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Why Americans need a new education law

By: Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN), Chairman, Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education


Our country faces tough challenges: a slow economy, stagnant wages, and a weak job market. With the right set of bold reforms, our nation can once again be a land of opportunity and prosperity for every American who seeks it.

Toward that end, this week the House of Representatives will consider the Student Success Act, a commonsense proposal to fix a broken K-12 education system and help all children, regardless of background or zip code, receive an excellent education.

The fact of the matter is, the law governing our current K-12 education system, No Child Left Behind, is failing. It’s based on the false premise that Washington knows what’s best for schools, rather than parents, teachers, and administrators.

The evidence is there in the numbers. Though the federal government has more control over classrooms than ever before, just 38 percent of high school seniors are reading at grade level, and only 26 percent are proficient in math.
These poor results make it harder for young men and women to compete on the global stage. Out of 34 countries that participate in the Programme for International Student Assessment, the U.S. ranks 20th and 27th in science and math, respectively.

The American people should not have to settle for this status quo.

After years of an outsized — and unsuccessful — federal role in education, the Student Success Act gets Washington out of the business of running schools and restores responsibility for providing an effective education to states and school districts.

The legislation will end the era of one-size-fits-all prescriptions by repealing ineffective federal requirements governing accountability, teacher quality, and local spending that have proven to hamstring the ability of states and school districts to improve student learning.

The Student Success Act will downsize the bureaucracy at the U.S. Department of Education by eliminating nearly 70 ineffective, duplicative, and unnecessary federal programs, reduce the department’s staff accordingly, and replace this confusing maze of programs with a Local Academic Flexible Grant, providing states and school districts the flexibility they need to promote innovative reforms tailored to their unique student populations.

The legislation also reins in the Secretary’s authority, to ensure neither he nor his successors interfere or coerce states into adopting a specific set of standards or assessments, including Common Core.

In addition to reducing the federal footprint and restoring local control, the bill will expand parental choice to help more children escape underperforming schools, which is critical to charting a better path for students.

In my home state of Indiana, the Charles A. Tindley Accelerated School’s rigorous curriculum and laser-focus on preparing students for higher education has helped more than 80 percent of its alumni earn a bachelor’s degree.

The Student Success Act will support the replication of successful charter schools like Tindley, giving more students an opportunity to complete a college education and compete in the workforce.

It is no surprise the White House and powerful special interests are teaming up to derail this important effort. They continue to use scare tactics and budget gimmicks to mislead the American people, because they are worried a new law will lead to less control in Washington and more control in the hands of parents and local education leaders. Frankly, it will — and it's about time.

Opponents of reform would rather pile more mandates, bureaucracy, and taxpayer money onto a broken system. If we adopted their approach, then the federal footprint in classrooms would continue to grow and student achievement would remain stagnant.

The Student Success Act offers a responsible alternative — one that gives power back to the moms, dads, teachers, administrators, and state officials who can make the most direct, lasting impact in a child’s life.

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