January 29, 2001
Education Freedom Legislation Will Provide Meaningful Reform
One of my main goals in the 107th Congress is to return control over our children's education to parents and teachers in Texas and across America. Unfortunately, as the federal government continues to increase its influence over education, the role of parents and teachers becomes more and more limited. Over the last 30 years, this increased federal control has proven harmful to education standards while wasting taxpayer dollars.
I believe that parents and teachers can better educate our children than federal education bureaucrats and politicians. With that in mind, this week I will introduce my "Education Freedom Package." This education package consists of three bills designed to increase parental control over their children's education, increase teacher pay, and provide incentives for individuals to make contributions to local schools.
The centerpiece of my education package is the "Family Education Freedom Act." This measure will give parents a $3,000 per-child per-year tax credit. The credit can apply to tuition, tutors, books, computers, and other related educational needs. It also applies equally to parents who choose to educate their children in public, private, or home settings. This tax cut is more effective than current voucher plans, which leave the door open to increased government influence on teacher standards and school curricula. Also, the tax credit takes no funding away from public schools.
The second measure is the "Education Improvement Tax Cut," legislation allowing individuals to claim up to $3,000 per year in tax credits for cash or "in-kind" donations to schools and scholarship programs. The goal is to encourage people to set up scholarship funds for disadvantaged youth, and also become more involved with their local schools.
Finally, I will introduce the "Teacher Tax Cut Act." This measure grants all teachers a $1,000 tax credit, effectively raising their salary by $1,000 annually without increasing local or federal education spending. Last year, new teachers made an average of $10,000 less than other college graduates. With teachers often ranking at the bottom tier of professional pay, the federal government must recognize that teaching our youth is an honorable and important profession. Many others in Congress agree that teachers deserve this tax credit: the "Teacher Tax Cut Act" already has received bipartisan support from Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-North Carolina), Rep. Dan Miller (R-Florida), Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Georgia), Rep. Richard Baker (R-Louisiana), and Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Maryland).
Each time we are presented with a new education proposal from Washington, it involves another layer of harmful federal bureaucracy. No big-government spending program can or will solve our nation's education problems. One-size-fits-all programs simply do not work. I want to give parents the freedom to choose the best options for their children. I want teachers to know that their services are valuable to our nation without making them subservient to federal bureaucrats. And I want to encourage local residents to get involved with their local schools through educational programs and scholarship funds.
My agenda of returning control over education dollars to the American people is the best way to strengthen public education. These bills represent a common sense, pro-family approach that says "no" to more federal involvement in local education and "yes" to more parental and teacher involvement. I thank my colleagues for cosponsoring these important pieces of legislation, and I call on every member of Congress to support meaningful education reform which once again will make American education the envy of the world.