WASHINGTON, D.C. | January 17, 2012
Last week, President Obama announced plans to streamline the federal government, starting with the consolidation of six federal agencies with overlapping authorities over business and trade. The president specifically asked for enhanced executive power to implement further “reforms that result in more efficiency, better service, and a leaner government.”
Instead of announcing unilateral action to reduce the size of the government, the president should look to House Republicans for a better way forward.
In fact, House Education and the Workforce Committee Republicans recently released two pieces of draft legislation designed to rewrite elementary and secondary education law, currently known as No Child Left Behind. The Student Success Act and the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act both support a reduced federal footprint in education by returning control to state and local education officials.
Specifically, the Student Success Act will return responsibility for student achievement to individual states, calling on each state to implement its own accountability system. The legislation will also eliminate federally mandated interventions for low-performing schools and allow states and school districts to determine the most effective way to turn around local schools.
The Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act will eliminate more than 70 ineffective and duplicative federal education programs, thereby reducing wasteful government spending. The legislation also supports increased local innovation and decision-making by allowing states and districts to fund their unique priorities. Instead of asking a Washington bureaucrat to determine what a school district in Kansas needs to boost student learning, local officials in the Kansas district will make the decision.
Both the Student Success Act and the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act accomplish the president’s goal of streamlining the federal government. Even if the president hasn’t acknowledged House Republican efforts, others in Washington are paying attention.
The American Enterprise Institute’s Director of Education Policy Studies, Frederick Hess, argued the federal government should have a reduced role in K-12 education, and detailed how the committee’s draft legislation will achieve this goal:
[The draft legislation] frees states to write their own policies regarding the proper interventions for low-performing schools — the feds would no longer mandate that all low-performing schools adopt supplemental tutoring or public school choice at a federally mandated point in time.
[The draft legislation] scraps federal “maintenance of effort” requirements which have limited the ability of states to trim school spending even when it is prudent or appropriate. Indeed, maintenance of effort has frequently threatened to penalize states that seek to use innovative technologies or staffing arrangements to cut costs.
As Hess’ analysis clearly shows, the proposals put forward by Education and the Workforce Committee Republicans will help make the federal government more efficient – exactly what President Obama asked Congress for last week. Instead of making sweeping demands for more executive power, the president should review the Student Success Act and the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act. The president will find a comprehensive way to streamline and simplify the federal government’s role in K-12 education – without an executive order.
Last week, House Education and the Workforce Committee Republicans put out a series of documents outlining how the new proposals benefit children and families, protect schools from overly prescriptive federal mandates, and encourage innovation in the classroom. To see these documents in the series, click here:
Part 1: New Republican Proposals Advance Education Reform
Part 2: Returning Responsibility for Student Achievement to State and Local Leaders
Part 3: Supporting Effective Teachers in Every Classroom
Part 4: Ending the Education Secretary's Overreach
Part 5: Reviewing the Facts
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