As students around the country head back to school, Congress is in the middle of passing a major education package that will strengthen our nation’s education system with sensible reform.
I voted for an education bill just before Summer that contains many of the principles put forth by President Bush, including accountability and testing, flexibility and local control, funding for what works and expanded parental options. We need real reform to achieve better test scores and better performance results from the future leaders of our country.
The discussion about education policy should be first, last and always about our children. We should never lose sight of what the debate is about. At the same time, we should put teachers and parents ahead of Washington bureaucrats. Students learn best when schools are controlled by local decision-makers.
The No Child Left Behind Act, H.R. 1, passed the House by a vote of 384-45 May 23. Congress is currently reconciling differences between the House and Senate, and we will soon have a package that can be signed into law. When all is said and done, we will have an education initiative that gives students a chance, parents a choice, and America’s schools a charge to be the best in the world.
Some people say the answer to our education problems is to throw more money into the pot. While proper funding is important, it isn’t the be-all and end-all.
Achievement gaps between students rich and poor, disadvantaged and affluent remain wide—and have actually widened between some groups of students. Despite a federal investment of more than $130 billion since 1965, there is a huge disparity in educational achievement between disadvantaged students and their more affluent peers. Children in the United States lag far behind their peers in other countries in math, reading, and science. Black and Hispanic students continue to trail their more affluent counterparts in every grade level, in every subject. Today, nearly 70 percent of inner-city fourth graders cannot read at a basic level.
The No Child Left Behind Act sets a clear goal: when states use federal education dollars; they should be held accountable for getting results. To meet higher expectations, teachers and local school officials should have greater flexibility to decide how to address students’ unique needs. Parents want to choose the best education possible for their children—they should be empowered with data about the schools their children are attending, the qualifications of the teachers teaching their children and their children’s academic progress.
Federal education resources should be focused on helping students who are most in need of help. Dollars should flow to where they’ll make the biggest impact for our children—not to Washington bureaucrats. As a former schoolteacher, I believe these education reforms will have a great positive impact on our country’s school system and, more importantly, on our children. IBI