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Posted at 11:37 AM ET, 05/19/2010

Rand Paul’s views on education and reform

By Valerie Strauss

The political man of the moment is Rand Paul, an ophthalmologist and political novice who won Kentucky's Republican Senate primary in a sign of the attraction of the tea party’s anti-government message.

So let’s take a look at his views on education and reform.

Paul has made clear during the campaign that he would, if he could, abolish the Education Department, get rid of No Child Left Behind, eliminate all federal funding to education and encourage competition.

Of course, state and local governments are so strapped for money that without federal funding, it would be hard to see how public schools could continue to operate even at the much-criticized level they do now. But maybe that’s his real point.

Here is a questionnaire that the National Education Association gave to candidates across the country, which Paul answered and posted on his Web site:

Question 1. NEA opposes any federal voucher plan, including demonstrations programs. Do you support or oppose NEA’s position?

Answer: Oppose

Paul says, “Parents should decide where to spend each child’s portion of school taxes. Just as with the GI Bill the funds should follow the student to the school of choice. Competition breeds excellence.”

Question 2. Improve the Elementary and Secondary Education Act

a. NEA supports an accountability system that measures schools on more than two statewide test scores. NEA supports giving states the flexibility to design accountability systems that include statewide assessments and other measures, such as local assessments, teacher-designed classroom assessments collected over time, student portfolios and other measures of student learning, graduation/dropout rates, in-grade retention, the percent of students taking honors/advanced classes and AP Exams, and college enrollment rates. Assessment systems must be appropriate, valid and reliable for all groups of students, including students with disabilities and English Language Learners. NEA believes that school quality cannot be fairly or accurately measured by the current No Child Left Behind accountability provisions. Do you support or oppose NEA’s position?

Paul says, “I would have voted no on No Child Left Behind. Decisions on education should occur at the state and local level by teachers, administrators, school boards, and parents.”

b. NEA supports the inclusion of ESEA of provision to allow states, districts, and schools to measure growth in student learning over time, rather than the current snapshot that is taken on one day. Do you support or oppose NEA’s position?

Paul says, “Opposed to reauthorizing any federal control of schools. Would work to repeal No Child Left Behind.

c. NEA supports a dedicated federal funding stream to assist states and school districts by hiring additional highly qualified teachers to reduce class sizes to ensure that all students receive the individualized attention they need and to help teacher in maintaining an orderly classroom environment. NEA supports the inclusion of ESEA of a program to provide funds to assist states to reduce class size in targeted grades and schools. Do you support or oppose NEA’s position?

Paul says, “I am against any federal funding or control of education. Historically, education was funded and controlled locally. Even now, most funding is local. You can’t have it both ways. Most teachers despise No Child Left Behind. If you want to be rid of it, you must also oppose federal funds!

d. NEA also supports a combination of federal programs – through direct grants and tax subsidies to states and school districts – for school modernization to build schools for the 21st century equipped with technology and modern equipment, that accommodate small class sizes, and that are safe and conductive to teaching and learning. Do you support or oppose NEA’s position?

Dr. Paul says, “Revenue for education should be local. Once you allow the federal government in, you lose control.

e. NEA supports the following proposals to improve teacher and other educator quality:
* Revising ESEA Title II – the Teacher Quality State Grant program – to align federally funded teacher professional development with National Staff Development Council Standards
* Providing federal funding for salary enhancements for teachers who achieve certification by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards
* Expanding federal support for high-quality mentoring programs for new teachers
* Providing funding for high quality, ongoing professional development for educators
* Providing financial incentives to attract and retain high-quality teachers in hard-to-staff schools.
Do you support of oppose NEA’s position?

Paul says, “There is no Constitutional enumeration for federal education. The Constitution allows states and cities to participate in education; period.”

f. NEA supports inclusion of programs in ESEA that help enhance family and community involvement with students and schools. These programs would provide family literacy training, parenting classes, and translators for parent-teacher conferences. The programs would also encourage school-parent compacts signed by parents, require, as part of ESEA professional development programs, the skills and knowledge needed for effective parental and family communication, and expand funding for ESEA’s Parent Information and Resource Centers. Do you support or oppose NEA’s position?

