Excellent commentary by Lindsey Burke and Rachel Sheffield. This was written in 2013, but relevant for today.
The 113th Congress has the opportunity to dramatically reshape federal education policy in a way that re-establishes education decision making with states and schools, empowers parents, and restores excellence in education. Congress has the opportunity to make education funding more student centered; to ensure funding for special needs and low-income children actually serves those children, instead of feeding the bureaucracy. Congress has the opportunity to reform federal education programs in a way that cuts costs, saving taxpayers money while making spending more effective. To achieve these goals, the 113th Congress should:
- Recognize that parents, and then private preschool providers, should be the first option for families, followed by state programs, when necessary. Avoid any incentives to expand government preschool.
- Understand that excellence in early education requires cleaning up the labyrinth of existing federal preschool and day care programs, and eliminating ineffective programs.
- Base decisions about preschool funding and programs on evidence, and reconsider the future of Head Start.
- Reject wholesale reauthorization of No Child Left Behind.
- Allow states to make their Title I dollars portable to better serve low-income children.
- Eliminate and consolidate ineffective and duplicative K–12 programs.
- Offer relief to states and schools through reforms such as the A-PLUS Act, providing a genuine alternative to No Child Left Behind.
- Prevent any new federal funding of national standards and assessments.
- Stop the education spending spree and allow for meaningful reform.
- Restore dollars and decision making to those closest to the student by reducing the size and scope of the Department of Education.
- Allow states to make IDEA funding portable to better serve special needs children.
- Expand the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program to ensure low-income children in the nation’s capital have access to schools that meet their unique learning needs.
- Expand Coverdell and 529 Education Savings Accounts to help families invest in education.
Instead of tinkering around the edges—or worse, perpetuating the failed status quo through more spending and programs—Congress should take responsibility for cleaning up the bureaucratic mess it has created for states and schools, and should do what it can within its proper constitutional limits to expand choice and make education funding more student centered. The steps outlined above will help to accomplish those goals, and provide a blueprint for restoring excellence in education.