Let’s take Washington out of our children’s education and put the focus where it belongs

Aug 8, 2013

Ensuring that our children receive a high quality education is the goal of every parent, the duty of every community and vital to the long-term interests of our nation.

It doesn’t necessarily follow, however, that every national interest is best served by dictates from national policymakers. Such is the case with education, which for several decades has come under ever-expanding intervention by the federal government.

Many of these efforts - like the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 (passed before I was a member of Congress) - were no doubt well intentioned. But the end result has been an expensive and heavy-handed mishmash of federal regulation premised on the notion that one-size-fits-all.

I believe that was a mistake. I believe parents know how to best serve the interests of their children. I believe local communities and those who represent them on the state level are better positioned to set local and state education policy.

On July 19, my colleagues and I in the U.S. House of Representatives took an important step toward correcting this imbalance by adopting the Student Success Act of 2013 (H.R. 5). The Student Success Act will free states and local school districts to implement measurements of student achievement in ways that reflect real world conditions and needs.

It also repeals arbitrary federal standards which limit local decision-makers’ ability to prioritize funding, while prohibiting U.S. Department of Education bureaucrats from coercing states into adopting Common Core curriculum standards (one-size-fits-all again) by withholding federal funds. Common Core standards may or may not be appropriate policy for Michigan. A debate over their utility is underway in Lansing, which is where it should be held. Whatever the outcome, the Federal Department of Education has no authority to intervene; the decision should be left to the states.

The Student Success Act also would eliminate more than 70 duplicative and ineffective federal education programs, and return to the states the authority to determine what it means to be an effective teacher or local school. One thing the House initiative retains (and strengthens) from earlier attempts at federal education reform is a requirement that parents, educators and local policymakers have transparent access to the unvarnished truth about the performance of local schools.

Information is power. But the power to act on information about the education of our children should not be in the hands of unaccountable bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., but in the leaders in the states where our children live, the school districts in which they learn and, most importantly, in the hands of the parents who love them the most. I urge the U.S. Senate to adopt the Student Success Act at the earliest opportunity.