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Rokita Statement: Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute for H.R. 5

The Student Success Act takes a very important step forward in the education reform debate. As Chairman Kline said earlier, No Child Left Behind isn’t working, and the Obama administration’s waivers are only making things more complicated for parents and school leaders. We can do better.

In addition to a number of technical adjustments, the Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute also makes a couple of larger changes that I’d like to highlight for my colleagues.

As you know, the underlying legislation includes several provisions to rein in the Secretary of Education. I firmly believe the waivers scheme and unauthorized pet programs like Race to the Top represent a dramatic expansion of federal authority over education. The secretary – or any single federal official – was never intended to have such unprecedented power, and Congress has a responsibility to protect the autonomy of states and school districts.

Parents nationwide, including many in Indiana, are raising concerns the administration is attempting to force states to implement a national curriculum through the Common Core State Standards. The substitute clarifies the secretary cannot force states to implement Common Core. States will continue to have sole discretion over whether or not to implement Common Core standards and assessments, but state and local participation in this effort cannot be mandated or coerced from the federal level.

Recognizing the invaluable role of charter schools in our education system, the Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute also includes additional provisions to improve the Charter School Program. The amendment will ensure charter schools have autonomy over personnel decisions, and participate in the development of state and local Title I plans.

Additionally, the substitute will further improve teacher effectiveness by allowing states to use funds from the Teacher and School Leader Flexible Grant to improve state teacher preparation programs. This can be done a number of ways, but we specifically mention states may use appropriate student achievement data to gauge whether programs are working, if they so choose.

Finally, the substitute clarifies that states and districts can also use Title II dollars to train teachers to better meet the needs of students with different learning styles, including gifted and talented students as well as students with disabilities.

Reforming our nation’s education system to put power back in the hands of state and local leaders is long overdue.


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