Spoke today at National Governors Association Summer Meeting in Nashville
“We need to stop Washington from making it harder for governors to improve their public schools, raise standards, and recruit and keep good teachers.” –Lamar Alexander
Washington, D.C., July 11 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the senior Republican on the Senate education committee and former Tennessee governor, today called on the nation’s governors to support legislation that would “end the trend toward a national school board and stop Washington from making it harder for governors to improve their public schools, raise standards, and recruit and keep good teachers.”
“This Administration has used the combination of No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and waivers from No Child Left Behind to, in effect, turn itself into a National School Board, making decisions that states and local communities ought to make for themselves,” he said.
Alexander, who was invited to speak at the National Governors Association summer meeting in Nashville, urged the governors to support his legislation, which was supported by every Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, to fix No Child Left Behind and “free states to help meet the needs of 50 million children in 100,000 schools.”
He said the administration’s use of its waiver authority “to impose on states new requirements not contemplated in - and, in fact, prohibited by - federal law is the most troubling development.”
The result of the requirements imposed on states “is waiver applications more than 1,000 pages long, dealing with decisions that are precisely the core responsibilities of Governors, state legislatures, and local school boards, which is why I have suggested that the Department of Education has assumed the role of national school board,” he said, adding that the “the Administration’s overreach is creating a backlash from both conservatives and liberal groups, undermining the high standards, quality tests, teacher evaluations, and other reforms that most of us want.”
Alexander spoke at a roundtable session on the role of education in economic development.
The event came two days after the House of Representatives passed and sent to the president’s desk for his signature the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act – a bill to reauthorize and fix the Workforce Investment Act, which is the largest source of federal funding for job training programs in each state.
“We’ve changed the Workforce Investment Act to make it a more effective tool for training people to have the job skills to get jobs,” Alexander told the governors.
Alexander, who was a coauthor of the bill, noted that the votes were overwhelming: The vote was overwhelming: 415 to 6 in the House and 95 to 3 in the Senate.
The bill authorizes $9.5 billion in federal funding to help individuals develop the skills necessary to support themselves and satisfy the needs of local businesses.
In Tennessee, the bill will provide more than $145 million in funding that goes to 13 local workforce boards that operate about 75 one-stop job centers across the state.
“Our former Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen said to me that when he first became governor and went to find out about that $145 million, he just threw up his hands. He said: It is too complicated. I cannot do anything with it. So he told his cabinet members: Do the best you can,” Alexander said.
“Governor Haslam says that his top priority is trying to grow and attract jobs. What he hears from every employer is, ‘We have the jobs, but the employees don't have the skills,’” he added.
Alexander detailed what the new law will do to make the workforce investment dollars “a more effective tool for governors.”
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