May 10, 1999
Parents, teachers need freedom
Federal bureaucracy blamed for low-scores, violence
While cliche, it is nonetheless true that our children represent the future of our nation. And to ensure our nation's future remains bright, everything involving our children requires the utmost attention, most especially education.
All too often, though, parents find that instead of the educational bureaucracy existing to support them in training their children for the future, obstacles are placed in the way.
But it is a mistake for us to blame our kids' teachers for those obstacles. Indeed, the lion share of the blame should be placed at the feet of congresses, presidents and federal bureaucrats who for more than thirty years have improperly intervened in local educational issues. As the federal government has stepped into education, we have seen test scores decline, public confidence in education plummet, and incidents of violence on school grounds escalate.
In fact, classroom teachers are often as much victims of bureaucratic meddling as are parents and students. For not only do many in the current administration distrust parents with raising kids, they do not trust teachers to "do the right thing."
The insanity of the federal government's imposition of nonsensical rules and regulations is demonstrated by a recent incident in Virginia, just five miles from Capitol Hill. As reported recently in the Washington Times, it seems six students brought a weapon to school. Teachers learned of this and quickly moved to deal with the kids. All six were to be expelled, but one managed to avoid any punishment whatsoever. Why was the potentially dangerous student left in the student population? Under federal law, school officials were prohibited from expelling him because he is a "learning disabled" student. His "disability"? A "weakness in written language skills."
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) severely limits teachers and local administrators from taking rational, sensible actions to provide a safe environment for students.
Of course, IDEA is only one of the many ways in which federal tentacles have entwined themselves into the very fabric of our local schools, despite the fact our Constitution does not allow any federal involvement in education.
The dream of federal education bureaucrats for three decades has been the takeover of school curriculum decisions, either directly by deciding on textbooks, or slightly less directly by mandating a "national standards" student test. Fortunately, such designs have been curtailed by more sensible minds. However, the Clinton Administration is now poised to make an end-run around such prohibitions by pursuing a "national certification" test for teachers.
If teachers are taught to the test, they will teach what they have learned, goes the thinking, thus implementing a de facto national curriculum.
To combat this, I introduced HR 1706; this legislation will prohibit a national teacher certification test. In addition, it will prohibit the federal government from "punishing" states and local districts for refusing to go along with federal dictates.
Certification of teachers may make sense, but that is a decision that should be made by parents, local schools and the state governments.
A common complaint among parents and educators is that the relatively low pay of teachers makes it hard to keep good people in the system. To that end I have introduced HR 937, the Teacher Tax Cut Act, which would give elementary and secondary school teachers a $1,000 annual tax credit.
In addition, to ensure parents can provide for their children's specific educational needs, I have introduced HR 935, the Family Education Freedom Act, to give parents a $3,000 per child per year education tax credit.
If we are serious about providing for the best education for our nation's children, it is incumbent on Congress to recognize that thirty years of federal meddling in education has failed. Parents, teachers and local administrators do not need more rules, regulations and taxes; they need more freedom and accountability.