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Education: The Quality of Our Nation's Schools

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


EDUCATION: THE QUALITY OF OUR NATION'S SCHOOLS -- (House of Representatives - April 23, 2008)

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Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. I thank the ranking member for all of your work in the area of education.

I think the chart at my left points out the dilemma that the previous speakers have been making. This chart shows the involvement of the Federal Government with regard to dollars, and it also reflects the issue with regard to their involvement with regulation and the like.

From 1966 up to 2000, as the Federal Government became more involved, dollars spent increased. And as the years have gone on, what is the result of that, basically a flat or no increase in education.

Two points, one point on the issue of accountability, and the other on new approaches. In the area of accountability, the question we have to ask is accountable to whom? The gentlewoman from Illinois made my case for me when she said that she was concerned about her kids and therefore she decided to run for the local school board.

I would suggest that the best place to get accountability is just as she did, locally, from the local school board, teachers, principals and the like. If you ask most parents who is a local teacher, they will know. If you ask who is the local principal, they will know. Ask most parents who is the Secretary of Education in Washington or the bureaucrats down here making the rules, they unfortunately will not have a clue. And yet what we have been doing over the last several decades is having them have greater accountability and responsibility than the teacher and the principal.

The second point is the approaches. I agree with the ranking member on this in that it is great that we have so many new approaches tried in schools across the country. The problem is when you get to a Federal level, two things happen. Sometimes you potentially nationalize some of these, and that is good if you pick out the good ones. But if you happen to pick out some of the bad ones, such as whole language in California, and that had a dismal track record and result, you can end up having a terrible effect on the entire national education system.

My second point is, and the ranking member made a good point on this, Washington doesn't move as quickly as local school boards. Sometimes it takes 5 years or more to reauthorization and even more years to get something done in the district. We can move more quickly at the end of the day.

I conclude with this. Accountability to whom, it should be accountable to the local teachers and the principals, not to somebody in Washington.

New approaches, it is better to be done locally. And as we move forward and move to reauthorize No Child Left Behind, I just throw out a modest, simple proposal, allow those States who need the Federal Government to tell them and dictate to them how to run their schools and so forth to stay in No Child Left Behind. But allow those States who have parents or community leaders or principals who feel that they can get it done by themselves without the Federal Government, allow those States to opt out, but also to keep their own tax dollars in that State so they can decide how their education money will be spent.

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