The Importance of Education
By Senator Mike Rounds
July 17, 2015
A strong education system is vital to making certain our young people have the opportunity for a prosperous future. To accomplish that goal, I believe the federal government’s role in education should be limited and well-defined. I’m pleased the Senate came together recently to pass the Every Child Achieves Act, or ECAA, a comprehensive, bipartisan overhaul of our education system that will improve the quality of education across the nation.
The ECAA passed the Senate 81-17 and has been endorsed by teachers, superintendents, local school boards, state legislatures and governors. The ECAA restores decision-making on education and accountability standards to those who know students best—parents, teachers and local school boards—and provides flexibility to our education system. I believe in local control of education. While standards are important, a “one-size-fits-all” directive from the federal government has proven to be the wrong approach and has led teachers to “teach to the test.” Returning education decision making to its rightful place – in the hands of local governments – is a needed replacement to the No Child Left Behind law, which expired in 2007. Since that time, 42 states have been operating under waivers from No Child Left Behind– proof of just how much reforms have been needed.
I’m pleased that the Every Child Achieves Act included a deficit-neutral amendment I offered to address low graduation rates at tribal schools. My amendment seeks to improve the quality of education in Indian Country, especially in rural and high poverty areas. In some parts of the country, tribal schools have graduation rates as low as 40 percent, which is half the national average. This is unacceptable. Native American students—just like all students across the country—deserve a strong education system to prepare them for a successful future.
My amendment also lays a foundation to fix the systemic education problems facing students in Indian Country by directing the Department of the Interior and the Department of Education to conduct a study in rural and poverty areas of Indian Country. The study will identify federal barriers that restrict tribes from implementing common-sense regional policies instead of one-size-fits-all policies directed from Washington. It will also identify recruitment and retention options for teachers and school administrators, and look at the limits in funding sources these schools are facing. Lastly, the study will provide strategies on how to increase high school graduation rates at tribal schools.
Our students are our country’s greatest asset, and every student deserves a quality education. The Every Child Achieves Act improves our education system by empowering states, teachers and school boards to make their own curriculum decisions. This will lead to higher standards, better teaching, better learning and more accountability. I’m pleased my colleagues came together to pass the ECAA in the Senate and will continue to seek ways to strengthen education.