WASHINGTON, D.C. | September 15, 2020
House Democrats are advancing partisan legislation that imposes a top-down, big government approach that would have the federal government decide how best to address local issues of diversity in America’s schools.
On the House floor today, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Republican Leader of the Education and Labor Committee, delivered the following remarks:
“Republicans and Democrats agree that discrimination and state-sanctioned segregation are repugnant, illegal, and blatantly immoral. Studies have shown that integrated schools promote greater understanding, tolerance, and improved educational outcomes.
“I do not disagree with the intentions behind this bill but have major reservations about its efficacy. Will this bill stand the test of time? Will these ideas have helped the ongoing effort to achieve greater equality for children? Sadly, the answer is no.
“The Education and Labor Committee has a long history of reaching across the aisle and finding common ground to effect meaningful reform for our nation’s schools and students.
“The legislation before us today was another opportunity for Committee Republicans and Democrats to find bipartisan compromise. Unfortunately, Committee Democrats ignored commonsense approaches to this problem to impose a top-down, big government mandate that would have the federal government decide how best to address the issues of racial and socioeconomic isolation in America’s schools.
“As we’ve seen many times before, additional government mandates and burdensome red tape are not the answer. Congress has already set up the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants, a block grant created to give school districts flexibility to pursue local solutions to their communities’ educational challenges. Local and state leaders and those with their feet on the ground know how best to combat these challenges, not the federal government.
“That’s why Rep. Allen will offer a Republican alternative later today that will provide this House a bipartisan solution that could easily garner an overwhelming majority of support in this chamber if every member chose to focus on the importance of actually addressing racial and socioeconomic isolation in schools. His amendment would ensure that nearly every school district in the country would have the flexibility with federal funds they may need to tackle this problem. This is how legislating for solutions, rather than legislating for headlines, can work.
“Republicans want nothing more than to see all American children prosper. That means expanding opportunities for marginalized students to gain access to an education that prepares them for lifelong success. It also means school districts taking action to reduce racial and socioeconomic isolation in schools.
“A bipartisan path forward to make that possible is achievable, but Democrats would rather score political points than work with Republicans on solutions that will make a significant difference in the lives of our nation’s children.
“Instead of building upon a program that has bipartisan, bicameral support, Democrats’ H.R. 2639 sets up a new grant program within the Department of Education that will inevitably be underfunded – if it’s funded at all.
“Creating more government programs that have to scramble for funding in order to operate successfully is the last thing we need to foster the best environment for all students to learn.
“H.R. 2639 also ignores the biggest problem facing low-income students and students of color – a lack of high-quality educational options. Committee Republicans stand ready to work with our colleagues in the majority to expand educational opportunities to all families. But rather than bring a bill to the floor that would expand the availability of charter schools or offer marginalized families the kind of educational freedom that the wealthy exercise for themselves, Democrats decided teachers’ unions are more important to them than real families who are desperate for access to a better education for their children.
“My Republican colleagues and I believe that expanding opportunities for students should be a priority. We know school choice gives families the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty and enroll their children in challenging environments that better develop their skills and intellect, encouraging them to reach higher. In fact, studies show that when students are given the freedom to attend school in a learning environment best suited to their abilities, they pursue and complete postsecondary opportunities at higher rates.
“Access to opportunities, freedom to climb—these are the aspects of a student’s education that must be equal for all children nationwide. No one-size-fits-all structure can deliver on those essentials. Separate was never equal, but equality cannot simply mean uniformity if that uniformity doesn’t prepare students for lifelong success. Equality is affirming that all children are fundamentally the same in dignity, importance, and worth, but also understanding that not all children’s needs are the same.”
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