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June 27, 2014

State, local voice is pivotal in education

PRYOR, OK — For many years at Edison High School in Tulsa, my wife, Kay, dedicated her life to teaching and mentoring young students, never knowing that in the years to come, two of our children would follow in their mother’s footsteps, building classrooms of their own and impacting the lives of so many young people.

Through my family’s unique educational experiences, I have learned that with teaching comes the great responsibility of not only working with students, but also parents, employers and many in the local community to ensure our children are well equipped for the road ahead.

But in recent years, the voice of local leaders is being eroded through inhibitive policies and regulations established by large federal agencies, like the Department of Education, acting on their own. Education has historically been a state and local issue, and I cannot stand by as these agencies trample on the rights of our local school boards and communities to set education policy for our children as they see fit.

With more than 660,000 children enrolled in public schools across Oklahoma, it is pivotal we ensure that state and local school boards continue to have the authority needed to carry out education policy decisions. This is why I have recently introduced the Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act. With this legislation, I aim to bring control of our education policy back to where it belongs—with our local communities—giving school boards the necessary flexibility to achieve their educational goals.

Nationwide, 96 percent of local school board members are elected, making those members accountable to the many students, parents and taxpayers they represent. By strengthening the process for meaningful input by impacted stakeholders, our local communities can remain active in the decision-making process for education policy in Oklahoma.

If passed, my legislation would rein in the Department of Education’s unchecked regulations by ensuring state and local school boards have a voice as to how these regulations are affecting their education goals. The legislation would also require the agency to provide Congress with an annual report on how its policies are impacting our local school districts, enforcing transparency in the federal government.

 As we have seen in years past, many of the overarching education policy changes declared by Washington bureaucrats have resulted in negative effects on local school districts, particularly with the financial burden placed on the schools to enact the regulations. To address the excessive cost, my legislation requires the Department to first verify with local educational agencies whether or not they have the financial resources and technical assistance needed before issuing any regulations, rules, guidance materials or grant conditions. My bill would also help to eliminate waste by requiring a review of existing reporting requirements and identify and cancel those that are duplicative.

 It’s time to put an end to the federal government’s “Washington knows best” mentality. With the Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act,  we can return education decisions back to the parents, teachers, and local leaders who know our children’s needs first hand and are on the front lines of shaping their future.

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