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Committee Statements

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

As prepared for delivery

The legislation before us today will take concrete steps to revamp the nation’s K-12 education law and help our children achieve excellence – the excellence needed to boost our economy and make our country more competitive.

We are all too aware of the problems facing schools and students across America. Despite the best of intentions, No Child Left Behind hasn’t delivered the results we’d hoped. Instead, the law left schools buried under a mountain of red tape and requirements, stifled creativity, and limited innovation.

Instead of helping Congress fix the law, the Obama administration granted 37 states and the District of Columbia temporary, conditional waivers in exchange for implementing the president’s preferred reforms. The result expanded federal control and raised serious questions about what the future could hold for our schools.

Our children deserve more than a short-term fix; they deserve a better law. Over the years, we have held dozens of hearings with expert witnesses to discuss reforming No Child Left Behind. We’ve spoken with superintendents, teachers, principals, parents, state officials, and other education leaders about ways to change the status quo and achieve the common goal of ensuring every child has access to the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed.

The legislation before us today was written with the input of these leaders, who work with our children every day, and reflects our shared goal of providing all children access to a quality education. The Student Success Act is based upon four pillars – four sound principles upon which I think we can build common ground as we move this bill through the committee and onto the House floor.

First, the legislation will reduce the federal footprint. Recognizing Congress must protect the autonomy of states and school districts, the Student Success Act includes several provisions to rein in the Secretary of Education’s authority and prevent future federal overreach. In light of this administration’s track record, expanding the Department of Education’s control over schools would be the wrong approach. The legislation will also eliminate more than 70 federal programs tied to K-12 classrooms, 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.

Second, the Student Success Act will restore local control by providing state and local leaders more flexibility. In addition to eliminating programs, the legislation repeals arbitrary federal funding requirements and supports states’ ability to prioritize funding to the most effective initiatives. Taking these steps will cut through the dizzying maze of mandates, reporting requirements, and strict funding rules that make it difficult – if not impossible – for states and districts to improve performance and narrow achievement gaps.

Third, the Student Success Act will shift the focus away from “highly qualified teachers” and toward highly effective teachers. The legislation will eliminate federal requirements that value credentials over a teacher’s ability to educate students. Instead, states or school districts will develop their own evaluation systems that must be based in part on student achievement, ensuring teachers can be judged fairly based 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 that child achieves his or her full potential. The legislation will promote the expansion and replication of high-quality charter schools and improve tutoring and public school choice initiatives.

This is a solid piece of legislation, and I firmly believe it deserves the full support of this committee.  Already, however, we’re hearing some critics claim the “hands off” nature of the Student Success Act will allow states and school districts to shirk the fundamental responsibility of helping every child succeed in the classroom. That argument is based on the false – and frankly offensive – premise that the very state and local leaders who are clamoring for reform just don’t care about students.

The Student Success Act is about delivering the long-term solutions parents, teachers, and education leaders want and children deserve.  Yes, divisions remain about how best to accomplish this monumental task – and I look forward to a spirited debate – but it is imperative we move forward.  We have an opportunity today to stop finding excuses and start leading on the long-overdue task of reforming our nation’s education system. I urge my colleagues to support the Student Success Act


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