As a child, my family’s home didn’t have electricity or running water. My parents, while dedicated and hardworking, were poor with little formal education.
Fortunately, I was pushed by the right people – teachers and administrators who wouldn’t let me settle for less than my best. In the mountains of North Carolina, I learned firsthand the power of education and its vital role in the success of individual Americans.
Unfortunately, today’s K-12 education system is failing our students.
Decades of Washington’s counterproductive mandates have resulted in stagnant student achievement, disappointing graduation rates and high school graduates entering college and the workforce without the knowledge and resources they need to succeed. Parents and education leaders have lost much of their decision-making authority to Washington bureaucrats, and the Secretary of Education has bullied states into adopting the Obama administration’s pet policies.
In November a House-Senate conference committee reached an agreement on a proposal to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, bringing Congress one step closer to replacing No Child Left Behind. As a grandmother, educator and former school board member, I know students are best served when teachers, parents and administrators are the driving force behind improving education. This proposal does just that by reducing the federal footprint in the nation’s classrooms and restoring control to the people who know their students best.
The compromise between the House-passed Student Success Act and the Senate-passed Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 gets Washington out of the business of running schools. It protects state and local autonomy by prohibiting the Secretary of Education from coercing states into adopting Common Core and by preventing the secretary from imposing requirements on states and school districts through executive fiat.
The proposal eliminates the burdensome, one-size-fits-all accountability system that has done more to tie up states and school districts in red tape than to support local efforts to educate children. It also reduces the size of the federal education bureaucracy by eliminating 49 ineffective and duplicative federal programs and requiring the Secretary of Education to reduce the department’s workforce accordingly.
The agreement also provides eligible school districts the ability to have federal, state, and local funds follow students to the schools they attend, which will encourage excellent schools to enroll students who are harder to serve.
If Congress fails to act, states will be forced to choose between the fundamentally flawed policies of No Child Left Behind, which doubled down on federal programs, mandates and spending, and the Obama administration’s controversial temporary, conditional waiver scheme, which has imposed the administration’s preferred policies and heightened the level of uncertainty shared by states and school districts. America’s students deserve better.
By reversing Washington’s one-size-fits-all micromanagement of classrooms, Congress has the opportunity to give parents, teachers and local education leaders the tools they need to repair a broken education system and help all children reach their potential. It’s time to get Washington out of the way.