RETURN SOVEREIGNTY BACK TO THE STATES, THE SCHOOL BOARD, AND THE PARENTS -- (House of Representatives - March 28, 2007)
Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, with the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind before us this year, we all have an obligation to consider reforms that both further education policy, and also maintain consistency with our constitutional duties.
The Federal Government began its interference, if you will, in education through land grants, and over time has transformed into a bureaucracy that we see today. I would like to highlight some of the serious flaws in this tangled web we have weaved and pose a question to my colleagues and our constituents as well. Are we better off today with the Federal Government's involvement in education as it has been over the years?
Since 1965, American taxpayers have invested more than $778 billion on Federal programs for elementary and secondary education. The GAO, the Government Accountability Office, reported in 1994 that 13,400 Federally funded full-time employees in State education agencies work to implement Federal education programs. That is three times the number then working at the Department of Education.
The same report found that state education agencies are forced to reserve a far greater share of Federal and State funds for State-level use by a ratio of 4-1, due to the administrative and regulatory burden of Federal programs. And because it cost so much to allocate a Federal dollar than a State dollar, 41 percent of financial support and staffing of State education agencies was a product of Federal dollars and regulations. In other words, the Federal Government was the cause of 41 percent of the administrative burden at the State level, despite providing just 7 percent of overall education funding.
Again, according to the GAO, the testing requirements alone for No Child Left Behind will cost the States about $1.9 billion between 2002 and 2008. And that is if the State uses only multiple choice questions that can be scored in machines, as opposed to essays and what have you.
According to the Office of Management and Budget, No Child Left Behind increased State and local governments' annual paperwork burden by 6,680,334 hours at an estimated cost of $141 million. So while No Child Left Behind advertises that it helps to attract and maintain highly qualified teachers, some States, in fact, have now responded to it by actually lowering their testing requirements for new teachers.
Since the law enactment, Pennsylvania has dropped its testing after finding that too many middle school teachers had failed the test. In Maryland, New Hampshire and Virginia, they have made their basic skills test for teachers easier to pass now than before we had No Child Left Behind.
In Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, Nevada and West Virginia, they, too, have lowered their requirements for teachers trained out of state. So what is happening is as State officials become more familiar with the No Child Left Behind statute and with U.S. Department of Education's interpretation of it, more States have rushed to lower their own standards. So by September 2004, 47 States had filed requests with the U.S. Department of Education to approve changes to their No Child Left Behind plans that would, in many cases, make it easier for them to show adequate yearly progress than before.
Now, to address all this, in the near future, I will come back to the floor as I will be introducing legislation that will immediately cut both the financial and the regulatory strings between the Federal Government and the States that choose to opt out and relieve the Federal education system.
How it will work is this: Under my proposal, States that elect to opt out of the Federal education funding system would be eligible to keep their own money, keep it in their own States through a mechanism, a Federal tax credit. It would be a refundable Federal tax credit, and it would be available to all the residents in that State that chose to opt out. Therefore, what we have here is not only would that State free itself up from the education regulations and all the costs I have just laid out here, but by taking this deduction, those residents in those States won't have to be taking money out of their pocket, sending it to Washington, Washington handling it for a while, and some of it coming back to their States. In effect, what will happen is you will not have to send your money to Washington at all.
But the bottom line is this: We should not waste this unique opportunity that we have now, now that No Child Left Behind is coming up for reauthorization. We should use this as an opportunity to return sovereignty back to the States, and most importantly, back to the parents themselves.
So Mr. Speaker, I will close on this to say I look forward to the time when all education decisions are returned back to the States, to the legislatures, to the local school board, and most importantly, to the parents themselves.