Parents Should have the Final Say

July 14, 2015

Parents and teachers across America are frustrated by Washington, D.C.’s heavy-handed, overly prescriptive approach to education policy.  

I’ve heard from countless moms and dads in Utah who feel as though anonymous government officials living and working 2,000 miles away have a greater say in the education of their children than they do.

One of the most frustrating issues for parents is the amount of standardized tests their children are required to take, particularly the tests that are designed and mandated by the federal government.

And it’s not just the frequency of these tests that is frustrating. Too often parents don’t know when these federally-required assessments are going take place, and they don’t find out until after the fact.

It’s important to recognize that this is not a partisan issue.

The notion that parents should not be expected to forfeit all of their rights to the government just because they enroll their children in the public school system is not a Democratic idea or a Republican idea. It’s simply an American idea.

That’s why several states – including states as distinct as California and Utah – have passed laws that allow parents to opt out of federally-required tests.

But there’s a problem.

Under current law, states with opt-out laws risk losing federal education dollars if a certain proportion of parents decide opting-out is best for their children, because schools are required to assess 95 percent of their students in order to receive federal funds. 

The bill before the Senate today – the “Every Student Achieves Act” – does not fix this problem. My amendment does. Here’s how.

My amendment would protect a state’s federal funding for elementary and secondary schools by removing the number of students who opt out of federal tests from the number of non-assessed students. 

In other words, the number of students opting out of federally-required tests could not threaten a state’s eligibility for federal funds.  

My amendment would also give parents more information about federally mandated tests, ensuring that parents are notified of any federally-required assessment their children are scheduled to take. And it would allow parents to opt-out their children from such assessments.

It’s important to note that this amendment would have no effect on assessments that are required by the state, local educational agency, school, or teacher. Nor does it prohibit a state from expanding their parental opt-out laws to apply to a broader set of assessments.

This amendment would not jeopardize a state’s law that provides parents the opportunity to opt out their children and would allow the state to continue to use its own process that allows parents to take such action. 

Whether or not you believe the bill before the Senate today strikes the appropriate balance between federal and local control, I think all of my colleagues can support this amendment. 

I believe all of us can agree that parents should have the final say in their child’s education and should have access to information about the testing that is taking place.  

I urge my colleagues to support this amendment.