Alexander to Jackson Education Leaders: Senate Education Bill Will Restore Responsibility for schools to Local Officials, Teachers and Parents

Hosts roundtable on Senate bills to fix No Child Left Behind and cut Washington red tape to make it easier and simpler to attend college

Posted on May 29, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 29, 2015 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate education committee, today hosted a roundtable in Jackson, Tenn., with area education leaders, college presidents, and state officials to discuss his bill to fix “No Child Left Behind” as well as his plan to simplify the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, that 420,000 Tennessee families fill out each year.

At Jackson State Community College, Alexander said, “My top priority in Congress this year is to fix No Child Left Behind by restoring responsibility to states and local government, reversing the trend to a national school board and ending Washington’s Common Core mandate. My second priority is to eliminate Washington red tape to make it easier to go to college, and to remove the chief obstacle to Tennessee high school seniors take advantage of tuition-free community college by simplifying the dreaded FAFSA form that 8,400 families in Henderson and Madison Counties fill out each year to receive financial aid.”

Alexander’s bill to fix No Child Left Behind passed the Senate education committee in a unanimous vote last month and could come to the Senate floor for a vote as early as June. The committee is currently holding hearings on the Higher Education Act and working to develop bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the law.

Today’s roundtable consisted of two panels: the first on fixing No Child Left Behind, and the second on higher education policy.

Speaking to the first panel of education leaders, including school superintendents, teachers, parents, and elected officials, Alexander said, “Our bill to fix No Child Left Behind will continue the law’s important measurements of academic progress of students but restore to states, school districts, classroom teachers and parents the responsibility for deciding what to do about improving student achievement.”

Alexander invited participants to answer the question, “What would you do with the decision making and responsibility restored to states, school boards, principals and teachers under this bill?”

Speaking to the second panel, including area college and university presidents, counselors, and elected officials, Alexander said his plan to simplify the FAFSA would help more West Tennessee high school graduates go to college and take advantage of Governor Haslam’s Tennessee Promise program for free community college. “There may be as many as 40,000 Tennessee families who are so intimidated by this form that they still aren’t applying for federal aid. The president of Southwest Community College in Memphis told me he believes that he loses 1,500 students each semester because of the complexity of the form.”

Alexander continued, “So a bipartisan group of 6 senators, including me, have introduced legislation in Congress to cut those 108 questions down to two questions, which should help even more students take advantage of Tennessee Promise.”

Participants in the K-12 roundtable included Jackson-Madison County Superintendent Verna Ruffin, Lexington City Schools Superintendent Susan Bunch, Southside High School principal Anita Tucker, Mr. Dane Weaver, and Ms. Beth Kaufman. Participants in the higher education roundtable included Jackson State Community College President Bruce Blanding, University of Memphis at Lambuth Vice Provost Niles Reddick, Union University President Dub Oliver, University of Tennessee at Martin President Tom Rakes, Bethel University President Walter Butler, Tennessee state Senator Mark Norris, Ms. Suzanne Freeman, and Ms. Shirley Jones. Tennessee state Senators Ed Jackson and Delores Gresham and Representatives Jimmy Eldridge and Johnny Shaw participated in both forums.

# # #