“A recent national survey revealed an overwhelming majority of American voters believe they aren’t getting their money’s worth from public schools,” writes Representative John Kline (R–MN), chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, yesterday in the Indianapolis Star. And with data showing that education spending has tripled in the last 30 years while student achievement has stagnated, it’s no wonder people are alarmed.
Yet, despite the long track record of failing to improve the nation’s schools, for the last 45 years the United States has continued to take the same approach to education policy: pouring more federal tax dollars into increasingly more federal programs. Since Lyndon Johnson first implemented the Elementary and Secondary Education Act—in its latest version known as No Child Left Behind—the federal government has increased bureaucracy and costs yet has nothing to show for improved academic achievement among students.
The United States must change course. And leaders are stepping up to make this happen.
At a recent event hosted by The Heritage Foundation, Kline outlined his principles for reform:
As a matter of principle … we need to change what we’re doing. And as a matter of principle, decisions about education should be made at the state and local level. As a matter of principle, parents should have as much input, as much say, as possible. As a matter of principle, all of our education principles should be measured against the yardstick of what it’s doing to these kids.
His plan for doing so includes two key steps: eliminating “redundant, duplicative, useless, wasteful programs” and increasing funding flexibility for states.
As the Congressman wrote in the Indianapolis Star:
The Department of Education operates 79 separate programs tied to K-12 classrooms. Many of these programs have proven ineffective. In an effort to ensure taxpayer dollars are well spent, the House Education and the Workforce Committee will soon advance legislation that cuts the number in half by repealing wasteful education programs.
An Indiana paper is a fitting place for Kline to unveil his plans to “greatly reduce the federal footprint in education,” since the Hoosier State’s recent aggressive reforms show that the real potential for educational renewal in America lies in state capitals, not Washington, D.C. That’s why, says Kline, states must have freedom to use federal funding in the manner that they think best meets the needs of their students:
Schools are enormously frustrated … that they can’t move money [between programs]. They can only spend it where the federal government says. … They need flexibility in funding. And so we are crafting legislation to provide funding flexibility.
Additionally, the Congressman addressed the issue of accountability, noting that when it comes to school performance, it is parents and members of the community to whom schools should be held most accountable:
Fundamentally, we’re asking the question … “Accountable for what, to whom?” … Maybe you don’t need to be accountable to the Secretary of Education; maybe you ought to be accountable to the local community, to parents … and to school boards and to communities and to states.
And there are more reforms to come:
These initiatives will be the first in a series of targeted education reform bills designed to reduce barriers, encourage innovation, and promote excellence in the nation’s classrooms.
For too long, schools have been strapped by the red tape of federal bureaucracy. It is time now to secure reforms that reduce the federal stranglehold on schools and put power into the hands of those most vested in a child: states, communities, and parents.