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Congressional Caucus Constitution

Location: Washington, DC

CONGRESSIONAL CAUCUS CONSTITUTION -- (House of Representatives - May 04, 2006)

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Garrett) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I come to the floor tonight and I begin by commending the gentleman from Utah for his efforts every week as we take part in the process of bringing back to the American people the importance of the U.S. Constitution as part of the Constitution Caucus.

At this point I would like to yield to the gentleman from Texas to make a point with regard to his very important legislation that he was referring to, H.R. 3499.

Mr. CULBERSON. Mr. Speaker, I rise only to make the point, because I ran out of time earlier, that the legislation that we have coauthored together would give the decision to the locally elected State representatives to enter a contract with Federal elected representatives so that the only control the Federal Government would have over State public education would be the control that the State locally elected officials agree to. It would be a contract between the State legislature and the Federal legislature; and other than what they agree to, there is no Federal control over public education, as the Founders intended.

Mr. Jefferson always said if you apply core Republican principles, the knot will always untie itself. That is true here, and it would continue to be true if we would just remember it.

Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I will try to remember that expression of Mr. Jefferson. Mr. Jefferson addressed the issue of education. One of the points of the Constitutional Caucus is to take a look at what does the Constitution actually say as to what the role of the Federal Government is.

As we discuss education, we should ask: Is the role of the Federal Government in the area of education? I would hazard a guess it is not. Thomas Jefferson was asked that question as a Founding Father of this country. He was asked the question: Why is it the Federal Government is not involved in education?

His response to that question was: as soon as the Constitution is amended to include language giving us that power, we will be involved in education. Of course, the Constitution has never been amended to allow the Federal Government to involve itself in education. Neither the word ``education'' nor ``school'' is anywhere in the U.S. Constitution.

With that being said, no one here, not the gentleman from Utah, the gentleman from Texas, nor the gentlewoman from North Carolina would ever make the statement that education is not important. We all agree about the importance of quality education in all 50 States. We just believe there is a better way, and that is return control of education to the local authorities, local school boards, and to the parents.

One of the problems when we look at the issues out there, people put a test of importance on the issue. Just because an issue is important, does that mean that the Federal Government should become involved? Again, I would look back to what the Founders said. There was never a test of importance by the Founding Fathers as far as the Constitution is concerned. They did not say if something is important, therefore the Federal Government should become involved. Rather, is it constitutional?

Each night here, when we pull out our card to vote, we should ask ourselves: Is it in the Constitution? Is it constitutional?

In the area of education, it is not. We have lost control of education from the State level to the Federal level. Lest anyone think that we are doing a better job of this, I refer them back to the 1960s when the ESEA, Elementary Secondary Education Act, was first put into place, when education standards in this country were some of the highest. Since that time, the Federal Government's role has increased dramatically, and we have seen where that has brought us. The level of education in this country, unfortunately, has gone down.

That is why I am a proud supporter of H.R. 3499. It will return control to the people who are in the best position to exercise that authority: parents, local school boards, localities, and the States. I know also when you talk to those people who are on the front line, they will tell us of all of their frustration they have dealing with Federal mandates and with all of the Federal strings and controls.

In New Jersey, I asked exactly how much money are you getting from the Federal Government. In our State, I don't know how it is in other States, we get around three cents on the dollar from the Federal Government. In return for those three pennies, the Federal Government is basically exercising all of this control, all of this regulation that the local school board must comply with or else. And that is why H.R. 3499 is so important. H.R. 3499 will return that authority back to the local school board.

They will be in the position to say do we have to comply with these Federal regulations or not. I would hazard to guess in many instances local school boards will tell their legislators, we do not want to have to comply with all these Federal regulations. We do not want the legislation to go in that direction.

I conclude by reminding this House and the Federal Government that we should look to the U.S. Constitution for direction, is it constitutional in the area of education, and leave it to the appropriate parties. I again commend the gentleman from Texas for his excellent work in moving in that direction.

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