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Kline Statement: Markup of H.R. 5, the Student Success Act

Today the committee will consider H.R. 5, the Student Success Act, a bill to improve K-12 education by reducing the federal footprint, restoring local control, and empowering parents and education leaders to hold schools accountable.

We are here for three important reasons.

First, the nation’s elementary and secondary education system is fundamentally broken. Too many students are dropping out of high school, and those who do graduate are often ill-equipped to complete a college education and compete in the workforce. Many parents are left with few or no options to rescue their children from bad schools.

Every child deserves an excellent education, and we are failing miserably at providing every child that opportunity. Year after year, we examine the problems and talk about solutions. Yet despite all the rhetoric, reports, and hearings, nothing changes. Something has to change, which leads to the second reason we are here this morning: It is time to pursue a different course.

For the last 50 years, Washington has assumed more programs, more spending, and more top-down mandates will cure an ailing education system. We have doubled down on this approach time and again, and it isn’t working. Federal control over the nation’s schools continues to grow, while student achievement remains stagnant.

Success in school should be determined by those who teach inside our classrooms; by administrators and local leaders who understand the challenges facing their communities; by parents who know better than anyone the needs of their children.

That is why I am proud to sponsor this legislation. By reducing the federal footprint, restoring local control, and empowering parents and education leaders, the Student Success Act will help provide all children access to an effective education. The bill is a commonsense response to a status quo that has failed students for far too long.

The Student Success Act will ensure our investment in K-12 education is more efficient and effective. The bill eliminates more than 65 ineffective, duplicative, and unnecessary programs, and replaces this maze of programs with a Local Academic Flexible Grant. H.R. 5 provides the freedom to allocate resources in a way that reflects local priorities, not Washington’s priorities.

The Student Success Act strengthens accountability by replacing the current one-size-fits-all scheme with state-led accountability systems, returning to states, parents, and local leaders the responsibility for measuring student performance and improving underperforming schools.

The Student Success Act recognizes that with the investment of federal resources comes a limited federal role. For example, the bill continues annual assessments in reading and math. We’ve learned the federal government can help shine light on school performance, including how schools support the most vulnerable students. By maintaining this provision, we are empowering parents and education leaders to hold their schools accountable with meaningful information.

However, we’ve also learned there is too much opportunity under current law for the secretary to impose his will on schools. That is why the bill prevents the Secretary of Education from coercing states into adopting a certain set of assessments or standards. The legislation also reforms the regulatory process to provide greater transparency and accountability over rules affecting K-12 classrooms.

Finally, the Student Success Act reaffirms that choice is a powerful lifeline for children trapped in failing schools. Whether strengthening the magnet school program, expanding access to quality charter schools, or allowing funds to follow low-income students, the legislation will help spread the promise of school choice to families across the country.

These are just some of the reforms included in the Student Success Act. No doubt members will address other provisions throughout today’s meeting, and I look forward to a robust debate.

I would like to close by noting the third and final reason we are here today. The time to pursue a different course is now. Parents, teachers, education leaders, and students have waited long enough for Congress to replace No Child Left Behind. It has been 13 years since a comprehensive elementary and secondary education reform bill was signed into law and more than seven years since that law expired.

We have a lot of work ahead, and it’s time to get started. It is important to remember this is one step in a long process, one that will continue to be open and transparent. Every member has an opportunity to express his or her views, offer amendments, and have an up or down vote. I am confident members will have the same opportunity should the legislation be considered by the whole House. That is the legislative process: open, transparent, and fair.

I urge my colleagues to work with us to move this process forward.

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