Ron Paul's Texas Straight Talk - A weekly Column

January 24, 2000

Parental Control, not Federal Mandates, Key to Education Reform
Ron Paul fights to cut taxes on parents, reduce mandates on teachers

A recent Investor's Business Daily story told of parents across the nation who have become so frustrated with their lack of control over their children's education that they are taking school administrators to court! For example, parents in Plano, Texas are challenging the school district's intention to use textbooks relying on "connected math." These parents want their children taught traditional math, not the education establishment's latest fad. In a similar case, a mother in Fort Zumwalt, Missouri is suing the school district for not offering her autistic son the education program that she believes will enable him to reach his full potential.
These suits are the result of the increasing centralization of education which has given federal bureaucrats more control while reducing the ability of parents to control their children's' education. Unfortunately, these lawsuits will not further parental control. Instead, they will empower judges to seize more control over schools. If we truly want to reform the system, we need to return control over the education dollar to parents, teachers and local school districts. However, each time we are given a new education proposal from Washington, it involves another layer of bureaucracy, and that has proven harmful to education.
Despite the abundant evidence of the failure of centralized education, Vice President Al Gore recently introduced a new proposal that would give Washington bureaucrats an additional $115 billion to place new regulations on local schools. A key element to the plan is that no school district could receive federal funds unless they had a plan in place to test teachers.
Federally mandating teacher testing would inevitably lead to national testing as Washington-based politicians and bureaucrats would demand that state and local governments conform to their national specifications. National testing means a national curriculum. Since teacher education will revolve around preparing teachers to pass the national test, new teachers will base their lesson plans on what they need to know in order to pass the Education Department-approved test.
In order to stop the Federal Government from seizing complete control over the teaching profession, last year I introduced legislation, HR 1706, which prohibits such national testing and certification. The bill passed the House of Representatives in July, but has yet to be voted on in the Senate. Last month, along with 14 of my colleagues, I sent a letter to Senate Education Committee Chairman James Jeffords (R-VT) asking that the ban on national testing be included in the Senate version of the legislation.
In addition to fighting the nationalization of the teaching profession, I am working to give control of the education dollar back to parents through my Family Education Freedom Act (HR 935). This bill would give parents a $3,000 per year tax credit for each child's education related expenses. Unlike Mr. Gore's proposal, my bill would allow parents the maximum amount of freedom in determining how to educate their children. It would also be free of guidelines and restrictions that only dilute the actual number of dollars spent directly on a child.
My bill would allow the parents in Plano to chose schools with appropriate textbooks and free the Missouri mother to make sure her autistic son gets the type of education that best suits his needs. In fact, the Family Education Freedom Act will especially benefit the parents of children with disabilities because it gives them the freedom to use more of their own resources to meet their child's unique educational needs.
Congress has no constitutional authority to control local education. Thirty years of centralized education have produced nothing but failure and frustrated parents. The bottom line is that politicians are holding our children's education hostage in Washington for political purposes, and with plans like that offered by Mr. Gore, they are also taking authority away from locally elected school boards and putting it in the hands of unelected bureaucrats. I will continue to use my position on the Education Committee to fight to improve education by giving dollars and authority back to parents, teachers and local school districts.