Anyone who has read articles I have previously written knows how little regard I have for the work the folks in Columbus have done in their efforts to reform public education. For the most part, I steer as far away from the Statehouse as possible, because the conversations that occur there about what education does or doesn’t need are so inane. However, I was recently invited to meet with several representatives who are co-sponsoring House Bill 212 (HB 212), which is called the Local Authority Restoration Act, and I must admit that this invitation intrigued me. It was intriguing because this bill didn’t appear to follow the standard political practice of replacing old bad legislation with new bad legislation.
I’ll be the first to admit that I take the “local control” mantra uttered by most legislators with a grain of salt, because they usually make their claims within the confines of the latest proposed legislation that further erodes the little local control we currently enjoy. But, this proposed bill appeared to be different, so I accepted the invitation to meet with Rep. Andy Thompson, the author of the bill, and some of his co-sponsors to learn more about it and to answer any questions they may have about what makes it a good or bad bill.
Based on the discussion at this meeting, at which two other school superintendents, a school board president, and other interested parties were present, HB 212’s goal is indeed to return educational decisions back to the local level and not to simply replace bad ideas with other bad ideas. He and the other sponsors appear to understand that nothing they have previously done improves the quality of education children receive and that unshackling educators from a multitude of poorly conceived mandates is a good thing for children. That, I must say, is a first.
For example, HB 212 proposes to eliminate the poorly conceived, legislatively mandated Common Core, the poorly conceived, legislatively mandated teacher and principal evaluation programs, the poorly conceived, legislatively mandated resident educator program, the poorly conceived, legislatively mandated end-of-course exams, the poorly conceived, legislatively mandated collection of student data to be used in inappropriate ways, and the poorly conceived, legislatively mandated state assessment programs that begin as early as kindergarten.
Admittedly, during the meeting, there were opinions expressed about topics like the Common Core with which I do not agree, but the beauty of this legislation is that that is okay, because I have no more of a right to impose my beliefs on others than they have to impose theirs on me. This legislation suggests that educational discussions should be occurring at local board meetings between locally elected officials and school administrators, not in the Statehouse of Columbus. That is a very good thing.
I don’t believe that Rep. Thompson is living under any illusions that his bill will be embraced by everyone in the House of Representatives, even by those within his own party. In fact, it is my understanding that he has introduced similar ideas in the past that were shot down by party leadership; probably the same party leadership that was telling us how much they believe in local control.
So, it will be very interesting to see how this bill moves through the legislative process and if it gets torpedoed like most bills that don’t include telling us how to live our lives. It will also be interesting to see how far Rep. Thompson will be willing to pressure his peers into “put up or shut up” mode when it comes to the discussion about local control, although, admittedly pushing too hard would probably be tantamount to political suicide for him.
I hope that if it is summarily cast aside, as is likely to occur, that people in education will throw their support behind him for his efforts. He deserves our support for taking this stand, a stand that will no doubt be very unpopular among his peers who love to tell us what to do.