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Education & Labor Committee Republicans

Contact: Press Office (202) 226-9440
Listening and Learning from Education Experts
Part I: Republicans heed calls to shift accountability, funding decisions to the state and local level

In the first session of the 112th Congress, House Education and the Workforce Committee Republicans held 11 hearings to discuss a better way forward for the K-12 education system. Dozens of state and local education officials offered their thoughts on the challenges facing states and school districts across the country. Time and time again, these experts shared their frustration with current law’s overly-prescriptive accountability mandates and restrictive funding schemes.

Committee Republicans listened to these concerns, learned from education experts, and will soon introduce two pieces of reform legislation to restore state and local control over K-12 education.

An End to the Overly-Prescriptive Federal Accountability System

“The sanctions and models for turnaround mandated for schools which fail to reach the arbitrary Adequate Yearly Progress goal are quite narrow and present no real choices in some communities. Washington does not know best in addressing low performance. The state education agencies can and must hold local schools accountable for improving student academic progress… However, what is best for a school in rural Arkansas may be vastly different from the remedy for a school in urban Chicago. Selecting remedies is not something easily done from Washington.”

-      Dr. Benny Gooden, Superintendent, Fort Smith Public Schools, Arkansas
Hearing on “Education Reforms: Ensuring the Education System is Accountable to Parents and Communities,” September 21, 2011

“The federal government [is] engag[ing] in developmental aspects of education policy and basically dictating practices and procedures and policies that localities should follow. And frankly, the national government is not very good at figuring that out …the federal government is not good at figuring out the specific standards, curriculum, and assessments that schools should be employing.”

-      Dr. Jay Greene, Professor, University of Arkansas
Hearing on “Education Reforms: Ensuring the Education System is Accountable to Parents and Communities,” September 21, 2011

Under No Child Left Behind’s accountability system (Adequate Yearly Progress or AYP), all schools that fail to meet target proficiency levels for two or more consecutive years are required to undergo the same series of rigid federal interventions, regardless of the unique circumstances or challenges facing each school and the students it serves. As Dr. Gooden and Dr. Greene pointed out, not only does this top-down accountability system fail to adequately gauge school and student performance, it is also ineffective in helping low-performing schools improve.

To improve accountability in K-12 schools, the Student Success Act will eliminate the AYP system and call on each state to implement a unique accountability system that addresses the individual circumstances of local schools and more accurately evaluates student achievement. Additionally, the legislation will eliminate federally mandated interventions for under-performing schools and direct states to determine the best way to raise the bar on student learning.

Enhanced Flexibility in the Use of Federal Funds

“At any given time, having the flexibility to allocate your budget to meet the most pressing needs of your students is powerful. In this difficult financial environment, flexibility in school budgets is critical to protect our students from the tough times around them.”

-      Dr. James Willcox, Chief Executive Officer of Aspire Public Schools, California
Hearing on “Education Regulations: Burying Schools in Paperwork,” March 15, 2011

“We would very much welcome the opportunity to decide for ourselves how these dollar bills are spent. And I think it would allow us to focus on the individual child instead of focusing on funding the program or funding the school. We have got to get back to funding the student and having the money, follow the child into the classroom. With that increased flexibility, we can definitely do that. With that increased flexibility, we can focus on professional development for teachers, something that is very important, on reading programs that will help our students move forward."

-      Dr. Janet Barresi, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Oklahoma
Hearing on “Education Reforms: Promoting Flexibility and Innovation,” April 7, 2011

State and local education officials need more opportunities to shift federal resources into the K-12 programs that best serve their students. However, under No Child Left Behind, federal assistance for certain student populations is divided into rigid funding streams that can only be applied to a single group. As a result, schools may not have enough funds to serve their unique student population.

The Student Success Act and the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act will grant states and school districts the flexibility to use funds received under four student assistance programs (Migrant Education, Neglected and Delinquent, English Language Acquisition, and Indian Education programs) for activities authorized in any of those programs. Additionally, the legislation will consolidate many of the existing federal K-12 education programs into a Local Academic Flexible Grant, which state and local officials can apply to a broad range of in-school and out-of-school activities, such as new computer labs or tutoring programs.

For more information on the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s efforts to reform K-12 education, or to read draft summaries of the Student Success Act and the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act, visit www.edworkforce.house.gov.

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