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  • To Improve Education, Give States Flexibility with Federal Funding

    Nearly a half-century ago, Washington took a deep dive into education policy, increasing federal intervention in local schools. The idea at the time was to improve outcomes through compensatory education—spending federal dollars through federal programs—in an attempt to narrow the achievement gap between low- and upper-income children. This intervention began in 1965 with President Johnson’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act, now known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

    In the decades that followed, federal involvement in education quickly morphed into systemic reform, leaving no aspect of school policy out of Washington’s reach. Systemic reform from Washington has led to a proliferation of programs such as Women’s Educational Equity, the Native Hawaiian Education Program, and the Carol M. White Physical Education Program, to name just a few.

    The result has been that the states are now oriented toward the hundreds of billions of dollars doled out by the federal government for the numerous federal programs it operates, not toward the needs of local parents, children, and taxpayers. In her recent testimony on the ever-expanding federal role in education, The Heritage Foundation’s Jennifer Marshall noted:

    Accountability is important, but we also need to ask: Accountability to whom and for what? The accountability prescribed by No Child Left Behind focuses on fine-tuned aggregate calculations that are most useful for bureaucrats to chart school-wide, district-wide, or state-wide progress—information that is useful for the application of federal carrots and sticks. … On the other hand, that kind of detail does absorb countless hours of bureaucratic explanation and compliance calculations on the part of schools, districts, and states.

    That’s characteristic of federal intervention as a whole: it is distracting because of the many compliance burdens it puts on states and localities, but it also detracts from proper accountability to those who have the most at stake in education: parents and other taxpayers.

    The heavy hand of Washington isn’t just found in the 600 pages of NCLB or the complex funding formulas for low-income school districts. It’s also seen in the many pages of federal regulations that accompany the laws. The Title I program, which provides money for low-income schools, is accompanied by 65 pages of prescriptive regulations. Marshall explains further:

    The complexity of these regulations is illustrated by the section that describes the duties of a paraprofessional. The regulations dictate that a paraprofessional can have seven specific duties and may not perform duties other than those listed. Furthermore, the paraprofessional may not perform his or her duties unless under the direct supervision of a teacher who meets the several requirements of a highly qualified teacher, as outlined by the regulations. The regulations also provide three components of what direct supervision means.

    The growth in federal regulations directly correlates with Washington’s growing financial involvement in education over the decades. Unfortunately, no correlation has been found between that growth and increases in academic achievement. While the federal role in education has ballooned over the decades—and federal per-pupil expenditures have tripled—academic achievement, graduation rates, and our international competitiveness have languished.

    It all comes down to the simple fact that those closest to the students know them best. Parents, teachers, and principals—not unelected bureaucrats in Washington—have a far better understanding of the needs of local schools and children. Continuing to funnel more money through the Department of Education in an attempt to dictate education policy from Washington will fail to improve academic outcomes.

    Instead, Washington should get out of the way of state and local leaders and provide states with more flexibility with their education spending. Federal policymakers should free state and local leaders from the bureaucratic red tape and regulations that accompany federal education funding.

    Conservative alternatives to NCLB, such as the A-PLUS Act, would allow states to opt out of the many federal education programs under NCLB and direct federal education dollars to the states’ most pressing needs. This approach would free schools from much of the administrative compliance burden associated with NCLB, allowing them to focus on what’s important: teaching children and being responsive to the needs of local parents and taxpayers.

    Posted in Education [slideshow_deploy]

    11 Responses to To Improve Education, Give States Flexibility with Federal Funding

    1. George Colgrove VA says:

      Please, be it conservative goodies or liberal, it does not matter – no federal money for education! We cannot afford it! Keep control in the states, cities or towns!

    2. Richard, Birmingham, says:

      How about this for an idea – To Improve Education, Get the Federal Government Completely Out of Education? What is the logic behind, funneling money through DC? How is that in any way beneficial?

    3. West Texan says:

      As I had commeneted earlier in Professor Owen's guest blog;

      "Wilson’s administration stripped states of their domestic power and federal representation with the16th and 17th amendments, respectively."

      Those devalued dollars the federal government uses to drive their wasteful overreaching social agenda came from the pockets of states' residents.

    4. John Clancy, Mi 4819 says:

      I spent 23 years working in the ESEA (now no child left behind) program in the City of Detroit. My position required me to contact people in the School Center Building which housed the main offices. This is a beautiful building with 14 floors. Prior to federal involvement, the Board of Education offices were in a small 2 story building with probably one-tenth the number of employees that "filled" the 14 floors once federal moneys came to Detroit. Very highly paid staff members were tripping over one another, and papers were shuffled from office to office, floor to floor.

      Since President Johnson's War on Poverty and the enactment of the ESEA in 1965, billions of dollars have been spent to eliminate poverty and to improve education in Detroit. Neither goal has been reached after 46 years.

      The parents and children in our inner cities and beyond would be well served if the federal government was removed from education. The states, the local schools, the parents, and ultimately the children, would be better served.

      Education is highly personal. It takes a parent and a teacher to make it happen; in effective home schooling, just a parent!

      As Washington looks to cut expenses, they would do well to eliminate the Department of Education entirely. Happily we would save billions and , amazingly, improve education.

    5. Brian Dillehay, Rent says:

      I agree, our education system is broken. Trying to pass a State wide Testing to see progress is bad idea, teachers spend more time teaching them to pass these test then really teaching what should be taught. On top of that we have it where kids skill levels vary from person to person, means you need to teach to a lower common denominator which then stunts the growth of education to the higher achievers. The education needs to be over hauled. Let the State, and local communities support more of the support of the schools and get the federal government out of Education.

    6. Bobbie says:

      Since when does flexibility cost a dime??? "No child left behind" sounds good, but a title or challenge shouldn't cost money!!! Absolutely no need for federal backing!!!!!!

      Where is superman??????????

    7. Carla Tennessee says:

      When it takes 13 yrs. to teach our children to read, write, and learn math skills, and they are in no more prepared to enter the work force when they graduate (if they graduate); what are we paying for, babsitters? I know those words are harsh, but are they wrong?

    8. Bobbie says:

      Harsh but right! Obviously more money isn't ever the answer and yet they exploit the children for more while the results of achievement are poor. Public education has become more harm then good and not worth the expense or benefits.

    9. Therese/Virginia says:

      Wouldn't it be great if the laws could be changed and all power

      concerning education be given back to the state and local governments?

      I think teachers who have been struggling to do what is right for their

      students would have a renewed sense of hope and excitement for the

      future of education. There is so much regulation and testing right now that

      I think a lot of teachers are just plain frustrated more than anything else.

      The majority of teachers are dedicated to their profession and would roll up

      their sleeves and lend their expertise to help make education work for our kids.

    10. Pingback: NJ Supreme Court to Christie: Spend more money « Hot Air

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