The role of the national government in education is--and should be--limited. State governments provide approximately 47 percent of education revenues while local governments provide 44 percent. That means the Federal contribution to elementary and secondary education is approximately 9 percent, which includes funds not only from the Department of Education (ED) but also from other Federal agencies, such as the Department of Health and Human Services' Head Start program and the Department of Agriculture's School Lunch program.
Because education is primarily a state and local responsibility, these governments must establish the schools, hire the teachers, develop the curricula and determine the requirements for enrollment and graduation. In general, the national role has been to step in and assist when there has been a particular need.
For example, during the Cold War, Congress passed the National Defense Education Act (NDEA) in response to the Soviet launch of Sputnik. This legislation was designed to help ensure that highly trained individuals would be available to help America compete with the Soviet Union in scientific and technical fields.
A decade later, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act launched a comprehensive set of programs, including the Title I program of Federal aid to disadvantaged children to address the problems of poor urban and rural areas. And in that same year, the Higher Education Act authorized assistance for postsecondary education, including financial aid programs for needy college students. Despite the growth of the Federal role in education, the official national mission today is to encourage high student achievement among all student groups.
As a strong believer in local control of education--and a limited federal role--I voted against a proposal by the majority Democrats during the last session to add more than $10 billion to the president's education budget. I also opposed an additional $84 million in federal grants for minority colleges in 2006.
I do support a federal role in encouraging vouchers and charter schools. I voted in support of allowing vouchers in District of Columbia schools, and I have supported giving more flexibility to states in the use of federal funds.
Finally, I have voted many times in support of allowing prayer in public schools and in allowing schools to display the words, "God Bless America." I have also opposed allowing the courts to decide if the words "Under God" should be removed from the Pledge of Allegiance.