Let’s get back to school

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 17, 2016

By Rep. Bradley Byrne

Anxious. Excited. Nervous. Intrigued. Those are just a few of the emotions students feel as they head back to school.

As a parent, we share many of those same emotions; excitement for our child and their ability to grow and learn; and nervousness about the challenges each school year brings.

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These feelings aren’t restricted to just parents and students. Teachers and administrators go through similar emotions as they prepare for a new school year.

I recently sat down with our local superintendents to share ideas and talk about ways to improve education in our area and around the country. So, as the new school year kicks off, I want to highlight some of my top priorities when it comes to education.

In Congress, I am honored to serve on the House Education and the Workforce Committee. This committee has jurisdiction over both higher and K-12 education. As a former member of the Alabama State School Board and former chancellor of Alabama’s two-year college system, the committee has been a natural fit for me.

Throughout my time on the committee, I have made it my top priority to limit federal involvement in education. Faceless bureaucrats sitting behind a desk in Washington, D.C. should not be deciding what is best for our students in Alabama. We must restore local control over education.

Earlier this year, Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaces No Child Left Behind. The Wall Street Journal wrote that the new law represents the “largest devolution of federal control to the states in a quarter-century.”

As the law is implemented, my colleagues and I are pushing the Obama Administration to follow the intent of the bipartisan law and get the federal government of out the way. Parents, teachers and administrators at the local level – not federal bureaucrats – know what is best for our students.

Another top priority has been to ensure federal money actually makes it to the classroom instead of getting stuck in the bureaucracy.

Consider this: only about 10 percent of funding for education comes from the federal level, but the federal government is responsible for 41 percent of the paperwork. That is outrageous. We need to cut through the red tape and put the funding toward actually helping students.

We must also continue pushing to increase access to career and technical education (CTE). A few weeks ago, I had the honor of being in Saraland as they unveiled a new wing of their high school focused on CTE programs. From welding programs to engineering classes, the new facilities will help boost skills training.

CTE is critical to growing our economy. Studies show that there are open jobs right here in Southwest Alabama, but people lack the skills needed to fill the jobs. To gain most of these skills, people do not need a four-year degree. They simply need to go through a training program to gain the necessary certificates.

So, it is critical schools in Alabama and across the country continue to make investments in career and technical education. I was pleased to see the Education and the Workforce Committee unanimously pass the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act back in July to make these necessary investments.

As our students, teachers and administrators head back to school, please remember that I am working hard in Congress to get the federal government out of the way, ensure funding makes it to the students, and expand career and technical education. Our students deserve the best education possible.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne represents the 1st Congressional District of Alabama, which includes Escambia County.