The United States Department of Education's federal mandates have caused it to become a national school board that takes control away from the state and local levels, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander said in Saturday's weekly GOP address.
"If you remember the childhood game, ‘Mother, May I?’ then you have a pretty good sense of how the process works—states must come to Washington for approval of their plans to educate their students," said Alexander.
The "congestion of mandates" has been caused by the No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top programs, said Alexander, as well as the use of waivers.
"Together, they’ve imposed federal standards for what children must know in reading and math, they’ve coerced some states into adopting Common Core standards, and they’ve imposed federal definitions of how a state should measure school, teacher, and principal performance," said Alexander.
This past week, Alexander said, Senate Democrats presented an 1150-page plan that freezes the mandates into place and creates 25 new programs while ordering more than 150 new reporting requirements.
"Republicans voted to move in a different direction," said Alexander. "We offered a two-hundred-and-twenty-page plan to help children in public schools learn what they need to know and be able to do by restoring responsibility to states and communities, and giving teachers and parents freedom, flexibility, and choice.
The GOP's plan, "Every Child Ready for College or Career," emphasizes that decisions remain on the state and local level, said Alexander.
"It rejects federal mandates that create a national school board, and prohibits the Education Secretary from prescribing standards or accountability systems for states," said Alexander. "It continues the requirement that states have high standards and quality tests, but doesn’t prescribe those standards."
Alexander said the GOP plan also makes it easier for states to offer low-income parents more choice in finding the right public schools, and encourages expansion of charter schools. It also encourages states to create evaluation programs for educators that are free of federal mandates, while offering states more flexibility in spending federal education funding.
"This is not a proposal just for Republicans," said Alexander. "We believe this proposal represents the views and will attract the support of governors leading the charge for education reform, teachers who value the freedom to teach, parents who want more choices for their children, and state legislators who are working for better schools."
Meanwhile, Alexander said, the Democrats' plan establishes a national school board.
"What such a proposal really says is they don’t trust parents and they don’t trust classroom teachers and they don’t trust states to care about and help educate their children, and they want someone in Washington do it for them," said Alexander. "We completely reject that. Our proposal places responsibility for helping our children learn squarely where it ought to be —on states and communities."
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