EXCLUSIVE – Rand Paul: Oppose the Washington Machine Education Bill

AP Photo/Jessie L. Bonner
AP Photo/Jessie L. Bonner

I believe that education is the great equalizer, but too often our one-size-fits-all system leaves most kids behind. As someone who has spent a few years in Washington, I can tell you first-hand that there is no monopoly of knowledge here. The Washington Machine should not dictate what happens in our local classrooms. It should be local municipalities, parents, teachers and administrators who make these decisions.

In the years following World War II, America’s educational system was the best in the world, graduating more high school students every year than any other nation in the world.

Today, our education statistics tell another, far more depressing story.  The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) tests 15-year-old students around the world every three years for proficiency in math, literacy, and science.  The results are unacceptable—below average in mathematics in comparison to the other thirty-four OECD countries, and average in science and literacy.

Perhaps even more telling are the results when measured within the United States.  Though former Governor Jeb Bush has championed and implemented Common Core policies, Florida students ranked below the U.S. national average.

How did we get to this low point?

It’s the unfortunate result of over three decades of acquiescing the issue of education to Democrats and big government Republicans. President Jimmy Carter created the Department of Education in 1979, which means the Washington Machine has failed for over three decades to improve education.

My kids were lucky enough to attend great public schools. As a kid, I was also fortunate enough to receive a great public education. Around the country we also have great charter schools, religious schools, home schools, and more. A one-size-fits all curriculum just doesn’t work—ask any educator.

Parents should play an active role in their child’s education and should be encouraged to choose the most appropriate educational institution for their child. We should encourage a variety of educational formats—whether it’s public, charter, private, religious, homeschool, or online. Our children should not be constricted to a one-size-fits-all format, as implemented by Common Core.

Though innovation breeds success in any venture, it’s especially true in regards to education.  If we relegate education to a one-size-fits-all mold, we are selling our students short.

Because I believe that education is the great equalizer, I refuse to accept our one-size-fits-all system—a system that leaves most kids behind. The Washington Machine should not dictate what happens in our local classrooms. It should be local municipalities, parents, teachers and administrators who make these decisions.

We should and must allow innovation to occur at the local level. It’s why I believe that school charters, school choice, and vouchers are a necessity to encourage competition. Competition breeds excellence and encourages innovation—and do we really need innovation in the field of education.

We’ve set up teachers and students for failure by relegating education to the mercy of big government.  An overgrown federal bureaucracy, mandating standards and discounting local input, will not lead to innovation. In order to compete with the rest of the world, our educational system needs disruption.

While the Senate bill goes a long way to remove federal mandates, it also continues a large federal intrusion into education, therefore I will oppose it.

One of the biggest flaws within the current education bill is the lack of adequate school choice provisions, or Title I portability. The bill also maintains an annual federal testing mandate.

This means the federal government is telling states when, and in which subject matters, states must implement testing.

This bill also requires states to demonstrate to the federal government how they will ensure that 95 percent of the children take the federally mandated tests.  This means that the states will pass laws, regulations, or enact policies that put pressure on parents to make their children take the tests—no longer allowing for an opt-out policy.

The federal government should not mandate from its ivory tower. Only parents and local teachers should be making these testing decisions, as every classroom and every student is different.

Lastly, this bill eliminates the prohibitions on collecting data based on a child’s attitudes and beliefs. We must protect our children’s privacy with in the school system.

Federal mandates like these are the problems, not the solutions. Today we spend about 100 billion dollars on the Department of Education each year.

It’s time we abandon a failed Carter-era policy experiment and put money into our local education systems. Sending it to the Washington Machine will only encourage more federal mandated testing and a failed one-size-fits all curriculum. No one in Washington knows who the good teachers are. No one in Washington knows what tests your kids should take or when they should take them.

It used to be the Republican Party stood for local control of education. We stood against the Washington Machine and its mandates. Until 2000, our official party platform called for the elimination of the Federal Department of Education. We had it right.

Since the advent of the flawed and doomed ‘No Child Left Behind’ bill, too many in our party have fallen victim to the idea that Washington can solve all of our problems including educating our children. This simply is not the case—in the past, present, or future.


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