Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC), the chairwoman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, was the subject of an interesting profile by Anna Douglas with the McClatchy DC Bureau.
Foxx, who helped lead the writing of the 2016 Republican Party platform and served in House leadership, figures she’ll have to dilute Education Department power bit by bit. Already, she’s championing the use of a rare legislative tactic in Congress to eliminate some Obama administration regulations.
And Foxx is putting pressure on her colleagues in Congress to write the sort of legislation she wants, contending that some past laws were written sloppily and left too much leeway for federal departments to fill in gaps with rules and regulations.
Any federal educational policies, she told McClatchy in an interview, should come from lawmakers – not bureaucrats.
“We’ve got some good laws in place – let Congress do its oversight,” she said. “Sometimes doing nothing from the federal level is good.”
She wants to send power back to the states and local school districts:
Foxx, who served on Watauga County’s school board for 12 years before joining Congress in 2005, wants decision-making left to states and local school districts.
“The closer you are to what’s happening, the more likely there is to be self-correction,” she said. “I want to devolve as much as possible to the localities and to the states.”
She has been irritated by recent overreach from the Department:
Rules, regulations and “dear colleague” letters from the department in the past incensed Foxx. Too often, she said, federal departments use regulations or executive power to distort legislative intent.
“We’re gonna stop this foolishness of letters and then people saying, ‘I’ve got to do this.’ Where is the authority for that? There’s no authority, but the school systems are scared,” she said.
She shared what she thought was one roadblock to closing the U.S. Department of Education outright:
Foxx’s big idea? Which is highly unlikely to happen: Stop collecting federal taxes for education.
“I’d get rid of the Department of Education if I could,” she said. “But we cannot just devolve things without allowing (states) to have the money. . . . If we’re still hauling that money in up here, we haven’t solved the problem.”
Foxx’s rhetoric is encouraging, as I’ve noted before, and her support ending Obama-era regulations is a good first step, but I am skeptical. Foxx has supported several federal education initiatives including the Every Student Succeeds Act. She says, “we’ve got some good laws in place.” What exactly constitutes a “good” federal education law in her mind? Certainly, the U.S. Department of Education needs to be placed in check whether it is under the leadership of Democratic or Republican leadership, preferably it needs to be shuttered. Whether she will indeed lead that charge or just give lip service to it remains to be seen.
Another question is whether she will place a check on Congressional overreach as well? Now that she is in the driver’s seat in the House she will have plenty of opportunities to demonstrate that is a priority.