Senate education committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., rose to the Senate floor Wednesday to tell his colleagues that state and local governments know best when it comes to educating students. Alexander was speaking in support of a K-12 education bill that would replace No Child Left Behind.
"We need to show some humility and recognize, as Carol Burris, the principal of the year in New York, said, that moms and pops and school board members cherish the children in their own communities, and that you don't really get that much wiser and smarter by flying to Washington and passing a law," Alexander said. "This bill shows that humility, it shows the consensus, it's a good example of how the Senate can work together on an important issue."
Alexander guided the bipartisan bill through the Senate education committee with Ranking Member Patty Murray, D-Wash. It passed the committee unanimously.
Still, more debate could be coming. Unanimous committee passage was largely accomplished by postponing votes on controversial amendments until they could be debated on the Senate floor. So far, floor debate has shown most Democrats would still prefer a larger federal role than what's seen in the current bill, while most Republicans would rather reduce that role further.
A large portion of Alexander's speech focused on sending federal power over education back to the states.
"I trust the state much more than Washington," Alexander said. "The path to real accountability is not through Washington, D.C., it's through the states."
Describing what the federal government should do in education, Alexander said, "We can create an environment, we can make sure there's not discrimination, we can send some money that will help low-income children, all those things we can do." Teacher evaluations and higher standards should be left to the states, he said.