U.S. Sen. Mark Begich is continuing to reiterate his call to aggressively overhaul the No Child Left Behind Act and to return “flexibility and responsibility” to states and communities.
In a letter to Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee, Begich expressed his concern that waivers offered to states unable to meet NCLB requirements failed to provide a long-term solution and that the new bill being proposed, the Strengthening America’s School’s Act , doesn’t go far enough to prevent federal overreach.
In the letter, Sen. Begich wrote said that many elements of NCLB are a poor fit for Alaska, and he has argued for policies better recognizing and respecting the importance of local communities and local knowledge in our education system.
While Begich believes that the waivers offer much-needed relief to schools, the waiver process was overly prescriptive. The states long congressional democrat said that we must make sure the underlying policies in an overhaul of NCLB do not continue the pattern of federal interference tied to unreasonable expectations and rules that often don’t make sense especially in small, rural and remote schools.
Sen. Begich, in the letter, goes on to emphasize the importance of allowing states to set their standards based on their unique needs and then be held accountable for performance without regular interference from the federal government.
Sen. Begich also took the opportunity to state that it’s time to reevaluate the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program, indicating that funds could be better spent on other programs that support all students. Begich also noted his support for his proposal to include the Investing in Innovation program, which would set aside dedicated funds for innovative rural education projects.
Begich was a strong advocate for overhauling NCLB even before he came to the Senate. Over the last two years he has repeatedly pressed Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell to apply for a waiver. Sen. Begich sent multiple letters to Parnell urging him to do so after President Obama announced in September 2011 that the Administration would grant waivers from NCLB to qualified states.
The state’s waiver was approved last month.