce, as Speaker Judi Won Pat raised concern over the Jones Act and cabotage laws. She asked the codel on help in seeking a waiver to these laws as she called them "restrictive" and an "impediment" to Guam. "So it makes it hard for our local economy to grow and even for our local businesses to actually thrive when things become expensive so help us in that respect so that we too can help ourselves to grow our economy," she said.

As for the buildup, along with several Chamorro activists, Senator Ben Pangelinan says based on the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, the Marines relocation to Guam appears to be anything but balanced. "And when that imbalance occurs, the burdens fall on the communities that have to carry the load and in this case, the burden at least on the SEIS falls on the civilian community that the revenues that will generated by the movement of Marines to Guam by construction and so forth is going to be less than we need to do to beef up our education, workforce training, crime, police department and such," he said.

Kline replied saying having been stationed in Okinawa once as part of the Marine Corps, he's aware of the sensitivities that are involved. "I think that the move is an important move and a good move and I'm heartened that the government is working to address the issues you brought up and others, so we'll see how that plays out," he said.

The courtesy visit lasted all but half an hour. So how did Won Pat feel the meeting went? "I was expecting more substance in terms really what it is they can do, but It's non committal at all even to the point of listening to our concerns," she said.

After meeting with lawmakers, the codel met with the military before leaving this afternoon. KUAM has learned that their next destination is to Vietnam. 
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