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Kline Statement: H.R. 5, The Student Success Act
As prepared for delivery.

The Student Success Act will take a critical step toward real reform of our education system. This legislation will restore local control; empower parents; eliminate unnecessary Washington red tape and intrusion in schools; and support innovation and excellence in the classroom.

As Chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, I have heard countless stories of the amazing progress being made in schools across the country. This success isn’t due to heavy-handed dictates from Washington; rather it reflects the work of dedicated parents, teachers, principals, superintendents, and state officials who decided the status quo is just not good enough for our kids. 

In dozens of committee hearings over the last few years, my colleagues and I have had the honor of speaking with many of these reformers. We learned about the ground-breaking programs and initiatives they’ve implemented to serve students more effectively. We listened to the ways they are working to hold schools more accountable – not just to the government, but to their local communities and families. And we heard impassioned stories of how much more these dedicated reformers would do for our children, if not for the slew of onerous Washington mandates and outdated regulations standing in the way.

Our children deserve better. But instead of working with Congress to fix the problems in current K-12 education law, the Obama administration chose to go rogue: granting temporary waivers in exchange for implementing the president’s preferred reforms. Thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia are now beholden to new federal standards crafted without congressional consent, representing an unprecedented expansion of federal control over our nation’s classrooms.

It’s time for a new way forward, and that starts with passage of the Student Success Act. This commonsense legislation reflects what we’ve learned from parents, teachers, and education leaders nationwide, and embodies four principles vital to a stronger education system in which all students have the opportunity to succeed.

First, the bill before us today will reduce the federal footprint in our classrooms. For too long, federal overreach has tied the hands of American educators.  The Student Success Act will put an end to the administration’s convoluted conditional waiver scheme and take concrete steps to rein in the Secretary of Education’s authority.

The legislation also will eliminate more than 70 federal programs, end the rigid federal accountability metrics and overly prescriptive school improvement requirements, and grant states the freedom to develop their own plans to raise the bar – all of which will help ensure a more focused, streamlined, and transparent federal role in the nation’s education system.

Second, the legislation will restore local control by providing states and school districts the flexibility they need to spend federal funds where they are needed. School leaders know best which programs and initiatives will have the greatest benefit for their students’ achievement. We must support policies that encourage more local decision-making and allow these knowledgeable school leaders and administrators to do what they do best – educate America’s children.

Third, the Student Success Act recognizes a better education system cannot come without better educators. The legislation will eliminate federal requirements that value credentials over a teacher’s ability to educate students. Instead, states or school districts should develop their own evaluation systems based in part on student achievement, ensuring teachers can be judged fairly on their effectiveness in the classroom.

Finally, the Student Success Act will empower parents. No one has a better understanding of a child’s strengths and challenges than his or her parents, and no one is more invested in making sure their child achieves his or her full potential. H.R. 5 provides parents more freedom and choice by reauthorizing and strengthening the Charter School Program and improving tutoring and public school choice initiatives.

We have an opportunity before us today – for the first time in more than a decade – to approve new K-12 education legislation in the House of Representatives. We have an opportunity to lend our support to legislation that will tear down barriers to progress and grant states and districts more freedom to think bigger, innovate, and take whatever steps are necessary to put more children on the path to a brighter future.

I urge my colleagues to join me in taking this critical step toward real reform of our education system, and ask you to vote ‘yes’ on the Student Success Act.

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