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Cit Pat: We must promote innovation and increase flexibility within school system

February 25, 2014
Opinion Editorial

Graduating from high school greatly increases the chances of finding and keeping a job later in life. Unfortunately, current trends paint a bleak picture, as nearly 30 percent of students across Michigan fail to graduate and in Jackson County Public Schools the number is even higher. Everyone recognizes problems with our current system, but we differ on solutions.  Instead of just spending more money on a broken system, it's time we address the onerous federal mandates that limit classroom innovation.  

As a member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, I've witnessed firsthand the inherent problems with imposing a one-size-fits-all system that restricts states and school districts from developing solutions to meet their needs. Even the Obama Administration has acknowledged the problems in elementary and secondary Education by granting states temporary waivers from the current law if they adopt the president's preferred policies. Forty-two states, including Michigan, have gone along with this approach which represents an unprecedented expansion of federal control over our nation's classrooms.

I have worked with my colleagues to help restore state and local control for our educators, parents and students. In July 2013, the House passed the Student Success Act, which marked the first time in more than a decade we approved legislation to revamp K-12 education law.  The Student Success Act puts control back in the hands of parents, school leaders and local communities. The bill would also eliminate nearly 70 ineffective or poorly performing programs, and repeals the burdensome Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) metric.

In January, I toured Branch's Early Childhood center, where I met eager-to-learn children and parents taking an active role in their child's education. Parents should have the ability to choose the best education for their child, whether it's the local public school, a charter school or schooling at home. They should be given more say over the federal funds that are already being spent on their children.

Earlier this month, I attended a House Education and the Workforce hearing to review investments the federal government makes in our youngest citizens, whether it's development programs or education. We also examined any overlapping and ineffective programs that could save money if reformed. During the hearing Dr. Russ Whitehurst, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, underscored the importance of not letting children slip into a one-sized-fits-all education system and stressed that parents need to retain the ability to decide what is the best for their child's education. He reiterated that states play a critical role in helping parents make that decision.

We must promote innovation and increase flexibility within the school system.  Instead of a federally mandated approach from Washington, the state of Michigan and our local school districts should be allowed to use funds in the way that bests suits the needs of their students,. One of the greatest gifts we can give to our children is the gift of a good education, setting them up for future successes in school, work and life. It's time for the President and Senate to join House efforts to revamp K-12 education and help put more children on the path to a brighter future.

To read the original article at the Jackson Cit Pat, please click here.