At a House hearing Tuesday morning on the burden of federal intervention into American schools, Representative Mike Kelly (R–PA) referred to the federal government as “the people that are … making the rules but have never played the game.” Witnesses included three school administrators from various states along with Heritage Director of Domestic Policy Jennifer Marshall.
Kelly noted that schools have continued to receive burdensome mandates and regulations from Washington, yet politicians are not the ones who have to deal with the consequences. As the Kelly put it, “They talk the talk, but never walk the walk.”
As Marshall testified, since the federal government got into the business of regulating schools in the 1960s, federal education programs have experienced massive increases, bringing with them increasingly complex compliance burdens and red tape for schools to handle. Instead of using resources to focus on students, schools are made to throw time, money, and manpower toward Washington’s demands. She noted:
The proliferation of federal programs and the ever-increasing prescription of federally driven systemic reform distract school-level personnel and local and state leaders from serving their primary customers: students, parents, and taxpayers.
Likewise, Robert Grimesey, superintendent of Orange County (Virginia) Public Schools noted that the “culture of compliance” created by federal regulation “makes federal compliance an end in itself.” As a result, “it becomes very difficult to maintain … focus on the achievement and welfare of our children.”
James Willcox, chief executive officer of Aspire Public Schools, gave an example of what he referred to as “overly burdensome” regulation. He noted that for schools “to qualify for or renew Title I funding requires copious amounts of paperwork,” requiring each employee to “fill out a personnel activity sheet each month.” Additionally, they must “outline their salary for that month and describe how much of that is from Title I.” On top of that, “each staff member and his/her principal have to sign these forms on a monthly basis.” They are also asked to submit two 30-page reports annually and carry out a “rigorous … auditing process.”
Beyond this, No Child Left Behind has “cost states an additional 7 million hours in paperwork at a cost of $141 million,” Marshall noted.
We have overregulated and overburdened you so much with unneeded information and continue to do it. … My personal opinion is you need to have less government telling you what the rules should be: they don’t know, they’ve never done it.
Instead of saddling states and districts with more federal regulations and red tape, the federal government needs to loosen the load on schools. Otherwise we’ll be stuck with an education system that caters to Washington bureaucrats more than parents and taxpayers.