Representative John Kline (R–MN)

As the Obama Administration pushes for a ninth reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, conservatives in Congress are offering alternatives to the failed status quo of Washington-driven education policy.

Representative John Kline (R–MN), chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, has introduced a new bill to provide states and school districts with more flexibility in how they allocate federal education dollars.

The flexibility bill is the third in a series of proposals put forward by the committee to restore educational control to state and local leaders.

The proposal allows states to redirect the federal funding that covers the cost of administering School Improvement Grants, Title I funding for low-income school districts, and a variety of other programs to areas that would best benefit the students in their state.

While states would enjoy more flexibility with the funding available to them for administering certain federal education programs, school districts would be granted the opportunity to redirect entire funding streams to the education areas that they deem most in need of resources.

According to the committee, states and school districts would have flexibility with about $20 billion of the $25 billion in federal funding.

Although the proposal would provide significantly more flexibility to states and school districts with how they use their education dollars—something superintendents and school leaders have been begging for—the proposal has been criticized by some on the left who are still holding out hope that prescriptive federal programs will improve education. Representative George Miller (R–CA), the ranking Democrat on the committee, called the proposal “disastrous for students, communities, schools and the future of this country.”

Despite such cries, for school districts across the country, the flexibility proposal could mean some real flexibility with their school budgets. For example: Albemarle County in Virginia received $1.3 million in federal Title I funds during the 2010–11 school year. The county was required to spend that money according to guidelines under the Title I program, even if those dollars could have been more useful to their English Language Learner (ELL) population. (Albemarle has one of the highest ELL populations in the state.) Under the new proposal, the county would be allowed to spend those $1.3 million in a host of other ways.

According to Kline, the bill’s sponsor:

We’ve moved control progressively from the schools where the kids are supposed to learn, to Washington, D.C. … And that’s what we’re pushing back.… We’re looking for ways to help our kids get a better education, be more competitive here and around the world.… We’re working…very hard…to pull back the intrusion of the federal government.