Ninth District Congressman Adam Smith (D-Washington) is joining Senator Joe Lieberman to support a revamp of the federal role in K-12 education and will introduce legislation in the House to do so when Congress reconvenes in 2000.
“The federal role in education has become too bureaucratic, diluted, and ineffective,” said Smith. “It’s time that Congress takes a comprehensive approach to how we can better serve our children.”
Smith’s approach will condense existing Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) programs into broad categories of federal spending, target federal funds more heavily towards low-income students, eliminate or streamline federal regulations, and focus on results instead of process.
“After meeting with hundreds of teachers, administrators, and parents in my district, I learned that our federal education system is very archaic,” explained Smith. “For example, we have several different programs to make sure that kids learn English. School districts have to spend far too much time applying for these programs, jumping through different hoops to make sure they keep the funding, and administering the programs. I think it makes far more sense to have one pot of money that goes to schools, based on poverty and non-English speaking population, to help those kids learn English.”
Smith argues that we should allow more flexibility in how schools use federal funds. “Currently, the federal government provides about 6 percent of the funding for schools but imposes most of the regulations,” said Smith. “While we must ensure that kids’ and teachers’ rights and safety are protected, we have to give local communities more power to innovate and teach kids.”
Instead of process-based evaluation, Smith’s approach will judge schools on results. “If schools don’t improve, there are consequences,” Smith noted. “I’m proud to be working with Senator Lieberman on a dramatic change in the role of the federal government in education, a role that should be far more thoughtful and effective. The underlying principle is simply this: target the funds better, attach fewer strings, and demand results.”