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Leadership & Results Part 2: Helping Every Child Receive an Excellent Education

Under the leadership of Chairman John Kline (R-MN), the House Committee on Education and the Workforce has been working hard on behalf of students, small business owners, teachers, and working families. And by improving education, retirement, job training, and more, the committee has delivered impressive results. This is the second in a series of releases that will look back at some important reforms the committee has advanced under Chairman Kline’s leadership—reforms that will help more Americans pursue a lifetime of success and prosperity.

Chairman Kline speaks with a student at Two Rivers Public Charter School in Washington, D.C., in July 2013.

For years, one-size-fits-all federal policies and executive overreach made it difficult for state and local education leaders to provide their students with the kind of quality education every child deserves. Rather than work with Congress to improve K-12 education, the Obama administration spent years micromanaging classrooms through waivers and pet projects.

By 2013, the federal government was more involved in K-12 education than ever before and receiving an “F” for its heavy-handed efforts:

  • Approximately one out of every five students was dropping out of high school.

  • Only 36 percent of 8th graders could read at grade level, and only 35 percent were proficient in math.

  • Among high school seniors, 38 percent could read at grade level, and only 26 percent were proficient in math.

It was clear something had to change, but the path to reform wasn’t an easy one. Time and again, the Committee on Education and the Workforce put forward reforms and worked to advance solutions. Still, even though the law governing K-12 education had expired in 2007, failed policies remained in place.

Then, after years of hard work, new leadership arrived in the Senate, sharing the House’s commitment to K-12 education reform that would end the status quo and put students on a better path.

In 2015, Congress finally replaced the Washington-knows-best approach to K-12 education with the Every Student Succeeds Act. Through a truly bipartisan and bicameral effort, policymakers enacted a bill based on three key principles: reducing the federal role, restoring local control, and empowering parents. It’s because of these principles that the new law:

  • Repeals onerous federal requirements;

  • Ensures crucial decisions affecting education are made by state and local leaders—not unelected bureaucrats;

  • Reins in the authority of the secretary of education; and

  • Prohibits the Department of Education from coercing states into adopting Common Core.

Most importantly, the principles embodied in the new law will make it possible for every child to receive an excellent education. As Chairman Kline said when the president signed the legislation into law in December 2015:

Today, we begin a new approach to K-12 education … Classrooms will no longer be micromanaged by the U.S. Department of Education. Instead, parents, teachers, and state and local education leaders will regain control of their schools, and children will have a better shot at receiving a great education.

Education leaders across the country are just beginning to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act, but as many of them have expressed, the future of K-12 education looks bright. In the words of one superintendent from Arlington Heights, Illinois:

Under ESSA, you have given us permission to dream and lead and transform public education in this country—and we will do just that.

To read Part 1 of the Leadership & Results series, click here.