On his Facebook page, Rep. Justin Amash presents his education platform. Some interesting stuff is going on.
The right of parents to educate their children as they see fit, including the right of homeschooling, should not be infringed. Government-mandated curriculums and teaching methods do not properly account for different learning styles, leaving many children confused and falling short of their potential. To encourage innovation and competition, the federal government should—and constitutionally must—leave the matter of education to the states, where it will be better managed and funded. Critical decisions should be made locally, letting parents, teachers, and community leaders determine the most efficient use of resources.
Cut through the rhetoric and starry-eyed romanticism, three items stand out: first, removal of funding from the Federal government (the ending of Title I) would substantially affect special education. As disabilities tend to correlate inversely with socio-economic status (ie more for the poor), underfunding special education puts poor schools and neighborhoods particularly at risk.
Second, the other key initiative underway is that of developing Common Core and standards — this is the business of those “government-mandated curriculums (sic)”. Again, shifting to the states can seem to be a good idea, but as state behavior post NCLB demonstrated, states have a natural incentive to set the bar low. We get Lake Woebegone schools where everyone is “above average.” Again, the impact for such policies falls disproportionately on the poorer communities; lower standards become an excuse for substandard performance. If nothing else, NCLB got one important truth right: student success should belong to all not just to some.
A third liability to Rep. Amash’s rose-colored viewpoint is simply this: poor districts often lack the resources from the state and local funding to fully provide the programs sufficient for student success. Again, helping the poorer districts is the second major funding dimension to the federal education budget.
So we are back to the key questions: how do we make sure our weakest students get a good education; and how do we make sure our schools actually work to raise the standards for all children and not simply those of the well-off districts?