America?s K-12 education system is not achieving the results it should be. Forty percent of American children can?t read at their grade level. For 35 years, the federal government has been dictating how states and local communities use federal education dollars. Senator Thompson believes that when it comes to educating America?s children, parents and teachers make better decisions than bureaucrats in Washington.
In 2001, Senator Thompson is continuing his efforts to return control of education to states and local communities. He supports President Bush?s blueprint for education, which consolidates over 50 existing federal programs into just seven flexible categories to provide much-needed flexibility to parents and teachers. This legislation would build on the Education Flexibility Partnership Act of 1999 ("Ed-Flex") to further move decision-making about our students? education to the parents and teachers who know best.
In 2000, Senator Thompson supported the Affordable Education Act of 2000. This bill, which was passed by the Senate, would have helped families save for their children?s education by increasing the amount they could contribute to an education savings account from the current $500 to $2,000 per year, by allowing education savings account funds to be used for K-12 expenses (such as tutors, computers or uniforms), and by making withdrawals from state and private pre-paid tuition plans tax-free. In addition, this bill would have helped state and local government modernize existing schools or build new schools by easing tax-exempt bond rules.
Senator Thompson was an original cosponsor of the 1999 Ed-Flex bill. This landmark legislation gave states and local school officials greater freedom from federal regulation in the use of federal funds to administer education programs in their districts. Under Ed-Flex, it is the states, and not the federal Department of Education, that can grant local school districts temporary waivers from cumbersome federal requirements.
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