In 1965, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was enacted to improve the education of low-income students. Since that time, the federal government has become increasingly involved in the nation’s classrooms. The law was last reauthorized in 2002, before I was elected to Congress, as No Child Left Behind (NCLB), a law that made some of the most sweeping changes in federal law regarding public schools in nearly 40 years.
It is my firm belief that we must reduce the size and scope of the federal role in education and return more of the decisions about education back to states and local boards. Of course, any effort to provide students with a top-quality education must include the involvement and support of a wide range of stakeholders -- association groups, school board members, superintendents, principals, teachers, parents and students, among others.
House Republicans have been moving bills to rewrite this law. My colleagues and I want to improve ESEA and center on eliminating inefficient federal education programs; providing states and school districts more flexibility in the use of federal funds; empowering parents; supporting effective teachers; and reforming the law’s outdated accountability system. For instance, the current manner in which funding is funneled through separate streams can severely limit states’ and school districts’ ability to apply federal funds toward local education priorities and initiatives that meet the unique needs of their students.
It is my hope that Congress will continue to consider a number of education-related bills, with the collective goal of reauthorizing ESEA. As a member of Congress representing a district with rural schools, I want to stress to my colleagues that the policies of the last ESEA did not sufficiently account for the vast differences in school districts throughout the country, making it incredibly difficult for smaller school configurations with limited resources to meet the demands required under the law.