Republican senators today introduced a better schools plan that they said would move out of Washington and back to states decisions about whether schools and teachers are succeeding or failing.
U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) introduced the "Every Child Ready for College or Career Act"to fix the law known as "No Child Left Behind." All are members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.
Alexander, Ranking Member of the committee, said: "Over the last decade, the U.S. Department of Education has become so congested with federal mandates that it has become, in effect, a national school board. The best way to help 50 million children in 100,000 public schools learn what they need to know and be able to do is to fix that responsibility squarely where it belongs--on parents, teachers, communities and states.
"Fortunately, over the last 30 years states have worked together to create higher standards, better tests and pioneered new systems of teacher evaluations related to student performance. Our legislation would create a national environment that would help them succeed. Unfortunately, the Democratic alternative would create more congestion by freezing into law existing federal mandates and adding 20 new programs and 80 new requirements on states and school districts. One symbol of our different approaches is that the Democratic bill is 1,150 pages; ours is 220 pages. "
Burr said: "For too long, parents, teachers and students have suffered under the continuous overreach of federal bureaucrats who have wrestled education away from state and local communities in order centralize decision-making in Washington, DC. I do not believe that the best way to help our students and teachers succeed is to impose a one-size-fits-all, top-down approach. That is why I am proud to be a part of this legislation, which returns control over education to the states and local communities -- the ones who are best suited to address their own needs and effect change."
Isakson said: "Over the last decade, "No Child Left Behind' has made major strides in improving students' education in the areas of math and reading, but our work is far from over. It is critically important that Congress acts quickly to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. I am proud to join my Republican colleagues in introducing this legislation because it continues to build upon past progress, implements changes based on feedback from administrators, teachers and parents and allows states and local school systems to make choices that best suit their students' needs."
Enzi said: "Protecting states' rights and ensuring that they determine what is best for their children is the utmost priority to me. Our state officials, educators, faculty and parents are in the best position to determine what is best for our schools. I thank Ranking Member Alexander and the other committee members who have joined together on this bill which would remove Washington mandates designed to create a national school board. We need to start giving local communities their schools back."
Roberts said: "Unfortunately, Washington continues to operate under the belief that they know best by mandating a one-size-fits-all education curriculum. Instead of creating new programs and new spending we should consolidate and streamline existing programs. Our bill makes commonsense changes to ESEA to simplify the law and make it more flexible for states and local districts, without sacrificing the accountability."
Hatch said: "More mandates from Washington is not the solution to give students in Utah and throughout the country the education they deserve. This legislation makes the changes we heard need to be made from parents, teachers, and school administrators, while continuing to build upon the foundation of what's working to meet our students' needs. It's the step forward our education system needs."
Kirk said: "Not only does this bill give states and local schools more control to improve teachers and classrooms, but it also includes provisions to help expand good quality education to our next generation so they can better compete on a global stage - a longtime priority of mine. Charter schools have some of the most successful educational programs in the nation, and this legislation will ensure we replicate and expand their proven best practices for use in other schools."
Details on the "Every Child Ready for College or Career Act":
More state and local control: Transfers from Washington to states decisions about measuring student achievement, fixing underperforming schools, and whether schools and teachers are succeeding or failing.
No National School Board mandates: Makes clear that the U.S. Education Secretary's waiver authority is led by state requests for flexibility, and is not an excuse to impose more federal mandates.
High standards and quality tests: States, not Washington, will define high standards and tests for students in reading, math and science.
More school choices for low income parents: Allows states to use $14.5 billion in Title I funds for low-income children to follow those children to the public school they attend--ending a formula that diverted those funds to schools serving wealthier families.
More freedom for teachers and principals: Encourages charter schools, which give teachers and school leaders more freedom to use their own good judgment about how to teach.
Encourage teacher evaluations: Ends federal definitions of "highly qualified teachers" and encourages states to use its share of $2.5 billion in federal Title II funds to create teacher evaluation systems related to student performance and other factors.
Flexibility in spending federal funds: Consolidates 62 programs authorized in No Child Left Behind into two block grants and gives states more flexibility in spending education dollars.
Secretary's report cards: Continues state and district report cards on schools from No Child Left Behind and creates an annual Secretary's report card on the nation's schools.