The year 2018 will be a momentous one for federal and state education efforts. Legislatures across the country have convened and leaders will have an unprecedented opportunity to shape K-12 education policy.
As states begin to receive the green light on their accountability plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), schools and districts can now exercise the enhanced flexibility they need to provide a tailored learning environment for their students.
These plans would not come to fruition without strong state leadership. I have the privilege of working with various state leaders and seeing their policy efforts grow under this law. Conservative Leaders for Education (CL4E) is a coalition comprised of leading state policymakers focused on ensuring that conservative principles gain traction in state decisions. CL4E is made up of leaders serving in House and Senate Education Chairmanships, state Boards of Education, and executive leadership.
CL4E was founded on four key principles that guide our efforts in the implementation of common-sense, conservative education state policy. Local control, parent choice, accountability, and quality content define the foundation for strong conservative policy. As Chairman, I am proud to see these principles being executed and bringing positive impact and change in our members’ states. I call upon leaders across the country to incorporate these same conservative principles into their legislation.
Through local control, we reaffirm that educating students is predominately the responsibility of states and localities, especially when it comes to funding, personnel, and reviving poorly preforming schools. ESSA restored this critical balance, and now it is up to state and local leaders to step up and lead.
By reestablishing parent choice, we trust that parents will do what is best for their children, while not absolving lawmakers from providing oversight and accountability. Empowering parents with options can come in a variety of ways, including charter schools, ESA’s, voucher programs, course choice, and open enrollment. Parents know their children best and no single school or program can possibly be the right choice for every student. We need to empower all families with an array of great options.
Accountability demands that states, local districts, and individual schools be transparent through the provision of information to parents that is accessible, timely, comparable, and easy-to-understand. We need to measure and clearly report achievement and growth and be honest as to where we stand in a globally competitive environment.
Quality content emphasizes that high academic standards and aligned tests – both chosen by the state – are crucial because they evaluate what a student is learning. We need to avoid getting caught up in new trends and recognize that nothing can replace the combination of a solid, knowledge-based curriculum and high standards.
Currently, conservatives control more state legislatures than at any time in modern history. While legislatures are in session, I encourage conservatives to develop and enact strong education reforms using these four principles.
In 2017 our members took on major reforms by legislatively responding to ESSA with comprehensive standards and strong accountability plans, adopting new and innovative concepts related to school financing systems by rewarding higher preforming schools first, and enacting groundbreaking provisions in charter school funding.
In 2018 these leaders have already begun to examine the development of career and technical education offerings, survey tests designed for individual student instruction, and transform outdated systems and policies that fail to put student learning at the heart of all decision-making in schools.
These innovative reforms can also be achieved in your states. Conservative policymakers need to unite to enact tangible change that will best serve their state’s students, parents, and communities.
2018 is the time to ensure conservative education reform.
William J. Bennett is the former Secretary of Education and currently serves as Chairman of Conservative Leaders for Education.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.