Column by Bob Goodlatte
Nothing is more important to our future than ensuring a high-quality education for our nation’s children. Decisions concerning education should be made at the local level first by parents, and then by teachers and local communities. We also need to measure how much our students are learning in fundamental subjects like reading, writing, math and science, which will ensure that their future is bright and full of opportunity.
In 2002, the Congress worked in a bipartisan fashion to enact the No Child Left Behind Act. This comprehensive legislation reformed the primary federal law impacting kindergarten through 12th grade education programs. The original intent of the law was to reform accountability, provide greater flexibility and local control, and give parents more options. The basic goals of the No Child Left Behind Act are good, but I continue to believe that it is important to provide more flexibility and decision-making power to the individual states, parents and teachers.
For that reason, I have cosponsored the Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success Act (A-PLUS), which frees states, like Virginia, from the federal requirements tied to funding under No Child Left Behind and grants them the flexibility to implement initiatives that they develop to best meet the unique needs of their particular students.
This bipartisan legislation gives states maximum freedom to implement initiatives that work in their individual state. The bill also reduces regulatory burdens associated with federal education programs so educators can focus on teaching rather than filling out paperwork.
Finally, this legislation ensures that states are accountable to schools, parents, and the general public for advancing the academic achievement of all students, especially the disadvantaged. Accountability will remain a high priority, and each state participating will be required to measure and show individual student progress. This ensures that states like Virginia, which already set high standards under state laws through the Standards of Learning, are not penalized for failing to implement a duplicate set of federal standards. Instead, states with strong accountability standards, like Virginia, would receive the additional flexibility they deserve.
Every child deserves the opportunity for a bright future by giving him or her the best education possible. Real learning occurs when students are in the classroom with quality teachers and it occurs at home with the family – not in a federal building in Washington, D.C. We must continue our efforts to put the ability to make educational decisions in the hands of parents and teachers, and send education dollars directly to America’s classrooms. Then we will truly have the finest education system in the world.
Bob Goodlatte represents Virginia’s Sixth Congressional District in the United States Congress. Contact him at www.house.gov/goodlatte/emailbob.htm.