A proposal by Vice President Al Gore to boost federal spending on public schools by $115 billion over the next 10 years was criticized by House Education Committee Member Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) for handing control of education dollars over to unaccountable agencies in Washington, DC.
Instead of a system that would put state and local governments under the thumb of bureaucrats in rule-making federal agencies, Paul proposes giving control of education back to parents and teachers.
Gore proposed using new federal spending on education as an incentive for schools to improve teacher quality and student performance. There would be incentives for states to institute statewide exams for high school graduation, incentives for school districts to create smaller schools, incentives for schools to reduce class sizes, and incentives for new teachers in the form of signing bonuses of up to $10,000 for new college graduates and older professionals taking up teaching.
The plan, announced last December as part of the Vice President’s campaign for the Democrat Party’s Presidential nomination, also includes grants for higher pay for teachers in high-poverty schools, after-school and summer-school programs for failing schools, shutting down persistently failing schools, expanding charter schools, raising the compulsory school attendance age to 18, and providing universal preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds.
While insisting that “education is a state and local responsibility,” Gore made it clear the federal government would assume much of this responsibility by making far more demands on schools in return for the additional funds, which amount to a 50 percent boost in federal spending on public schools.
Taking over local and family responsibilities is not the way to reform the public school system, countered Paul, noting that every new education proposal from Washington has involved another layer of bureaucracy, which has proven harmful to education. Instead, he argued, “we need to let local school districts keep and distribute funds as they see fit.”
“Congress has no constitutional authority to control local education systems,” said the Congressman. “The bottom line is that politicians are holding our children’s education hostage in Washington for political purposes.”
With plans like Gore’s, Paul added, “they are also taking authority away from locally elected school boards and putting it in the hands of unelected bureaucrats.”
Rather than centralizing more authority and funding in Washington, Paul would give control of education back to parents and teachers. His recently introduced education reform package, the Family Education Freedom Act, H.R. 935, would give parents a per-year, per-child tax credit of up to $3,000 for education-related expenses.
Unlike the Gore proposal, which former education secretary Lamar Alexander characterized as creating a “national school board,” Paul’s bill would allow parents the maximum amount of freedom in determining how to educate their children.
Concerned also that Washington’s mandated teacher testing would lead to national testing and a national curriculum, Paul authored H.R. 1706, a bill to prohibit national teacher testing and certification. The bill’s language was included in the House-passed version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act dealing with teacher training. Paul and 14 of his colleagues are urging that the ban on national testing also be included in the Senate version of the ESEA re-authorization.