WASHINGTON, D.C. | March 15, 2011
Good morning, welcome to the subcommittee’s first hearing of the 112th Congress. I would like to thank our witnesses for being with us today; we look forward to your testimony.
During today’s hearing, we will examine the adverse impact extensive federal regulations and reporting requirements have on teachers, administrators, and students in elementary and secondary schools.
Here’s what we know: too many schools and school districts are overwhelmed by unnecessary paperwork requirements. Currently, the paperwork burden imposed by the Department of Education is larger than that of the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of the Interior, and the Department of Justice. From 2002 to 2009, the Department of Education’s paperwork burden increased by an estimated 65 percent – an astounding number that continues to grow.
States and local school districts that accept federal funds are required to meet federal reporting requirements. These regulations are usually costly, intrusive, and redundant, and can create unnecessary hurdles for K-12 schools. More often than not, compliance with these mandates forces schools to redistribute scarce resources that should be dedicated to fostering innovation in our classrooms.
Recently, the administration proposed a 10.7 percent increase in the Department of Education’s budget. As the federal role – and federal spending – in education has grown, so has the volume of regulations associated with education laws. It is important to note that, on average, only about 10 percent of a school’s budget comes from federal funds, which is a disproportionately small amount when compared to the total cost of reporting requirements.
During a recent hearing in this committee, we learned from school officials that the regulatory burden created by receiving federal funds often outweighs any potential benefits. The testimony of the superintendent of Loudoun County Schools pointed to multiple examples where compliance with federal regulations diverts hundreds of hours from student support in the classroom.
These unmanageable mandates constitute a federal overreach into our schools. Not only do they direct important funds and resources away from the classrooms, but they also limit an educator’s ability to react to the changing education needs of our students. We need to allow our educators the flexibility to decide what is best for schools in their communities. It is shortsighted to assume the federal government knows more about educating students than the teachers and administrators on the ground.
It is time to seriously reexamine the regulatory and paperwork burden the government has imposed on schools. We must review each regulation and ask ourselves, what purpose does this regulation serve? Is it actually helping to achieve our goal of improving student success?
We have a responsibility to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent effectively and efficiently, and to some extent, regulation and reporting can be helpful in achieving that goal. But we must also make certain the nation’s classrooms aren’t overwhelmed by piles of costly and redundant paperwork that ultimately harms the future success of our children. We must work together to enact meaningful education reforms that encourage, rather than stifle, innovation and local flexibility. A quality education system is the key to building a better, more prosperous future for America.
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