Monday, July 15, 2013

Morgan Griffith on the Student Success Act

From Congressman Griffith's E-Newsletter:

"The Student Success Act

Those who read this column regularly know that I am no fan of the federal government trying to control every aspect of public policy.  The Constitution clearly intended for the various States to control the majority of public policy, with the federal government taking care of issues such as defense, commerce between the states, and the United States Postal Service.

Some have indicated their belief that my dislike of a large central government is just a way to attack this Administration.  While I do disagree with President Obama on many issues, I do not reserve this distrust of a broad federal government exclusively to his Administration.

For example, in my view, President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program (the most recent reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act) is a classic example of federal overreach.  Interestingly, when he was the governor of Texas, President Bush got the idea for NCLB from Virginia’s success with accountability standards reform to the Standards of Learning approved by the Virginia Department of Education in 1995.  Those standards were originally proposed as a State-driven idea by then-Governor George Allen (R-VA).  When he became president, President Bush and Congress created NCLB, which essentially is a one-size-fits-all federal education program that promised to hone in on student achievements and school performance.

Education has historically been and should remain a State and local matter, not one in which the federal government drives the train.  In the ten years that it has been law, the one-size-fits-all NCLB has shown a number of weaknesses.

Early on, these weaknesses were apparent.  In the 2004 session of the Virginia General Assembly, I supported a Delegate Steve Landes initiative that asked Congress to include a mechanism in NCLB that would provide automatic waivers for States like Virginia that had already successfully increased accountability reforms and student achievements at a State level.  The Bush Administration strenuously opposed the House language.

Now it appears that the House of Representatives may soon be acting on a bill known as the Student Success Act, which will strip away the most onerous parts of NCLB. 

While I support this measure because it pushes more authority to States and localities, it is not perfect.  It still leaves in place too much federal bureaucracy and red tape.  Need I say more than the bill is over 500 pages long?  If I were king for a day, I believe I could reform the federal government’s role in education in 25 pages or less.  I would not have the federal government dictating to the States, but instead, in exchange for federal dollars, would have it set general guidelines.  If States failed to provide the general services that the federal government funded, such as Title I, special education, etc., the State and local governments could be subject to legal sanctions.

That being said, here is some of what the Student Success Act does.

Among other things, the Student Success Act will establish state-determined accountability systems, which will give States and school districts the authority to measure student performance.  It will increase the flexibility of States and school districts to develop school improvement strategies and rewards, but maintain the requirement that States and school districts distribute yearly report cards that contain information on graduation rates and student achievement.  In an effort to promote a more reasonable role for the federal government in our education system, the Student Success Act also will eliminate some elementary and secondary education programs while consolidating others.

A local school Superintendent recently reached out to my office to express his thoughts on the proposal.  Though he also points out certain provisions of the bill that don’t have his strongest support, he said, “it is still far superior to the Senate version” of Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization because “it supports state and local control and does not codify recent USED [U.S. Department of Education] initiatives that favor large, urban districts.” 

Parents, teachers, local school districts, and States are in the best position to assess the needs of students, and I appreciate input on this and all issues.  While in the end we may not always agree, I do find it helpful to hear from you.

As always, if you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671.  To reach my office by email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov."