Empowering our local schools

By U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy and Joanna Rummer, Sierra Sands Unified School District Superintendent

This week, the House passed the Student Success Act (H.R. 5), which reforms education policy and returns much of the decision-making on these issues to the state and local school districts — where individuals on the frontlines in our communities are in the classroom helping students succeed — while still ensuring accountability. In addition, this legislation prioritizes a critical component to our local community — Impact Aid.

Our area is home to the best and brightest at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake and Edwards Air Force Base. These individuals work in state-of-the-art facilities in our communities to ensure that servicemembers have the best equipment, technology and weapons to complete their mission when called to protect and defend the United States.

And we know that our local school administrators and teachers take pride in ensuring that the children in our community get the best education possible.

As many of you know, because states and localities cannot collect revenue on federal properties, local school districts like Sierra Sands and Muroc Unified look to Impact Aid to provide needed educational resources to schools that serve children whose parents work or live on military installations. H.R. 5 makes important reforms to Impact Aid to ensure a fairer distribution of payments, timely payments, and guarantees our schools the needed resources that cannot be reduced.

As parents, we understand that the success and well-being of our children become paramount as they grow up. Our lives revolve around making sure they have the skills and opportunities to excel, and we know the foundation is a quality education.

Today the children in our communities are no longer competing with kids down the street, but with students in China and India and across the globe. That is why it is critically important for the next generation of American leaders to have the skills and knowledge to help them be successful over their lifetimes.

The best thing that can be done is to empower our local schools and return more of the decision-making to them, and this is what this legislation strives to do. We know that a one-size-fits-all approach does not work and Washington should not be dictating decisions to parents, teachers, and superintendents.

We worked with parents, school administrators, teachers and community leaders to develop commonsense reforms to improve student achievement. Many of these reforms are reflected in H.R. 5, including:

• The use of a growth model to measure student learning and keep schools accountable, which better reflects that each student is an individual and enters the classroom with different skills.

• A procedure allowing school districts and parents to identify highly effective teachers, who connect with and motivate students in the classroom.

• Reform to federal one-size-fits-all sanctions for low-performing schools, which has often resulted in a “throw the baby out with the bathwater” approach, by empowering states to develop accountability plans that empower schools to build on what they do well while making changes to areas that need improvement.

The Student Success Act is a commitment to empower parents and local school districts to help our students succeed and to ensure that our school districts that serve military families have the tools and flexibility to provide our children a world-class education.

It is our continued hope that these reforms will help our local schools further develop the next generation of leaders for our nation.

Story First Published: 2013-07-24