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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Florida lawmakers consider bill urging federal government to back off on education



Almost since the creation of the U.S. Education Department, a conservative position has held that education is local, and no federal interference is necessary.

President Donald Trump has suggested getting rid of the department. A Kentucky member of Congress has a bill in committee now to terminate it.

Observers have suggested that the scope of the agency's work, such as enforcing anti-discrimination laws, makes elimination unlikely. But that doesn't mean its influence can't be pared back.

Some Florida lawmakers have that idea in mind.

Through the state House Education Committee, they've put forth Proposed Committee Bill EDC 17-01 calling for Congress to turn Title I funding, used to support low-income children, and IDEA Part B funding, used for programs for children with disabilities, into block grants that states could spend as they see fit for those groups of students.

The bill, a "memorial" that carries no force of law, also asks Congress to "end all current, and prohibit any further, interference by the United States Department of Education with respect to public school governance." Many state leaders bristled at having to jump through hoops to gain access to Race to the Top grant money, or to gain a waiver from No Child Left Behind, during the Obama administration.

"Title I and IDEA Part B funds represent the two largest categories of federal education funds at approximately $1.3 billion (approximately $488 per student), which is significantly less than state and local investments of over $20 billion (approximately $7,204 per student)," the bill's staff analysis states. "Consequently, the amount of federal funding does not justify the federal government's invasive role in state education policy. This memorial seeks to increase parental influence in education policy through their elected state and local officials."

House Education chairman Rep. Michael Bileca could not be reached immediately for comment. The committee is scheduled to hear the bill Tuesday.

[Last modified: Friday, February 17, 2017 2:11pm]


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