is a Republican representing Pennsylvania's Seventh Congressional District
Don't look now, but there's good news out of Washington. And it's good news for students, teachers, parents, and taxpayers.
First, some history. In 1965, Congress enacted the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, groundbreaking legislation that authorized the federal government to support our kids and teachers in the classroom. Congress made periodic changes to the law every few years, updating it to meet the changing needs of our states and school districts.
The bipartisan No Child Left Behind Act, signed into law in 2002, introduced more accountability into our education system by mandating regular testing to measure student achievement. Though well-intentioned, No Child Left Behind has proven unworkable and has had unintended consequences that have set back student learning.
But after No Child Left Behind, Washington gridlock brought the debate over federal support for K-12 education to a halt. It has been almost 15 years since the last time we've made changes to the law, and the 2002 measure lapsed seven years ago.
Despite repeated attempts, Congress has been unable to come together and put a K-12 education bill on a president's desk, and federal support for education has been confined to the status quo. Teachers, administrators, school boards, and parents hoping for reforms have been stymied.
That streak ends this month.
Last week, overwhelming majorities of Republicans and Democrats in the House supported a bill reauthorizing federal K-12 education programs. It's the product of a joint House-Senate panel that ironed out differences between versions of the bill passed by each chamber earlier this year. The Senate is expected to take up the measure this week.
As you would expect in any compromise, it is by no means perfect. But it does empower parents and puts more control of our kids' education back into the hands of our states and school districts. It has earned the support of, among many others, the National Parent-Teacher Association, the National Education Association, and the National School Board Association.
The bill ends Washington's one-size-fits-all scoring system known as "Adequate Yearly Progress." It gives more flexibility to school districts in how they use federal dollars to educate students. And it enables states to determine how to measure student achievement and school performance.
States and districts can determine which assessments and curricula work best for students and their teachers. It prohibits the federal government from requiring states to adopt Common Core. And it will help identify schools that are underperforming and what needs to be done to get them back on track.
One important provision:
The agreement prohibits school districts from facilitating the transfer of child predators to other local schools or districts. It's an important measure I championed with Bucks County Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R., Pa.) earlier this year that will help keep our kids safe when they go to school each day.
The end result of the agreement passed last week will be a K-12 education system that is more responsive to parents, more practical for teachers, and more effective at educating students for the jobs of tomorrow. And it's an encouraging sign that Republicans and Democrats can still work together and find solutions when it comes to what's best for our kids.