Every Child Achieves Act

Floor Speech

Date: July 9, 2015
Location: Washington D.C.


Mr. DAINES. Mr. President, as a fifth-generation Montanan, a product of Montana public schools, a husband of an elementary school teacher, and the father of four children, including one of them who has a degree in elementary education, I understand how important a first-rate education is to our kids' future.

As I meet with parents and educators across Montana, they frequently share concerns about the one-size-fits-all student performance and teacher qualification metrics that currently dictate Federal funding as part of No Child Left Behind. While well-intended, many of these metrics have proven difficult for schools in rural areas to achieve.

As the Senate debates the Every Child Achieves Act to reform our Nation's education policies, one of my priorities will be fighting to increase local control over academic standards and education policies and working to push back against burdensome Federal regulations that often place our schools in a straitjacket.

For example, the U.S. Department of Education has incentivized States to adopt common core standards by offering exemptions from No Child Left Behind regulations and making extra Federal education funds accessible through programs such as Race to the Top to States that adopt common core. However, as are many Montanans, I am deeply concerned that the Federal Government's obvious efforts to back States into adopting such programs is an inappropriate interference in education policy decisions that should be made by the States, should be made by the parents, by the teachers, and local school boards.

If we are serious about wanting to make future generations as fortunate as ours, it is critical that we prepare our children to excel in a globally competitive economy. Our children should receive a well-rounded education that focuses on core subjects, including reading, writing, science, and math, as well as technical and vocational disciplines and training in the arts.

It is clear that the Federal Government's one-size-fits-none approach isn't working. That is why I am introducing the academic partnerships lead us to success amendment, or A-PLUS for short. It is an amendment to the Every Child Achieves Act. I thank the chairman and the ranking member, Senator Alexander and Senator Murray, for allowing a vote on this amendment today.

This measure will help expand local control of our schools and return Federal education dollars where they belong--closer to classrooms. With A-PLUS, the States should be freed and will be freed from Washington unworkable teacher standards. States would be free from Washington-knows-best performance metrics.

States would be free from Washington's failed test requirements. States would be held accountable by parents and teachers because a bright light would shine directly on the decisions made by State capitals and local school districts.

With freedom from Federal mandates comes more responsibility, transparency, and accountability from the States. It would empower our States, our local schools, our teachers, and our parents to work together to develop solutions that best fit the unique needs of each child. The A-PLUS amendment goes a long way toward returning responsibility for our kids' education closer to home and reduces the influence of the Federal Government over our classrooms.

I thank Senators Grassley, Cruz, Vitter, Johnson, Lee, Lankford, Blunt, Crapo, Rubio, and Gardner for sponsoring my A-PLUS amendment, and I ask my other Senate colleagues to join us in empowering our schools to serve our students, not DC bureaucrats, and support this important amendment.

I see my colleague Senator Lee of Utah is here, and I yield my time for his comments on this amendment.


Mr. DAINES. Madam President, the academic partnerships lead us to success amendment--also called A-PLUS--gives States greater flexibility in allocating Federal education funding and ensuring academic achievement. Here is what it does. States would be allowed to obtain Federal education funding in the form of block grants. States would submit a declaration of intent to the Department of Education to consolidate Federal education programs and funding and redirect sources toward State-directed education reform initiatives. What this does is allow State and local leaders to exercise greater control over the use of Federal education funds to address the needs of local students and target scarce resources to areas of highest need.

I ask my Senate colleagues to join me in empowering our schools to serve their students, not DC Democrats, and support this important amendment.