QUICK QUESTION: Viewer Wants Answer

Michael Fox just moved his 13-month-old son, Dodger, to Des Moines from busy, crowded Los Angeles. Fox wanted a more family-friendly community. He said he appreciates being part of Iowa’s competitive, battleground political environment. Fox appreciates the chance to ask politicians a question. But he had a request. Fox said, “IF they could answer a question without injecting a political talking point.”

Fox had a question for both men running for Iowa’s Third Congressional District. He wanted to know how Democratic Congressman Leonard Boswell and Republican Congressman Tom Latham would make sure Dodger gets the best education so he is best prepared to compete with graduates from all over the world.

Channel 13 news called each candidate’s campaign headquarters in Des Moines. A person at Boswell’s campaign office said to call his official congressional office for a response. But a person at the congressional office said to call the campaign office.

A person at Latham’s Des Moines campaign headquarters said it would be best to email Latham’s campaign manager. Here’s the email response from Annie Kelly:

Thank you for contacting me to inquire about my general thoughts, in my role as a U.S. Representative for Iowans, on the area of education.  I appreciate having the opportunity to share some of my general views with you.

A Iowan once wrote me saying, “America is only as strong as her schools”, a sentiment which firmly echoes my belief in the importance of the quality and strength of our children’s education. As a father of three children, and grandfather of five who are being, or soon will be, educated in Iowa’s public schools,  I share your support for excellent education opportunities for our nation’s children.  Iowa is fortunate to have one of the best public school systems in the nation, and I commend all of Iowa’s teachers for their hard work and dedication to our children.

There is no explicit power granted to the federal government to regulate education, but there is also nothing in the constitution that prohibits the federal government from using some of its tax revenue to assist states with their education programs.  However, I firmly believe that state and localities are best equipped to properly educate our nation’s children, and I support protecting local decision-making and ensuring as much parental control and participation as possible. 

That being said, as you may know, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act was passed with broad bipartisan majorities in both the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, and was subsequently signed into law by President Bush on January 8, 2002.  The law reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) programs and is based on the idea that accountability should accompany the billions of dollars in federal education assistance to school districts and state educational agencies every year. The law places an emphasis on assessments and accountability by requiring states to test students on their knowledge of math and reading in grades three through eight and at three grade levels in science. 

NCLB is long overdue for reauthorization and members of the House Education and Workforce Committee have made it a priority to reform education programs.  Although the reauthorization has expired, appropriations have continued to be provided to sustain the ESEA programs.

The vast majority of education funding is provided by state and local governments. On the federal level, in his Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 budget proposal, President Barack Obama proposed an overall increase in education funding and placed an emphasis on funding new education initiatives.  As such, the FY 2013 president’s budget included $69.8 billion for the Department of Education, an increase of $1.7 billion or 2.5 percent over the FY 2012 level. 

Included in the president’s budget request is an emphasis on three new priorities.  These priorities include:  improving affordability and quality in postsecondary education, elevating the teaching profession to the same high status it enjoys in nations with the highest-performing education systems, and strengthening the connections between school and work and better aligning job training programs with workforce demands.

After a decade since passage of NCLB, much has been learned from the successes and failures of the program.  Many proposals to reform the program have been offered, and I will be sure to keep your input in mind as I continue to monitor the progress of this legislative reauthorization in the United States Congress.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to research my views on this very important topic.  I look forward to hearing from you again and hopefully having you share your views on this topic with me. It is through your comments that I am better able to represent the people of Iowa.

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