Republican candidate Jeff Lamberti says if he’s elected to congress, he’ll push to get rid of the red tape attached to federal education money.
Lamberti says federal education spending should be given as block grants to states, so state and local officials can decide how to spend the money. “I’ve spent 12 years in the (state) legislature working on education. I understand the importance of education to this state, but I think we need some change in Washington in terms of the direction we’re taking,” Lamberti says. “What I’m offering today is a plan for some real reform in Washington.”
Lamberti says giving state and local school officials in 10 states the flexibility to use federal taxdollars as they see fit is a means of “local control” that would yield better results. “We can rely on the creativity, the innovation that can take place in states throughout the nation to find better ways to improve education,” Lamberti says. “It’s just important that we provide funding to the classroom and not to support bureaucrats sitting in an office building in Washington.”
Lamberti would like to see “performance bonuses” given to states where reading scores improve, or the gap between white students and minority students narrows. The so-called “No Child Left Behind Act” is set to expire next year, and congress will have to decide whether to vote to continue its edicts which require schools to test students to check educational progress. Lamberti says there are flaws in the law, partly because he’s heard from many teachers who are flooded with too much paperwork and partly because it’s too punitive. “I’m not talking about scrapping No Child Left Behind…I’m looking for ways to improve it…an improved No Child Left Behind that focuses more on rewarding good performance,” Lamberti says.
Lamberti faces Democrat Congressman Leonard Boswell in November, and Lamberti is attacking Boswell’s record on education. “My opponent has a record of believing that Washington knows best, voting against greater flexibility at the local level. I believe that’s the wrong way to go,” Lamberti says. “We need to put more authority back in the states, back in the local school boards to make decisions and show us innovative ways to improve student achievement.”
The president of the state teachers’ union and a Democrat who serves in the state senate were quick to jump to Boswell’s defense, holding a news conference immediately after Lamberti’s. State Senator Jack Hatch of Des Moines says Lamberti’s playing “fast and loose” with the facts about Boswell’s congressional record. “The truth is Iowa students have no stronger supporter than Leonard Boswell,” Hatch says. “Congressman Boswell knows that if we are truly to leave no child behind, then we must fund it.”
Iowa State Education Association president Linda Nelson says her union backs Boswell in the race. “There is no truer advocate for students in public education than Leonard Boswell,” Nelson says.