Saying that "The secretary of education was never intended to be the nation's superintendent," U.S. Rep. John Kline said Wednesday that proposed legislation in the House would reduce the federal role in education and return authority to the states.
"Education has been the province of the states, of local control, of school boards and superintendents, and I think it works very well to leave it there," Kline told Tom Weber on The Daily Circuit. "So our bill works to reduce the federal imprint.
"We eliminate 70 federal programs. Why you'd have to have all of these federal programs has never been made clear. There are over 80 of them, by the way. We do return responsibility for addressing these standards and the accountability system to the states, and take it out of the hands of the secretary. We're trying to reduce that federal footprint, restore local control, empower parents by enhancing charter schools and other options, and ensuring that states are taking steps to support really good, effective teachers. That's the essence of our legislation."
Republican members of the U.S. House have introduced a rewrite of the expired No Child Left Behind act. The new legislation is called the Student Success Act. The Senate has passed its own version, with substantial differences.
Kline, chairman of the House Education Committee, observed that the Obama administration had responded to Congress's failure to pass a new education policy by issuing waivers to states under its own authority.
"It is sometimes a little bit of a struggle" to pass legislation, he said. "In the meantime, the administration came out and started to issue these temporary conditional waivers, and the attention of states understandably shifted to the process of trying to get their hands on one of these temporary conditional waivers. Some 37 states [including Minnesota] have those now, and they're finding that it's not all the panacea that they thought it would be.
"They realize that they're starting to take actions based on these temporary conditional waivers and they don't know what will happen to that when the law has changed. So there's a growing clamor, I think, across the country among Republicans and Democrats, all the education stakeholders, to say, 'Let's rewrite the law.' And that's why you see this increase of activity in both the House and the Senate."
Kline said the legislation he's supporting mandates that schools measure their success in certain topic areas but leaves the standards to states.
"Since the schools in Minnesota or anyplace else would be establishing their own standards and their own accountability system, they'll have a whole lot more say in how those assessments work," he said. "We do think it's important that the states continue to work on improvement in reading and math. That's the reason for calling for that requirement. And then we've also added this year a requirement , very much like the Senate has done, that science be included. ... This moves away from this 'adequate yearly progress' program that was set up in No Child Left Behind, and that every state in the country was rebelling against."
The House intends to begin holding hearings on the legislation next week.