Polls are still open in the western half of the country, and although control of both the House and Senate remain undecided at the moment, the current returns and projected winners suggest several emerging themes in education reform among the incoming class of United States Senators. Those themes are school choice, parental involvement, and local control.
Kentucky senator-elect Rand Paul’s (R) position may be the most extreme example of this mindset given his advocacy for the abolishment of the U.S. Department of Education, but it highlights the shared interests of his incoming colleagues in curtailing federal involvement in education and shifting decision-making back to the states, and more specifically, to the local level.
Indeed, Arkansas senator-elect John Boozman (R) declares on his congressional website, “Our teachers, administrators, and parents are far more familiar with the needs of the students in Third District of Arkansas than the federal government can ever be. I believe it is imperative that their role in our children’s education is not constrained by micromanagers in Washington.”
Kelly Ayotte, the winner to replace retiring senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) and a member of the Senate Education Committee, says she “strongly believes that the best way to strengthen public education is by empowering parents and local school boards–not Washington bureaucrats…[and] supports efforts aimed at providing parents with school choice.”
Six of the twelve points in incoming Florida senator Marco Rubio’s education platform are related to vouchers (or publicly funded “scholarships”) and school choice: vouchers for 1) students with disabilities, 2) pre-school children, 3) Washington, DC students, and 4) students in failing Title I schools, as well as a universal education tax deduction for families for education expenses (including tuition) and a corporate tax deduction for companies that donate to scholarship programs.
Even amid Kansas senator-elect Jerry Moran’s call for a safe learning environment and more highly qualified teachers includes the admonition that Congress “must be careful not to pass federal mandates that restrict ingenuity, responsiveness, and development at the state and local levels. Since parents and teachers best know the educational needs of their children and students, Congress should allow local school districts to determine how to best use federal educational resources.”
The adversarial attitude to Washington in education matters isn’t confined to Republicans. Connecticut senator-elect Richard Blumenthal (D) sued the federal government over provisions in the No Child Left Behind Act regarding unfunded education mandates.
Post submitted by David Griffith, ASCD’s Director of Public Policy. Sign up to receive special analysis of the mid-term elections delivered right to your inbox. A special edition of ASCD’s Educator Advocates newsletter will analyze the election results–the winners, the losers, the impact on state and national education policies and priorities, and what it all means for educators and students.