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Kline Statement: Conference Committee Meeting on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act

I want to thank our colleagues for being here today. It’s not every day that the House and Senate come together in a formal conference committee to address an important issue facing our country. The fact that we are here reflects a commitment to follow regular order where members on both sides of the aisle – and on both sides of the Capitol – can participate in an open legislative process and help make a difference in the lives of the American people.

This week, we have an opportunity to take the next step in a long process to improve K-12 education. We are continuing an effort to replace the old, failed approach to education with a new approach that will help more children receive the excellent education they deserve.

Addressing the problems with federal education policies is something we have neglected for far too long. No Child Left Behind has been the law of the land for nearly 14 years, and it expired eight years ago. The law was based on good intentions, but it was also based on the flawed premise that Washington should decide what students need to excel in school.

Parents, teachers, and superintendents have been telling us for years that this approach isn’t working. Everyone here knows it isn’t working. Children from across the country are trapped in failing schools. The nation’s report card recently revealed achievement in reading and math declined for the first time in 25 years. And in many neighborhoods, students are more likely to drop out than to earn a diploma.

Rather than step up and change the law, Congress stepped back and let the administration set national policy through conditional waivers. Instead of providing states and schools relief from the law, these controversial waivers have led to greater confusion and uncertainty. Parents and state and local leaders are more frustrated than ever with the federal government trying to micromanage schools in their communities.

The American people have waited long enough for Congress to do its job and replace No Child Left Behind.  Fortunately, both the House and Senate have finally passed proposals intended to do just that. Now it is up to us to resolve the differences between those two proposals and work to send a final bill to the president’s desk.

Toward that end, staff and members have discussed where we might find areas of common ground and developed a framework I believe will result in a successful conference. I am very pleased that the framework advances the three basic principles House Republicans have long championed.

First, the framework reduces the federal role in K-12 education. One-size-fits-all federal policies dictating accountability and school improvement are eliminated. Dozens of ineffective and duplicative programs are repealed. New and unprecedented restrictions are placed on the secretary’s authority. This proposal will significantly reduce the size of the federal footprint in our nation’s schools.

Second, the framework restores local control by returning to state and local leaders the primary responsibility for accountability and school improvement. The framework protects the right of states to opt out of federal education programs, as well as provides new funding flexibility so federal resources are better spent on priorities set at the local level.

Third and finally, the framework empowers parents. We continue to promote transparency about school performance, so parents have the information they need to do what’s best for their children. We also strengthen the charter school program and magnet school program to offer parents greater school choice.

These are just a few ways the framework advances the principles House Republicans have long supported, and no doubt additional details will be discussed during today’s meeting. We compromised on the details, but we did not compromise our principles.

That is why I urge my colleagues to support this agreement and help us move one step closer to replacing a flawed law. It is time to end the Washington-knows-best-approach to K-12 education. It is time to give parents and state and local leaders the authority and flexibility they need to deliver an excellent education to every student in every school. This agreement will help do just that.

I’d like to end my remarks where they began. We are here because we are committed to regular order where members on both sides of the aisle can share their views and offer ideas. I look forward to hearing from all of our colleagues today and to moving this important process forward.

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