Walker at Heritage Event: "Education Should Not Be a Partisan Issue"
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representative Mark Walker (R-N.C.) today gave the keynote address at the launch event for The Heritage Foundation's Center for Education Policy. He also announced that later today he will be re-introducing the Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success (A-PLUS) Act.
Education should not be a partisan issue." Walker said. "I can’t think of any other issue that is greater than education and our children when it comes to bipartisanship."
"As you approach this building from the northwest, coming from Union Station, you notice a not-so-subtle banner that continues to hang from the roof," Walker added. "It reads ‘FREEDOM. OPPORTUNITY. PROSPERITY.’ But if you think about it, it is really consequential in that order as well. Because without freedom there is no opportunity. Without opportunity there is no prosperity. And without prosperity the American Dream begins to dissipate to a place where it becomes obsolete. Without a quality education, none of these liberties are attainable."
Walker also announced the re-introduction of the A-PLUS Act. "[A-PLUS] restores education decision making to state and local leaders who are better positioned to make those informed decisions about the needs of their schools in their communities." Walker said. "The reason I am excited about this is that I think we are really close to going across the threshold and making this a reality."
This announcement follows Walker's efforts in the 114th Congress to return control of education back to states and local communities with the introduction of the A-PLUS amendment to H.R. 5, the Student Success Act. The amendment was narrowly rejected by a vote of 195-235 in July of 2015.
You can learn more about the event and the Center for Education Policy here. You can watch Walker's remarks above and read them in full below:
"Thank you James and thank you Heritage Foundation for having me here today to celebrate the opening of the Center for Education Policy, something that is very needed in our generation and certainly in our political times. The opening of this center affirms once again, the Heritage Foundation’s commitment to better education for our children, an issue intimately linked to the future of our nation.
"As you approach this building from the northwest, coming from Union Station, you notice a not-so-subtle banner that continues to hang from the roof. It reads ‘FREEDOM. OPPORTUNITY. PROSPERITY.’ But if you think about it it is really consequential in that order as well. Because without freedom there is no opportunity. Without opportunity there is no prosperity. And with prosperity the American Dream begins to dissipate to a place where it becomes obsolete. Without a quality education, none of these liberties are attainable.
"Well that then raises the question, maybe the ultimate question, is who is better equipped to provide for education in the future? Specifically in the arena of our children. Bureaucrats, or decision makers in Washington, or is it the states, the parents and the local communities. As conservatives we know that children succeed when parents and teachers are empowered, not the bureaucracies or the politicians.
"Education should not be a partisan issue. Let me say that again. Education should not be a partisan issue. In fact, interestingly enough, we hear much talk in Washington, D.C. of always looking for something that is generated out of a bipartisan heart. I can’t think of any other issue that is greater than education and our children when it comes to bipartisanship. You know I was sad even this past weekend, we were reviewing some of the things and the Saturday marches.
"Some of the marches and I won’t get into all the specific signs, I decided to look up the official website of the women’s march and what is was all about. There was eight initiatives. One on ending violence, reproductive rights, LGBTQIA right, worker’s rights, civil rights, disability rights, immigrant rights, environmental justice. Well there is a gross injustice in that platform. Nowhere is education even ever mentioned. And I thought about that, how sad of an opportunity for people, obviously with different perspectives, to march on such a historic weekend, yet not even have the gravitas or inclusion to be able to talk about education or the importance of where it is. That is something I was very troubled about. It is one of the most important American issues. But as we know, the current system has been failing our children for some time.
"I was doing just a smidgen of research. I was looking at specially and I have a chart here, of where the Department of Education spends all their dollars. It’s amazing. Nearly $72 billion, to be exact $71,699,000,000, department management $598 million, the Institute for Education Sciences $618 million, citizenship education $245 million, the list goes on and on. Yet, we have seen after decades, there is no improvement, no measured improvement when it comes to the education of our children. So why is A-PLUS Act important?
"I’ll tell you why. It empowers the states and communities to make the education decisions. To put it this way there is four major points. One, it restores education decision making to state and local leaders who are better positioned to make those informed decisions about the needs of their schools in their communities. Number two, it allows states to consolidate funding for any or all programs that are authorized under ESEA. Three, it reduces bureaucracy and increases transparency of student outcomes by redirecting accountability to parents and taxpayers, not Washington bureaucrats as we stated. And number four, it reduces federal intervention in education, to be more consistent with Washington’s ten percent share in financing, with the tenants of federalism.
"This is my second term that we are starting. Last time that we brought this, I had to grow up a bit as you have to do sometimes in this town, as far as when it comes to holding the line on not compromising your values and principles. I remember working very hard to even get this to the floor, to get it passed the Rules Committee. We were told that there was no way you were going to garner such a piece of legislation, maybe 120 or 130 votes max. We were very excited, our staff worked very hard, partnered with Heritage a year ago, a little over a year ago. About why this particular piece of legislation is important. Well we plowed through, we got it to the floor. Despite even some of our Republican friends’ opposition and we garnered 195 votes.
"The reason I am excited about this is that I think we are really close to going across the threshold and making this a reality. The A-PLUS Act, returning the power of these decisions of education for our children to our parents and to the hands…and many of you probably can think back as far as a pro-involvement or special teacher, to be able to have the ability to redirect those funds to specific programs that are working. In our local communities and school boards, I think this is the way to go. It is certainly pure federalism at it’s finest point. And we are happy to launch this and I am happy to announce today that we will be dropping this bill (A-PLUS Act)."