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5 Ways Republicans Actually Want to Increase the Role of the Federal Government in Education

The Republican Party likes to make a big deal out of not federalizing education and creating a “national school board.” They consistently insist that the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Act must scale back the role of the federal government. Below are five Republican amendments to the Student Success Act that are clear examples of the federal overreach the GOP claims to hate so much. (To be clear, only 3 of the following introduced amendments will be voted on.) Overreach #1 Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado introduced an amendment that “prohibits federal funds to any school that distributes or provides emergency contraception (such as the ‘morning-after pill’) or a prescription for such contraception on the premises or in the facilities of an elementary or secondary school.” If you follow me on Twitter, you probably already know how I feel about any politician trying to limit access to any form birth control (hint: not great, especially since rates of teen pregnancy have been declining for 20 years, due in part to the increased rate of access to and use of contraceptives) but this is especially appalling. To begin with, if the GOP believes families know what’s best for them, and schools know what’s best for their students, and neither needs any help from D.C., why on Earth would a Republican congressman introduce an amendment that clearly inserts the federal government into homes and schools? Overreach #2 Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York introduced an amendment that allows a state to withdraw from Common Core or any other state standards. Just to be clear: states are already allowed to do this. Just ask anyone in Oklahoma! Why pass a law for something that already exists? Should we also make sure there’s nothing preventing teachers from teaching? From parents helping their students with their homework? Doesn’t that seem like excessive legislating, Rep. Zeldin? Overreach #3 An amendment from Rep. Will Hurd of Texas “expresses the sense of Congress that students’ personally identifiable information should be subject to existing student privacy protection laws.” Thank you for expressing that sense, Rep. Hurd, but this is unnecessary and redundant lawmaking: student information is already protected under FERPA, which has been in place since 1974. Overreach #4 Freedom of religion is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, and the Supreme Court—as well as many lower courts across the country—has ruled on religious expression in schools. Despite the many laws that already speak to this issue, Rep. Bill Flores of Texas has taken this opportunity to put an amendment in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that “reaffirms” the right of students, teachers and schools administrators to exercise religion. Again: doesn’t quite seem in line with the “smaller government” virtue of the Republican Party. Overreach #5 In another blow to reproductive rights and health education, Rep. Randy Neugebauer from Texas introduced an amendment aiming to restrict funding to districts that contract with health centers unless the health center agrees that it will not provide students with abortions, abortion referrals or even materials on abortions. Not only does this amendment make me just insane—I worked in a school that had an incredible health center that was absolutely a positive contribution to school culture and student lives—but it is yet another example of hypocrisy from the right. If you’re going to argue that schools know what is best for their students, then you’d better try to stay on message.   For what it’s worth: I have no problem with law-making at the federal level, and find it to be an incredibly necessary aspect of policymaking. What I’m not such a fan of is hypocrisy-laden law making.
Photo of Colorado Representative Doug Lamborn.
Valentina Payne
Valentina Payne joined Bellwether Education Partners in 2021 as chief of staff to Andy Rotherham on the External Relations team. Prior to Bellwether, she spent seven years at brightbeam, where she most recently served as its chief growth officer, overseeing operations, finance, fundraising, and strategic growth of the organization.

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