Issue Position: Education
Qualls Supports Local Control of Public Education and School Choice for Parents
What role, if any, should the federal government play in the administration of Minnesota schools? For instance, there is no mention of education in the enumerated powers of Congress found in Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, but many state constitutions, Minnesota’s included, do address education.
Despite this, increasing federal involvement in education has come to the forefront of discussion during the Democratic presidential debates, and it is clear that the solution many Democratic candidates propose is to further force the federal government into our children’s classrooms. This is exactly the opposite direction we should be going.
Goals 2000. Common Core. No Child Left Behind. Every Student Succeeds Act. All were federal programs meant to “improve” education in one way or another, but in reality, added more layers of bureaucracy, more paperwork and more federal intervention to the administration of Minnesota schools, without the corresponding dollars to carry out the mandate.
In the same way we know not all students learn in the same way or at the same pace, why should we assume that one-size-fits-all federal mandates will be effective, especially in Minnesota, where our standards and performance are much higher than many other states.
Additionally, federal mandates rarely come with the dollars to carry them out effectively. There is no more glaring example than in the area of special education. In 1975, the federal government pledged to fund 40 percent of the cost of educational services for students with disabilities. Forty-five years later, they have failed to deliver even half of those funds, and school boards across Minnesota must provide a “cross subsidy,” using dollars from other parts of their local district budgets to fund special education services. That’s just wrong. The federal government should honor its commitment to fund special education at the level they promised.
We also know that while some students do well in the traditional public-school model, other students do thrive in a charter school environment. Some prefer a private, parochial or religious school, some do better in homeschooling, and some desire the option of a completely on-line experience.
A growing number of schools are shifting to a “Teacher-Powered” mode of operation in which teachers collaborate to run every aspect of a school, including curriculum, budget, hiring, and how best to deliver education at each grade level.
All these options are legitimate models for ensuring student success, which is why I support school choice. Dollars should follow the student, as is the practice in higher education. We can and should be able to provide parents and students meaningful options in how they are educated without lessening our state’s constitutional mandate to provide quality public schools.
As your Congressman, I will work to ensure the important decisions regarding our children’s education and future are made here in our state. No one knows more about what children need in the classroom than the parents, teachers and students themselves.
Restoring control to locally elected school boards, honoring the federal commitment on special education funding, and supporting true school choice are essential in ensuring the educational, skills training, and support needs of all students are met.