Lesko Introduces Make Education Local Act

Congresswoman Debbie Lesko (R-Arizona) Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore
Congresswoman Debbie Lesko (R-Arizona)
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

Congresswoman Debbie Lesko (R-Arizona) introduced the Make Education Local Act of 2018 (H.R. 6259) that, in comparison to the Every Student Succeeds Act, would provide states much more flexibility.

If you’ve read my articles here you understand that the term flexibility as it relates to the Every Student Succeeds Act is something I scoff at.

Lesko’s bill, outside of Congressman Thomas Massie’s (R-Kentucky) bill to shutter the U.S. Department of Education, seems to be one that offers the most progress toward reducing (albeit not eliminating) federal control in K-12 education.

The bill would allow individual states to submit their own education plans, known as a State Management Decision, to the U.S. Secretary of Education. After approval by the U.S. Department of Education, all federal funding programs would roll into one pot of money for the state to implement their individualized education plan.

I bristle at the phrase “approval,” but reading the text of the bill I relaxed a little:

The Secretary shall review the State management decision received from the State Designated Officer not more than 60 days after the date of receipt of such decision, and shall approve, with respect to permitting the State to receive the funds described in subsection (a), such State management decision unless the State management decision fails to meet the requirements under subsection (c). (emphasis mine)

Here are the requirements under subsection (c). Each State management decision shall contain:

  1. a list of eligible programs that are subject to the State management decision;
  2. an assurance that the submission of the State management decision has been authorized by the State Authorizing Officials, specifying the identity of the State Designated Officer;
  3. the duration of the State management decision;
  4. an assurance that the State will use fiscal control and fund accounting procedures;
  5. an assurance that the State will meet the requirements of applicable Federal civil rights laws in carrying out the State management decision and in consolidating and using the funds under the State management decision;
  6. an assurance that in implementing the State management decision the State will seek to advance educational opportunities for the disadvantaged;
  7. a description of the plan for maintaining direct accountability to parents and other citizens of the State;
  8. an assurance that in implementing the State management decision, the State will seek to use Federal funds to supplement, rather than supplant, State education funding; and
  9. a description of how the State will address persistently failing public schools.

So here’s a summary of what this bill offers:

  • Allows states to submit a State Management Decision to the Secretary of Education that is valid for between 5 and 10 years.
  • A State Management Decision allows a state to be waived from all provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act and allows for that state to consolidate all federal education dollars into one single grant.
  • Protects the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act dollars from being consolidated and provisions of the law from being waived.
  • Increases transparency by requiring a state in their State Management Decision to outline their plan for using the dollars and how they will inform parents of student achievement.
  • Ensures accountability by requiring participating states to publish a yearly report of student performance and a description of how the state used federal funds to improve academic achievement and a yearly report with information for the public regarding other high-quality school options and choices.
  • Gives states the flexibility to financially account and consolidate federal education dollars in any way they choose.

There is private school language in the bill that could cause concern for some, I’m ambivilent.

There is a mandate for a state to report on other options within the state in their “report for student progress. Section 3(c)(2) reads that the report shall include, “a description of other high-quality school options available to parents in the State.”

Section 5 deals with private school participation.

Each State consolidating and using funds pursuant to a State management decision under this Act shall provide for the participation of private school children and teachers in the activities assisted under the State management decision in the same manner as participation is provided to private school children and teachers under section 9501 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 7881).

I don’t think this is a mandate for a state to provide a school choice program because that doesn’t exist under ESEA. Still, there is a reporting mandate, and states are required to provide for private school participation in programs federally-funded under the State managment decision. The devil is in the details, and the bill does not spell it out any further.

One of the primary things I appreciate about Lesko’s bill is that it is pretty straightforward and short, not as short as Massie’s bill, but it will only take a few minutes to read which I encourage you to do. As far as the future of the bill it only has four cosponsors at the moment so it has a pretty big hill to climb.

So again, this bill does not eliminate federal involvement in K-12 education. This would be an incremental step. I want to be clear on that. I also want to be clear that this is not an endorsement of the bill. It has piqued my interest, however.