As a former educator, I understand how important it is for our children to have access to a quality education. I am committed to ensuring parents and teachers have the tools and resources necessary to provide a world class education for our children.
Without question, education is one of the most important building blocks for success, and access to quality learning directly impacts life-long development and individual potential. As chairman of the House Subcommittee on Appropriations which funds the Department of Education, I am committed to ensuring parents and teachers have the tools and resources necessary to provide a world class education to our children.
Parental Rights, School Choice and Homeschooling
I believe strongly in the authority of parents to direct the education and upbringing of their children with minimal interference from government at any level. Consequently, I am an advocate of charter schools, vouchers, opportunity scholarships and homeschooling. I am committed to fighting for the rights of Oklahoma parents to educate their children in ways that best suit their individual households and families.
Elementary and Secondary Education
The recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act repeals the shortfalls of No Child Left Behind. I am pleased that the legislation seeks to scale back the federal government’s role in K-12 education by limiting the authority of the Secretary of Education, eliminating the federal accountability system and other unsuccessful programs. It also reduces unnecessary testing and prohibits a federal mandate requiring states to follow Common Core. Instead, the law gives states and local education leaders the authority to develop criteria and maintain responsibility for measuring the success of students and schools, addressing failures and filling learning gaps. Information will be made available to parents about school performance and charter and magnet school programs, so they can use the information to select the best education for their children. It also protects private and home schools from needless federal intervention.
I believe that it is imperative that Congress keep its promise and continue to fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which is the major federal statute for the education of children with disabilities. IDEA both authorizes federal funding for special education and related services and, for states that accept these funds, sets out principles under which special education and related services are provided. The requirements in this law are detailed and numerous, so it is vital that the federal government do its part to ensure that schools have the right tools to carry out these federal mandates. In 2015, I fought to more than double the increase in IDEA funding, sending millions of dollars back to local school districts to help them provide services for children with special needs.
Supporting Higher Education
Oklahoma's future and that of its children requires that higher education is both affordable and available for all those who desire to attend. Having affordable, quality higher education benefits not only Oklahomans attending college, but all Americans. With a better-educated workforce, Oklahoma can attract, retain and expand high-paying jobs. I support increased student financial assistance and promoted cutting-edge scientific research in Oklahoma to provide more educational and economic opportunities for students.
I am a strong supporter of programs like GEAR UP and TRIO, which are programs that help disadvantaged students prepare for and succeed in college. I also fully support federal student loans that give students access to college who otherwise would not be able to attend. However, I believe that these loans should be driven through the private sector so that students and schools have the option to choose the best loans that work for them.
Vocational and Technical Education
Vocational and technical education is a vital component of our secondary and postsecondary educational system. I will continue to support the Perkins program, which prepares youth and adults for the future by building their academic and technical skills and ensuring they are equipped to proceed with postsecondary education or pursue other avenues. This program provides a huge federal investment in high schools across the country.
Funding districts serving large "federally connected" constituencies—children of civilian defense workers, members of the armed forces and Native Americans—is essential. Impact Aid is one of the few formula programs where Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) receive funds directly from the U.S. Department of Education rather than through their states.
This program covers the cost of students living on Native American land or military bases. It provides payments to local governments because federal property and Native American lands are exempt from local property taxes, which is the main source of funding for most local school systems across the country. While the Department of Education administers Impact Aid, the Department of Defense provides additional supplemental payments for districts with large numbers of children from military families. Districts are eligible for these supplemental payments if at least 20 percent of their students come from military families. Many schools in Oklahoma rely on these funds to provide the resources to give their students a quality education. The Administration sought to cut those funds in 2015. My subcommittee protected Impact Aid and provided a modest increase in funding. This was critical to Oklahoma schools that serve our military population.
More on Education
With just a few short weeks left in the year, I am pleased to report that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in both chambers of Congress are working together to find common ground on issues that matter to the American people. In fact, last week alone brought with it legislative victories that proved the federal government can function under regular order--even when it is divided.
NewsOK - Chris Casteel
Four of the five U.S. House members from Oklahoma voted for the education bill meant to replace the much-criticized No Child Left Behind Act.
The Every Student Succeeds Act passed the House on Wednesday night by a vote of 359-64.
Reps. Tom Cole, R-Moore; Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne; Markwayne Mullin, R-Westville; and Steve Russell, R-Choctaw voted for it. Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Tulsa, voted against.
The bill is expected to be approved by the Senate and signed by the president this month.