How much educational control should come from Washington D.C., versus municipalities and states?
Education funding and requirements had long been left up to municipalities and states. But starting in the 1960s, the federal government really began to expand its role. In the 21st century, the federal government now plays a larger role in education than ever before.
Many believe this to an intrusion by big government, and point to America’s mediocre educational results compared to other nations as supposed proof of a federal failure to improve outcomes.
What the bill does
The Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success (A-PLUS) Act would allow states and municipalities to opt out of federal education requirements.
Jurisdictions could also choose to receive their federal education funding in block grants, to do with as they please, rather than with specific funding amounts allocated for specific purposes from Washington, D.C. (For example, a certain number of dollars going to special education.)
What supporters say
Supporters argue the bill permits more local control and relieves difficult federal burdens, tailoring educational experiences for students towards a particular community’s desires.
“Our North Carolina teachers and administrators have a tough job, one that is made harder by mandates from Washington that stymie opportunities for student growth,” Rep. Walker said in a press release. The bill “will empower teachers and parents to ensure every child has access to a quality education, while lowering administrative burdens and allowing schools to focus on and invest in their most urgent needs — whether infrastructure, supplies, or teachers.”
“Montana’s students deserve the best education our schools can give them,” Sen. Daines said in a separate press release. “Montana educators and administrators know what their students need to succeed better than D.C. bureaucrats. That’s why I introduced this bill to expand local control of our schools so we can return federal education dollars back where they belong — closer to the classroom.”
What opponents say
Opponents counter that the federal government is best positioned to ensure that all students in America receive a quality education across the 50 states.
“To turn it [education funding] over to the states effectively makes the referee a player on the field,” former Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO2) said on the House floor when a previous version of the legislation was introduced in 2015. “We need to have an objective look.”
“We need to make sure that if states have additional flexibility in grants — something I think that we can certainly work together on… there is an objective standard under which what they are doing with that flexibility is determined to work or not to work,” Polis continued. “And if it doesn’t work, we need to encourage those states to move in a different direction. If it does work, we can increase our efforts to support them.”
Odds of passage
The legislation was previously introduced by Rep. Walker as an amendment to 2015’s Student Success Act. The amendment failed 195–235. Democrats unanimously opposed it 0–186. Republicans were mostly in favor but with a fair amount of opposition, 195–49.
This time around, the House version has attracted 31 cosponsors, all Republicans. It awaits a potential vote in the House Education and Labor Committee. Odds of passage are low in the Democratic-controlled chamber.
The Senate version has attracted eight cosponsors, all Republicans. It awaits a potential vote in the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee.