A strong education system is vital to giving our young people the tools they need to grow and create a prosperous future for themselves. I believe students are best served when states and local governments, along with individual school boards, parents and teachers, are empowered to make education decisions. Unfortunately, for too long, the federal government has taken a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to education decisions. We know that what works best for one school system may not be the best choice for another one.
Throughout my time working in public service, I’ve said that the federal government’s role in education should be limited and well-defined. I’ve worked with President Trump to return K-12 decision making back to the states and local school boards. In fact, I’ve even called for the complete elimination of the Department of Education, and would eagerly support a bill to eliminate it if it were called up for a vote in the Senate. In the meantime, I’ve supported the A-PLUS Act, which takes the first steps toward doing exactly that. This measure is outlined later in this column.
Recently, I wrote about the need for less federal government, and the Department of Education is a prime example. The Department of Education is comprised of more than 80 sub-agencies and employs more than 4,000 bureaucrats. It is the agency responsible for programs such as Common Core and No Child Left Behind, which while originally well-intentioned, morphed into devices that allowed the federal government to centralize the education of our children. We believe these resources could be better spent if they were diverted directly to the states.
Since coming to the Senate, we’ve made strides in returning control of education decisions back to the local level. In 2015, Congress passed and the president signed the Every Student Succeeds Act, a comprehensive, bipartisan overhaul of our education system that began to restore decision-making to the local level, including accountability standards. It also provided more flexibility to our education system so that local educators could tailor the curriculum to better meet the needs of their students.
Additionally, President Trump has taken steps to get the federal government out of K-12 education. Shortly after taking office, he signed the “Education Federalism Executive Order” to review education regulations and modify or repeal those which are deemed an overreach by the federal government.
I recently joined a number of my colleagues in introducing the Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success (A-PLUS) Act. The A-PLUS Act takes important steps to restore local control of education decisions by giving state and local governments the option to decline participation in certain onerous federal education requirements. Instead, the A-PLUS Act would allow state and local governments to tailor their education programs to meet the needs of their individual communities. The Senate has actually voted on this measure before, in 2015 when we were debating amendments to the Every Students Succeeds Act. I voted for it that time, although it ultimately didn’t get enough votes to be included. We have to get Washington out of the way, especially when it comes to raising our youth. While the votes are not there today to successfully eliminate the Department of Education, this is a good step to bring education decision-making back to state and local governments.
Like other entities, education flourishes best through innovation. South Dakota’s parents, teachers and local school boards know the needs of our children and are better equipped to make education decisions than a Washington bureaucrat. If we can’t eliminate the Department of Education completely, I’m glad we’re able to take steps to mitigate its impact. We’ll continue to seek solutions in the Senate to get Washington out of the way, especially when it comes to raising our youth. They are the future leaders of our state and nation. The fewer federal roadblocks they face on their way toward achieving their dreams, the more prosperous our future.