(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)
Senator Lamar Alexander, formerly both the Governor of Tennessee and the United States Secretary of Education, gave a compelling floor speech yesterday against a federally mandated opt-out. Let’s listen in from the Congressional Record:
The proposal from the Senator from Utah is a Washington mandate that says to States that Washington will decide that. So our proposal is local control. His, the way I hear it, is Washington knows best. That is like Common Core. The proposal that is on the floor for a vote tomorrow says Washington may not mandate to any of our States what its academic standards should be. That ends the Washington Common Core mandate. In the same bill, why should we put a Washington mandate about whether you can opt out of your test?
Why don’t we allow States to make that decision?
So I say to my Republican friends, especially, do we believe in local control only when we agree with the local policy? I don’t think so. The great economist Art Laffer likes to say: States have a right to be right, and States have a right to be wrong.
I have a different view. I am going to vote no on the amendment of the Senator from Utah because it takes away from States the right to decide whether and how to use the Federal tests and whether parents may opt out.
Why is that a problem? Well, in the following States, States use these tests as part of their State accountability system. They don’t have to do it, but they do use it. I am told by the State of Tennessee that if we were to adopt the Utah proposal Federal mandate, that the State would have to come up with a different accountability system.
So which States on their own have decided to use these tests as part of their State accountability system? Florida has, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas.
So I urge my colleagues to vote for the Alexander-Murray proposal because it reverses the trend toward a national school board and specifically allows States to decide whether States may opt out of tests while the amendment goes the other way. It is a Washington mandate that takes away from States the ability to make that decision.
Result- amendment voted down 32-64. #BOOOOOOOOOOOOM!