Paul says, “As long as funding and control is local.”

3. Increase Funding For the No Child Left Behind Act and for IDEA

a. NEA supports substantial increases in funding for No Child Left Behind programs, particularly Title I. Do you support or oppose NEA’s position?
Paul says, “I have yet to meet a teacher who favors No Child Left Behind and the Teacher’s Union wants to increase funding for No Child Left Behind?

b. NEA supports fully funding special education (IDEA). Do you support or oppose NEA’s position?

Dr. Paul says, “I support state and local funding for all facets of education.”

Meanwhile, Paul's Web site has a list of issues--with accompanying positions--that are, presumably, important to Paul. Here is the list:

Bailouts, National Defense, Inflation, Taxes & Debt, Term Limits, Privacy & Liberty, Sovereignty, Veterans, Guns & Politicians, Energy Innovation, Federal Reserve, Health Care, Campaign Finance Reform, and Abortion. And there is one more, the only one related to education. It is called “Homeschooling.”

The short version of his position on this topic:
Rand proposes to restore the parental right to be responsible in educating children. He supports reduced taxes so that parents can allocate more of their own funds to homeschooling, if they so desire.

The longer version:
As the Federal Government has increased the size and budget of the Department of Education, test scores and scholastic performance have markedly dropped. More money, more bureaucracy, and more government intervention are eroding this nation’s educational standards. Meanwhile, home-schooled children continue to excel as evidenced by their test scores and rapidly growing admission rate into some of the nation’s most prestigious educational institutions.

Rand proposes to restore the parental right to be responsible in educating children. He supports reduced taxes so that parents can allocate more of their own funds to homeschooling, if they so desire. He seeks to prevent the Department of Education from regulating homeschooling and will fight to keep the Federal Government’s hands out of this promising alternative to conventional education. Rand recognizes the potential and scholarly prowess of homeschooling and will ensure that homeschoolers are allowed the freedom to compete alongside those who attend public and private schools.

What do you make of all of this? Is Rand extreme when it comes to education reform? Are his ideas workable?


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By Valerie Strauss  | May 19, 2010; 11:37 AM ET
Categories:  No Child Left Behind  | Tags:  NCLB, abolish education department, nclb and rand paul, no child left behind and paul, rand paul and education, rand paul and education department, rand paul and school reform, rand paul views on education  
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I particularly like the idea of funding following the child as in the GI bill. Kids shouldn't be trapped in failing institutions when there are better ones available, be they public OR private. Protecting the seniority of the administration and failing educational providers at the expense of the education of children is extremely shortsighted not to mention inequitable.

Posted by: sailingaway1 | May 19, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

His ideas sound simplistic. Local control of everything. Ok. Then what do you do for a small town without many taxes? They are going to have to accept state guidelines in order to get state funding. Is that local enough for him? Schooling isn't all about funding anyway. I don't think he knows a lot about education. I don't think he is interested. He is interested in cutting back on government's influence in our lives.
Homeschooling is only as good as the parents involved. Is it right for parents who aren't good at math to be teaching it to their kids, without any oversight? I can see home schooling for little kids, maybe up to fifth grade. How can parents keep up after that? There are too many subjects. They may be experts in history, but not science.
Homeschooling also requires that the parents don't work. I see it as good in some cases and in others the parents are making a mistake because they should let their kids know what other people are thinking. I have friends who home school and they have great kids, who seem to know a lot. I think it takes a certain kind of parent to do that.

Posted by: celestun100 | May 19, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

I don't think he really cares about education very much. He only cares about keeping as much money is his, and I would assume his supporters pockets, as possible damn the consequences for anyone else. It's a fancy way of dressing up greed.

