Issue Position: Education Reform
Leaving No Child Behind in Our Nation's Schools
The No Child Left Behind Act is a blueprint for fundamental education reform, and it represents a huge step in the right direction for Americans who believe big government is not the solution to problems with our education system. We have already seen that more bureaucracy is not the answer.
For more than 30 years, Washington has spent more than $300 billion on public education. Yet there is still a huge disparity in educational achievement between disadvantaged students and their more affluent peers. For the first time in years, with the implementation of No Child Left Behind, we are finally insisting on results.
When I served as Chairman of the House Education & Workforce Committee, I worked to craft an education bill that reflected the principles of accountability, local control, funding for what works, and expanded parental options. Our efforts have paid off.
No Child Left Behind gives control and flexibility to local and state governments over how they use federal education funds, instead of relying on Washington bureaucrats to make decisions about our childrens' education. This is the first step toward closing the achievement gap between disadvantaged students and their peers.
Expanding School Choice
School choice programs give parents and their children options in education, which should be a common goal for all of us. The issue is not where students go to school, but rather how they are educated. With this in mind, I've long supported opportunity scholarships, which allow students transfer from underperforming schools to higher achieving schools where they can take advantage of the best our education system has to offer. We should be encouraging school choice and encouraging schools to provide students with opportunities to improve their education rather than forcing students to accept sub-standard options.
Addressing the College Cost Crisis
It's no secret to college students, recent graduates, and their parents that the cost of obtaining a college education has been spiraling out of control. According to the College Board, there was very little real growth in college prices during the 1970s. In the early 1980s, however, the tide began to take a turn for the worse. Tuition and fees began to grow much more rapidly than the average prices of other goods and services. In fact, during the 1980s, the cost of attending college rose more than three times as fast as the typical family income. This trend of rapidly-increasing college costs continued unfettered through the 1990s.
In late 2003, the House Education Committee released a report showing that costs for higher education are rising because students and parents lack the consistent ability to hold the higher education system accountable for disproportionate tuition increases. In short, they don't have access to the kind of information they need to fully exercise their power as consumers. After all, college students and their parents are just that: "consumers." And for these consumers, the market has not been kind.
Consider this: Over a ten-year period ending in 2002-2003 - after adjusting for inflation - the average tuition at both public and private colleges rose 38 percent. Looking back even further, since 1981, the cost of a four-year public education has risen by 202 percent! That's MORE THAN DOUBLE the average cost increase for other goods and services during that same time period.
But wait - there is good news. As the College Board notes, there is now a record amount of financial aid available for struggling students and families. And even knowing this, I will continue to fight for expanded access to higher education for low and middle-income students by:
* Strengthening Pell Grants, student aid, student access, and minority serving institutions;
* Reducing red tape for students and graduates;
* Removing barriers for non-traditional students; and
* Empowering consumers through "sunshine" and transparency in college costs & accreditation.