As a mother of two young children, I know how important it is that we get it right when it comes to education. I believe decisions about education are best made locally, so throughout my time in Congress, I have worked to implement policies that give local teachers and parents more control over making needed improvements to education for our children.
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos recently testified before the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education Appropriations Subcommittee, on which I am proud to serve. During the hearing, I had the opportunity to ask Secretary DeVos whether, under her leadership, the Department of Education acknowledges that the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) expressly forbids the coercion of states to adopt certain federal education standards, including Common Core. Secretary DeVos assured me that she does acknowledge this and that the Department will continue to follow the letter and spirit of the law. I have championed these anti-coercion measures for several years, and I’m glad to now have a partner leading the Department of Education who will work with us to ensure that Washington won’t force policy agendas into Alabama classrooms.
I appreciate Secretary DeVos for taking the time to review the Department’s priorities with our subcommittee, and I was particularly pleased to hear her response to my question. You know as well as I do that when the federal government manipulates education policy and standards, it ties the hands of school administrators, teachers, and parents in a way that is detrimental to the education of our children. We saw this firsthand in our country when No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was the law of the land and federal officials had too much control over our classrooms.
During the subcommittee hearing, I was also glad to have the opportunity to talk with Secretary DeVos about the importance of Career Technical Education (CTE) programs and ways we can continue to strengthen and improve them. In Alabama, we are fortunate to have a strong network of these programs. As of last year, Alabama’s Community College System had more than 79,000 students enrolled in CTE programs, and 70 Alabama high schools offer CTE courses with nearly 184,960 students enrolled. As our state’s economy continues to grow and add jobs, it is imperative that our students have access to programs that will prepare them to be competitive in our workforce.
It goes without saying that CTE is hugely significant to our state, and I’m pleased Secretary DeVos reaffirmed the Trump Administration’s commitment to supporting these programs all over the country. I am proud to work with the Administration to strengthen CTE, and I will continue to fight to improve our education laws with policies that are more conservative and state-centered. I am confident that local teachers and parents know how to educate the children in their communities better than bureaucrats in Washington, and I will do everything I can in Congress to empower them to be the driving force in our schools.
Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama with her husband Riley and their two children.