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  • The Case for a “Greatly Reduced Federal Footprint” in Education

    When Congressman John Kline (R–MN) served as a Marine, “one of [his] assignments was to carry the ‘football’—the package containing the nuclear launch codes—for presidents Carter and Reagan,” writes George Will in profile of the House Education and Workforce Committee chairman last week.

    Now Kline is quarterbacking the House approach to the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), which, Will says, “soon will be 10 years old and may not recognizably survive to see its 12th birthday.”

    As Will reports, Kline “emphatically favors ‘a greatly reduced federal footprint’ in primary and secondary education”:

    Kline promises that the current system for measuring “adequate yearly progress” “will not exist when we are done.” And he says “we have to get rid of this ‘highly qualified teacher’ thing” in NCLB. He thinks “qualified” is shorthand for teachers processed by the normal credentialing apparatus of education schools and departments. The stress, Kline says, should be on “highly effective teachers.”

    He favors more charter schools—public schools operating outside union restrictions. He notes that when unions say these schools are “unfair” because “they work under different rules,” he tersely responds: “Precisely.”

    The federal intervention into local schools began with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. NCLB is the eighth reauthorization of that law, which now includes dozens of programs, funded at $25 billion. This perpetual expansion and overhaul of programs has attempted to make federal intervention succeed where it has neither authority nor capacity.

    Before dealing with any of the specifics on NCLB, Kline has held a series of hearings (here, here, here, and here) designed to make clear the scope of the federal interventionist policy on education.

    From the hearings, it is clear that Washington’s involvement seems to have brought out the worst in education governance. It has led to ever-increasing spending and bureaucratic bloat while undermining schools’ direct accountability to parents and taxpayers. Federal intervention also creates a compliance burden, sapping time and money that could be more effectively deployed to achieve educational excellence. For example, according to James Willcox, CEO of Aspire Public Schools:

    To qualify for or renew Title I funding requires copious amount of paperwork. For each employee funded with Title I monies, we must fill out a personnel activity sheet each month. We must then outline their salary for that month and describe how much of that salary is from Title I funding. Each staff member and his/her principal have to sign these forms on a monthly basis. Across our 30 schools, teachers, principals and administrative staff spend approximately three hours per month filling out compliance paperwork. These are hours taken from supporting our teachers, assisting our families or preparing our students for success in college. In addition to these monthly reports, we must submit two 30-page reports each year outlining our adherence to Title I under No Child Left Behind.

    Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee chairman Duncan Hunter (R–CA) made similar observations from his congressional oversight perspective:

    Currently, the paperwork burden imposed by the Department of Education is larger than that of the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of the Interior, and the Department of Justice. From 2002 to 2009, the Department of Education’s paperwork burden increased by an estimated 65 percent—an astounding number that continues to grow.

    Congress can take steps now to set a course that will get Washington out of the way of local schools and restore constitutional governance in education, beginning with the following near-term steps:

    1. Take stock of and lead Americans in conversation about the toll federal intervention is taking on local schools. Policymakers need much more information on the scope and effects of federal intervention. The Government Accountability Office and others should investigate the extent and impact of the federal role in schools today. Policymakers should explain the toll of federal intervention through hearings, town halls, and an ongoing rhetorical campaign to accomplish a public opinion shift like that on welfare reform in the 1990s.

    2. Allow states to opt out of federal K–12 programs and direct funding to state education priorities. Federal policymakers should provide states with increased freedom so that they can focus on direct accountability to parents and taxpayers, not federal compliance. The A-PLUS proposal, a conservative alternative to NCLB introduced by Senators Jim DeMint (R–SC) and John Cornyn (R–TX), would allow state leaders to opt out of and consolidate funding from dozens of federal K–12 education programs and direct it to the most pressing education needs in their states without all the federal red tape. Meanwhile, it would provide transparency and accountability to parents and taxpayers for education results.

    3. Make way for state systemic reform. Federal systemic reform strategies, which have sought system-wide change since the 1990s through a top-down approach, have failed to improve academic outcomes. By contrast, state reforms have reaped results. Systemic reform in Florida, for example, has had impressive results reducing achievement gaps—succeeding at the original objective that spurred Washington’s intervention. Washington should get out of the systemic reform business, ending policies that overreach in this way and eliminating or consolidating programs to reduce redundancy and compliance burdens.

    4. Simplify Title I and make it student-centered. Title I funding for low-income students has become enormously complex since 1965, making it likely that “no more than a handful of experts in the country clearly understand the process from beginning to end.” To make sure maximum funding reaches low-income students, Congress should fund states based on the number of low-income students using a set per-pupil allocation. Congress should also allow states the flexibility to fund the student, not the system, through portability of the student’s per-pupil allocation to a school of choice.

