GOP Introduces "Straight A's" Education Plan

By Paul McNamara | July 7, 2008 | 8:24 PM EDT

(CNS) - Republican congressional leaders Tuesday introduced their "Straight A's" education reform bill, which they promote as giving states almost unlimited freedom to spend federal education funding how they see fit. States will have access to all funds, including Title 1 money, that target disadvantaged students.

Sen. Slade Gorton (R-WA) said the purpose of the bill is "greater student achievement, not more accurate forms to be filled out by teachers and superintendents."

Earlier this year the GOP's "ed-flex" program of educational flexibility was passed and signed into law. "Straight A's" will build on "ed-flex."

"This bill will restructure the dynamic education funding," one GOP aide said of the ambitious plan. "It's the logical building block to ed-flex. It's super ed-flex. It takes small streams of money going to federal bureaucrats and interest groups into a broad stream of money to the states to improve education with accountability."

"Straight A's" will be optional to schools. If a state does accept, they must outline a five-year "charter agreement" with the Secretary of Education, and plan how to reorganize their use of federal money. If a state decides not to use "Straight As," individual school districts will be allowed to sign up.

Freedom and accountability are two of the cornerstones for the program. States will set specific and quantitative performance goals to be reached by the end of the five-year term. Should a state not meet the goals, it would lose charter status, and be forced to return to current educational funding systems. The bill offers states that achieve their goals extra grant money as incentive.

To guard against suffering as a result of using "Straight As," the plan ensures that each school district will receive at least the same amount of money as they did the preceding year under the federal program, if not more.

Gorton is optimistic that Republicans can find support from this bill from Democrats. He said some Democrats and Liberal education authorities were consulted and that he "really hopes to make it a bipartisan bill."