Posted by: EricS2 | May 19, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

"Paul says, “Parents should decide where to spend each child’s portion of school taxes. "

So, If I don't have kids in public schools, I should get my tax money back?

Posted by: edlharris | May 19, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

"Of course, state and local governments are so strapped for money that without federal funding"

Just where do you think the federal money comes from the freakin tooth fairy? Either way you cut it, the money comes from the people. He wants to cutout the bloodsuckers in DC who have nothing to do with educating children but have everything to do with driving our public education to it's shameful state and spending billions doing it. It's time to try a new direction. Thank you Dr. Paul!

Posted by: ucjb62 | May 19, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

As a school committee member for 10 years, I would applaud the repeal of No Child Let Behind Law. It has done nothing to improve education. It does make work for our administrators as they have to fill out the AYP progress forms.

As for the Department of Education, it would make no difference whatsoever to the local education if it was eliminated as well.

Let local school officials run the schools. If they don't do a good job, it's up to local citizens to change that - not the federal government.

Posted by: captcooke | May 19, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Those of Rand Paul's ilk believe in the principle that big government isn't just an inconvenience or a nuisance, it doesn't work. That the public education of our youth is literally not helped by having a $170 billion Department of Education. A different version of Ms. Strauss' article today could be posted by the paper's Foreign Affairs writers, where Rand Paul wants less military interventionism. A third version could go under Community, where Dr. Paul's answer would be the same about public assistance programs. "Cutting means you don't care" was always a false paradigm. In 2003, we all cared about seniors getting prescription drugs for free, now we're getting the bill and doing some deeper thinking.

Posted by: freezebeach | May 19, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

I've taught science in public high schools for most of the past 35 years. Rand Paul is absolutely correct. The more that state and federal authorities have tried to "improve" and "reform" education, the worse our students have achieved. The only thing they've succeeded at is driving up costs and driving down standards. if you really want to improve education, return funding and accountability to local communities and/or parents & teachers.

Posted by: stevedasbach | May 19, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Wow! Awesome answers Dr. Paul! I saw some previous comments on a parents lack of knowledge about a subject. As a teacher, I know some of the best learning experiences are discovering things with your students. I teach every single high school subject, it is incredible how much we can teach ourselves. We have lost our high education level by allowing the government to educate us. Look at our society since we were all forced to go to school, we all eat the same nonsense, believe the same revisionist history, commit crime and do drugs. Great job school! In fact for some kids, school is their marketplace. A place to bully, intimidate and sell drugs.

Before we can address the department of education, we need to understand that this department does not educate, it schools. School makes you learn something through force, then most of us forget most of what we learned because it wasn't important to us. It should be renamed the department of schooling. Real education happens all the time. Home schooling is an example of this. By placing the responsibility of education back in parents hands, life becomes educational again.

Posted by: teacherfrog52 | May 19, 2010 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Most of Dr. Paul's ideas are innovative and forward-thinking for a late 19th century approach to education when Americans were in competition for jobs with their classmates and the local curriculum could be tailored for the skills needed at the factory down the road or the farm back home. Today, Americans must compete globally and skills must be transferrable across a myriad of disciplines. The correct approach to education is largely the opposite of what Dr. Paul proposes. We need more national standards, less local control and a more global approach to education generally. Now, the shortcomings of NCLB and teaching to the test are ripe for common ground.

Posted by: horacemann | May 19, 2010 5:33 PM | Report abuse

Dr. Paul is right on. Congress invented the U.S. Department of Education in 1980. Most people would agree that the standard of K-12 ed before then was a lot better than it is today. What is so "radical" about eliminating a department for which there is no constitutional authority and has contributed zero to the nation's welfare? What is so radical about leaving education dollars in communities instead of laundering it through the federal government via taxation and grants?

Posted by: marincanuck | May 19, 2010 7:26 PM | Report abuse


What made you think copying the Prussian method of schooling was a good idea?

Did you actually see the schools in session or did you visit Prussia in the summer?