    Expansive federal funding and burdensome administrative mandates have eroded good governance, increased state bureaucracy, and achieved poor results. Congress should restore constitutional governance by sending dollars and decision making to those closer to students—freeing states from programmatic strictures and lifting compliance burdens from local leaders. Empowering parents to choose the best schools for their children and releasing schools from bloated bureaucracy can improve every child’s opportunity to achieve educational excellence.

    Posted in Education [slideshow_deploy]

    14 Responses to The Case for a “Greatly Reduced Federal Footprint” in Education

    1. George Colgrove VA says:

      Retitle the article:

      "The Case for a “NO Federal Footprint” in Education".

      It is not neccessary. When homeschoolers can provide top-rate students to colleges who are desperately seeking them out, and considering these parents are educating these kids at a high quality level with a shoe string budget – it should tell us that money is not the issue – nor do we really need to worry about redistribution. States can handle education. Moreover local districts and parents can do even better.

    2. Bobbie says:

      With what we experience, the per pupil cost should go down, education standards up and teachers paid for performance based on per pupil achievement and graded by the parents.

    3. Susanna Pyron Floren says:

      I appreciate your work on solutions for the many problems in public education.

      I think that the more government takes responsibility from the parent and student, the more freedom we lose to choose what is right for each child and the more bureaucratic in fighting for funds and power over regulating education to stiltifying its progress.

      The Trivium and Quadrivium have been forgotten. The tools within the Trivium are indispensible. If we focus on man's ideas and not God's law, we are doomed. When John Dewey and Horace Mann came into the picture, we went astray.

      Let's face it. Without God the house will not stand. The Continental Congress ordered 20,000 Bibles be sent from Holland, Germany and France to help folks read so they could understand how the new Constitution. The Old Deluder Law of 1647 was to make sure every child could read the Bible to enable that student would know the difference when governments proposed something not in keeping with God's law.

      God bless your work.


    4. Norma in Nebraska says:

      The President talks about our students falling behind other countries, about the high drop-out rate in certain groups, and the lack-luster enthusiasm in our schools. What in the world does he expect?

      Congressman John Kline (R–MN) has it right . . . except instead of trying to simplify Title 1 perhaps he should be abolishing the federal Department of Education. The pure beaurocracy of that department, the thousands of employees, the thousands of mandates, only make it harder to educate our children.

      Here is what we really need: we need authority at the local level to meet the needs of our parents and our students according to what works in our area, we need to have our tax dollars kept here in our State so we are not funding someone else's needs, and we need to make sure our children learn "the three R's": reading, writing and arithmetic!

      All one has to do is look at the terrible mess that symbolizes our educational system, and it doesn't take a genius to figure out that $$$$$ is not the answer. So let's return the system to a time when it was working and proceed from there on the local level . . . leave the federal level to solve problems like reducing the deficit, spurring the job creators to employ the unemployed, and stabilize our dollar!

    5. John Carlson says:

      Leave education to the States. The Fed should not be allowed get there claws in it.

    6. Mike Godfrey, Omaha says:

      It seems to me that any inquiry should begin with the question of how the federal government can most gracefully withdraw from funding and regulating K-12 education. We should answer the question of what essential purpose the federal government serves, that individual states are not able to accomplish by themselves. Remember that any involvement in education falls outside the often-ignored enumerated powers of Congress in Article I Section 8 of the Constitution.

    7. Dinah Garrison Fairb says:

      Supervision of education should never have been moved to the Federal government. Not all schools have the same requirements, nor do they have the same "clients." The local school boards are in a much better position to understand how to deal with the needs of their students. It may sound like a good idea to have everyone in the country studying exactly the same thing at the same time, but this just is not practical since everyone does not start from the same place academically. Leave it to the locals to track the progress of their students. This added to the option of moving to charter schools if the parents are not satisfied with students' progress would be more successful than what we have going on now.

    8. John Rough 2097 Spri says:

      Why not eleminate the Education Department and the funding, eleminate the hours, paperwork, and jobs required to comply with the federal laws and rulkes?

    9. A. Herrera, New York says:

      The current educational model is just on a dead end, needs a whole new engine that let officials, teachers, students and parents to run a synchronized educational machine… For instance take a look at some, out the box, K-12 educational programs around the globe which have excellent results. The policies that requires a teacher pass a bad even worst, a failing student to the next grade; is an insult to everyone involved on that child development, a failing student should not be granted, let him/her repeat as often as is necessary. And on top of that the way schools are being evaluated, is ridiculous close schools because the rate of failing students, teachers are not 100% responsible, parents play an important role at home. There's more behind every failing case, broken families, abuse, negligence, drugs, alcohol…. and the list could be continue. A personal example of how the system is a complete fail: … about 15 years ago my little brother who was on 9th grade in Colombia, was terrible for math, half way that year, we moved to the States, and in the second of school week he was attending advanced math classes because he was so ahead of the rest of the regular 9th grade curriculum… I'm not surprise why so many students struggle on their first encounter with a college classroom, like a building if the foundation is weak, the whole structure may collapse, same here… Strengthen the quality inside of the classrooms, with EXCELLENT programs that impulse our children to be the best they can be, because on their hands lay the future of this nation.

