WASHINGTON, D.C. | February 1, 2012
“I believe what Republican Abraham Lincoln believed: that government should do for people
only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more.”
- President Barack Obama, January 24, 2012
Quoting Abraham Lincoln in last week’s State of the Union address
, President Obama outlined a vision for an improved education system in which more control is granted to states and schools. He pledged to get rid of regulations that do not work, and endorsed more flexibility in our classrooms.
House Education and the Workforce Committee Republicans are heartened by the president’s remarks. Education reform will be most successful when encouraged from the ground up – not the top down. Across the country, state and local education leaders have successfully implemented creative reforms that expand transparency, enhance accountability, and help close student achievement gaps. These efforts have had a positive impact on children, and they deserve the support of lawmakers.
Unfortunately, the overly-prescriptive federal mandates and regulations under No Child Left Behind often stand in the way of this important progress. It’s time for a new way forward
; one that puts decisions back in the hands of the people who know our children best. Committee Republicans recently released
two pieces of draft legislation that will reduce burdensome federal mandates and regulations, grant states and school districts the freedom to innovate, streamline federal programs, and protect taxpayer investments.
Reduce Burdensome Federal Mandates and Regulations
Too often, federal education dollars come with a myriad of requirements, rules, and restrictions that can tie the hands of educators. This bureaucratic red tape can undermine a school’s ability to meet the unique needs of students. We support reducing regulatory roadblocks and encourage maximum flexibility at the state and local level. The Student Success Act and the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act will:
- Eliminate the federally mandated accountability system, known as Adequate Yearly Progress or AYP, which applies a rigid metric for gauging the progress of schools around the country.
- Repeal antiquated “Highly Qualified Teacher” requirements that force schools to focus on an educator’s credentials and tenure instead of his or her ability to improve student learning.
- Remove mandated school improvement strategies and turnaround models that require every under-performing school to undergo the same series of rigid federal interventions, regardless of the unique circumstances facing individual schools.
- Prohibit the U.S. Secretary of Education from coercing states into adopting specific academic standards and from imposing extraneous conditions on states and school districts in exchange for a waiver of K-12 education law.
- Remove the secretary’s authority to add new requirements to federal programs and set specific procedures the secretary must follow when issuing federal regulations or conducting peer review processes for grant applications.
Return Control to State and Local Leaders
States and local school districts should have the freedom to shift federal resources into the programs that best serve their student populations. Additionally, instead of focusing on a teacher’s credentials, states and districts should focus on identifying, recruiting, and retaining the teachers that have the most talent for improving student achievement. The Student Success Act and the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act will:
- Call on each state to implement its own accountability system that considers the challenges and opportunities facing local schools and more accurately evaluates student learning and school performance.
- Allow states to develop their own improvement strategies for low-performing schools.
- Grant school districts the freedom to distribute federal funds based on the needs of their own student populations; superintendents and principals will be able to use federal funding for groups such as English learners, migrant students, and Native Americans to support a better classroom experience for all children.
- Direct school districts to develop and implement their own teacher evaluation systems based on student learning.
- Support states and districts with implementing performance-based pay systems, advancement programs, and alternative certification methods to improve the effectiveness of local teachers.
- Consolidate most federal K-12 education programs into a Local Academic Flexible Grant to be used by state and local officials for a broad range of in-school and after-school activities tied to student achievement.
Streamline Federal Spending and Protect Taxpayers’ Investments
The Department of Education currently operates 82 separate programs tied to K-12 classrooms, many of which are ineffective, duplicative, or have long ago met the original purpose of the program. Taxpayers deserve to know their hard-earned money is being used wisely to improve education in our nation; we need to remove ineffective and duplicative programs and instead give states and school districts the freedom to design programs that meet their communities’ needs. The Student Success Act and the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act will:
- Eliminate more than 70 existing elementary and secondary education programs, many of which have never been funded, or have little to no measurable effect on boosting student achievement.
- Limit funding authorizations to levels appropriated by Congress, ensuring transparency and preventing hidden increases in program spending.
- Revoke the existing federal mandate on allocating state and local tax dollars and instead allow states and communities to determine their own K-12 funding levels based on local priorities.
- Remove mandatory district-level set-aside funding for school improvement, giving school districts greater control over their Title I funding.
- Consolidate existing teacher quality programs into a single Teacher and School Leader Flexible Grant. The proposals are the beginning of Congressional efforts to address last year's Government Accountability Office (GAO) report identifying 82 teacher quality programs spread across the federal government.
For more information on the Student Success Act and the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act, visit www.edworkforce.house.gov.
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