Posted by: teacherfrog52 | May 19, 2010 8:40 PM | Report abuse

"Meanwhile, home-schooled children continue to excel as evidenced by their test scores and rapidly growing admission rate into some of the nation’s most prestigious educational institutions."

This comment, like a number of Rand's in this article,takes an aspect of current education and makes it sound like he knows what he's talking about.

I've known several cases of homeschooling that were excellent,but the parents were very well educated themselves, knew how to make use of resources around them and make connections with other parents who did short, knew how to do a very difficult job. Most parents would not know where to begin in giving their children skills to grapple with in today's rapidly changing world.

Real teaching, whether it is homeschooling, public school, charter, or private, is very difficult, challenging work.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | May 19, 2010 9:08 PM | Report abuse

Strangely enough, I agree completely with Rand Paul about severing all relationships between the federal government and public schools. Except for the additional funding that has made special education and aid to children living in poverty possible, federal oversight, grants, and laws have had only negative effects on public schools. I am convinced by all federal attempts to reform education over the past thirty years that there is no way that people--no matter how wise or just--who are physically, socially, and psychologically distant from schools, and local conditions can make good decisions about what should be taught or how to teach it.

Posted by: joney | May 20, 2010 3:08 AM | Report abuse

If you take his ideas to an extreme, then you have something like the Little House on the Prairie school system on your hands. Maybe that was ok back then, but it is not enough for today's world.

Posted by: celestun100 | May 20, 2010 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Dr. Paul is right on. Congress invented the U.S. Department of Education in 1980. Most people would agree that the standard of K-12 ed before then was a lot better than it is today. What is so "radical" marincanuck needs more education. THere is plenty of "constitutional authority" for the Department of Education--the same authority as for the State Department, the Justice Department, and the Treasury. Article 2, section 2 establishes the existence of "executive Departments," and ever since the first Congress, these departments have been established by Congress. The most frightening thing about the Tea Party members is not their political views but their inability to look anything up or learn anything.

Posted by: sideswiththekids | May 21, 2010 7:14 AM | Report abuse

The comment I posted on May 21 lost its quotation marks somewhere along the line. The first part, up until "What is so 'radical'" was a quote from an earlier post and the part beginning "marincanuck needs more education" was intended to be my disagreement.

Posted by: sideswiththekids | May 22, 2010 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Just a few corrections to things posted about homeschooling:

1. Someone said parents who aren't good at math aren't qualified to teach it. Please remember they were most likely taught by people who are "qualified" so if they aren't good at it, then qualifying probably isn't that important.

2. When children need to learn something their parents aren't good at, they either learn it with their children--you don't need teachers to learn things if you know how to learn--or they find mentors for their children. Mine had a real scientist to go to with their science questions and to get reading materials, for instance. Some parents buy a full in-depth curriculum. For instance, Saxon, used in some public schools, is supposed to be parent-and-teacher-proof.

3. You don't have to have a stay-at-home parent to homeschool. Some parents work at home or part-time, other parents trade shifts. Some hire a sitter who can oversee the homeschool program.

Although my qualified math teachers never managed to teach me math in school, I finally did master algebra in my late twenties in a college class. I learned some math with my children, but when they got to college, they just took a couple of math classes and got caught up--the same thing I had to do, even though I went to public schools.

On the other hand, because I'm an author, they have exceptional writing skills, something they probably wouldn't have gotten in a traditional school. Their teachers all comment on how advanced they are compared to the other college students, who were taught by college graduates. I didn't complete college, but I'm a traditionally published book author in spite of it and I know how to teach writing.

While it's true homeschooling is only as good as the parent, the public schools are only as good as the teachers--or as good as the government allows the teachers to be. It's no secret all school days are wasted teaching the test. When I pulled my children out of second and third grade, they could no longer do the math I'd taught them before kindergarten. They could only estimate to recognize the correct answer on a test. Literally, that is all the school taught.

Posted by: Terrie_Bittner | May 23, 2010 8:09 AM | Report abuse

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