11.21.2016 1

With control of state legislatures, GOP can reshape education policy across the fruited plain


By Natalia Castro

Educational reform for the last decade has relied on the simple notion that all Americans can learn the same way and meet the same federal standards. After nearly 15 years, the failure of this one-size-fits-all system has been obvious. Now Republicans have control of the Congress and the White House, but more importantly, they have control over the local and state governments that are integral to education reform. The power needs to be brought back down to these local bodies for education to finally become a success.

Under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, the federal government released authority over all institutions not listed directly in the constitution to the state government, education was one of these unnamed state government responsibilities.

However, with the Bush era imposition of No Child Left Behind education became a federal task. President Obama reauthorized a revised version of the act with Common Core standards. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal attacked these federal guidelines in a lawsuit against the Obama administration in 2014 arguing, “Common Core is the latest effort by big government disciples to strip away state rights and put Washington, D.C. in control of everything. What started out as an innovative idea to create a set of base-line standards that could be ‘voluntarily’ used by the states has turned into a scheme by the federal government to nationalize curriculum.”

In a response to pushback like this against No Child Left Behind, the Obama administration and Senate Republicans amended these standards with the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015. This law did provide some greater state control over their curriculum while still maintaining other less desirable parts of federal authority.

As Forbes.com’s David Davenport of Feb. 2015 explains, under federalized education plans where states are bribed with necessary funds to accept federal policy, states constitutional right to plan their own educational system is directly infringed. Now with Republican control, state and local governments can change this power struggle.

As federal education models continue to fail, this year states have the first major ability to regain control over their educational process.

For the first time in history, Republicans control 68 out of 99 state legislatures. In 33 states Republicans have control over both chambers.  Republicans have control over state and local governments, and for Republicans these houses should be the main vehicles for change.

Even states such as New York, which has been under democratic control for decades, once again has a Republican Senate which can push for educational reform.

Through following the framers intentions and using state and local authority to revise education from the bottom up, educational reform that works in state specific cases can be achieved.

As Education Week’s Alyson Klein of Nov. 2016 explains, with a Republican dominated legislatures, key reforms which empower states, students, and children are expected to pass. For example, school choice initiatives favored by Republicans and President-elect Donald Trump, but opposed by President Obama during the drafting of ESSA would now be passable.

Initiatives that allow students to attend private schools, charter schools, and schools outside their district encourage local communities and students to take control over their education. Federal education policy has stifled this consistently, but now state and local Republicans can bring education back to their communities.

The constitutional framers intended for education to work on a local and state basis, these officials know their populations’ needs best. That is true federalism. However, as the federal government has hijacked this responsibility from states it has crippled our entire education model. Now with Republicans dominating the state political arena once again with control of 33 legislatures, power can be devolved to its original holders.

Natalia Castro is a contributing editor at Americans for Limited Government.

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