Education policy belongs at the state and local levels

John-Kline-colorby U.S. Rep. John Kline
Special to Sun Thisweek
Dakota County Tribune

As families across Minnesota’s 2nd Congressional District adjust to a back-to-school schedule that autumn quickly ushered in, I would like to provide an update on my efforts at home and in Washington on behalf of students, parents and educators.

I am constantly working to ensure schools here in Minnesota and around the nation provide a strong foundation for our next generation of leaders. Throughout the school year, I hear often from teachers, students, parents, superintendents and school board members about education successes and struggles. Many have shared with me their concerns about the outdated No Child Left Behind accountability structure.

Whether I am meeting with educators at education roundtables in Minnesota, visiting kids and teachers at our local schools, or conducting committee hearings in Washington, I have heard countless stories about amazing progress happening in schools in Minnesota and around the nation. This success isn’t due to heavy-handed Washington dictates; rather, it reflects the work of parents, educators, principals and state officials who decided the status quo is not good enough for our kids.

We learned about the ground-breaking programs and initiatives they’ve implemented to serve students more effectively. We listened to the ways they are working to hold schools more accountable – not just to the government, but to their local communities and families. And we heard impassioned stories of how much more these dedicated reformers would do for our children, if not for the slew of onerous Washington mandates and outdated regulations standing in the way.

In July, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the Student Success Act (H.R. 5), my legislation that revamps our education system by reducing the federal footprint, restoring local control, supporting effective teachers and empowering parents. Simply, it is about delivering the long-term solutions children deserve.

My legislation eliminates the one-size-fits-all Adequately Yearly Progress metric and returns authority for measuring student achievement to states and school districts. It also grants states and districts maximum flexibility to develop effective school improvement strategies for underperforming schools. And the bill repeals the outdated federal “Highly Qualified Teacher” requirements and encourages states and school districts to develop teacher evaluation systems that better gauge an educator’s influence on student learning. Above all, the Student Success Act is about tearing down barriers to progress and granting states and districts the freedom to think bigger, innovate and put more children on the path to a brighter future.

Far too often, partisan bickering and petty politics dominate the headlines from Washington. I am pleased to report there are instances in which Washington comes together on behalf of the Americans they represent. In August, I joined President Obama in the Oval Office for the signing of the Smarter Solutions for Students Act (H.R. 1911), bipartisan legislation that ties student loan interest rates to the market rather than allowing Washington politicians to set the rates. My market-based plan kept rates from doubling and actually lowered rates for thousands of Minnesota graduate and undergraduate students.

Seeing this bipartisan proposal become law reminds us what can be accomplished through hard work and compromise. I look forward to building upon this success as we work toward other shared goals, including raising the bar in the nation’s classrooms by revamping federal K-12 law, strengthening job training opportunities for American workers and improving college affordability and access through the upcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

I take seriously my role in Congress to help protect and defend America’s children and their families. As chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, I helped champion bipartisan legislation that funds the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The legislation, H.R. 3092, passed the House of Representatives last week and ensures the center can continue its work on behalf of our nation’s greatest resource – our children.

I would like to offer my best wishes to parents, students and educators as the 2013-14 school year continues and they take an important step toward securing a brighter future for everyone.

U.S. Rep. John Kline, R-2nd District, is chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee. He also serves on the House Armed Services Committee. He and his wife, Vicky, live in Burnsville. Columns reflect the opinion of the author.