I’m no fan of federal meddling in education. It’s unconstitutional. It’s costly. It’s ineffective. That’s why I believe we should retire, not reauthorize, NCLB. A Republican reauthorization plan has passed the House, but its enactment prospects are slim.
To be sure, the Republican plan is better than NCLB in its current form—more control back in the states, consolidating and eliminating dozens of overlapping federal education programs, and eliminating heavy-handed proficiency mandates. But that’s nowhere near good enough. The Republican plan purports “to promote a more appropriate federal role in education.” But what role is that, exactly? While we wait on that answer, there’s another reauthorization bill that gets far closer to the mark.
The Local Education Authority Returns Now Act (LEARN) would:
… give states the option to opt out of No Child Left Behind. In return, the federal government would provide taxpayers of the opt-out state a tax credit, thereby keeping money in the pockets of taxpayers instead of sending it to Washington, D.C. This method immediately cuts the authoritative and financial strings of the federal government so that state and local governments can set their own educational standards while ensuring maximum parental involvement.
Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ), who introduced LEARN, explained:
I believe it is in the best interest of our students and our country for parents and local authorities to be in charge of education…The invasion of the federal government on the reserved powers of the states to set their own education standards has been going on for decades. And, in the process, all across the nation, parents, teachers, administrators, town school boards, and local elected officials—the people closest to and most directly responsible for the students—have been shut out of the process. In order for our students to compete in the twenty-first century, we need to cut the ties of federal mandates that go along with federal money.
… The LEARN Act…would ensure that accountability is transferred from bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. to the people who know the schools and students personally. If we are truly interested in transforming our public education system, we need to remove Washington bureaucrats from the equation and return control and accountability to local communities where they can truly effect change in the areas they know it is needed most.
Getting taxpayer dollars back into the hands of those who earned it—and removing the Washington middle-man brokerage fee—is a model first step for improving education and bringing the federal government back to its proper Constitutional bounds.