WASHINGTON, D.C. – In response to newly announced federal "guidelines" for school discipline, U.S. Representative Martha Roby (R-AL) today questioned the wisdom and appropriateness of the federal government once again aggressively inserting itself into education policy matters best handled by states and local districts.
According to a report by The Washington Post, the administration is proposing "$50 million in grants to more than 1,000 schools to train teachers and staff in research-based strategies aimed at improving student behavior and school climate.” Rep. Roby, who has championed legislation to prohibit the use of federal funding grants and law waivers to shape state education policy, warned that these new guidelines may represent further attempts by the Obama Administration to coerce state and local school districts into adopting their preferred policies.
“Here we go again," Rep. Roby said. "Has the Department of Education learned nothing from messes created by 'No Child Left Behind' and 'Race to the Top?' The federal government should not be using grants and special treatment to coerce states and local districts to comply with what the Obama Administration thinks is best. After all, 'guidelines' have a way of quickly becoming entrenched policies.
"Parents, teachers, and administrators in Alabama care deeply about ensuring a safe learning environment for students, and I know they welcome a conversation about improving discipline methods. But using federal tax dollars to try to force one-size-fits-all federal policies into schools is simply inappropriate.
A stated goal of the new "guidelines" is to reduce student suspensions for certain offenses, including “disruption” and “disrespect.” Rep. Roby said reducing student suspensions was a worthy goal, but it shouldn't come at the expense of well-behaved students whose learning could be negatively affected in an undisciplined classroom.
"All students need uninterrupted quality instruction. I would hate to see well-behaved students punished by policies that allow bad behavior to go unpunished. A safe, well-behaved classroom is one in which the teacher is empowered to keep order and enforce discipline. I am wary of any policy that might undermine that critical role."
Rep. Roby's bill, the Defending State Authority Over Education Act of 2013, would prohibit the Secretary of Education from attempting to influence, incentivize, or coerce a state into adopting certain education policies or standards. The bill's text was included in the Student Success Act, which passed the House this past July.