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Reduce the Federal Footprint in America's Classrooms

By: Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC)


The current K-12 education system is failing our students, and state and local attempts to make it better have been hampered by an enormous federal footprint. Parents and education leaders have lost much of their decision-making authority to Washington bureaucrats, and the Secretary of Education has bullied states into adopting the Obama administration’s pet projects.

Unsurprisingly, student achievement levels remain worrisome – just 36 percent of eighth grade students read at grade level and only 35 percent are proficient in math.

For far too long, our schools have been governed by a top-down approach that stymies state and local efforts to meet the unique needs of their student populations. We can’t continue to make the same mistakes and expect better results; America’s students deserve change.

Fortunately, this week, the House of Representatives has an opportunity to chart a new course with the Student Success Act, legislation that reduces the federal footprint in the nation’s classrooms and restores control to the people who know their students best: parents, teachers and local leaders.

The Student Success Act gets Washington out of the business of running schools. It protects state and local autonomy by prohibiting the Secretary of Education from coercing states into adopting Common Core or any other common standards or assessments, and by preventing the Secretary from creating additional burdens on states and school districts.

The bill reduces the size of the federal education bureaucracy. Currently, the Department of Education oversees more than 80 programs geared towards primary and secondary education, most of which are duplicative and fail to deliver adequate results for students. The bill eliminates over 65 of these programs and requires the Secretary of Education to reduce the department’s workforce accordingly.

The Student Success Act repeals onerous, one-size-fits-all mandates that dictate accountability, teacher quality, and local spending that have done more to tie up states and school districts in red tape than to support education efforts. It returns responsibility for classroom decisions to parents, teachers, administrators, and education officials.

The bill also provides states and school districts the funding flexibility to efficiently and effectively invest limited taxpayer dollars to boost student achievement by creating a Local Academic Flexible Grant.

Finally, the Student Success Act reforms the regulatory process to keep the Secretary of Education from exercising authority he does not have and provide the public with greater transparency and accountability over the development of new rules affecting K-12 schools.

Education is a deeply personal issue. After years of the Secretary of Education running schools through executive fiat, we understand that people are concerned about what a new K-12 education law will do. That is why a number of key principles have guided our efforts to replace the law since we began the process more than four years ago: reducing the federal footprint, restoring local control, and empowering parents and education leaders.

Those principles are reflected throughout the legislation, including specific safeguards that protect the right of states to opt-out of the law, as well as the autonomy of home schools, religious schools, and private schools. Organizations such as the Council for American Private Education, the Home School Legal Defense Association, and Committee on Catholic Education of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops have expressed support for policies in the Student Success Act because they know it will keep the federal government out of their business and preserve their cherished rights.

A host of administration bureaucrats is attempting to defeat these much-needed changes. They know each reform that returns flexibility and choice to parents and school boards represents a loss of power in D.C. It’s time we put the interests of America’s students above the desires of Washington politicians.

By reversing the top-down policies of recent decades, the Student Success Act offers conservative solutions to repair a broken education system. It would finally get Washington out of the way and allow parents, teachers, and state and local education leaders the flexibility to provide every child in every school a high quality education.

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