    10. Jane Figueiredo, Mic says:

      Why such pale pastels?

      I've been talking to many teachers of different generations in savagely liberal S. Florida who think the Dept of Education should be ABOLISHED. Get ahead of the cart, please! Reagan couldn't do it, but maybe we can (after the next election). Maybe a Republican President could use executive order like a meat cleaver like the Dems do.

      If the monster is left intact, it will keep spawning problems. Teachers' problems are often caused by fed mandates and they know it.

      Also, the esteemed Mackinac Center (Michigan) believes an initiative petition could succeed in our heavily unionized state for Right to Work for public school teachers. Rank and file union members are against the teachers' unions on this one.

    11. Jane Figueiredo, Mic says:

      Those interested in reforming education may want to visit Eagle Forum's website to get Phyllis Schlafly's tireless work on the subject. Maybe if we can work together with many other strong conservative organizations we can get a critical mass together for real "change": totally eliminating the worst govt. bureaucracy the one that's aimed at controlling the minds of our children. Even poor parents in Detroit want their children in charter schools under local control.

      Increasingly both parents and teachers understand that the Dept of Education works to the detriment of both groups. Their constant promotion of expensive educational fads is so damaging.

    12. Pingback: Federal Education Reform: John Kline Lays Out the Next Steps | The Foundry

    13. G.E. Hoostal, Grabil says:

      God has given the ENTIRE DUTY of bringing up children, including that of their education, which includes their moral formation, to their parents. When the government interferes, it substitutes vocational training (that which is pleasing to the government, with no regard to that which is pleasing to God) & character deformation for almost all education. It leads children to hell. Martin Luther told us this centuries ago: “I am much afraid that schools will prove to be the great gates of hell unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures, engraving them in the hearts of youth. I advise no one to place his child where the scriptures do not reign paramount. Every institution in which men are not increasingly occupied with the Word of God must become corrupt.”

      Even an indirect influence of any part of the government does not belong in education. Any parent unable to shoulder the full load of educating his child must turn to the church & the church must assist however it is needed. Any able parent who refuses to educate his child is guilty of neglect & the child must be adopted by a mother and father glad to do their duty.

    14. G.E. Hoostal, Grabil says:

      Here are some relevant Bible verses, with my comments.

      “[T]he whole Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable to teach, to improve, to correct, and to instruct in righteousness, That the man of God may be absolute, being made perfect unto all good works.” (2 Tm 3:16) Something so important is indispensable to true education, &, being greatly the most important factor in it, must be the foundation.

      “These things warn and teach.” (1Ti 4:11) It is the duty of teachers to base their instruction on the Bible.

      “Gather the people together: men, and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the Lord your God, and keep and observe all the words of this Law, And that their children which have not known it, may hear it, and learn to fear the Lord your God, as long as ye live in the land, whither ye go over Jordan to possess it.” (Dt 31:12–13) It is the duty of EVERYONE in the entire country to study the Bible diligently.

      “Learn not the way of the heathen…For the customs of the people are vain…” (Jer 10:2, 3) Therefore, a Christian child must not be taught by a non-Christian teacher & must not be taught content without Christian basis or taught with any non-Christian method.

      “Train up a child in the trade of his way, and when he is old, he shall not depart from it.” (Prv 22:6) His way is the strait & narrow path; the trade of it is faith, repentance, piety, selflessness, the spread of the Gospel, & Christian martyrdom.

      “When thou shalt come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations.” (Dt 18:10) Some abominations being learned to do after, in the government-schools: “A wicked man” (Prv 29:27); “all who do unrighteously” (25:13, 14); “[t]hey that are of a froward heart” (Prv 11:20); “l[ying] with the male as one lieth with a woman” (Lv 18:22, 20:13); “the scorner [i.e. “one who scoffs at religion, its ordinances and teachers, and who makes a mock of sin and the judgments and threatenings of God against sinners” —Webster]” (Prv 24:9); “serv[ing] other gods” (Dt 13:13); “caus[ing] Judah to sin” (Jer 32:35); “[a]ll that are proud in heart” (Prv 16:5); “woman…wear[ing] that which perteineth unto the man…a man put[ting] on woman’s raiment” (Dt. 22:5); “oppress[ing] the poor and needy,” e.g. bullying others over not being able to afford stylish clothes; “spoil[ing] by violence,” i.e. robbing; not giving back something one promised to; lifting up one’s “eyes unto the idols;” collecting interest (Eze 18:12–13); sacrificing children (Dt 12:31), e.g. abortion.

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