FRANKLY SPEAKING: The A-PLUS Act: Helping our Schools Get a Passing Grade

Imagine for a moment: public schools, right here in New Hampshire, where all students receive the quality education they deserve. Schools that receive adequate funding, where teachers, administrators and support staff are free from the shackles of restrictive federal mandates, where the entire education system can totally focus on giving our youngest citizens the knowledge and skills they need to succeed as adults.

That is, after all, what we want our public schools to do. Having visited nearly one dozen classrooms across New Hampshire since January, I’ve seen firsthand that educators genuinely want to accomplish their mission.

But in the nearly 50 years since Congress passed the Elementary and Secondary School Act (most recently repackaged as No Child Left Behind), and after spending nearly $2 trillion of your tax dollars, the education system still faces many challenges. Our educators are hampered by Washington on two fronts. First, the federal government collects tax revenue, and then returns a portion of it to New Hampshire with all sorts of strings and conditions attached to it. Second, educators must navigate through a mountain of regulations and edicts issued by bureaucrats in Washington.

Just think what our local education systems could do if parents and educators got the chance to decide for themselves how to spend the money that’s currently shipped to Washington, and determine what works best for educating children without towing the line dictated by the U.S. Department of Education. Our schools don’t need “new and improved” rules and regulations; they need freedom and flexibility.

I’m co-sponsoring a new piece of legislation that can make a better future for New Hampshire’s public schools a reality. I proudly added my name to H.R. 2514, the Academic Partnerships Leads Us to Success (A-PLUS) Act. Here is how it would work.

Under the A-PLUS plan, states would have the freedom to enter into a five-year performance agreement with the U.S. Secretary of Education. That would exempt them from federal education programs and block granting federal education funds to be used for any lawful education purpose the states deem beneficial. That action would allow states to opt out of No Child Left Behind’s programmatic requirements and use funding in ways that will best meet their students’ needs.

A state would have to get the approval of at least two out of three state entities (the Governor, the state legislature, and/or the state education agency). States must demonstrate increased academic achievement for all students and narrow achievement gaps. They must disaggregate performance data for various student demographic groups and provide a description of the state’s accountability system to parents and the U.S. Education Secretary. Further, they would also have to outline how they plan to improve education for disadvantaged students, and continue to meet all requirements of federal civil rights laws.

For too long, Washington has taken a cookie cutter approach to improving education. But that’s just not realistic. From Kennett High School in Conway, to Rochester Middle School, to Grinnell Elementary in Derry, the needs of students and individual schools vary, not only from district to district, but often within each district and town. A “one size fits all” approach doesn’t work, and hasn’t worked for nearly half a century.

The A-PLUS Act is based on a radical principle: that local educators and school administrators have a better grasp on the situation in their communities and, if given the opportunity and means, they can successfully address those problems.

Instead of expanding the federal government’s role in education, this legislation gets federal bureaucrats out of the way. Where Washington has failed, local schools can succeed. All they need is a chance, and the A-PLUS Act gives it to them. And I predict this: if they get that chance, you will be astonished by the positive results they will produce.

I look forward to reporting back to you in two weeks on the latest developments in Washington. In the meantime, if I can be of service to you, or if you want to share your thoughts, suggestions or concerns with me, please call either my district office in Manchester at (603) 641-9536 or my Washington office at (202) 225-5456, or contact me through my website at www.Guinta.House.Gov. You can also follow what I’m doing 24/7 on Facebook at www.facebook.com/repfrankguinta and on Twitter at @RepFrankGuinta.

Until next time, please know that I am always on your side and am actively fighting for New Hampshire’s interests in Washington.

Author: Rep. Frank Guinta

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