By now, students and parents all around Southern Nevada have completed one of the back-to-school season’s most recognizable traditions: shopping for school supplies. Equipped with lists provided by their local schools and teachers, students will fill their carts with pens, folders, notebooks and aspirations for a successful school year.
Yet on larger questions of education policy and funding decisions, we allow our school districts and schools to be restricted by one-size-fits-all mandates from Washington. This begs the question: If it works for school supply lists, why can’t local control work for all education policies? I believe it can.
With the Elementary and Secondary Education Act — commonly called No Child Left Behind — more than five years overdue for reauthorization, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce set out to enact meaningful education reform that improves the quality of education for K-12 students. Certainly, No Child Left Behind made some progress on national educational policy, but laws and policies should be revisited and can always be improved.
Under No Child Left Behind, Washington’s role in education was expanded, yet fell short when it comes to accountability for student success. Ask yourself: Who is better suited to ensure our students succeed? A bureaucrat at the Department of Education? Or the administrators, teachers and parents who interact with students on a daily basis and are actually working in our classrooms? To Washington, Nevada’s students are simply figures in a report or numbers on a graph. To teachers and parents, they are the future of our communities and our state. I stand with our teachers and parents.
The House Education Committee, on which I serve, believes a reduced federal role in education and increased local control over education policies are the most effective ways to improve education nationwide. The committee advanced the Student Success Act, which recently passed the House of Representatives. The act would return control over education policies to local teachers and administrators, reduce the federal footprint in our nation’s classrooms, empower parents to make the best education choices for their children and support effective teachers. This approach will allow states and localities, along with teachers and parents, to determine the best education policies for their children, while the key responsibility of the federal government will be to ensure the fair and equal administration of those policies.
The Student Success Act also focuses on developing and supporting effective teachers and empowering students’ greatest advocates: their parents.
Because our students deserve the best and most effective teachers, the Student Success Act calls on states or school districts to develop their own teacher evaluation systems, rather than relying on teacher credentials or tenure requirements. Our bill sets broad parameters— including linkages to student achievement data— that must be included in any teacher evaluation system, but allows states and school districts to design their own systems. It also requires states and school districts to seek input from parents, teachers, school leaders and other staff as they develop the evaluation system.
Finally, the Student Success Act empowers parents by maintaining support of and funding for charter and magnet schools, and ensuring parents have the information they need to make informed decisions about their child’s education. This includes having access to teacher evaluations and maintaining long-standing parental involvement, consent and notification provisions found in current law.
As the first in my family to attend college, I recognize the value of education and the opportunities it can provide young people. As the global job market becomes more competitive, education will always be a means by which people can separate themselves during the hiring process. The Student Success Act will help students in Nevada do just that.
Our children are heading back to school with a road map for success that starts with a school supply list based on local input. Nevada’s parents, teachers, and administrators know what their students and schools need. It’s time we let them take the lead in educating our children.
Rep. Joe Heck, a Republican, represents Nevada’s 3rd District in the House of Representatives. He serves on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.