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Public Statements

Providing for Consideration of H.5. 5, Student Success Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. COLLINS of Georgia. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of the rule as well as the underlying bill, H.R. 5, the Student Success Act.

I want to thank also, as others have, the gentlewoman from North Carolina for her continued leadership on an important issue. And I also would like to commend the gentleman from Colorado on his interest in this legislation as well. Although we differ in opinions on what this legislation would do, I believe it is a conversation that we need to have.

You see, I have had the privilege to be married to a public school teacher for 25 years. I also have three children who are the product of a public school education, one of whom is a special needs child who has spina bifida, who graduated just a few years ago. I was happily there to present her with her diploma when she rolled across that stage.

We can talk about a lot of things today; but when it gets down to it, it's about the kids in our country and how they're educated and what role this body is to play in that. I think that's an honest conversation.

As I speak today as a parent, education policy is near and dear to my heart because I believe our democracy was founded on the principle that every child should have the opportunity to learn. And I believe that the goal of our educational system should be to instill in our children a love for learning that they will carry with them throughout their entire life.

There is nothing I love better than to walk into a room and see my child reading a book--a 14-year-old, a 17-year-old reading a book--or learning. That is what we cry for, as parents.

Whenever I'm home in Georgia, I encounter numerous folks who tell me their concerns about the endless expansion of our Federal Government--not just its size, but its scope and power. Like the parents and teachers I've heard from lately--and also live with--I'm very concerned about the top-down approach that this administration in Washington seems to be taking on education. Probably the best known example is the Common Core Standards, which has been mentioned already, which Washington wants to use as a national litmus test for States seeking funding. Again, it's a carrot-and-stick approach. When we look at this, is that what we want us to be in the business of doing?

As you will hear further from my colleagues, there is plenty of concern about the content of this so-called Common Core; and I could speak a lot about that, but I choose to focus on one thing and that is, I can't wrap myself around the fact that there are so many who wish to see Washington's role in education expanded and beyond the level it should be, when that role should not exist on the level that it does.

In fact, my friend from Colorado, he made this statement and he said that the Federal Government needs to be an honest referee. I appreciate that. However, I disagree in the fact that using an honest referee to use a carrot-and-stick approach with money and standards is not the way it should work.

I'm old school. As I've said before, I believe the referee on a football field should be not seen, and this goes very much against that. The referee should be there, but not be the center of attention, which Washington has become in education.

Make no mistake, I believe our education system should be a global leader; and in order for our students to be competitive on the world stage, our schools must have high standards.

We have seen firsthand in this country what occurs when our students fall behind in STEM education. That cannot continue to happen. We must raise the bar and demand excellence in our schools. However, education standards should be developed at the State and local level by those intimately familiar with the needs of the children and our educational policy, not from inside the beltway.

The beauty of public education is that every child, regardless of race, gender, religion and geography, has the opportunity to learn. Our Nation is great because our people are great. And if we as a Nation fail our most basic responsibility--providing education for our children--then our people and our Nation will no longer be a shining light in a dark world.

I am proud to be a member of a party that believes that the best educational opportunities exist when the Federal Government gets out of the classroom, when the teachers are allowed to teach children how to learn, not how to bubble an exam.

I am tired of having to watch my wife for 20-something years worry more about filling out a form than actually having to be able to do her lesson plan the next day because she is inundated with the requirements. I'm proud that we can teach and that we can learn and that we can promote that, not on a Federal level, but on a State and local level.

Current Federal law clearly prohibits Federal approval or certification of academic standards to ensure State and local control over the classroom. Apparently, and unfortunately, this law just doesn't seem to matter up here. They decided that they know better than parents and teachers. As a parent, and as the husband of a school teacher, that thinking doesn't fly with me.

Our education system has its roots in the State and local government for a good reason. No one has a stronger interest in the child's success than his or her parents. No one knows what really works in the classroom like our teachers. The community surrounding a child naturally understands that student's needs and has a deep desire to do what it takes to ensure his or her success. I support the Student Success Act because it places education decisionmaking where it belongs--in the hands of parents and teachers.

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Mr. Speaker, there is a lot this country can do to improve education in our Nation and to empower our kids to take on the challenges of the 21st century. But those changes must be considered and debated and adopted by the parents whose children will live with the consequences of those choices.

Decisions of this magnitude rightfully belong not in Washington, but on Main Street, and the Student Success Act rightly restores the proper means of education policymaking in this country.

I strongly support H.R. 5 and support this rule.

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